Published on June 15, 2020

“It’s not happening,” said Sophia Cook to her husband, Simon (who she affectionately calls Cookie), the first time they walked into their soon-to-be home. The mom of two was six months pregnant with her first at the time and the Edwardian Arts and Crafts terrace house in South London hadn’t been updated since the ’70s. Not to mention they had already made an offer on a separate property. Still, this one had features that the other didn’t: period details, multiple fireplaces, and a mature garden filled with flowerbeds and budding trees. It just needed a lot of work—which would have to be done with a newborn in tow. 

When the other offer fell through, the couple saw it as a sign. They promptly moved in—and embarked on a time-crunched reno. For weeks, Sophia and her baby boy Alfred (nicknamed ABC for his initials), hopped around relatives’ and friends’ spare rooms with their cockapoo, Sausage, while spaces were demoed and walls plastered. 

Cookie, a creative director by day, planned everything from the color scheme and finishes on-site, while Sophia managed the contractors, timeline, and budget from afar. Exactly a year after they closed on the property (and on their son’s first birthday), the couple welcomed their second child, Edi, to a freshly remodeled home with a bright and colorful kitchen, the result of a few key updates:

Moving the Kitchen to Another Part of the House

Kitchen during demoPin It
Photography by Sophia Cook
Kitchen with green Esse stovePin It
Photography by Sophia Cook; Design by Sophia and Simon Cook

Sophia put her foot down for the second time when Cookie suggested they swap the existing cramped galley kitchen and dining area to create more cooking space. “I knew this would mean moving the main water pipes and taking a wall down,” she says. Her husband envisioned a bright open room, but Sophia was more concerned with the mounting costs and logistics. In the end, Cookie’s reminder of how much they loved preparing meals together convinced her the additional square footage was worth a higher price tag. 

Planning an Unconventional Layout

Kitchen windows and door to the gardenPin It
Photography by Malcolm Menzies; Cabinets by Pluck

Working with a blank canvas, Sophia and Cookie dreamed up their ideal layout, centered on the original fireplace reimagined as a niche for an olive green Esse stove. “It fit perfectly inside with only a couple of millimeters to spare,” she says. 

One of the things the couple knew from the get-go was that they didn’t want to block the original windows—which Cookie spent days stripping back to their natural wood finish. They originally considered running lower cabinets along the window wall but it was important for Sophia to have easy access to the garden and be able to watch her kids play outside. “We’ve got a lovely patio area that I wanted to look out onto when washing dishes,”she says. “The previous owner was an avid gardener and things got overrun towards the end of his life but today, we’re still finding more things that were planted years ago. It’s a nice surprise.”

Crafting a Palette Inspired by Nature

Green and yellow kitchenPin It
As featured on @homemilk; Design by Sophia and Simon Cook
Green kitchen with antique islandPin It
As featured on @homemilk; Design by Sophia and Simon Cook

The color scheme came together out of a desire to fill the space with cheerful “daytime colors” that would mirror the backyard. (The upstairs, which houses all the bedrooms, is painted in a rainbow of nighttime and sunset colors like blues and pinks). Using the oven as a starting point, the couple picked a matching moss green backsplash tile. To connect the kitchen and the new dining room next door, they painted the lower half of the wall up to where the chair rail would have been in a bright grass green shade, creating one continuous line between the two spaces.

For the cupboards, the family gravitated towards the brightest hues they could possibly find in cabinet maker Pluck’s showroom: a combination of marigold and citrine coupled with a few plywood door panels. “When the seasons change, the yard is filled with yellows and oranges so it ties the palette together,” says Sophia. 

All the choices they made ensure the finishes and appliances will last until their kids are grown. “Every material that we used has a shelf life 25 to 30 years,” says Sophia. With two kids under two, they’ve got plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company.

It’s hammer time: Follow @reno_notebook for easy rental updates, clever DIYs, and tips to nail your next project.

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