Creating light in a gloomy home

Interior designer Philippa Thorp shows how to add extra 'space' to a home by bringing more light and storage to every room.
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Philippa Thorp, an interior designer, has turned a gloomy 1,000sq ft Chelsea house into an elegant three-bedroom family home. “It was a very dark house,” she says.

“We basically gutted it and started again to bring in as much light as possible and to increase the sense of space.”

Creating light in a gloomy home
© All pictures by Sarah Hogan
The elegant sitting room designed in a simple L-shape is idea for relaxing (left); the dining room is open-plan and creates extra space next to the sitting room and kitchen, with enough room for the whole family to sit down and eat (right)

Lowering a floor
The first step was to lower the ground floor, to create a “crucial” extra 15 centimetres in height, and add a window at the back. The resulting improvement in the sense of scale is enhanced by architectural details such as a stepped skirting board and cornicing.

Creating a smaller hall
This gave a sense of arrival, and insulated the home from the immediacy of the street. At the end of the hall a mirror-faced cupboard was added to give depth.

Creating light in a gloomy home
The stylish room includes several clever storage ideas, including a window seat cupboard and a bookshelf hiding place for the TV (left); the clean white lines and mirrors lend the rooms a chic, sleek look

Open-plan living
The hall leads into the airy L-shape space of the open-plan sitting room, dining room and the sleek, white gloss kitchen in the back extension, which is lit by two skylights. Oak floorboards were laid through the entire ground floor.

Little ideas for big storage
“We needed to fit a three-bedroom house into just 1,000sq ft without it seeming squeezed,” explains Philippa.

“Every nook and cranny cleverly camouflages storage. The window seat and custom-made table conceal touch-catch drawers, and a false bookcase incorporates a rise-and-fall mechanism that reveals the television.”

Creating light in a gloomy home
The house's narrow, winding staircase is a new addition

Moving the staircase, creating a bit of drama
“We moved the staircase from the other side of the house so we could maximise on space. Now a narrow winding staircase rises dramatically up a stairwell lit by large windows and topped by a skylight.”

Making three bedrooms from a small space
On the first floor, the main bedroom is small but perfect, with en suite bathroom in white statuary marble with Volevatch fittings. It is enlivened by a Diane Nevitt painting, and through a glass door — shielded from the neighbours by a full-length blind — lies a small balcony. The second floor is the children’s area
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with two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom.

Decorating touches and artistic flourishes
The calm neutrals and clean lines are highlighted throughout by eye-catching abstract paintings. “I find paintings in fairs and galleries, and change the frames,” Philippa explains. “Much of our furniture is custom-made to fit a specific space in a home.” Every available ray of sunlight has been channelled indoors and amplified, to create light.

Read the full version of this feature in the May issue of House & Garden, out now.

Photographs by Sara Hogan

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