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  • Nicola Burt

Kensington Mews House


Mews House Renovation


Pretty mews street with cobbled street and plants either side
London mews

Have you ever wondered about the pretty little houses that are tucked away on side streets in some of the smartest parts of London?


Why are these sweet little rows of houses with their cobbled streets surrounded by enormous townhouses on all sides?


They are known as ‘Mews Houses’ – which is part of a ‘mews’ – a row or street of houses of character - usually found tucked away behind grand mansions in some of London’s most exclusive areas.

Kitchen view with central island and large paned window
New mews kitchen

I had the wonderful opportunity to work on a mews house in Kensington, and whilst doing so I discovered the history behind these iconic homes.


In London, mews homes can be found in areas such as Chelsea, Mayfair, Notting Hill, Knightsbridge, Westminster, Bayswater and of course Kensington, where our mews is located.


Part of the charm of mews houses is that they are located down quiet cobbled private streets in London's most desirable areas, tucked away from the everyday hustle and bustle of city life.


They offer a seemingly impossible hybrid of the very best of central city locations, coupled with the tranquility of a bygone era.



The Origin of the Mews House


19th Century mews street with carriages outside waiting for horses
19th Century mews street

When London expanded to the west in the 18th century, grand terraces of town houses where built on the fields in areas such as Mayfair, Kensington and Marylebone. They needed spaces for horses, coaches and servants, and the solution was to build a road at the back of the terraces where stables could be built.


They became known as 'mews' after The Royal Mews, a gigantic stables on what is now Trafalgar Square. The word ‘mews’ came from the original use of the stables building, which was to house the King's falcons. Falcons moult or mew (from the French verb 'muer'), and the place where they did this was referred to as a ‘mews’.

19th century mews street with stableboys outside and girl looking out of hayloft
19th Century mews steet with stableboys

Most mews were purely functional and utilitarian, with hard-wearing cobbles and a drain down the middle to take away the waste from the horses. There was stables and a coach house on the ground floor, and the first floor was a hayloft with one or two rooms where the coach driver and the ostlers could doss down for the night. Basic to say the least!


In the early 20th century, the advent of the motor-car and the shortage of servants made mews houses unnecessary for many owners. Most were sold off to businesses such as taxi firms, garages and print shops. ‘Mews’ became a byword for scruffy backstreets, and they were often used as locations for gritty gangland dramas on black-and-white TV.


Then in the Swinging Sixties, racing drivers such as John Surtees and James Hunt discovered they could buy a mews house for not a lot of money and live above their cars.


People began to realise that mews houses are actually very practical and have huge charm. And because they were built to serve the aristocracy, many are located in the very best areas.


View through arch to contemporary mews street with external stairs to balconies
View through arch to contemporary London Mews

The Kitchen 'Before'


Kitchen before refurbishment work
Kitchen before the refurbishment

This client contacted me when she had started out on a major kitchen renovation project.


She had hired the builder, architect, and kitchen manufacturer, and work was about to start when she realised she needed help to pull together some of the critical elements in her new kitchen.


She didn’t want to spend a substantial amount of money on a new kitchen and not get it exactly right!


My help was needed with the colour scheme, finishes, lighting, repositioning artwork and detailing – pulling it all together basically.


Kitchen before refurbishment with original paned window and brass pots and pans
View of paned window in previous kitchen

She wanted to ensure any changes sat sympathetically within the unique character of this building, and also felt that she needed someone experienced to be the interface between the builder and the architect.



Original Details


When we met to discuss her project I was fascinated with the architecture of the property and its humble origins.


The kitchen ceiling is high and arched, as it needed to be high enough for the horses to walk in and out, and where the stable doors would have been is now a beautiful paned glass window.

Paned glass window in mews kitchen with hanging copper jelly moulds and pans
Paned glass window in mews kitchen

At our meeting she showed me samples of the various colours and finishes she had in mind. She knew what she wanted with some aspects – the style of the kitchen and worktop, the arrangement of the cabinetry - but was stumped on others.


She didn’t want the units to be all one colour, but couldn’t decide - dark on the lower units and light on top, or vice versa? What kind of splashback behind the hob would work? What was the best lighting arrangement?



New Details


In-frame wall cabinet with ribbed glass inset and honeycomb tile splashback
Ribbed glass wall cabinet with honeycomb tile splashback

I advised on the colour layout for the handpainted units from Richmond Kitchens, and sourced some beautiful tiles from Ann Sacks for the splashback behind the hob.


We finalised the reeded glass detailing for some of the wall cabinets, as well as cupboard handles, sink and tap, and the appliances.


The kitchen units are ‘in-frame’ style, which means no external hinges can be seen. This gives a neater look to the cabinetry.


Kitchen island and open display shelving with Provence plates
View of kitchen with island and open display shelving

Details are extremely important, and I truly believe they make or break the look and style of your kitchen. As this is a period property we wanted the kitchen to have a traditional feel, so we chose a mix of cup handles and knobs for the cabinets, all in polished chrome.



Kitchen Island


Mitred edge detail of island waterfall edge in Neolith Calacatta Oro
Mitred edge detail of island

The island is the centrepiece of this beautiful kitchen, with an undermounted sink and integrated dishwasher and bin storage below.


In Neolith Calacatta Oro stone and with perfectly mitred corners to join two sides, creating a seamless ‘waterfall edge’ across the top and to the floor on one end of the island.

Lighting


Prismatic glass kitchen pendant lighting with discreet black spotlights on track
Original pendant lighting with discreet spotlights

We decided to keep the existing vintage pendants lights over the island as they were ideal with the new scheme.


I drew up a lighting and electrical plan and sourced surface-mounted downlighters and LED shelf lighting from John Cullen.



Appliances


Miele hob inset into worktop in kitchen renovation
Miele hob inset into worktop

Miele double oven in kitchen renovation
Miele double oven

If the appliances are on show, go for the best quality you can afford. Not only will they look good but they will last!



Bespoke Shelf


Rustic oak shelf under window in kitchen refurb with shelves for cookbooks
Bespoke shelf in rustic oak

A bespoke shelf in Rustic Oak was commissioned from Spekva, and this beautiful rustic piece adds an element of natural wood to the scheme.


It sits under the paned window and returns to perfectly join the kitchen cabinetry. We used the space underneath to create bookshelves for cookery books.



Pantry Cupboard


Pantry cupboard with wood internal shelving for dry goods and spices
Pantry cupboard with internal shelving

No self-respecting kitchen these days is complete without a pantry cupboard, and this one has oodles of space and beautiful internal detailing in warm wood.



Including Existing Items


Copper jelly moulds and colander hanging in window of mews kitchen
Copper jelly moulds

The new kitchen complements the client’s collection of copper pots and moulds, and hand-painted crockery from Provence.


Open shelving display of hand painted plates from Provence in mews kitchen refurb
Open shelving display of hand painted plates

Detail of hand painted plates close up in mews kitchen refurb
Detail of hand painted plates


Dining Room Refresh


View into kitchen from dining room with stairs to right and pink tulips on table
View into kitchen from dining room

The dining room adjoining the kitchen is where the client entertains and this needed a refresh when the kitchen was completed.


Dining room in tunsgate green with striped chairs around art deco table and tapestery on wall
Dining room in tunsgate green

We advised on the paint colour for the walls to complement the existing dining chairs and furniture, choosing Farrow and Ball's Tunsgate Green for the walls and Strong White for the woodwork.



The Smallest Room


Downstairs cloakroom in Rangwali Pink walls in Kensington renovation
Downstairs cloakroom in Rangwali Pink

The client wanted to smarten up the guest cloakroom too, so I suggested painting it in Rangwali Pink from Farrow and Ball.


It’s quite a vibrant colour, but guest cloakrooms are small spaces where you can have fun, and be a bit braver with colour and pattern than in other rooms.


Pink is also very flattering on the skin, so you can guarantee any guests will feel better about themselves looking in the mirror in this guest cloakroom!



The Final Result


Completed kitchen renovation view of sink and tap in island
Mews house kitchen renovation

This kitchen renovation not only exceeded the client's wishes, but also complemented the original features of this iconic piece of London's architectural history.


Kensington kitchen renovation view to hob and ovens
Kensington kitchen renovation

What the client said:


The client was extremely happy with the results, and this is what she had to say:


“Nicola was impressively skilful in working with all the people on the project.

Firm but positive, so that everyone liked her and she got good results from them.


She was a very effective coordinator between the builder and architect, drawing up the lighting plans and keeping everything moving on schedule.


Her advice on colours and finishes was invaluable, and she was a great source of new ideas.


I also greatly appreciated Nicola’s disciplined approach to each aspect of the project she undertook for me. Every item was detailed in advance, with budget, for approval.


I can unhesitatingly recommend Nicola as a highly professional interior designer”.


So if you are thinking of replacing your kitchen and want to get it absolutely right, get in touch and we can help you create your dream kitchen today.



Are You Thinking of Extending or Renovating Your Kitchen and Don’t Know Where to Start?


You can see more of our kitchen design projects in the website portfolio and see my 5 star client reviews on Houzz.


If you would like my expert help, get in touch and I can work with you to create your

ultimate dream kitchen.




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