Room Tour: Birch Ply Cabinets Complement the View in a 1960s Flat
Natural materials such as birch wood and green linoleum make the leafy view part of the room in this midcentury home
How best to create the light, sociable space she wanted, though? Step forward architect Elena Rowland, who could see exactly the layout changes and material choices needed to turn this flat into a spirit-lifting home.
Who lives here? A single woman
Location Crystal Palace, south London
Property A one-bed 1960s flat
Kitchen/living room dimensions 5.2m x 4.4m at the widest points
Designer Elena Rowland of Elena Rowland Architects
Photos by Aleksandra Bigoszewska
The owner’s key request was for a combined kitchen-diner and living area, so there would be room for friends and family to gather. Elena removed the wall between the old kitchen and living room and merged the two spaces with the help of birch ply cabinets, which run from the kitchen into the living area.
The plywood fits in nicely with the style of the flat, being warm and cosy without being traditional. “With it being a midcentury property, [the owner] wanted something contemporary, but not necessarily super-modern – not too sleek,” Elena says. “She’d already seen one of my other plywood projects, which is also on Houzz, so she knew I could do it.”
The team also insulated all the walls in the flat. “The 1960s building was quite cold,” she says.
Sofa, Tom Dixon for Ikea; covered by the homeowner. Green laminate and plywood side table, Futon Company.
She was also able to move the washing machine – now joined by a tumble dryer – into the bathroom (behind the tall units). The wall between the bathroom and kitchen was soundproofed, so machine noise is muffled. She then installed an expanse of floor-to-ceiling cabinets, including a fridge-freezer and a pantry cupboard.
Lights, Mr Resistor.
Originally, there was an airing cupboard that contained a hot-water cylinder and a soil vent pipe. Elena took out the airing cupboard, swapped the cylinder for a combi boiler, and designed a unit to accommodate the washing machine and a tumble dryer and hide the soil vent pipe.
The cupboard in the corner contains the new combi boiler. Elena designed a pegboard for the wall next to it.
“We couldn’t put shelves here, as we needed to ensure the boiler door could be opened when necessary, but at the same time we wanted to create some storage space,” she says. “The pegs can be removed and the door opened fully if required.” The left-hand side of the base cabinet underneath can also be removed to access the pipes.
More: How to Choose a Carpenter
The extractor is concealed in a cupboard above the hob. “You don’t see the pipe or anything behind, as we managed to buy an extractor that would fit exactly between the top and bottom of the shelves,” she says.
The owner created this bright splashback using orange waterproof paint with a wash of pink over it to bring down the yellow tones a little.
Splashback painted in Marigold, Little Greene.
Elena didn’t have a lot of space for wall cabinets, so she devised this clever shelving running across two walls, which sits lightly but offers plenty of storage and display space. “We designed this continual shelving, fitting it into any possible place we could,” she says.
LED strip lights run along the top of the shelves for atmospheric lighting after dark.
Elena designed the window seat with roomy drawers. “The windowsill is so low, we couldn’t continue with the kitchen units, so to maximise storage, I suggested a window seat with drawers underneath,” she says. “The radiator is behind, and we created a grille in the birch ply windowsill.”
The owner did all the upholstery herself, even covering the seat cushions on the sofa. For the window seat, she took a photo of a hand-stitched throw that’s on her bed and had it printed onto fabric.
Reading light, Mr Resistor.
Elena chose a simple ceiling light that doesn’t block the view. “It has solid wood around it, which really goes well with the birch,” she says. “We couldn’t have put in a pendant or it would have looked cluttered.
“I like the clean look of the flat,” she adds. “It feels as if everything has a place. I like the way the light and greenery makes everything look spacious.”
Now it’s an open space, the owner can have people over – there are plenty of places to sit, and the fold-leaf table means she can tuck it away. Unsurprisingly, she loves her new home. As Elena says, “She feels it’s hers.”
Marmoleum Marbled Fresco flooring in Edelweiss, Forbo. Nordic round ceiling light, LightingO.co.uk. Vintage midcentury Danish oak coffee table, Crystal Palace Antiques.
What do you think of Elena’s redesign of this 1960s flat? Share your thoughts in the Comments.