A Clapham Common Transformation

by Kate Burt in Interior designed homes

One of the joys of buying a wreck of a house – as the owners of this incredible seven-bedroom Victorian villa near Clapham Common did – is that you get to completely re-imagine the place, from top to bottom.

The house had been split into flats in the 1970s and was, according to Cochrane Design which took on the remodelling job in 2010 for its new owners, “in rather a poor state”.

The owners, who work in recruitment, have five children, and the focus of the brief was to create a house that would work for the whole family. From bedrooms and play areas for younger children, to living space for teenagers, and of course private space for Mum and Dad, as well as the flexibility to accommodate guests. They wanted a house that would make a statement, but also be welcoming and retain the spirit of the original property.


“A more creative structural problem was the need to find new space and to bring light and air into the property, bringing back its original scale and glamour.”

Sean Cochrane, Creative Director of the design practice that tackled the property, explains what they did: “The comprehensive build included a new basement extension, extending the back of the house and developing an entirely new and inventive room structure.”

The result – which took a year to achieve – is a spectacular family home that treats this period home with respect, yet adds a 21st century twist.

It was a huge job. What were some of the toughest challenges? “The main engineering challenge was to dig out a new floor underneath the house,” he explains – and this now houses a gym, utility and boiler room as well as a family cinema space.

“A more creative structural problem was the need to find new space and to bring light and air into the property, bringing back its original scale and glamour. This was achieved through an imaginative new floor plan and creating a double height space at the back of the house as well as new ceiling vaults and light wells.

And which is Cochrane’s favourite part of the house? Unsurprisingly it is the incredible bespoke kitchen with its unusual, table-like island and clever use of space – which won the company a prestigious SBID International Design Awards nomination.

“The brief was to create an area that would be the heart of the house,” Cochrane explains. “The clients have a large family and like to entertain. They wanted the back of the house to provide space for the family to eat, cook and watch television informally and also space for formal dining. The height and volume of the space meant that different zones could be created – but that needed careful consideration so that it didn’t feel empty and overbearing.”

And what about that island/work-top – it’s very unusual… “It’s a piece of art in itself,” Cochrane acknowledges, “It is vast – seven metres long – and made, off-site, in hardwood with chunky, turned legs.

The kitchen cleverly blends old and new aesthetics – the polished steel, and the enviable appliances, which include twin Miele ovens and a Lacanche double oven and salamander grill – are softened by a neutral palette, and the simple panelled, painted wood cupboards, which were all hand-made.

“This mixture of the old and new runs throughout the house,” continues Cochrane. “It is the perfect setting for the clients’ own possessions – such as the antique grandfather clock which sits proudly at the end of the kitchen.”

Get the look

Paint The palette throughout the house is created with Zoffany and Farrow and Ball colours: Old White, Stony Ground and Hague Blue from Farrow & Ball, and Mist and Platinum Grey Zoffany.

Kitchen The hanging lights are bespoke, but the Conran Shop’s 50/60 White Shades, £105 each, are similar. The island designed by Cochrane Design in dark stained oak and honed Niagra granite and made by Balmain London

Sofas The Provence sofa is by Sean Cochrane, and costs £3100 for the standard size excluding fabric.

Master bedroom The headboard is bespoke, and made by  Cochrane Design upholstered in Fibre Naturelle’s Moonsoon Silk, £29 per metre. The 14-light chandelier is by India Jane £725.

Study The swivel chair is a re-upholstered vintage chair and the nickel desk lamp, £165, comes from India Jane

Contact Cochrane Design for more information on individual pieces, many of which were designed and made by the company.


Paul Craig has always taken pictures and his mum still has the first picture he ever took when he was just a couple of years old.  It’s a black and white portrait of his mum and dad with part of their heads missing, taken at a strange angle with his grandfather’s camera.  He shot his first magazine cover of a minor celebrity at 16, but didn’t try interior photography until much later, by chance when a designer asked him if I would take some pictures of a house. Paul says ‘it seems stupid now that he hadn’t considered marrying his love of photography and interior design and making a career of it’

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