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Cool, calm and collected: creating the perfect greyscale Nordic home

Cool, calm and collected: creating the perfect greyscale Nordic home

While attempting to design a warm and welcoming home, grey is probably the last colour you’d choose for your paint palette. But not for interiors blogger Cate St Hill. She loves it. And she doesn’t just limit herself to 50 shades, she’s filled her house with all the shades of grey. We spoke to her about taking a small run-down house that was full of colour and creating a calm, Nordic-inspired home she loves in Herne Hill, South London.

Stripping it back

“When we first bought it, I hated it. We couldn’t find anything and this was within our budget and we thought we could make it into something.” With the housing market as it is, finding a dream home is a thing of the past. But with some imagination, Cate could see past this ex-rental property’s flaws. “A lot of the lovely period features had been removed and replaced with later additions that weren’t in keeping with the house. It also had some hideously bright colours on the walls: garish purple in the living room, sunshine yellow in the kitchen. So our job was all about stripping back the layers to reveal the original beauty of the house.”

Building up ideas

“It wasn’t until the builders were here and they took out the wall did I really see what I wanted it to look like. I studied architecture so I knew where I wanted the door openings and things like that but we got ideas from a project we saw an architect do with a similar house to ours.”

Going up

In a 75 square metre house, it’s not just about discovering your desired look, it’s finding space-saving hacks: “Think vertically instead of horizontally – use the full height of your wall space. Normally the small space above your top cupboards in your kitchen would be wasted, but I ran my units right to the ceiling to create even more storage space.”

Breaking down walls

“It looks so much lighter and bigger now. It was so small and cramped before.” After making the downstairs open-plan by removing the wall separating the kitchen and living room, Cate’s home found a new lease of life: “Now the space is spacious, airy and flooded with natural light. In my previous flat I had a small, galley kitchen that felt really cut off from the rest of the home, here I love that one of us can be cooking and preparing dinner but still be able to see and chat to the other on the sofa.”

Not just black and white

The key to creating those Nordic vibes is Cate’s colour palette. “It’s a very light space, with light grey walls (Blackened by Farrow & Ball) and painted white floorboards downstairs. When I’m decorating I love to use the walls as a neutral backdrop and layer up prints, art, little pieces of design and plants to add colour and interest to a space. Then it can evolve with the seasons and as your tastes adapt and change.”

The L word

To open the space more, Cate has a very simple trick: “Look for furniture on legs, seeing the floor underneath will give a greater sense of space.” But there’s so much more to picking the right sofa for you: “I recently got the MADE.COM Vento corner sofa. Our old one was a three-seater but there wasn’t enough room, especially if we had friends over. We wanted an L-shaped sofa so we could create a cosy corner. I loved the Vento because it has a lovely minimal profile and slim shape. It’s quite a low sofa, and the armrests are slender maximising seating space. Plus, the simple, chrome legs give it a contemporary feel.”

Balanced living

“I like pieces to have a minimal, contemporary expression that is very Scandinavian in style. I don’t like things that are over-designed, nothing should be superfluous to a piece of furniture design. But I also like everything to balance in my home, so new pieces should sit comfortably with old, vintage designs. That might mean not having too many clashing types of woods, picking similar colours and complementary shapes.”

Sitting pretty

“I have a lovely grey Charley velvet accent chair in the bedroom that has black, mid-century style legs. It looks luxurious yet understated, creating a cosy focal point in one corner of the room. I love the contrast of the dark chair against the light pink, Peignoir painted walls.”

Do it once

Having an Insta-worthy home takes work, and Cate has some handy advice on how to create your like-earning home: “If you’re doing any decorating yourself, only do it when you have the urge and motivation, otherwise you’ll be left with a half-hearted job that you’ll just want to do again, giving you twice the work.”

Article written by: Carly-Ann Clements
Photography by: Liz Seabrook

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