This 80s semi-detached house in Blackheath is handsome but unremarkable from the outside. Inside, however, Susan Clark Interiors gutted, redesigned and extended the property, before finishing it with beautiful, contemporary interior decor, creating a thoroughly modern open-plan living space for all the family
Words: Victoria Purcell
I just wanted a big island that I could sit around with my friends,’ says Amy Francis, of her beautiful Blackheath home. The house on the Cator Estate underwent a complete transformation from dated 80s semi to modern family home at the hands of Westcombe Park-based Susan Clark Interiors, which undertakes full building renovations from conception to cushions.
The project involved demolishing the back of the house, extending into the garden and side return and creating an open-plan kitchen, dining and family room. It was a huge project, but since Amy works as a Retail and Design Assistant at Susan Clark Interiors, which uses a long-established team of local architects, builders and joiners, she knew her home was in good hands.
‘I love the building team, you can trust them,’ says Amy. ‘When I came in and my whole house had been torn down, I didn’t worry. I knew it would be fine.’ She has a great eye for design, so creating a contemporary home with traditional elements was a collaborative effort together with Susan.
Amy and her husband Tony have three children, Harry, aged 17, Fred, 14 and Edie, eight, so space was certainly a priority, but then so was entertaining. ‘Amy is a social butterfly, she always has people round,’ says Susan.
‘Neal Tuson [the Blackheath-based architect Susan has worked with for about 10 years] came around and I said, “I want a big island. I want to sit at the island and drink wine with my friends,”’ laughs Amy.
The island, as well as serving as an occasional champagne bar, is a great spot for Edie to do her homework after school, before the family gets together for dinner.
The island, as well as serving as an occasional champagne bar, is a great spot for Edie to do her homework after school
The open-plan kitchen, diner and family room (where everybody ‘flops to watch TV’) opens out onto a terrace – home to a set of smart rattan outdoor furniture, sourced by Susan from Conran – via two sets of bi-folding doors. The terrace then leads down to a good-sized family garden.
The Siematic kitchen is a clever mix of contemporary and traditional, with sleek zinc worktops, a beautiful Lacanche range oven (‘You would think I’m a brilliant cook,’ laughs Amy) and subtle beading detail to the warm, neutral cabinets. The Lloyd Loom chairs at the island were made especially for the space: ‘They will last forever,’ says Susan.
In terms of interior design, Amy likes to keep things traditional with burnt-edge oak floors running throughout the house, discreet bespoke joinery by Richard Burgess, wooden furnishings and a classic tan Chesterfield from John Lewis in the family room. But she knows how to mix styles, teaming retro-cool plastic Panton chairs with a marble-topped, tulip-bottomed dining table, and contemporary art by local artists like Charlotte Cory and Ben Oakley, as well as Peter Blake and the Connor Brothers.
She admits that the lighting was tricky, which is where Susan comes in: ‘We used The Original BTC in Chelsea Harbour for the lighting, all through the kitchen and into the hallway,’ says Susan, gesturing to the Pembroke pendant lights, bold but unobtrusive with an overlapping sea-shell effect, leading to the spectacular grouped drop lights in the stairwell.
It was quite a neutral palette, which meant any colour you put in here would really be highlighted. The cushions and artwork are real accents
‘It was quite a neutral palette,’ adds Susan, ‘which meant any colour you put in here would really be highlighted. The cushions and artwork are real accents.’
The sofas in the front room betray Amy’s self-declared love of neutrals, however. Reupholstered, unbelievably some 10 years ago by Susan and the team in three, pattern-clashing Osborne & Little fabrics in vivid pinks and purple, they are teamed with colourful bird-print cushions by Paul Smith.
‘Pattern clashing is difficult,’ says Susan, ‘you’ve got to be a little bit brave. We often book consultations with people who are looking for help with fabrics, colours, curtains or upholstery.’
Between the sofas sits a large, pink footstool covered in a bold House of Hackney patterned fabric, kept company by a family of taxidermy squirrels that Amy found on eBay and two cheeky Kartell Gnome side tables. The ‘pink room’ is bold, but the collaboration of these two pros has created a very cool, contemporary look.
But it’s hard work keeping a busy family home looking magazine beautiful: ‘I came home once to find my son and his friends in here with their feet on the footstool and I thought, “Oh no, that’s not really to use!” laughs Amy. This particular room, I suspect, is for the grown ups…
Susan Clark Interiors, 113 Humber Road, Westcombe Park SE3 7LW; 020 8305 2299; susanclarkinteriors.com