Home and away
A base that reflects its owners’ travels
When Magnus Pettersen and Ella Jones visited Japan in September 2017, they were obsessed with the sliding paper walls and wooden partitions they saw everywhere, from Tokyo to Kyoto. These traditional panels have formed the basis of their major revamp of a rundown Victorian terrace, which they have filled with architectural details and finds from their travels.
The couple bought their house in east London last year: the converted loft, extended kitchen and big garden sold it for them, but years as a shared rental had left the interior neglected. Period features had been ripped out and the ground-floor layout was disjointed: an entrance hall led to an enlarged front room with a bathroom behind it, in the middle of the house. So they knocked through the internal walls, removing the bathroom, and an open-plan living area emerged. They wanted to lay concrete flooring throughout, so they dropped the floor level at the front to meet the kitchen, where there had been a step down. Adding a supporting beam meant moving the staircase. “It was quite rickety and unsafe, with really narrow steps,” Jones says. They fitted a sleek wooden staircase and painted the treads black.
The Japanese-style decorative panels divide this space – creating a screen by the front door where the former hallway stood and partially dividing the kitchen from the living area. The couple designed them from opaque reeded glass and sapele African hardwood, sourced from a local timber supplier. “We wanted the ground floor to feel cosy without removing its open-plan feel,” Jones says. “The glass allows light to radiate through and the wood softens the space.”
They also turned to colour. In the living area, your eye is drawn to a vivid cerulean-blue wall in the kitchen, which contrasts with earthy neutrals, greys, blacks, mustard and pale pinks elsewhere in the house. The couple were inspired by a palette created by the architect Le Corbusier, designed to be naturally harmonious (lescouleurs.ch), and matched shades from mineral-paint company Keim. “Our choices were very safe at first, then →
we said, ‘Let’s go with the blue.’ The builders thought we were mad, but we love it,” Jones says.
She and Pettersen moved the kitchen units to the opposite wall, adding double doors out to the garden and a skylight above. Chairs – Ton’s 77 chair (ton.eu) – sit around a large wooden dining table, designed by Pettersen, with glass pendant lights by Tom Dixon above. The wooden kitchen units – designed to look more like furniture than a fitted kitchen, Jones says – are teamed with a terrazzo-stone worktop. The splashback and open shelving are finished in elegant tadelakt-style plaster, giving a marble-like finish that’s popular in Moroccan architecture, and which is used here and in the first-floor bathroom, previously a bedroom. “We wanted to use repeating materials throughout, tying everything together.”
Moroccan rugs fill the ground floor; Jones sources and sells them in her Hackney shop, A New Tribe (anewtribe.co.uk). Pettersen’s aluminium Beacon lamp, produced for Iittala, stands on one of his sideboards in the living area (magnuspettersen.com). Its mustard-coloured doors and the yellow SCP sofa add pops of colour.
In their bedroom, the pair jettisoned bedside tables, opting instead for a built-in headboard; a shelf above has space for books and objects, from Japanese straw slippers to a decorative arrow head found in Santa Fe. “There’s something really satisfying about transforming a property,” Jones says. “But it was hard work. Next year we’re planning a holiday.”
Previous pages, left: the living area, with lamp and sideboard by Magnus Pettersen; right, built-in headboard and bedding from linenme. com; a glass screen forms a hallway behind the sofa. This page: a decorative skull; the tadelakt finish in the bathroom (topcret.com); Moroccan rugs and cushions; the kitchen/dining room