When Beth Dadswell and her family moved into their Victorian semidetached house in West Dulwich, in southeast London, in 2011, they were excited about living in a historic building again. They were leaving behind a 1960s house they had renovated themselves. Though they liked that home’s airiness, they yearned for period features, Dadswell says.
She and her partner bought the Victorian from a couple who had called it home for more than 30 years, but who hadn’t really focused on bringing the building into the 21st century. “Everything was kind of moss green,” she recalls, describing the interior, “and there was tons of wood stained really dark. But we could see beyond all that. We thought, ‘This could be a really nice family home.’”
With the help of a part-time builder, the couple got to work, knocking down walls and retiling floors until an airy, bright space emerged a year later. As an interior designer with a love of vintage, and founder of the company Imperfect Interiors, Dadswell had the expertise required to turn the space into a stylish, family-friendly home. Her main focus was to bring as much light as possible into the house, which she estimates was built around 1900. “Pulling light through the house was a real challenge,” she says. “The corridors were incredibly dark. We took out entire walls so we could get the light coming in from all angles.”
The reward for all their thought and effort, though, is easy to see: The property is now a bright, welcoming family home with large, airy rooms in crisp whites and grays.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Beth Dadswell of Imperfect Interiors, her partner and their 8-year-old son
Location: West Dulwich, London
Year built: Around 1900
Size: 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
To open up the hallway as much as possible, Dadswell opted for airy white and statement gray, a radical change from the room’s previous look. “The walls were all avocado. It was grim,” she says with a laugh. “We also installed [chair] rails to break up the space. Otherwise it was just too much hallway.”
The exception to the crisp-white-and-gray rule is the dusky rose stair carpet. “We needed some color,” Dadswell says, “and the stairs were an obvious place to add a bright touch.”
The door on the left opens into the living room. Two of its panels were replaced with glass to aid the flow of light between the spaces.
A vintage shelving unit full of personal pieces warms up the white hallway. “The lamp is a vintage Conran design, picked up at an antiques market,” says Dadswell. “The picture closest to the door is an oil painting of my father when he was a child.”
The original house had two living rooms, which Dadswell opened up into one while still maintaining distinct areas. “The room at the front was really dark,” Dadswell says. The open layout now allows light from the garden to reach into both areas.
“The front room is more for TV watching,” Dadswell says. However, she has hidden the TV from view in a custom cabinet. “I don’t like looking at a blank screen,” she says. Disappointed by the cabinet options on the market, she asked her builder to design one instead.
The couple restored and reinstated period features throughout the space. They refitted traditional-style wooden sash windows — now double glazed — replacing some out-of-character uPVC (unplasticized polyvinyl chloride) ones. “We also put the ceiling roses [medaliions] in,” Dadswell says. “The rooms have really nice, high ceilings, and I felt they needed a little fancy cornicing.”
The curtain rails are copper. “We couldn’t find curtain rails that would fit, so we decided to put up some copper pipes instead,” Dadswell says. She added copper fixtures to the central pendant lights for cohesion.
My Houzz: Light Emerges in a Dark Victorian House