A once-drab Victorian brookside house revivified by a former House & Garden editor

Even for House & Garden’s former decoration editor Wendy Harrop, extending and reviving a neglected, dark and pebble-dashed brookside house in south west London proved to be a challenge – but her efforts have been amply rewarded
A oncedrab Victorian brookside house revivified by a former House  Garden editor
Jan Baldwin

The palette throughout is muted, in tones of white, grey and blue. Wendy admits she was so worn out by the building work that, surrounded by paint samples, she could not make a decision about colours for the walls. So she reverted to her inclination to use neutral shades that look good with her collection of baskets and blue and white ceramics. Upstairs, she opted for painted floorboards, colour matched to wardrobes made by Kate Feather, as she wanted to retain the feel of the old house and to avoid it becoming homogenised. Rightly, she maintains that major makeovers risk destroying a lot of character, which is why she left elements such as the original fireplace in the bathroom and the old floorboards.

The exterior walls of both the extension and the studio opposite are clad in Siberian larch, treated so that it will weather to a soft grey. The garden, and the decking linking the house to the studio and garden, was designed by Ross Allan. ‘We loved his scheme the moment we saw it,’ says Wendy. ‘Ross has a wonderfully graphic eye and his botanical knowledge is exemplary. He sourced some unusual plants for us, such as hardenbergia and Dianella tasmanica, which make an interesting evergreen surround for the umbrella-trained field maple trees set into the decking.

With the project completed, Wendy can paint in her studio while taking in views of the garden and brook through the seasons, watching the ducks and moorhens. And of the process of renovating the house she admits, ‘It wasn’t fun, but now we love where we are.’