photography: Adam Luszniak

Perfectly Formed

19th May 2017

Kristina Kennedy found a rundown Victorian house in the perfect street and turned it into a stylish family home with the flavour of Scandinavia

By Natalie Flaum

As a relocation agent, Kristina Kennedy helps clients from all over the world to buy or rent properties in London – so it’s no surprise that when it came to searching for her own home she had her finger firmly on the pulse. As soon as she heard about a Victorian cottage on the exact street she had her eye on (in what she describes as ‘a fun, relaxed neighbourhood with plenty of green open spaces perfect for young families’), she made an offer – before the property even came on to the market officially.

“The house was dark, dated and damp with horrible mouldy carpets, and needed quite a lot of work,” she reflects. “Interior design is in my blood, though. I feel it, think it and am very visual with how I work. My mother, sister and sister-in-law are all interior designers, and my parents have been designing homes all their life so I became a relocation agent instead. I see several hundred properties a year and work with estate agents from all over as part of my job.”

Kristina hired a project manager and architect/interior designer to redesign the layout and create a loft bedroom and new basement.

“Architect and interior designer Sue Cambie was brilliant and did all the architectural drawings and really understood my style,” she says. “For inspiration, I looked on pinterest.com and house.com and emailed photos to Sue, who was great at adapting her skill to suit my own.”

Being Scandinavian-born, Kristina is used to light and airy living. “English properties tend to lack utility space and storage, which I’m obsessed with” she says. “I had the basement dug out so it could incorporate a wine cooler, a cupboard for airing clothes, coat and boot storage, plus a playroom for my son, Archie, 13.”

Extending into the loft required some creative thinking. As the property is situated in a conservation area, strict planning constraints meant no street-facing dormers were permitted, so to add head height, the property’s first floor had to be lowered.

“During the build I was petrified by the number of mice running around and the whole house looked like a big muddy garden for a while!” recalls Kristina, who rented a flat nearby and checked on progress daily. On one of her visits she made a remarkable discovery in the bathroom.

“When the builders were chipping out the walls, hidden in the cavity behind the pipework, and wrapped in a very old plastic bag, they found a beautiful hand-carved gun, complete with a jammed bullet,” she says. “The police believe it dates back to World War II.

There’s nothing like unearthing a secret in the walls of your home!”

When it came to the interiors, Kristina created a warm but restful atmosphere, decorating the sitting room, her bedroom and Archie’s room in subtle greys, enlivened with occasional splashes of bold colour including raspberry reds, Scandinavian and Spanish yellows.

The sitting room fireplace is from Chesney’s and the window shutters are from New England Shutter Company. Kristina sourced furniture pieces, including grey flannel armchairs, a mahogany side table and desk, from local auctions where she also discovered a pair of metal studded armchairs. “I like to call them my ‘Posh and Becks’ chairs as they were my wild cards and fit the living room perfectly,” she reflects. Kristina also loves to display fun old books. “Amongst my collection are children’s books, some over 100-years-old, with beautiful illustrations and tiny envelopes containing old letters, which are just lovely.”

The soft French grey tones continue in the kitchen, which has been extended with both entertaining and practicality in mind, and can be closed off from the adjoining sitting room with sliding doors.

Kristina selected Spitalfield cupboard range from Plain English Design and teamed them with Carrera marble worktops and a natural oak parquet block floor, treated with three coats of matt polish to keep it looking rustic and light. The kitchen walls have been painted in three shades of Little Greene’s grey intelligent matt emulsion and Kristina’s jewels in her kitchen are the pendant lights above the island. “They give off such a beautiful glow and everyone comments on them,” she says. “I also love the roof lantern that throws in lots of light, with its electronic windows and special glass panels that keep the room from getting too hot in summer.”

Kristina designed the garden with an Italian alfresco theme and the overall look has a timeless quality that will last for many years to come. “I enjoy hosting weekend lunches and often have friends and family to stay. The kitchen is comfortable and large enough to entertain in. I love it when friends pick up their glasses and hang out in the kitchen while I’m cooking. To me, that’s a sign of a happy home.”

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