A Cozy London House Will Make You Love Wood-Paneled Walls

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Our favorite space in the house is undoubtably the kitchen and family room. It is the one room where we had one clear idea of what we wanted to do with it from the very beginning. We’ve always loved wooden cladding; wood is such a tactile material, it really transforms a space and it smells like an alpine forest in there when I spray all of the plants. We had originally planned on having white handle-less scandi-inspired kitchen units but in a last minute change of direction we decided on a dark blue shaker style to give it more of an industrial feel, which we felt was more in keeping with the exposed copper.

Name: Marianna Popejoy, my husband Ross, our 3-year-old son Finn, and our crazy red headed cocker spaniel Indy also lets us live there and occasionally share the furniture with her.
Location: Wanstead — London, UK
Size: 835 square feet
Years lived in: 4.5 years, owned

We’re the Popejoys. We run a creative agency called Happy Ending Agency. When we tell people the name it’s often received with either a laugh or an “ah how lovely, like a fairy tale.” I think the response can tell you a lot about a person within one minute of meeting them. My name is Marianna (commonly known as Maz much to my mothers disappointment). Until four years ago I also worked full time at the agency, but after having our son I retrained as a Pilates instructor. We have a little boy called Finn and he’s 3; he’s a professional negotiator and an absolute master at hiding the remote control. Our dog Indy also lets us live there and occasionally she lets us share the sofa with her, too.

Describing our style is a tricky one as it's quite eclectic, there is definitely a heavy nod towards the modern rustic with all of the natural materials. Working in East London for the last nine years has had its influence with the industrial-inspired exposed copper pipe lighting and brickwork in the kitchen so lets go with those two for now.

We live in a small workers cottage in East London, which up until recently was a three-bed house but we took the controversial decision to move the bathroom upstairs and turn it into a two bed… a decision that we do not regret.

We love adding a personal touch to our home and as this project was very much done on a budget we have done a lot of the work ourself. It may be a little bit rough around the edges but I hope that our home has that relaxed, rustic feel. The basket wall in the dining room has at least three baskets within it that were hand painted by me. You can probably guess which ones.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Modern rustic, industrial meets Scandinavia.

My husband designed all of the built-in storage in the house. We used a structural carpenter to do all of the carpentry work, which saved us a fortune but you have to draw them a clear plan and make sure they are following it to the letter or they can occasionally go off script.

What is your favorite room and why? This is such a difficult one as I kind of love whichever room I’m in at the time. The kitchen and family room is probably my ultimate favorite though. I still get that wow feeling every time I walk in and the natural materials that have been used make me feel calm and give the room a relaxed and homely feel. We are finally getting around to doing the back garden, too, so it’s all starting to come together as one unified space when the doors are open . It was always part of the bigger plan to continue the red cedar cladding around the entire garden to make it feel like an extension to the room. We just needed to save up a little bit more to achieve it.

Our staircase has a very Mediterranean feel; my mother is Greek Cypriot so I may have been influenced there in some way or another but the real long and short of it is that it is a very old and beaten MDF staircase. We didn’t have any money to replace it and it was not fit to be painted so we decided to tile it instead. This worked out much cheaper than a good quality carpet as we did the tiling ourselves. It’s more durable and with a young boy and a muddy dog in the house that is invaluable. The staircase is the first thing that you see when you walk into the house and the sight of it makes me happy every single day. In the absence of a grand, tiled hallway it is a fantastic compromise for a smaller home.

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? This is easy… I would make it lighter. We have lots of natural light in the new extension due to three large skylights but the centre of the house, mainly the dining room, is actually darker than it was before as a result. We have done our best to counteract this by adding wider walkways and a large opening through from the kitchen but narrow terraces are just dark by nature due to having no side windows. We dream of one day living in a self build predominantly made of glass, with light coming in from all angles.

The living room has a bit of a style of its own. It's not part of the open plan living area of the house so we thought that might be our free pass to be a little bit braver and bolder. Green was the obvious choice after many a late night scroll on Pinterest and mustard because, well mustard velvet. I was inspired by the amazing Kate Learmonth of @the.kate.edit to create a feather wreath out of pheasant feathers after being completely blown away by her feature in the Rocket St George Extraordinary Interiors book. It creates such an impactful focal point in the room and is a real talking point whenever anyone comes to visit. We tend to use this room in the evening when Finn is in bed so it's a bit of a cosy retreat. We love the atmospheric feel of the dark walls and woodwork, combined with the mixed vintage pieces. It’s a dramatic contrast to all of the neutral earthy tones used in the rest of the downstairs of the house.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing we bought was a large sheet of CorTen steel for the back of the pergola in our garden. It’s untreated metal so it rusts when it comes into contact with the natural elements, creating the most beautiful coppery patina. It looks so industrial and is a real feature in the garden. It works perfectly alongside all of the aged copper that we have in our kitchen and I can’t wait to see it against all of the grasses and foliage that we are planning to plant over the next couple of weeks.

The plywood cabin bed and fitted wardrobe in our son's room was also built by us. It was so lovely to have our son involved in the process and to see that with a bit of imagination you can create something magical without spending a fortune. The look on his little face when he saw it all finished for the first time was absolutely priceless.

Any advice for creating a home you love? We have a huge connection to our home as we have done the majority of it ourselves. It gives us a huge sense of pride and appreciation for every single square inch of it. The work has taken us a lot longer than it would have if we’d have bought things off the peg or paid someone to do it. Of course, that has caused frustration at times when you just want to get it finished but our home is completely unique as a result and it’s one that reflects the style and personalities of everyone that lives here.

After a lot of deliberation we decided to take the house from a three-bedroom house to a two bed. We moved the bathroom from the end of the kitchen to one of the bedrooms upstairs. To have a freestanding bath and a walk-in shower; after years of living in tiny flats in London with no bath it was exciting to say the least. We wanted the bathroom to have a traditional feel and loved the idea of taking the black and white theme from the staircase and flipping it on its head as you lead up the stairs into the bathroom. It was the first room to be finished during the renovation so it was the first one that we decorated. The nearly black walls and ceiling were a bit of a last minute decision and thankfully one that we still love. We feel completely spoiled every time we go in there.