Design Project: Reclaimed Inspiration by Cathy Emmins
By Victoria Smith
Nov 26, 2020
We’re passionate about sourcing and working with reclaimed materials - they’re what inspired the creation of Bert & May, after all - so when designers we admire choose to use them in awe-inspiring projects, we can’t help but feel proud.
Recently, interior designer Cathy Emmins took on the refurbishment of a warehouse apartment in Whitechapel, and used Bert & May’s reclaimed products and tiles as part of the project. As you can see from the photographs, the finished result is a total knockout - so much so, we had to share the story.
We knew the project was going to be great the minute we heard about it. The owners of the property are based overseas but needed a place in London, so bought the 120sqm penthouse apartment with a view to turning it into the ultimate inner-city base.
The property hadn’t changed hands for 20 years, so an entire update was required throughout. Enter: Cathy, who worked with the new owners to create their dream home, a place that would accommodate their practical needs as a family, as well as reflect their personal style.
The brief was clear: “They love entertaining so wanted a very sociable space with an emphasis on colour, bold pattern and texture,” she says. Aware of our work with reclaimed and natural materials, Cathy immediately felt that Bert & May would be a great fit. “I knew the client was after an ‘urban chic’ sort of vibe and I’d seen Bert & May products all over the place, loved them and just knew it would be a match made in heaven,” she says.
Happily for us, she was right. “I took the client to the Bert & May showroom and she was like a child in a sweetshop,” says Cathy. “It really set the tone for the whole project - she adored the look and the tiles and was keen to use them in a number of different ways throughout the flat.”
The first move was to break the apartment’s large living space into three zones – living, dining and kitchen. The clever addition of a large peninsula in the kitchen area helped achieve this, and also created more work space and storage as well as additional seating.
Not only was the new peninsula useful, it also became a focal point thanks to the use of a reclaimed Bert & May tile that featured warm tones and a playful pattern. “The tiles added some serious wow factor to the front of the peninsula and to the main living space in general,” says Cathy. “The fact they had a vintage feel worked well - we wanted to do something in keeping with the property, something that didn’t look brand new or too manufactured or pristine.”
This reclaimed, raw and relaxed look was carried all the way through the area. “We opted for aged brass-fronted cabinets to create warmth and reflect the beautiful light in the flat, and contrasted them with concrete work surfaces,” says Cathy. “The kitchen, supplied by The Main Company, also works beautifully with the exposed brickwork in the flat.”
Lighting, too, was key, and a bespoke pendant was added to light the stairwell, while feature lights were hung above the dining area and kitchen peninsula.
Next up, focus turned to the bedrooms and bathrooms, which posed a new challenge.
The client wanted a bath in the flat but neither bathrooms had the space to accommodate it, so it was time to get creative, says Cathy: “We’d found the perfect bath in the Bert & May showroom - it was on display and was amazing. The only challenge was getting it into one of the bathrooms, which we couldn’t do… A bath like that deserved to be centre of attention, so we popped it in the bedroom.”
Bath in situ, the family bathroom was then overhauled, with Bert & May tiles again chosen to enhance the space: “The black and white design of the Estrella tile added wow factor and personality to the small space,” she says.
Maximising space was a key part of the overall brief, so to create as much storage as possible, project contractor HouseUp created a clever cupboard at the top of the stairs to house the underfloor heating controls and electric metre. The boiler was moved from the kitchen area into the en-suite bathroom, and double doors were added to hide both this and the washing machine and dryer from view.
Meanwhile, new floor from Broadleaf Timber was added throughout. “We chose their dark vintage oak parquet. It’s hard wearing and looks like it’s part of the original fabric of the building,” says Cathy.
Other big jobs included replacing the old aluminium windows with Crittall windows, a move Cathy describes as a “game changer”, and expanding the doorways - “The contractor encouraged us to raise the heights of the internal doors to give the whole place a more airy feel,” she says.
This was a project that wasn’t just centred around the inside space, however, and making the most of the property’s outside area and killer views was also key. “The views of the City from the flat are amazing at night, so turning the terrace into an outdoor living space was really important,” says Cathy. “An outdoor seating area and fire pit that doubles as an outside table were added to make the terrace into a great chill out area.”
Tile-wise, it was reclaimed-inspired designs all the way here, too, with our Eugenie tile running the entire length of the space: “The Eugenie was perfect as it picked out the black of the window frames and tied in with some of the blue accents inside the flat. Its quirky shape also informed our choice.”
The overall project took around a year from start to finish, and the completed apartment hit both the practical and style-led elements of the brief. It’s a space where reclaimed materials reign supreme, with interesting finishes and texture adding personality and style to every last corner. The embodiment of an aesthetic we absolutely love, and a home we think exudes an undeniable air of effortless cool.
Click to find out more about Cathy’s projects
Photographs by Chris Snook
The contractor used was HouseUp
This project was recently featured in Living Etc: Read Here
Contact our design team to find out about our bespoke design service and discuss creating your own dream space. To explore our reclaimed range, click here.