home stories: creating playful interiors with Michelle Gordon
One of the things I love most about this series of home stories, is reading how the home owners find their design style and by building an interior that reflects special moments in their lives they create such unique spaces, created for them and no one else. This weeks story come from Michelle Gordan who has designed her beautiful family home with treasures collected over many years from her travels.
Michelle loves to decorate her home with a sense of fun and playfulness, adding an element of surprise to each room - like Frank the Flamingo ( you will meet him later ). Michelle uses colour, pattern and materials to amplify spaces in her home as you will see in her library shelves, tiles in her shower room and on master bedroom headboard. Michelle is also sharing her tips on how to create a unique home with playful design details, so over to you Michelle...
I’ve thought a lot about what makes my interior style ‘me’ over the last few years as I’ve been contemplating a way to bring more creativity into my working life. My passion for interiors was ignited about 15 years ago when we bought a little Victorian garden flat with beautiful green panelling in the kitchen. It’s when I came to realise that colour could impact the mood of a space.
Around that time, I also started to get into scouring vintage/antique shops and markets. It was something that my partner and I loved doing together and a weekend wasn’t enjoyable without a jaunt to one of the many places in London or further afield to find some old treasure.
It’s from there that I have honed my interiors style to what it is today. I want to create calm and considered spaces that have pockets of playfulness. That usually means there is colour on the walls, but it’s done in such a way as to ensure there is a cohesive flow from each room or zone.
The house that we live in now is Edwardian, built in 1910, and with a dodgy extension done in the 1980s. The house hadn’t changed in at least twenty years when we bought it and was in need of some serious TLC.
It took us about 15 months of renovating and early on, we made a decision to do all the work at once so that we could enjoy living in the space from the moment we moved in. We didn’t extend the footprint of the house, but we did knock down some walls and create new spaces. There was a lot to be done as we also replaced every single door and window and completely renovated - from installing new wiring through to putting in a new kitchen and bathrooms.
Although we had an architect draw up the plans, we did the design work ourselves and all of the home décor choices were our own. Back then, I wasn’t on Instagram and I came up with ideas from random internet searches and taking inspiration from the world around me. When I look back, it’s that spirit of originality that I want to keep tapping into in my designs.
Throughout our house, we have created pockets of playfulness or intrigue. As much as we want visitors to love our place as much as we do, we’ve decorated for our own pleasure and it’s a true reflection of our personality as a family. It was also essential that we created a space that we wouldn’t tire of easily, as we didn’t want to do any major decoration work for some time.
In every single room or passage we have brought in an element of surprise or added something with a twist in order to enhance the individuality of our home. And we’ve mainly done this by using antique or vintage fittings, furniture or objects in order to create a more natural feel. I wanted to share a few of these examples with you so that you can see what might be possible in your own home or project.
Making doors fun
Probably my absolute favourite design element in our home are the three doors that lead off from a little hallway area to a powder room, a utility room and a pantry.
We sourced these ‘one up/two down’ doors from a reclamation yard. They’re Edwardian and have a beautiful grain (Douglas Fir). We got the reclamation yard to knock out the top panel of each door so that we could insert glass. We then provided the design and words to a local signwriter so that he could add some gold leaf lettering onto the glass panes. After quite a bit of deliberation, we took inspiration from vintage public buildings in both the style of lettering and the language we used to describe each room. We went with a good old-fashioned W.C. for the loo; Store for the pantry; and Exit Via the Laundry for the utility room which leads to the back door.
I never get tired of seeing these doors and they add fun and character to what is essentially a functional area. I totally recommend looking for something to help elevate a hard-working area from something plain to special. Maybe some surprising wallpaper for your utility room or a quirky pendant light in your hallway?
Sticking on the subject of doors, we knew that we wanted to be able to close off the space between our main living space and the kitchen. But rather than have Crittall style doors (which we love but already have for all of our windows and external doors) or something more traditional, we decided to create our own design to inject some personality. We took two Victorian four panel doors and asked our carpenter to cut them in half so that we could turn them into bi-folds. We then glazed the top panels with reeded glass and bought some old brass pub door handles off eBay. The handles are brilliant as they have ‘pull’ stamped on each plate. They looks like the real thing – because they are! What I love about our doors is that we know that no-one else has the same thing and that we created these from scratch.
Using fittings in an unexpected way
If you’re familiar with my Instagram account, you’ll know that the headboard in our master bedroom is made up of American tin tiles that have been powder coated to give a burnished copper effect. I’ve seen a few accounts who have used tin tiles in different ways – some as they were originally intended on the ceiling but others in kitchens usually on the front of units. But I hadn’t come across what we have done and as I wanted to have something wow in our bedroom – it seemed like the perfect way to dress our room. Although we adore all things vintage, we couldn’t find the exact thing that we wanted so we bought new tin tiles.
There might be something that you can do which takes a fitting and uses it in a surprising way. I’ve seen some lovely instances of people using tiles or wallpaper in creative ways (in fact quite a few gorgeous wallpaper ceilings) and there’s a lot to be said for throwing out the rule book and just doing what makes you happy!
Painting pops of colour to amplify a space
For each of the lockdowns in the last year, we’ve completed DIY projects – usually of the painting variety. During the most recent lockdown (number three), I decided that our bookshelves in a little space we grandly call ‘the library’ needed to be much bolder. They’d been painted an off-white colour since we renovated the house and I’d never really been happy with the space. I knew we had some leftover Farrow and Ball ‘Railings’ paint but I didn’t want to have all the shelves that dark. In keeping with my ethos to bring joy and a twist to different spaces, we used the Railings but painted four of the alcoves in different bright colours – pink, apricot and green. I was very purposeful in the spaces that I chose and the colours. Each space was designed to showcase a different object and the great thing is that we can mix it up by rotating different ornaments to display.
Another reason for changing the look of the bookshelves was so that we could create more of a seamless flow from our stairs (which has a fabulous stripey runner and our hot pink painted stripes) to the upstairs landing and bedrooms. Having ‘Railings’ and pink on the stairs leading to the newly painted shelves now works a treat!
Displaying objects that make you smile
We’ve got a thing for birds and have quite a few statues of our feathery friends. So, we have an oversized Guinness Toucan salvaged from a pub renovation. There’s also ‘Frank’ the Flamingo, a stately little statue who resides in our family bathroom but who also seems to find his way around the house. In addition, we have a lovely pendant in our son’s room that is made of gold wire with lots of little finches, plus other random birds around the house.
Typography, It’s not all about birds
We love typography and when we happened upon the last few of a batch of vintage shop letters, we just knew we had to have them. The seller sniggered as we presented the letters R, A and T, commenting who’d want to display that word. Of course, we had a different arrangement in mind as you can tell from the photo of our ART sign. We also had another idea as the front surfaces of the lights were Perspex, so we opened them up and wired in fluorescent bulbs to really make a statement. In addition, we have a vintage optometrist eye card – which can make your eyes spin as all the letters are backwards of course – and a coffee table made from old printers’ blocks arranged under a toughened glass top.
There are many unusual objects scattered throughout our house that form an eclectic visual mix but are all part of our life story. Items that remind us of experiences and places we love like a road sign from Hackney perched against the wall or a big jar of volcanic rock that we collected from the foothills of Mount Etna.
Our home is a true reflection of my interiors style and it’s one that I hope to create elsewhere – whether that’s on our own projects or through inspiring others so that they too can create a home that’s calm yet playful.
Thank you Michelle for sharing your home and your top tips for creating unique spaces. I love Michelle's home, especially that amazing green bathroom and the view out to nature from her dining room.
If you want to follow Michelle's home story further you can find her on Instagram HERE