Transforming a 1930s home with a bold new look and an abundance of blue
It only takes one glance at Caroline Harman’s 1930s detached house near the seafront in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, to know that she is crazy about colour.
Contrasting with its rich red brickwork – and a bold departure from the other homes on the street – the front and garage doors are painted in a vibrant splash of yellow. It’s a welcome burst of sunshine through the long, grey days of winter.
‘It’s just the loveliest, happiest colour to come home to each day,’ says Caroline, 42, an interior designer, colour consultant and blogger, of the Little Greene hue Mister David. ‘Sometimes you just need to go with what makes you smile.’
Step over the threshold of the original porch, and – unsurprisingly – you won’t find a scrap of greige. Instead, Caroline has picked out a palette of many blues, from lighter shades to duck-egg, deep navy and near-black, to keep year-round living both bright and cocooning when needed.
Thanks to its flexibility, blue is having more than just a moment in our interiors right now, with its ability to conjure up sky and sea, as well as notions of smartness, steadiness and warmth.
When choosing the colours for her own home, Caroline drew on the advice she always gives her clients. ‘You need to think about how you want spaces to feel – light and airy, or cosy and warm,’ she says.
‘Colour palettes can also be dictated by beloved pieces of artwork, furniture and lighting, so it’s a case of finding one that ties everything together nicely. Clients usually have a go-to colour they feel naturally drawn to.’
Caroline knew her passion for blues would work well in the four-bedder. When she bought the house for about £970,000, in 2019, it was structurally in good shape but its interiors were completely bland. ‘There wasn’t really a colour scheme at all,’ says Caroline, who shares the home with her husband, Lewis, 40, who runs a furniture supply company, and their two young children, Hattie and Baxter. ‘It was all just greys and whites.’
For the parquet-floored hallway, Caroline turned to Farrow & Ball’s Oval Room Blue, reminiscent of sumptuous, historic salons. To give it a contemporary edge she only painted the lower half, leaving the top half white. ‘Painting a hallway can be laborious, especially the high parts over the stairs,’ she says, ‘so this way, no stepladders are needed, and there’s no tricky cutting-in near the ceiling.’
The lounge, which also doubles as a cinema room and bar, is painted in another Farrow & Ball classic, the rich, deep Hague Blue, the perfect backdrop for turquoise-reupholstered vintage chairs. Upstairs, the theme continues.
Caroline, who started her career as a fashion designer for big high street brands such as New Look, painted the main bedroom in Little Greene’s deep indigo Dock Blue, carrying the concept into the en-suite, where she sourced matching tiles. ‘It’s incredible how you can transform a home simply using colour,’ Caroline says.
‘It was the first place we have owned without completely gutting it, as we have been very mindful about sustainability, and wanted to keep or repurpose as many of the current fixtures and fittings as possible. Trying to achieve an aesthetic that we could love without ripping stuff out and sticking it in a skip was actually the hardest thing.’
Luckily, Caroline and Lewis (savvy property hunters who bought their first two-bedroom flat in Stoke Newington, north-east London, in 2008 for £220,000, spent £10,000 renovating it and sold it four years later for about £500,000) have a fine collection of mid-century furniture and designer lighting, which suited the house’s style. ‘It was great fun finding new spots for things, and giving them a whole new lease of life.’
Favourite pieces include the G Plan sideboard they were given as a wedding present and a 1960s yellow Flowerpot pendant light dreamed up by Danish design giant Verner Panton (check out andtradition.com for ideas).
They have, however, splashed out on some new artwork, including embroidery and beading by local maker @stitchandgloryembroidery and mixed media artist Steph Burnley (bonnieandclydeart.com).
If you’re used to playing it safe with colour, but are inspired by Caroline’s bold look book, she recommends playing around with the mess-free, self-adhesive peel-off paint patches some companies offer.
It looks as if Caroline will be getting her own swatches at the ready soon – the house has just hit the market for offers over £1.25million, with gilbertandrose.co.uk, and the couple are looking for another project.
‘I’ve grown to love the proportions and features of 1930s architecture, so we are looking for another house in the area, from the same era,’ Caroline says. ‘We want to do a complete renovation this time, though. A full makeover allows you to add in extra insulation, economical heating systems, new windows and energy efficient appliances, which are all increasingly important.’
■ carolinesdesign.house; Get two free tickets to a Homebuilding & Renovating Show this year: national.homebuildingshow.co.uk/homebuilding-renovating-show-metro-offer
The colours of 2023
Designer Avalana Simpson reveals her five top paint colours to turn heads this year…
‘Rich, dark greens bring a deep sense of fulfilment and joy and it’s going to be one of the strongest colours of 2023, especially for creating luxurious guest rooms and bedrooms. I adore Valspar’s Emerald Temple green. Team it with flecks of gold and copper for added luxe.’
Try: Emerald Temple by Valspar – £35 for 2.5l, from B&Q.
‘A vibrant lilac such as Little Greene’s Clockwise paint colour is perfect for areas where you need to feel uplifted, such as your home office space but it’s also great for entertaining areas, too.’
Try: Clockwise by Little Greene – £27.50/litre or £54.50 for 2.5l, from Little Greene.
‘The dark, rich colours of mulberry jam can give a sense of romance in the home. Opt for small doses to make a key statement delivered via luxurious cushions, lampshades or on a statement wall.’
Try: Dumbo House from Lick Paint’s collaboration with Soho House – £42 for 2.5l, from Lick.
‘I love layering different shades of black to create a really luxurious, high-end finish. Matte soft black on the walls can create a superb backdrop for bright coloured furniture, offset this with shiny black accessories to create instant depth of field.’
Try: Off Black by Farrow & Ball – £59 for 2.5l, from Farrow & Ball.
‘Searches for painting ceilings have increased by 70 per cent this year as people look to take inspiration online to go big above. Painting your ceiling can make it cosier and welcoming or seem bigger and brighter. My favourite colour for achieving this is yellow.’
Try: House of Hackney Paint selection: House of Hackney Orpiment – £65 for 2.5l, from House of Hackney.
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