Interiorssneak peeks

A North London Home High on Design, But Made For Family

by Erin Austen Abbott

Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge

When you are an interior designer that works mostly in minimal, monochromatic spaces, but your personal style is a bolder, more pattern-friendly aesthetic, you get the home of Ellie Horwell Roche. “At home, I never really have decorating goals — I like to make it up as I go along,” Ellie admits. “I love mixing vintage with modern, and often buy pieces without knowing exactly where they will go. They always find a home, or something will change in the house, and they suddenly make sense. I love art, and believe that it should be for everyone, not just the super rich. I buy a lot of modern art prints, and street art editions. London is great for finding people doing exciting things, and I love to support that.”

Based in the Hampstead Heath neighborhood in North West London, Ellie shares the home with her husband Simon, their two young children, and two kittens. When they found their home, they knew it was the location they wanted, but it seemed they had their work cut out for them. “We have always lived in London and have tried out quite a few different areas,” Ellie shares. “When we decided that we wanted to buy our ‘forever house,’ we knew we wanted somewhere that was a happy place for the kids to grow up. Hampstead Heath is a huge wild green park, which is amazing for kids to play in and explore. You hardly ever end up in the same bit twice. It’s like living in the countryside, but moments from central London. There is a real village atmosphere here, it’s not like being in the big city, and we love that mix. When we saw the house, it was in the perfect location on the perfect road, but it was in a terrible state, very rundown and full of junk… we couldn’t even get in some of the rooms! It took a lot of time (and all of our money) to refurbish it, but we could see the potential, and as the spaces revealed themselves we really fell in love with it.”

Built in the 1900s, the home covers around 2,000 square feet, spaced out over three floors, giving the Roche family seemingly extra room, yet bringing them close together at the same time. Even though this is her “dream” home, Ellie has had to let go of some of her design dreams in their home. “The lovely bespoke kitchen that I had designed and specified had to go, so we got one from IKEA instead. We said we would save up and change it in a year, but actually, we love the one we have! It’s been sturdy, looks great, and everyone loves it, so it’s staying.”

Even though Ellie’s home is full of beautiful design and one-of-a-kind vintage finds, she’s able to look past that and focus on her children and giving them a cozy place to just be kids. “My kids love creating, doing art, making things… there’s always glue and paint and scissors everywhere, and I have the two kittens, so I can’t be too precious about the house,” she says. The result of this accommodation for her family’s creations and Ellie’s own design sensibility is a colorful, striking home. Enjoy! —Erin

Photography by Earl Smith 

Image above: A peek into the spare bedroom, full of pattern and whimsy.

Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
The spare bedroom of the Roche home, with Borastapeter Rabarber wallpaper, a lampshade from Anna Hayman, and a vintage wardrobe.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
The master bedroom is mixed with vintage finds and new pieces, such as the sofa, from Chehoma.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
The master bedroom, with a painted, vintage cabinet and the home's amazing, original mantel.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
The master bedroom, painted in Farrow & Ball "Oval Room Blue," pairs so nicely with the pink sofa from Chehoma.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
A peek at the bed frame, from And So To Bed, with a fun pop of hot pink on the bedside lamp.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
The master bathroom, complete with a sitting chair from Graham and Green.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
Honing in on her love of vintage decor, Ellie found the sink, taps and towel cabinet. The walls are painted "Stiffkey Blue" from Farrow & Ball.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
"I like experimenting at home, and if something works, I'll start using it for client projects. The venetian plastered wall and concrete tiles that make up the shower area in my bathroom were initially a big experiment, and I had to rework the design twice to make it work, but now it's a huge success and I've started to use the idea in my work," Ellie shares.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
Sweet Benjy and Florence, working on an art project in the kitchen.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
A Falcon range cooker and hood share the space with IKEA cabinets and Buster and Punch knobs in the kitchen.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
A beautiful wall of windows allows the kitchen to shine, even during rainy London days. Sharing the color from the master bath, the kitchen is also painted Farrow & Ball "Stiffkey Blue." The theatre chairs were a vintage find.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
The dining room, a central area in the home, is filled with lovely vintage finds, from the chairs to the cabinet. The walls are Farrow & Ball "Dove Tale" and floors are painted Farrow & Ball "Clunch."
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
A collection of vintage vases and ceramics creates a neutral palette, allowing the greenery to pop.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
A view from the dining room into the living room draws your eye to the original windows, with a beautiful arch.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
The living room, painted in Farrow & Ball Dove Tale, is the perfect palette for the rich velvet, vintage telephone seat, the vintage sofa filled with Jonathan Adler pillows, and the pink chair from Chehoma. The original windows cast a beautiful afternoon glow.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
Floating shelves fill the space perfectly in a small corner of the living room.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
"We love our house because it has lots of cozy places for cuddles," shared Ellie, with help from Benjy.
Ellie Horwell Roche for Design*Sponge
A peek into the three levels of the Roche home, a 2,000-square-foot Victorian terrace, built in the 1900s.

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  • I love everything about this home! Would especially like to know more about the paired artworks on the mantel in the master bedroom, as well as the art on both sides of the sink in the master bathroom. Would you be willing to share a source? Thanks so much for any suggestions!

    • Hi JB, so glad you like it! The pair of prints in the master bathroom are by Kid Acne, a U.K. based graffiti artist, and in the bathroom is a Shepard Fairey Obey print and the gold heart is by Static. Do send me an email if you want some links to galleries that sell this type of art, I have lots of recommendations!

      • Hi Ellie I would love your recommendations on galleries that sell this type of art thanks so much <3

        • Hi Laura, I’m sorry I only just saw this comment! If you’re in the UK, check out Jealous Gallery, Print Club London, Pictures on Walls, Lawrence Alkin, Art Republic. They will all have great street art prints at reasonable prices xx

  • I love this home so much! Just the right mix of colors, design and coziness.

  • LOVE !!!! That kitchen!!!! its so refreshing – no big ,clunky islands that look like greek columns or marble or over the top appliances – just a lovely and functional place where people gather and create.

  • oh la la! This home sneak peek has everything!

    your home is very beautiful Ellie – thanks so much for sharing!


  • Gorgeous! The master bedroom and master bath are to die for! The colors are so lush, yet tranquil. Exactly what one would want to help wind down after a crazy day. I also love the kitchen backsplash tile. Paired with the lighter tones of the wood cabinets, it is really stunning.

    I was wondering where the floor lamp in the dining room is from. I love it!

    • Thanks Jill, the kitchen backsplash is one of my favourite things too!

      The lamp in the dining room is the Michael Anastassiades IC floor lamp for Flos. It’s quite easy to get hold of. The matching table lamp is lovely too. X Ellie

      • Where is the tile from? We have been waiting 5 months to find the right thing) and we love it! Can you tell us where it came from – or if there is a similar one in the US? Thanks!

        • Hi! Unfortunately the place I got these tiles from is no more, but check out UK company Bert and May for similar, and look for Moroccan or Spanish tile companies in the US. Anything with Alhambra style will be similar! Good luck, it took me ages to find these ones!!

  • Love, love, love your home. Fellow North Londoner here! Currently renovating, similar to you have worked up designs for a custom kitchen but budget has put that on hold for the moment (well, probably for years!) Your kitchen has inspired me to give IKEA some serious consideration. I’d love to know where the lovely little kitchen “island” is from … is it IKEA like the cabinets?

    • It’s IKEA too Catherine! It’s been absolutely brilliant! Feel free to contact me (details on my website) and come over to check it out if you’re local! I’ve been seriously impressed with the quality for the price… x

  • The colors here are lovely. Is there a name for the angled corners in the walls? I don’t recall ever seeing that feature before but I like it a lot.

    • They were features of the house when we arrived, I don’t know what they’re called, but I love them too… my kids think they look like skis!!

  • Oh my… what a beautifully lived-in, loved-much house this is…. I feared from the (to my taste) overly decorated spare bedroom (that’s the one room I’d need calm, peaceful and subtle colours) that I wouldn’t like to see more of and now I’ve thankfully discovered that it’s a dream place!!!! Congratulations to your clever planning & execution, every room oozes a great feel and the love you have for both place and the people living in it. Some great pieces of furniture, and little bits and bobs too. Kitchen is oh so precious just as it is – I’ve found often that when our financial possibilities were severely cut back, invention and clever thinking got the best of me :)
    Thanks for sharing your home and your family – I’m very grateful. Kiki

    • Thank you so much Kiki, what lovely feedback! I agree that the spare room is a little crazy, and my mum’s not so keen to come stay any more… but the kids love it!!

  • Sorry, HAD to come back (after faveing the link!) for the glorious tiles in your kitchen – love, love, love them, and to share the smile for your dining room chair which seems to be one of those we had in my youth in our class rooms (I am Swiss and I seem to remember how floor-scratching those metal legs were with a horrible sound!)
    And actually, the fauteuil in your bathroom is beautiful but what makes me wonder is Why would anybody want to sit in even the most beautiful armchair next to a toilet? Is that for beauty’s reason or are you actually reading there? You mustn’t reply of course, I’m just having thoughts like that from time to time :)

    • Actually, my kids are bathroom philosophers, and I often have to take a seat on that chair to listen to their thoughts while they are washing or peeing! It’s the chair I use the most in the house!!!

  • Pls forgive me, my enthousiasm is running away with me – the first thing I noticed REALLY is the über-wonderful shower space – great, GREAT idea and something anybody would love to steal as an idea…. Sadly, if ever I will be ‘allowed’ to go back to Switzerland to live the end of my life, it would mean a rental flat and then I would only be dreaming about this kind of showers. Here, in France, where we live in a 1920 stone house, we installed an ‘Italian shower’ (walk in, under the eves) and every morning we praise the stars for this investment….
    I promise this is the last of my comments!

  • Hi
    Love the house
    Could you tell me where the print is from in the living room with the little bird

  • that master bathroom is incredible. how have all of those pieces held up to the humidity?? does it degrade them at all or do you just have an amazing ventilation system?

    • Everything seems fine so far!!! We are very much a ‘door open’ family, so I think that helps to reduce condensation in the bathroom far better than any extractor fan!!!

  • This tour is GLORIOUS!! so beautiful ! … I have a question regarding those sheers on the windows behind curtains in bedroom and in living room. Are they in fact just simple tiers on rods or is this a curtain/ shade like system ? I love it!

    • Thank you! The window panels in the bedroom/living room are my design, after MONTHS of trying to work out what to do for privacy with these beautiful windows. They are simply hemmed panels on brass rods screwed into the frame. So simple and I absolutely love them! X

  • Where do I even start?! Incredible decor, all around! LOVE the floral wallpaper room – people don’t do that enough these days!! It’s so striking and whimsical. Love it all. <3 <3 <3

  • Hi, what a house! I just love that its not midcentury – whew!
    Can I ask a question about the curtains in the master bedroom? What fabric are they? How do they manage to be so heavy and light at the same time? Where on earth can I get them? I love them!