Written by Stephanie Smith

Creating a zoned kitchen space with colour and character

Working with interior designer Emma Hester, teacher Marie Branch and her husband Keith, a solutions architect, transformed the bland kitchen of their 1920s semi in South London into a zoned space full of character. Bi-fold doors, vintage touches and bold colours created a family friendly space that even gets the seal of approval from the couple’s two teenage sons…

What was wrong with your original kitchen layout and design?

It was dull and not really working for us as a family. We’d already made a big change 10 years ago when we extended and got rid of our galley kitchen to make one large space. I’m French, and at the time we bought a good-quality white kitchen in France, teaming it with a stone worktop and light oak flooring. We added a wooden table and chairs, which more recently began to feel dated and clunky. The pale scheme was also lacking colour and personality. 

kitchen renovation with green splashback tiles and white cabinets

How did you go about changing it?

We sat down and agreed that the kitchen cabinets, flooring and fireplace would remain, but everything else was up for grabs. We wanted something vibrant and warm, and realised that nobody really sat in the living area at the back of the room, as it was very dark. We’d heard about an exciting local interior designer called Emma Hester (@emma_hester_interiors), so we decided to get her on board with the zoned kitchen space. 

Did this lead to some unexpected design ideas?

Emma said straight away that we needed to swap the dining and living areas around in the zoned kitchen space, with new seating by the bi-fold doors where the table used to be to take advantage of the light flooding in. It’s a lovely place to sit and chat or have a coffee. To add some visual interest, we panelled the wall, while the dining area was moved to the former seating area, with the idea of making it nice and cosy.

oned kitchen space with island and white units with green hexagonal wall tiles

Photo: David Giles

How did you go about introducing the colour?

The space to the right of the island was more or less totally white and felt very clinical. I made a list of the colours I love, and thought about how we could bring them into the scheme. Then, with Emma’s help, I picked some fabulous hexagonal tiles for a new splashback that echoes the blue on the wall and across the ceiling.

Tell us about the dining area

Going so dark on the walls was a bold choice, but it works with the monochrome wallpaper. We ditched the old table and chairs, and I love vintage items, so I found two original retro chairs and had them reupholstered. I then bought a reproduction table and four chairs to tie it all together.

zoned kitchen dining space with panelled walls and wooden floor

Photo: David Giles

Did you stick to your budget?

To be honest, we didn’t have one. We weren’t going to buy new cabinets or appliances, as we’d bought quality items the first time around. I really fell for the orange velvet sofa, which is the centrepiece of the new seating area, and so comfortable. That was a big investment for us and the lovely new rug ties in all the colours. I got an amazing bargain with the footstool, which looked brand new and is still sold at Made.com, but was only £50 on Facebook Marketplace, so that balanced out the sofa.  

How do you feel now it’s all finished?

It’s like having a completely different room. There were parts of the original zoned kitchen space that weren’t really being used properly, but now it feels as if every single inch of the kitchen has a purpose. We love to entertain friends and cook, so the dining area feels cosy and welcoming, while the seating space next to the garden is open and sunny. We wish we’d done it years ago! 

zoned kitchen space living room leading out to garden

Photo: David Giles


  • Furniture: £5,353
  • Tiles: £660
  • Panelling: £200
  • Lights: £311
  • Paint: £144
  • Wallpaper: £321
  • Accessories: £116

Total spend


Good Homes magazine free online