‘We instantly knew this house was an amazing find’

June 1, 2023

Living in a three-bedroom flat in East Dulwich, Isobel Thomson-Cook, a behavioural scientist and husband Jeremy, a senior portfolio manager, decided to look for a renovation project locally as it was an area with lots of green spaces and parks, a lovely high street, and good train links to the city.

‘We love this little pocket of London, but finding a house we felt a connection with proved tricky,’ explains Isobel. ‘We were keen to buy a bigger property with a garden we could do up ourselves in our own style, rather than buy an already updated house at an inflated cost.’ 

Viewing many houses over a six-month period, nothing really captured their imagination until they stumbled across this five-bedroom London home on a quiet Victorian terrace just off the high street. ‘It had been a treasured family home for 40 years, and although most of the original Victorian features had been removed and the downstairs rooms felt dark and disconnected, the proportions were really great, there was a good-sized garden, and plenty of scope for us to modernise it.’

Bi-fold doors created the perfect indoor/outdoor living

The couple bought the five-bedroom house in 2018. ‘We knew instantly that it was an amazing find,’ says Isobel. Photo: James French

Extending and knocking through

After moving in, Isobel and Jeremy spent the next six months living in the house to get a good idea of how they wanted it to work for them while waiting for planning approval, deciding to open up the downstairs by adding a side return and knocking through the small L-shaped kitchen, reception room and adjacent dining room to create one large, light-filled space.

Upstairs, the couple planned to steal some space from a bedroom and knock through an adjacent toilet and bathroom to create a large family bathroom. ‘We also wanted to reinstate period features throughout, restoring some of the original Victorian character of the house.’ 

Skylights flood light into the five bedroom London home

The couple wanted to make sure that the new space had an abundance of light and had a glass roof the length of the side return fitted. Choosing hardwearing polished concrete flooring underfoot, Isobel and Jeremy opted for beautiful Shaker-style cabinetry, which they painted dark green along with a custom-built dresser in a sunshine yellow. Photo: James French

Bringing in more light

The new area was designed with floor-to-ceiling bifolds across the whole width to maximise the connection to the garden. ‘Cooking and entertaining are two of our favourite pastimes, and we had visions of warm summer days, hosting with the doors wide open to the garden.’

As absolutely everything needed replacing, from the roof, windows and electrics to the boiler and plumbing, Isobel and Jeremy decided to tackle everything at once. ‘The scale of the project was quite daunting,’ explains Isobel. ‘So we moved out into my parents’ house while the building contractors got to work, and Jeremy project-managed the renovation from there, popping in everyday to check on progress,’ 

Indoor/outdoor living works perfectly in this five bedroom London home

On warm days, the bifolds can be opened onto the newly laid patio, which seamlessly connects the inside with the garden. Photo James French

Getting the decor just right

In the living room, the walls have been painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pink Ground to keep the space feeling open and bright, and to accentuate the reinstated marble mantlepiece and beautiful cornicing. ‘We put back some period features in here, and added a Zeus chandelier from Pooky,’ says Isobel. ‘The room feels really warm and inviting in the morning light’

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Farrow & Ball walls and Pooky lights create a statement

A vintage mirror transforms the fireplace into a wonderful focal point with built-in shelving and a large distressed rug. Photo: James French

The original doors dividing the living room and snug were redesigned as sliding pocket doors to connect the rooms without taking up any floor space, while the cornicing and reclaimed marble fireplace unite the scheme.

‘At some points it was difficult to see an end in sight, and trying to stick to budget was incredibly stressful,’ she admits. ‘But we did what we could ourselves to save money, and as walls were reinstated and the extension build was well underway, I remember feeling incredibly excited that our home was starting to take shape.’

Personalising their five bedroom London home

Upstairs, the couple loved the idea of having a separate sleeping and dressing area to keep their bedroom clutter-free, so used a stud wall to divide the space, with a kingsize bed on one side and wardrobes and drawers on the other.

The Good at Naps throw has sentimental value for Isabel and Jeremy

Left: This happy, calm room is perfect for the couple’s toddler son Ace. ‘We bought the ‘Good at Naps’ throw from Etsy when I was pregnant, so it will always be a sentimental piece’ Right: Orangery by Farrow & Ball has been used to create a feature ceiling in the main bedroom. Photos: James French

Mixing period features with fun designs

The family moved back in just before their Christmas deadline and were able to host the first of many gatherings and celebrations. ‘It was so lovely to finally be able to enjoy the space,’ says Isobel. Since then, the couple have taken their time with the interior design and furnishings, complementing the more traditional features with vintage finds mixed in with more contemporary pieces for a modern touch.

A pop of pink in the tiles and the palm print wallpaper creates a fun feel to the bathroom

A separate toilet and bathroom were knocked through and space pinched from the adjacent bedroom to create a bigger family bathroom. ‘We wanted to go bold with a mix of fun colours and tiles.’ Photos: James French

Four years on and the family couldn’t be happier. ‘We get so much enjoyment from our home and sharing it with family and friends that we decided to rent it out as a location house (@228locationhouse),’ says Isobel. ‘We are so proud of how much we have achieved. It’s better than we could ever have envisaged.’ 



A message from the editor:

Let us help you create the home of your dreams! Get ideas & inspiration from Good Homes every month, delivered direct to your door. Visit to sign up for the weekly Good Homes newsletter.

~ Karen Walker, Editor, Good Homes