This job was a real challenge. The people who were about to move into this empty space are a lovely family with rich interests – travel, theatre, teaching, languages, dance etc, but for me the space had very little of their, or any, natural charm. Except for the wonderful light and big windows.
In fact, it included many of my bug-bear hates – low ceilings, laminate floors, pebble dash walls and box-like rooms. I was determined to do everything in my power to load it with charm, but keep a feeling of modernity and space.
After a huge mood board was made, taken from children’s story books, Pinterest and personal objects, and after information was gathered about what kind of people they were, how they live and host, we arrived at some great ideas. And a colour scheme – dusty pink for the living room and a soft blue for a cleaner, classier vibe for the kitchen.
The blue has a calmness and quietness for the area where the family eat and entertain. It also makes the clutter of a family kitchen – drawings, pictures, flowers, food and books ‘pop’ and look like art, as opposed to just looking like mess. Leaving some walls and angles white allowed for a play of light and a feeling of more dimensions and living space, as well as making the colours less blocky.
We were working to a tight budget, so although we would have loved vintage low hanging lights from Urban Industrial in Berlin, we had to replicate them with cheaper versions from Bauhaus. And ditto for most things. But I was adamant not to source any furniture that was too sharp, boxy, modern or dark, hence the light wooden family table, chairs, and hanging shelf, which were all from local furniture dealers.
This long wall bench with clever inside storage was the same tone of blue/grey as the walls so we painted it with this Turquoise/green colour called Florence by Anni Sloan. I think the colour reflects the families love of Cuba and South America with its rich tones.
Farrow & Ball’s Calamine turned out to be the colour I chose for the living area. It’s a soft, browny-blush pink that works beautifully with the enormous cream sofa, and with the dark brown tones of the floor and the very dark piano.
This soft colour also has a kind of old-world elegance. In that vein, I decided to go for heavy textured, Moroccan Kilim cushions to scatter over the enormous sofa, to enhance the pinks and reds and give a weight to the space.
The huge charm the apartment does have comes from the spacious terrace that leads off the living room and French windows, which fill the place with sunlight, and the smaller balcony on the other side which wraps around the living and kitchen area.
I created a gallery wall above the sofa, but again due to the restricted budget we had to think out the box. I asked Mara Lena to get her kids drawing and painting and we chose our favourites to frame, and I suggested they blow up a huge photo from a recent trip to Cuba. As well as a selection of my own Cocobird Design Prints, we added some junk shop finds. I wanted the gallery to feel it had a history and so was careful to chose frames in different styles, textures, shapes and sizes.
I wanted this lovely piano corner to be the centre of a calm zone. I kept the clutter to minimum with only green foliage, a bold print and fresh flowers. It’s a space for silence and for music.
The Vintage map of Berlin was ordered from Etsy and put in a fresh new frame from Modular. I love the faded reds and greens. The little gilt gold frames are from H&M home as are the two small grey and green vases.
Instead of investing in a whole new set of furniture for the TV area, I reused an old Ikea shelf and transformed it with a lick of Anni Sloan’s duck egg blue. Added to that, we got a modern stand from made.com. To add a pop of colour and something to even out the empty wall space we got a little shelf above the TV, from Ferm Living with wonderful mint green brackets.
This, above is the study – a light-filled room that is slightly hidden away. As Mara Lena was to be working in this room everyday, we decided that it should be a place that is inspiring. And, as the windows are the height of the trees it already had the feeling of being nestled in a forest, so we decided to enhance that with pattern, and decorate one wall with a nature-inspired print. I adore these samples (above) from Trustworth studios , which were sadly out of our budget, but they set the tone and started us on a journey that led us to William Morris’s beautiful Honesysuckle print.
The print works beautifully in the room and helps to create a fresh botanical feel. I had a long piece of birch wood made to fit the length of the window to create a simple long wooden trestle table as a desk. Red metal trestles made it more interesting and worked beautifully against the wallpaper.
I think we really turned this white cube into something full of warmth and life! See Mara Lena’s comments on what is was like working together on my Cocobird Design profile on Houzz.