Kensington Mews House
Mews House Renovation
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.
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
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’.
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.
The Kitchen 'Before'
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
If the appliances are on show, go for the best quality you can afford. Not only will they look good but they will last!
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.
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
The new kitchen complements the client’s collection of copper pots and moulds, and hand-painted crockery from Provence.
Dining Room Refresh
The dining room adjoining the kitchen is where the client entertains and this needed a refresh when the kitchen was completed.
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
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
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.
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?
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ultimate dream kitchen.