Lisa’s all about function, Joel’s all about form, but together, they’ve created a beautiful home that works on every level
teamwork was the vital ingredient in lisa and Joel’s astonishing transformation of an edwardian terrace
‘I could never have any kind of knickknack in my house,’ says Lisa Crawford. ‘If it doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s pointless!’ So speaks a woman who places functionality above fancy flourishes on her home design priority list. But if you think that sounds a little strict, take a look at the house she shares with husband Joel and children Rufus and Matilda. Gorgeous, tactile materials, such as polished concrete, flint-grey marble and recycled wood form its backbone. Original artwork injects colour and personality and a mix of vintage pieces and cleverly adapted finds adds yet more heart. Super-functional it may be, but this place feels warm and stylish too.
In fact, the house beautifully reflects the tastes of both its owners. ‘We’ve found a happy medium with style,’ says Lisa. ‘Joel is incredibly design focused, but somewhat impractical. He’d ideally like the kitchen worktop to be completely clear, without even a sink or hob on it to mess up the clean lines!’ she adds, laughing. ‘For me, though, it has to be functional. I want my house to work, not just be a piece of art.’
Swedish Lisa was raised in Abu Dhabi, but her functional aesthetic speaks of her Scandi roots. ‘I try to design instinctively,’ she says. ‘There’s too much inspiration out there, so it can get confusing. On our last renovation, we were using tear sheets from magazines. Now, there’s so much choice.’
Naturally drawn towards a monochrome palette of pure white walls and black woodwork, Lisa has included lots of built-in furniture, which teams practicality with style. An integrated futon in the family room is both comfy and space-efficient, while a wall of kitchen cabinets is made from Ikea carcasses fronted with plywood. ‘They reach from floor to ceiling,’ says Lisa. ‘After seeing all the dust that can accumulate on the tops of cupboards, I’m obsessed with this kind of storage. Anything else also wastes space and I want the house to feel as big as possible.’
As a building designer, Lisa mapped out the key changes to the property herself, before enlisting a structural engineer to draw up the plans. She rethought the poorly designed loft bedroom and en suite and on the ground floor extended into the side return to create a spacious area at the back of the house. This now contains a living, dining and cook space, with the kitchen cleverly positioned along an internal wall. ‘You often have the kitchen down one side in this kind of extension, but then you can’t fit in a table and chairs and a seating area,’ she says. ‘We wanted all that in here.’
Now this is the multitasking heart of the home, with Rufus and Matilda often covering the floor with art materials for a morning’s creative play. ‘We spend 90 per cent of our time in here,’ says Lisa, ‘but it isn’t always this tidy!’
Away from the busy family hub, a living room at the front provides a cosy retreat, which includes a wood burner. ‘We completely opened up our last home, so there was no room you could go into to enjoy some quiet,’ Joel explains. ‘It’s nice to have a snug sitting room, especially in winter with the fire on.’ This space is separated physically, but not visually, from the hallway by the glass and timber doors that used to lead into the garden, now re-invented as a beautiful partition. ‘These period homes can feel a bit dark, with lots of little rooms,’ says Joel. ‘Here, the single most important thing was getting light into the house. We like living in a light box!’
As much of the furniture is built-in, the rooms have an uncluttered feel, with just a few freestanding pieces dotted around. Most are vintage finds or one-offs, snapped up on ebay or Etsy. ‘We don’t dislike new things,’ says Lisa, ‘it’s just quite hard to find things we want.’ That’s why there’s no coffee table in the living room and why the same set of simple Ikea dining chairs has followed the family through four different houses. ‘It takes time to make a home,’ says Joel. ‘You can’t go on a big shopping spree and buy it in one go’ – particularly when you and your wife are having an ongoing debate over aesthetics and functionality! ‘So what should come first: design or function?’ Joel asks, smiling at Lisa. ‘I think you can have both,’ she says. Judging by this beautiful home, we reckon she’s spot-on.
Find out more about Lisa’s work at thespaceologists.com