Houzz Tour: A Converted Victorian Dairy With a Magical Courtyard
A derelict historical building has been saved and transformed into a beautifully calm family home
“I was really excited when I saw the huge open courtyard at the front of the building,” Beth says. “It also had incredible steel girders that were covered in jasmine. It was like an industrial, urban version of Miss Havisham’s house.”
Beth quickly drew up a floor plan that would bring the dairy back to life, and asked her architect friend, Takero Shimazaki, to help them with their planning application.
Who lives here? Interior designer Beth Dadswell with her husband and son
Location East Dulwich, south London
Property A Victorian dairy converted into a home
Size Three bedrooms and two bathrooms
Designer Beth Dadswell of Imperfect Interiors
Photos by Chris Snook
“We didn’t want to over-develop the site and lose the magical courtyard at the front,” Beth says. “So we simply added a modest, single-storey, glass-fronted extension to the front of the existing building [seen here], removed the collapsing flat roof at the back, and opened up the area to include a small courtyard at the rear [not shown].”
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“The site is surrounded by neighbouring gardens on every boundary,” Beth says, “so we didn’t want to encroach on anyone’s privacy by adding windows that would overlook them.
“Our low-key approach was well received by our relieved neighbours, and we got Planning Permission fairly quickly,” she says.
The walls were covered with a standard gypsum plaster and sealed with varnish. “They give the space a warm glow, and feel quite Mediterranean,” Beth says, “particularly in the summer, when all the doors and windows are open.”
The microcement floor was chosen as a cheaper alternative to polished concrete. “I was keen to avoid anything that looked too cold and hard, so I chose a finish that had a warm tone and that worked well with the warmth of the plaster,” she says.
Microcement flooring, Polished Concrete Co. Steel glazing, Fabco Sanctuary. Jute rug, Dunelm. Days Forum sofa and chair, Robin Day. MDF cabinets painted in Mole’s Breath, Farrow & Ball. Linen cushions, H&M Home. Floor lamp, French Connection Home. Vintage marble side table and lamp, made by Imperfect Interiors.
She made sure the storage didn’t feel too heavy by including display areas where they could put out their art, ceramics and plants.
Belgian limestone worktop, MKW Surfaces.
Beth hired a trusted carpenter to make the MDF kitchen units. “We spent a lot of time together getting the proportions and details right,” she says.
The cross-braced ceiling beams had been covered with a 30cm layer of cork by a previous owner. “It was to keep the space really cold, as it had been used as an ice cream factory,” says Beth. “I wanted the space to feel light, so I decided to paint all of the ceilings throughout in a soft off-white.”
“I found the vintage shell pendant in a local antiques warehouse at the beginning of the build,” she adds. “It somehow survived nine months of being moved from rental house to building site – although I did spend a few hours reattaching shells once it was finally hung.”
Moroccan-style rug, La Redoute. Kusa metal desk legs on plywood dining table, Habitat. Dining chairs, Robin Day. Zellige tiles, Mosaic del Sur. Black cast iron stove, Everhot. Kitchen cabinets painted in Mole’s Breath, Farrow & Ball.
The snug doubles up as a guest bedroom. Beth asked her upholsterer to attach arms to the bed, so it could also be used as a daybed to snuggle up on and watch films.
“Most of the time, it’s used as a music room, though, as the piano is in here,” she says.
“I wanted the space underneath to be useful, so there are two hidden doors that conceal the underfloor heating controls and the electrical fuse box,” Beth says.
The simple, powder-coated-steel balustrade ties in with the glazing in the windows and doors.
Beth planned out the storage carefully in this room. The tall cupboards behind the desk house her collection of tiles, paint samples, and stone and fabric swatches, while her client’s moodboards are displayed above the low units. Files, product catalogues and styling items are stored in the cabinets below.
“I wanted to reduce the palette as much as possible, and to use finishes that would get better over time and not need constant touching up,” Beth explains.
Bespoke linen-covered bed, Sofa.com. Hand-dyed green and navy cushions, Imperfect Interiors. Black metal and brass lamp, Pooky. Vintage Georges Braque prints, Porte de Clignancourt flea market in Paris.
The sloped roof made the bathroom feel very snug, but by positioning the loo and sink along one wall, Beth could fit a large shower and plenty of storage along the other side.
“We’d found an old chemistry lab sink at an antiques fair before the work started,” Beth says. “As this is small but very deep, it gave us more worktop space.”
Limestone floor tiles, Topps Tiles. Towels, Rowen & Wren. Unlacquered brass taps, Bert & May. Toilet, Duravit. Sink, Ardingly Antiques Fair.
Beth prefers wall lights and lamps to overhead pendants, and the same black wall lights feature throughout the house. “They create a lovely gentle light,” she says.
Enamel wall lights, HFS Specialities. Black and white rug; woven storage baskets, all Ikea. Vintage desk, Stag.
As the landing doesn’t have any natural light, Beth had a glazed panel fitted above the door to borrow light from the shower room. “It also allows you to see the exposed rafters from the landing, which is interesting, particularly when it’s lit at night,” she says.
Most of the internal doors in the house are space-saving sliding pocket doors that disappear into the wall when open.
Doors painted Setting Plaster, Farrow & Ball. Aged-oak parquet flooring, The Natural Wood Floor Company.
“These doors were originally on the front of the dairy,” says Beth. “We restored them and installed reeded glass.” They’re now used to screen off the car park space behind, which is then separated from the street with black metal shutter gates.
Enok corten steel burner, Provender Nurseries.
“We all feel so comfortable here,” Beth enthuses. “We’re a short walk from the high street, but all you can hear in the courtyard are birds singing. It’s really special and we feel very lucky that we stumbled across it before the developers knocked it down.”
What do you like about this magical Victorian home? Would you be willing to take on a project like this? Share your thoughts in the Comments.