Written by Natalie Osborn

A Victorian property renovation in east London

Interior mavens Stephen Nash and Miranda May weren’t afraid to put a contemporary twist on their tumbledown cottage. But the couple was mindful to retain nods to its heritage… 

As far as festive mishaps go, Stephen Nash, founder of ALL & NXTHING interior design studio, and his partner Miranda May, managing director of Total Management, came a cropper on the very first Christmas in their home.

‘Miranda made me buy the biggest tree we could find,’ Stephen recalls. ‘Unfortunately, we hadn’t thought to measure the front door and, of course, the obvious happened. We had to Chuckle-brother it through the front window, leaving barely a single needle left on the branches.’

A few years down the line and the couple have perfected the art of Christmas decorating – and that’s not the only thing they’ve done. ‘I spend my life exploring amazing places and inspirational homes as an interior designer,’ explains Stephen. ‘Miranda is also incredibly creative and loves design, so between us we knew we could do something really special if we found the right place.’

christmas decor in a remodelled victorian property in east london

The rear extension is the hub of the home. Photo: David Giles

A long search

After a long search and several bidding wars, Miranda spotted this red-brick, three-bed semi for sale in Hackney, east London, for £1.2m in 2015. It’s now worth around £1.5m, but at the time, Stephen wasn’t convinced.

‘It was a lot more work than we had in mind, as the layout was made up of lots of small rooms that were just so difficult to work with,’ he said of the Victorian property renovation project. ‘There wasn’t even an indoor bathroom.’

Still, Miranda persisted, and by the time they had the keys the couple had already decided a course of action with planning architects Red DeerOut came most of the ground floor walls and in went a large rear extension to house a large kitchen-dining-reception room, featuring striking black steel doors opening out to the garden.

a kitchen extension with large crittal windows in a victorian property in east london

The verdant plant collection links the house to the garden. Photo: David Giles

Retaining its rustic character

‘The cottage has a very traditional frontage, and in adding a modern addition we wanted to make the design true to both external aesthetics,’ Stephen explains.

‘Our hallway and front reception room are much more classic and use darker, moodier colours. In fact, the stairs have been virtually untouched to retain their rustic character, and the walls are a very dark grey.’

In the new extension, the steels are exposed but painted white, so the bones of the house are still exposed but blend seamlessly with the crisp, bright walls. ‘We love that the renovations are honest and tell a story of the cottage’s history,’ Miranda adds.

kitchen extension in a victorian property renovation in London

The kitchen island worktop is made from reclaimed parquet flooring. Photo: David Giles

Squeezing in a bathroom

Concrete is a constant feature throughout, from flooring to walls and basins, and yet with the mix of raw white-washed brickwork and original floorboards, it feels softer, with an almost silk-like quality.

The cottage didn’t have an indoor bathroom, however, so the couple had to squeeze one in upstairs by pinching space from the guest bedroom.

‘In doing so we couldn’t fit in an extra window,’ said Stephen, ‘but in raising the ceiling we were able to punch out a skylight, which changed the feel of the room completely.’ The vaulting the ceiling also gives the feeling of more space.

small bathroom decor ideas

The vaulted ceiling makes the small bathroom feel bigger. Photo: David Giles

Eclectic taste

‘Our taste is pretty eclectic and quite changeable,’ she says. ‘We buy a lot of vintage and mid-century pieces that have a wonderful shape and patina, but then aren’t afraid to throw in contemporary items, too – and a lot of plants. I think our mix-and-match interiors style mirrors how the house is cosy and cottage-like in some areas, then big, bright and airy in others.’

However, when it comes to Christmas, the modern approach takes a back seat – and it’s traditional celebrations all the way. ‘We have big families, so the festivities start on Christmas Eve when we all get together and each open a present early,’ explains Miranda. ‘Then we’re woken up on Christmas morning by our excited nieces and nephews to play with new toys till it’s time for turkey.’

a victorian property renovation painted with pale grey, peach and white

The clever paint job addresses mismatching ceiling heights. Photo: David Giles

Styling: Sarah Keady

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