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Come take a peek if you need to breathe some colour and creativity into your home. Let me help you create rooms that you love and that really reflects who you are through my award-nominated blog or working with me one-to-one through Room Service. I adore photography and all images here have been taken by me. Keep in touch so you don’t miss a thing…

Room Story: Building site to Dream Kitchen

Room Story: Building site to Dream Kitchen

I totally adore (and am possibly a little addicted!) to the room transformation process and get so excited along with my clients and friends when I hear that the decorator is coming round! I can't wait to hear how they feel being in the new room that they have created for themselves because I know that feeling for myself in my own home. That's the reason I do what I do. I love enabling people to find their unique style, help them make confident decisions and end up with a home that not only enhances but reflects their life.

I thought you might find it interesting to see one way that I work with clients on Room Service so here’s the story of how I helped Nancy create a new kitchen extension in her Edwardian home. Nancy actually asked me to come back after I helped in her spare room last summer to repurpose it as a nursery/office/spare room when her new baby arrived. I was chuffed when she asked me back and although she was actually quite far down the road in their planning, they were being held back from bringing it all together and frozen in their decision-making (we all know how that feels especially in a room as complicated as a kitchen).

One aspect that made this collaboration a little tricky was that we couldn’t access the building site but we did have access to the plans and luckily I had already seen the space last year. The other bonus is that Nancy was well equipped with samples of materials including a cut-off of worktop and tiles which meant we could really get to the bottom of her main questions. These were mainly about colour and material choices such as how they would all look together and whether they should mix the worktop materials and if all the cupboards should be the same colour or if the island should be a darker colour. There were also deliberations about the wall colour and tiles and Nancy also wanted to incorporate existing things into the build such as the wallpaper.

MY Moodboard

First things first, here is the moodboard that I created for Nancy based on our discussions. You'll have to wait for the full reveal at the end!

Mood boards are such a great way of bringing ideas and colours together digitally so that you can make sure it all works and is pleasing to the eye. I'd say they are on to a winner here!

Mood boards are such a great way of bringing ideas and colours together digitally so that you can make sure it all works and is pleasing to the eye. I'd say they are on to a winner here!

So where is the kitchen from?

Nancy sourced her kitchen from Magnet who she was pretty happy with. They decided on a grey island and white upper and lower cupboards along the wall which works really well. The darker island which for me is the star of the room really grounds the space and is just so functional and useful for many things. Nancy found the large drawers extremely user-friendly (stealing this for my own kitchen!) and they love having a ridiculous amount of cupboard space. The large worktop is great for doing cooked English (or Ulster) breakfasts and serving different many dishes at once as well as baking with the kids. Also believe it or not, half of it hides the kids toys (yes you heard me right, the island houses all the toy storage)! They accessorised the island with super affordable Ikea inserts such as a pan rack, spice drawer, which one of Nancy's favourite tricks.

Deciding on surfaces

One of the first things we chatted about was the materials that would make up the bones of this room. Nancy and Ed had already done A LOT of the hard work to be honest (more than I would normally expect clients to have done) but this made the whole process much easier. Nancy and Ed had already visited Imperial Granite and Marble in Bellingham to choose the right stone for their kitchen renovation (Nancy gives them a huge recommendation for great, speedy service). Then they had to visit the supplier in Kingston (or in Battersea) to choose the slab which was a highlight of the process and Nancy ended up using Piracema granite. Seriously take a look here to see the slabs. I can't believe the choice and I love that you can almost imagine it being cut out of the earth!

Originally our budget only covered laminate, which I really never wanted. Then we considered wood, which would have been cheaper and added a nice warmth to the room but ultimately we knew we wanted granite so we found a way to increase our worktop budget. Imperial Granite have a few samples but ask you to go to Gerald Culliford to select your granite as every piece is obviously unique. Initially I’d wanted something quite plain for the work surface. I loved seeing all the ornate options and thought it would be a shame to go for something really boring. We loved that the patterns and colour are all a result of incredible geology – looking at it is like looking back in time. And we wanted to be able to see that in the surface we chose. Some of the slabs we saw were beautiful but completely OTT with iridescent peacock blues and stunning golds running through them. It’s also hard wearing – it’s  formed when molten rock is forced between other rocks in the Earth’s crust so I figure can cope with a bread knife or two scraping it! Its coolness is meant to be great for making pastry (one day I’ll get round to that). It’s pretty indestructable.
— Nancy
Look at the texture of that!

Look at the texture of that!

One of the main queries though was whether to have wood on the island to add a little more warmth to the space but they were really glad that they used the for all the worktops in the end and they love the way the granite bounces light around the whole room. Although it's completely fine to mix materials in a kitchen they are super pleased with their decision. 

Matching the tiles

It was clear that Nancy and Ed wanted to go for a patterned vintage style tile with teals and blues and they'd actually already ordered some but once we met and considered the white cupboards and light grey walls, it transpired that the neutral of the tiles was cream rather on the white or grey spectrum (which were hues of the granite they'd already chosen). She couldn't find what she was after from Tons of Tiles or Topps Tiles (which are always my first port of call for tiles) so she went for Fired Earth. She found that Room Service really helped by pointing out that the original choice was too cream to go with the granite where they’d been blaming the pattern. It meant splashing out to get the look they desired but after a lengthy process the story has a happy ending and Nancy found the right tiles close to her intial choice. Phew!

Something Old and...

The teal colour scheme was inspired by the already exisitng wallpaper from the old dining room that Nancy loved and wanted to keep and I have to say that it works beautifully with the Victorian features and also adds a nice juxtaposition (along with the tables and chairs) to the more modern kitchen. Mixing periods and styles in a clever, clearly designed way is my favourite type of room design (a great example is Miranda and Julian's 1970s home which is bursting with antiques) and I love incorporating existing items and ideas into a room to really give it some character. This is something a lot of clients ask me to do and something I do in my own home a lot too.

Something new!

One thing that I find myself doing with most clients is suggesting paint colours that are a little bit challenging to their existing ideas. This offers new ideas that they hadn't thought of before and often provides the best results in a new room (personally I've always been disappointed when I play it safe). Here to make a little feature and to draw the eye I suggested painting the bookcase in a darker teal colour. I love that this inspired Nancy to be confident enough to go quite dark in the new downstairs loo. Rather than making it a plain white box, Nancy went for interesting tiles and lovely dark blue Farrow and Ball paint.


You've probably realised that I'm not fan of white paint and would rather use an off-white with subtle undertones of other colours. For Nancy I suggested grey, veering them away from the starkness of white and in the end they went for Wevet (Farrow and Ball). It's an off-white and even though you can't always see the difference if a shade is a true white or not, you can definitely sense it and it softens the room and is easier on the eye. You can't really go wrong with grey in my opinion and there are so many shades out there to choose from.

White kitchen cupboards from Magnet - renovation


This is one of my all-time favourite topics (besides skirting boards!) and there is too much to mention here, a full blog post is required at a later date but I need to mention my amazing discovery. I have to admit that I had never used Industville before even though they had been on my radar for a while. I suggested them to Nancy for this project and she also loved them and I have to say I was super impressed when I saw the product in the flesh (in terms of the outstanding quality and extreme affordablility). I have now visited their showroom in Greenwich and have so many ideas for my own home! Stay tuned for some collaborations I have planned with them too...

Still to source... 

Nancy has created a little seated area with her gloriously unique furniture from Unto This Last. They offer great quality, asthetic, ethos, ethics and a great price. Nancy is a big fan and has their funriute in other places in her home. They're not quite finished with this area and need to possibly get a rug to zone it and a comfy chair. 

Nancy's kitchen-5.jpg

The Reveal

I'll leave you with those incredible satisfying before and after pictures. Here's looking towards the old wallpaper in the old dining room...

And the old narrow kitchen and how the extension now floods the space with light...

Granite worktops and magnet kitchen renovation

Some of the main takeaways from this project

1. Have samples to check colours - online digital images aren't equally calibrated and the shades can be WAY off. I know I love using digital mood boards but these are just a guide. Nothing beats having the materials to feel in your hands and seeing how they reflect the light.

2. Mixing the old and new is a great idea for design to have a unique and personal look

3. Think outside the box e.g. who would have thought to store toys in the kitchen island!

4. Don't play it safe. Find a balance between something you're comfortable with and something that pushes you outside your comfort zone (I'm preaching to myself here!)

How Room service helped?

The process was most useful to reassure Nancy and her husband through talking it through the choices they had already made and by creating a moodpboard to bring the new ideas together. My new ideas of using grey paint instead of white and considering the hues of the tiles were a great help too. Strangely these guys would say that one of the main things that I helped them realise was giving up on scrimping which is not something I usually advocate! But this is something that Nancy came to realise by herself through our discussions. I love that in most cases the clients make the final decisions and can feel proud of themselves and their amazing new rooms. I've only helped to guide their decisions!

Initially we thought we’d budget down on various things (e.g. Ikea kitchen, wood or laminate surfaces,) and up spec on one thing (floor, tiles, granite, kitchen, whatever) but in the end we went for not the least expensive option on pretty much everything! Other than my £3 Ikea spice insert! You get to a point where you’re spending so much that numbers seem don’t seem to mean much!
— Nancy

I find it such a joy helping people in this way and helping them realise their own creative potential and play a small part in creating rooms that really tell their story! Thanks for sharing your home with us Nancy! If you're interested in Room Service then send me an enquiry form and let me know how I can help transform your home. I'm offering 15% off all packages until Sunday 11th March as a Mother's Day treat to bless all amazing and inspiring women out there. Or treat yourself!

Yours in colour and creativity,

Donna Ford Skirting Boards and Chandeliers
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