words: natalie flaum | photography: alison hammond | stylist: jemma paugh

Space and Light

25th August 2017

With an expansive vision, Debbie Kutner has created a welcoming family home packed full of colour and vintage finds, with plenty of space and light.


The Property:
A five-bedroom extended 1920s home in North London

Who Lives Here:
Interior designer Debbie Kutner, (pearlroseinteriors.co.uk); husband Darren, a Chartered Quantity Surveyor and children Aaron, 12, Sebastian, 9, and Saskia, 4

What They Did:
Demolished the previous granny annexe, reconfigured the ground floor and widened the entrance hallway to include a cloakroom, utility room and bright kitchen-diner with soft pastel shades and country style furnishings – and also converted the loft to create a new master bedroom en suite

Back in 2014, Debbie and Darren Kutner were in the best position for house hunting: they’d sold their previous property and moved in with Debbie’s parents. A good friend of Debbie’s had just renovated her home, and when she told them that a house just three doors down was about to come up for sale the Kutners jumped at the opportunity. “As soon as I walked in, I could see this place had great potential,” says Debbie, “despite the decor and the granny annexe taking up an entire side of the ground floor. We offered the asking price and, as we were chain free and cash buyers, the estate agent advised the owners to accept our offer and take the property off the market. It was fortunate for us that they did, because there had been an open house planned for the following day.”

The family continued to live at Debbie’s parents’ house around the corner, so she could visit every day and project manage the substantial changes they wanted to make. “The house hadn’t been modernised since the Seventies, and had a retro orange kitchen, aubergine bathroom suite, funky tiles, patterned carpets and Magic Roundabout wallpaper in one of the bedrooms. Maybe we should have kept the rotary dial telephones, as they go for a premium now!”

They started work the day they got the keys, hiring an architect to submit drawings to the council to convert the loft in the best possible way. “He also offered advice on how to bring in further light in the kitchen, as well as introducing a roof light on the first floor landing and study area, which was the darkest point in the house before.”

Other changes on the first floor involved dividing the fifth bedroom into a pretty room for daughter Saskia, complete with a little dressing area and bathroom. On the ground floor they relocated the WC from the front of the house to under the stairs and used the space it left available to create a playroom. They also added a small utility room adjoining the kitchen and blocked off the former back door, creating a new opening that is more central to the garden. “We love to entertain and both our families and friends visit regularly, so it made sense to create a large open-plan kitchen-diner.”

Debbie’s something of an opportunist. “When our builder accidently put a scaffolding pole through the glass in one of the three small skylights from the previous kitchen extension, we decided to enlarge the openings to gain even more light…”

Darren’s passion is music (he plays the bass guitar in a band) and son Aaron is becoming a keen saxophonist, so Debbie turned the former dining room into a music room with quirky wallpaper and interesting finds. “I even used the same paper to cover inside the gap where the fireplace used to be, and then added two hurricane lanterns to break up the pattern. The matching cabinets in the alcove are ideal for hiding away music equipment.”

Debbie explains that she is a huge fan of Pinterest, but long before the image-collecting site came along, she kept scrapbooks full of ideas she loved, along with magazine cuttings of fabrics and wallpapers, so had plenty of inspiration to hand when it came to style and furnishings. “I tend to find one starting point in a room and then everything else follows suit. In the kitchen I sourced copper pendant lights online and knew I wanted a classic bright space with pale pastel colours.”

They sourced the kitchen from Wren, with painted cabinets from the Linda Barker collection, with Memphis white quartz worktops and bought a traditional butler sink on eBay, along as the bench and floating wooden shelves. “I think I’m addicted to Mason jars”, Debbie laughs. She uses them for displaying pretty flowers as well as for iced coffees on a hot day.

Both Darren and Debbie are very hands-on in the kitchen – “I enjoy baking and Darren likes to cook a steak or a spicy curry” – so instead of having wall units, that can feel claustrophobic, Debbie sourced a pantry cupboard, a bargain from eBay, that houses all her dry foods. Even the microwave oven fits inside.

As the couple had no idea how long they would be living with Debbie’s parents it made more sense for them to sell their larger furniture items and start again, instead of paying storage charges. “One of my favourite places to hunt down a retro vintage find is the Hertfordshire Craft Collective at Battlers Green Farm,” Debbie says. She also loves browsing for home accessories in local stores such as The Range and Homesense, where she fell in love with the blue sofa in the sitting room and bought it on the spot.

In the boys’ bathroom she was keen to create a modern look that they wouldn’t grow out of, and sourced graffiti-style tiles online for the wall. “We laid all the tiles out on the floor to decide what order to put them up, which was a fun task for the boys!”

In the loft, Debbie’s colour inspiration came from the oil painting above their bed, bought as a gift by Darren. She asked her carpenter to build bespoke storage in the form of mirrored cabinets and drawers in the eaves. “The bedroom is my sanctuary at the top of the house where I escape to for some quiet relaxation and peace.”

With quirky wallpapers and walls painted in Farrow & Ball shades, new carpets and engineered wood flooring the project is complete. The house took seven months to renovate and the family finally moved in just in time for Christmas.

Everything has come together perfectly: a very sociable home, for a very sociable family. “Last year we threw a surprise party for my parents and it was such a great space to enjoy the occasion.”

This was the Kutners’ third home renovation, and Debbie is the first to admit how much she has had to learn. “When I look back at our first, I was merely following trends. Now, I have a much better understanding of my own style and have come to realise what I really love: anything pretty, eclectic and vintage…”

The Kutners’ home was previously featured in ‘Style At Home’: www.idealhome.co.uk/style-at-home

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