before and after

Before & After: An Understated London Terrace Kitchen

by Maxwell Tielman


“I’ve never been a big fan of KITCHENS!!!” says Cassandra Ellis of her London home’s recent kitchen renovation. By this, it’s certainly meant to be understood that Ellis, a designer by trade, prefers her kitchens to be of a more subtle nature than the grand statements commonly seen in decor magazines. When she began planning her new home’s kitchen and communal space, therefore, decor took a backseat to functionality. “When I thought about redesigning our kitchen,” Cassandra says, “I thought about the physical look of it last. I know what I like, so it was bound to be a version of grey and black with a wood top and a butler’s sink. What I thought most about was how we would use the space. We are not the usual “2.2,”  so our kitchen had to fit our different family set up. During the week, it is Ed and I and two dogs. On weekends, Ed’s children come home. Anyone who has been split between parents homes or been the home they are split between, know that how we use our homes can be very different. There is ‘transition’ time to be considered, and very different physical and emotional needs when only a short time is spent together.”

Purpose aside, though, Cassandra and her family had their work cut out for them. The house was apparently in a state of wild disarray and disrepair, prompting the hired removal men to dub it “the filthiest they had seen.” While renovations were underway, Cassandra was forced to cook on a camp stove in a haphazardly constructed plastic lean-to. The hard work and uncomfortable kitchen conditions paid off fully, though. The end result is a spectacularly airy, light-filled space that is both inviting and functional—perfect for Cassandra’s non-traditional family. Situated within a backyard terrace, skylight windows let the outdoors in and disappear fully at night, creating the feeling that one is dining under the stars. Taking a look at the before pictures, it’s amazing how fully the space was transformed. Continue after the jump to check out all of the photos plus Cassandra’s insight about the project, products, and tools used to accomplish this beautiful, fresh look! —Max

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Cassandra says, “We ripped out the whole kitchen and pulled down the plastic and concrete (and leaking) lean-to on the side of the house. We rewired and shifted the plumbing around to make a better work space .  We had  the side return  rebuilt with a glass and wood roof and laid wooden flooring to match the original kitchen.  The glass roof floods the whole house with light and also allows you to have the feeling of space – a rarity in inner London. We kept the size of the existing opening and cantered it on where our dining table wood be. We also replaced the windows at the rear with new double glazing as the panes were broken and blurry.”


Paint colors used: Farrow & Ball’s “London Stone” for the floors, Farrow & Ball “Slipper Satin” for the ceilings, Little Greene’s “French Grey Pale” for the walls, Little Greene’s “French Grey Medium” for the cupboards, and Farrow & Ball’s “Railings” for the interior roof.

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“I am slightly embarassed to admit,” Cassandra laments, “that we can only afford some beauty at half price – hey ho.  The Fontaine boys are lovely chaps with a superb antique store in Hastings. Every spring, they have a half price sale and we have picked up many of our pieces from them. The long tiger table, dining chairs and Spanish writing table were all hot ticket items. The  clear glass lights over the table work beautifully from every view point and are from Baileys Home.  The last corner of the kitchen is our reading and writing nook.  The Eames chair is from Conran and the armchair is (unusually) new.  It’s from Sofa.com , is covered in grey wool felt and is supremely comfortable. The quilt is very old and very beautiful as is the scrappy rug.  I made the lampshade from African cloth and the glass wine bottles and jars are all from antique markets.”


“Our kitchen also has my favourite furniture in it and I love the fact that we have four different places to sit. The little café table was found in the garden undergrowth – a scrub and a paint sorted it out. The two antique French chairs are from a market and the Hungarian cupboard is from Victorian Pine. This is our unofficial drinks spot and where everyone gathers before dinner. It also has the perfect view into the garden.”





“I like art in kitchens (it prevents the KITCHEN vibe) and these are all from New Zealand. The paintings are all NZ artists that I love and I took the two photographs on my last visit home. The antique wall lights are from a trip to Egypt almost 20 years ago and I love the light they give out. They are on a separate dimmer switch so that when we are eating, we only have these on in the kitchen and magically all cooking detritus is eliminated.”


“I’ve always thought of a kitchen as a place to cook yes – but mostly as a place to talk and eat,” Cassandra says, “It works for two plus dogs and it works for four and even fourty. Kitchen islands always make me think of night clubs in three star hotels….. and extractors are usually very ugly, so I have neither. I have a super double oven range cooker from Smeg, a double butlers sink from Ikea, a spray tap bought on sale and our old and slightly too big fridge. Our pantry is a freestanding antique cupboard that I repainted and our kitchen cupboard carcasses are also Ikea. I’m hoping it’s the last kitchen I have to build myself. However, the doors and the bench-top were custom made by a cabinet maker. The bench-tops are elm and the cupboards are painted in Little Green French Grey mid. The handles are lovely quality and UK made from http://www.martin.co.uk/.”

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  • This is STUNNING. I would love to have a kitchen like this. Congratulations on a job well done.

  • I just love the soft black woodwork with the white, it still gives a lovely crisp contrast but it works so well with the older and distressed items and the warm woods.

  • A really beautiful and soulful kitchen, one to be truly lived in! Who made the glass roof and windows??

  • I so agree that a kitchen should be a lovely living space and this one is just absolutely beautiful. The fact that cooking and dishwashing takes place there is a given, but what you have designed and created here is just as much food for the soul! Thanks so much for sharing these views of your home!

  • I love everything about this kitchen! I have never seen a fireplace like this, really fascinating. I would love to know how it works – all the different doors etc. I would also love to see the rest of the house!

  • Hi Donna, I drew the roof up and had a builder install. Any decent builder should be able to do this for you, but make sure they have done it before as they can be tricky.

  • Wow. Seriously amazing. This is the best space I’ve seen here in a long time. Timeless. No short life trendy props used here. There is a certain classic quality to the space but it’s not boring and looks lived in. Thank you for this refreshing post and PLEASE show more! :) Would love to see the rest of this home.

  • Sweet! We are a typical 2 + 2 family and I just don’t really cook much. We prepare food, clean up, read the mail, organize the recycling, do the homework, crate the dog and leave notes to each other. We don’t need giant appliances or many cupboards either, this gives me a whole new set of ideas for what is really needed versus what is expected. I would love to do this.

  • Hi Cassandra, I have the same idea with you (making a sky ceiling but for my ‘outdoor kitchen’). Can you share on how do you solve the steaming hot temperature at noon ? Thanks.

  • Has to be the best makeover I have seen! I am in awe of your ability to create something that is so elegant, refreshing, timeless, and most of all magical! It is really a gift! Thank you for sharing, and showing us it it possible!

  • Just gorgeous and what a great use of space!!! It;s easy to have a great kitchen in a huge space, but with all the angles, awesome job! I love the simple color scheme, with the different accent colors added. Wonderful lighting too, big windows. IS the green piece a wood/coal stove or a fireplace?

  • I, too, dislike KITCHENs, but I wonder where they keep all of their stuff in this kitchen? There are no uppers for dishes… I think it is easier to have this kind of kitchen if you aren’t actually very into cooking.