Home makeover: ‘We made big changes to create our forever home’

Taking on a property with potential, Polly Geal and her husband Oli have put seven years of hard work into their Scandi-style sanctuary

Home makeover: 'We made big changes to create our forever home'

When Polly and Oli Geal started looking for a new home eight years ago, they wanted a place they could improve and extend.

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‘Our son Raff was a baby and we were living in a flat in Wimbledon Village, but we knew prices for houses were high there and that we needed to look further out.’

Relaxing with Scandi overtones is the feeling Polly was trying to create in the living room area and her Lombok sofas, cushions from Projekti Tyyny and neutral rug from IKEA tie in with the shutters made locally at Nigel Hare Joinery
Relaxing with Scandi overtones is the feeling Polly was trying to create in the living room area and her Lombok sofas, cushions from Projekti Tyyny and neutral rug from IKEA tie in with the shutters made locally at Nigel Hare Joinery

The couple searched in Surrey and south-west London, and were attracted to Isleworth, on the River Thames.

A vintage desk with two flip tops and a chair provides a mini office space where the children can do their homework or art projects
A vintage desk with two flip tops and a chair provides a mini office space where the children can do their homework or art projects

‘We saw a three-bedroom house over two floors with a tiny galley kitchen and realised we could transform it into a substantial house in an area we love, close to a park and the river.’

Welcome to our home…

We are Polly Geal, 37, a photographer (littlekin.co.uk); Oli, 38, a creative director; and our son, Raff, eight, and daughter, Elsie, six.

Our home is a four-bedroom Edwardian terraced house, which we moved into in 2012, in Isleworth, south-west London. 

Polly Geal

Once they’d secured the house, the couple put in plans for a large extension out into the garden at the back of the property to create the open-plan kitchen-diner they craved.

The smallest bedroom has been turned into a study with a simple desk from Made.com, which Polly has teamed with a vintage chair and a light from Dunelm
The smallest bedroom has been turned into a study with a simple desk from Made.com, which Polly has teamed with a vintage chair and a light from Dunelm

The build started the following summer and it wasn’t just the kitchen-diner that changed.

‘We decided to make the whole of the downstairs one big space, with the living room at the front, a relaxing space with a sofa and a desk in the middle, and the kitchen-diner at the back with access to the garden.’

A grey linen sofa from Swoon, a colourful rug from La Redoute and a pink Gubi lamp complete the area next to the kitchen
A grey linen sofa from Swoon, a colourful rug from La Redoute and a pink Gubi lamp complete the area next to the kitchen

It was a big upheaval, but Polly and Oli were determined to make it happen. ‘There were people who thought we were mad to do so much work, but we could envisage the finished result.’

The hallway is a calm entrance to the house, with Farrow & Ball’s Shaded White on the walls and bannisters, a neutral IKEA runner and a circular mirror from John Lewis & Partners to complement Polly’s grouped collection of miniatures
The hallway is a calm entrance to the house, with Farrow & Ball’s Shaded White on the walls and bannisters, a neutral IKEA runner and a circular mirror from John Lewis & Partners to complement Polly’s grouped collection of miniatures

The following year, their daughter, Elsie, was born and they began the renovation of the main bathroom.

But the work didn’t stop there: other projects since then have included changing the garden and decorating the bedrooms.

Polly has opted for a white Magnet kitchen with Corian worktops and contrasting tiles from Topps Tiles, with pale grey Metro tiles for the walls and a darker grey format for the floor
Polly has opted for a white Magnet kitchen with Corian worktops and contrasting tiles from Topps Tiles, with pale grey Metro tiles for the walls and a darker grey format for the floor

But two years ago, with the children growing fast and fed up of sharing one bathroom, the couple began to think about a loft conversion to provide more space. ‘We felt we were outgrowing the house, which was a real shame, as we’ve renovated every inch of it, so we had to find a solution or move.’

A bit more about our home… 

My top tip is To use natural materials and earthy colours to create calm. I love mixing up pieces in wicker, wood, linen and ceramics. Also, baskets work really well for storing toys, toilet rolls, make-up and blankets, and act as decorative features.

My favourite room is The kitchen-diner and our bedroom have equal first place. Both have amazing light and sense of space, and were rooms we created from scratch.

Polly Geal

The loft was large with a good height, so the plan became more serious in the spring of 2018, and the couple started to look at their finances and get their ideas together.

A friend of Polly’s had employed a local company, Ash Island Lofts in Chiswick, to do draw up architectural drawings and plans, so Polly and Oli asked them around to mull over ideas for their project.

An island was high on Polly’s list for her new kitchen-diner and she’s created a breakfast bar at the lightest end for informal meals or coffee
An island was high on Polly’s list for her new kitchen-diner and she’s created a breakfast bar at the lightest end for informal meals or coffee

‘We got on really well with them and realised we’d be really happy if they did the whole build from start to finish.

‘We put it out to tender and their quote was competitive, so we booked them to start.’

By incorporating two eye-level ovens by Bosch into the kitchen layout, Polly has made sure she has less lifting and bending than she would with a range cooker
By incorporating two eye-level ovens by Bosch into the kitchen layout, Polly has made sure she has less lifting and bending than she would with a range cooker

As the house is in a conservation area, the couple knew there was no chance of having a dormer on the front of the house, facing the street, so it would need to be at the back.

‘We’d initially thought about putting two smaller bedrooms up in the loft and adding another bathroom on the first floor. But the architect said we’d add more value if we made the loft a master suite, with a large bedroom and en suite.’

The simple table and bench from John Lewis & Partners really appealed to Polly with her love of Scandinavian design. She invested some of her kitchen budget in it, along with grey sheepskin rugs from Dunelm to give a cosy feel when the weather’s colder
The simple table and bench from John Lewis & Partners really appealed to Polly with her love of Scandinavian design. She invested some of her kitchen budget in it, along with grey sheepskin rugs from Dunelm to give a cosy feel when the weather’s colder

But the couple overruled the architect on the layout.

‘He suggested the bathroom should be partly in the dormer, which would give us an L-shaped bedroom. But we wanted the large space to be the bedroom with a view over the garden and the bathroom to be in the eaves at the front of the house.’

Polly has created a spacious main bedroom and en suite in the loft, decorating it with a bed from Loaf and oak flooring. Wooden furniture with a retro vibe is one of the ways that Polly has given the brand-new loft a lived-in feel, like her Tabby bedside tables from Swoon
Polly has created a spacious main bedroom and en suite in the loft, decorating it with a bed from Loaf and oak flooring. Wooden furniture with a retro vibe is one of the ways that Polly has given the brand-new loft a lived-in feel, like her Tabby bedside tables from Swoon

With the shell of the structure completed in the 16-week time frame, Polly was keen to tackle storage first.

‘I wanted to add big, built-in, floor-to-ceiling cupboards to the right of the dormer and to use the dead space under the eaves so I could store towels and toiletries. I found a great local carpenter, who did exactly what I asked for, plus he put a hidden cupboard in the bathroom and did it all for £1,200.’

Rather than go for pink or purple, Polly and Elsie have chosen a canopy in a mustard hue from Numero 74, which sits above her IKEA bed and gives a fairytale touch along with the rug by Zara Home
Rather than go for pink or purple, Polly and Elsie have chosen a canopy in a mustard hue from Numero 74, which sits above her IKEA bed and gives a fairytale touch along with the rug by Zara Home

A spacious feel to the conversion was one of Polly and Oli’s main aims and the flooring was a big consideration. ‘I didn’t want anything dark, but I love natural materials, so wood was always going to be my choice rather than tiles or carpet.’

After searching through hundreds of different oaks online, Polly finally found the one she wanted at Quick Step. ‘It’s got a real lime-washed feel, which fits with the Scandi style and it’ll only get better with age.’

There’s plenty of space on the floor in Raff’s bedroom for him to play all sorts of games and his stylish metal Oliver bed by Feather & Black will last many years
There’s plenty of space on the floor in Raff’s bedroom for him to play all sorts of games and his stylish metal Oliver bed by Feather & Black will last many years

The paint colours and furnishings were as important to Polly as the flooring. ‘My idea of a nightmare conversion is a modern box stuck on top of a lovely old house, so I set out to make it feel as if it had always been there, by using natural materials and muted, subtle colours, as well as adding plenty of texture.’

In a maximum-sized frameless enclosure a large shower head from Hudson Reed provides a powerful shower, and attractive tiling from Topps Tiles gives the en suite a Victorian look
In a maximum-sized frameless enclosure a large shower head from Hudson Reed provides a powerful shower, and attractive tiling from Topps Tiles gives the en suite a Victorian look
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With the finishing touches added at the end of last year, Polly and Oli have been taking a rest from renovations. ‘We’re so happy with our sanctuary upstairs. We’ve put the story of our house on Instagram, @thishouseourhome. Adding the loft means we don’t have to move now, or possibly ever.’

This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?