Case Study: Emerald Blenkin
Sep 15, 2023
Case Study: A total transformation in Little Venice
When Bert & May’s design consultant, Emerald, undertook the not-insignificant task of transforming a dated one-bedroom flat into a calm and contemporary two-bedroom home, honouring the property’s original features - while adding personality and a modern touch - was an essential part of the project. Here, Emerald explains what she did, and how lockdown prompted a furniture-upcycling hobby that helped shape the entire space…
Style and location of property:
A flat in a Victorian property in Little Venice, London
How would you describe your personal interior design style?
This was my first project, and my interior design style developed and evolved throughout it. We were constantly met with challenges that I was forced to design around, which allowed me to discover more about my personal style. I learnt that my interior design style can mould and morph to fit any space.
I spent countless hours making sure the whole project used space as efficiently as possible, but always prioritising how I would live in the flat. I didn’t compromise on how the space would be used, but looked at fabrics, materials and colour to add my personal style.
The master bathroom encapsulates how I use materials and colour to put my stamp onto a functional layout. A statement green-marble bath with a rustic Zellige shower floor isn’t necessarily an obvious pairing, but I love the way the two complement one another. Contrasting the classic and the new is a big part of my design style. I like to honour the old and the timeless but set them amongst modern colour choices and contemporary finishes.
Have you always had a passion for interiors? How did it start?
Yes, I grew up within a family that was property and interior focused, surrounded by projects large and small. With this background I found myself becoming a complete auction fanatic during lockdown. Like so many, lockdown meant I suddenly had a lot of hours and not much to do. I would buy unwanted, unappreciated furniture and transform it to give it a second life. I saw how even in the confinements of a cupboard, using paint, textures and a little bit of thought, you could create something unrecognisable from a dusty listing on an online auction.
I started buying, upcycling and selling furniture. I loved having complete autonomy from start to finish, and rather than being overwhelmed by the time I spent labouring over every piece, I saw the value of being involved in the whole process.
The hours I spent trawling the auction houses, whilst never getting bored, only solidified my future career in - and enthusiasm for - design. It also provided insight which later informed many of my build decisions, as I knew exactly what I could source whilst transforming a flat. I started collecting one-off pieces months before I even found my flat, which I then built into my design.
Tell us about the refurbishment…
This project was not for the faint hearted. The property hadn’t been modernised in 60 years and when I bought it, it had one bedroom and one bathroom. Now, it has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a garden extension. The complexity of being in London, plus the scope of the work, mean the project tested me at the best of times! With it being a complete structural reconfiguration, the variations on the floor plan were endless, always trying to maximise and question our use of space.
I was hugely appreciative of Fabio Constantino @fabvenetianplastering, who expertly installed mircocement in both bathrooms. This helps them feel more spacious and is also a lovely backdrop for adding colour and texture to. I mostly used Little Greene paints throughout and enjoyed adding considered pops of colour to lift areas and enhance features.
What did you want to achieve with the overall space?
My main ambition was to create a space that felt safe, calm and open. So many garden flats in London can feel dark and dingy. The flat is not huge, so this took real consideration, from the moment you enter the front door. I curved the wall that leads from the hall into the kitchen to create a natural pull towards the natural light seeping in from the garden. This informed the flow of the design throughout the flat and provided a feeling of modernity.
Which Bert & May products did you use?
I used the Blanco y Negro Reclaimed tiles, Cinca Reclaimed tiles, and White Rectangle Zellige tiles.
Your use of colour amazing - what’s your advice for people who don’t know where to start when it comes to using both these things in their homes?
My advice would be do not be afraid to mix materials, colours and 'clashing tones'. Paint can always be changed so don't be afraid to use strong colours. If you don’t want to paint the entire room in a bold colour perhaps just add a sharpness of colour through painting a doorway, window frame or perhaps a painted piece of furniture.
Where are your go-to spots for amazing interior finds?
I mostly find things at auctions; I also enjoy wandering around Golborne Road and have found good fabrics on Goldhawk Road.
To speak to Emerald about designing your own space email email@example.com or pop in to our Chelsea studio.
Photography Beth Davies