Home makeover: ‘I wanted our first home to be a serene space’
Yooni Cho has recreated the atmosphere of her beloved Stockholm in Kent with earthy tones, natural materials and a lot of creativity
When Yooni Cho and her then fiancé, Khai, found their first family home, a new-build in Kent, they were looking for a retreat away from the noise of London.
‘I’m originally from Sweden,’ says Yooni, ‘and, although I’ve spent most of my life in Stockholm, another vibrant city, I’m used to a much calmer and more nature-based way of life than I found in London. I really missed that about home when I moved here.’
So, when the couple were visiting wedding venues just outside of the capital, they threw house-hunting into the mix, too. Even though they ended up getting married in a French château (whose vintage, country feel heavily influenced Yooni’s colour palette in their new home as well), they fell in love with the Ebbsfleet Garden City area of Kent.
Welcome to our home...We are Yooni, 27, a cancer research clinical trial manager, my husband, Khai, a banker, our one-year-old son, Leo, and Tofu and Sesame, our cream British Shorthair cats.
Our home is A four-bedroom, detached new-build from David Wilson Homes – the Cadleigh style – built in 2019 and located in Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent.
‘We actually booked the wedding venue on the same day we viewed David Wilson’s Layton show home,’ says Yooni. ‘The sales rep told us they had another option, which had the same open layout with an added sunroom. We were sold and just thought, let’s go for it!’
Yooni was after a blank canvas that wouldn’t need costly structural work before they could move in, ‘plus it’s only a 12-minute train journey to St Pancras, and it’s very family-orientated here,’ she says.
Now the couple have a one-year-old boy, Leo, it fits their lifestyle perfectly. That was two years ago, and, perhaps unsurprisingly with a small child in the picture, Yooni and Khai are only just completing the majority of the decorating, which they’ve done themselves.
A bit more about our home...My best bargain was Turning the IKEA Ivar cabinets and Ivar shelving rattan doors into a sideboard. I found the high street price for a rattan sideboard extortionate, so decided to make my own.
I saved space by Combining some room’s main functions. For instance, our sunroom is also a playroom, and my walk-in wardrobe also houses my home office.
‘Our son’s nursery was our first ever DIY project together! I must admit it was quite frightening at first as neither of us are typical DIYers,’ she says. ‘We started by choosing a gender-neutral colour as we didn’t know whether it was a boy or a girl at the time. I always had in mind that if it was a boy, I would style the room with cooler shades like the mint green canopy, teal garlands and navy-coloured artworks.’
Yooni recommends taking your time with your home styling. ‘You’ve got to get to know how you’re going to live in a space before you do too much to it. It made sense to get all our big pieces of furniture in first and work around them.’
Yooni made mood boards based around key items for each room and went from there, referencing her favourite homes on Instagram for inspiration, and sharing her own ideas @houseofyooni. ‘I love snooping around other people’s homes,’ she laughs. ‘There are so many talented and creative homeowners out there and I especially love looking at Scandinavian properties.’
It’s no surprise that Yooni is all about Scandi style, with a penchant for earthy, natural tones and simple yet practical design solutions. In most of the rooms, she has added natural features such as dried flowers and wooden elements to create ‘a serene atmosphere, like the feeling you get when you walk down a country road during long summer nights,’ she says.
Among the Swedish elements, such as the crystal decanters and candle holders she was given by her mum and grandma, much of Yooni’s own artwork is on the walls as well.
‘I’ve always been into the arts, and in Sweden all of our studies at school encourage us to be very creative – maybe that’s why good design is so prominent in Nordic countries,’ says Yooni, who started painting when she was pregnant and now takes commissions, mostly through her large Instagram following.
Yooni also loves flower arranging and her beautiful pampas flower sculptures make striking additions to prominent walls.
‘Usually, you see more sculptural pieces like this at weddings and big events,’ says Yooni, ‘but I knew I really wanted that kind of look in our home. They create soft yet eye-catching ornaments and I love how unusual it is to just have one flower cloud over a sideboard like this.’
The wreath in the kitchen is one of Yooni’s designs too, based on a recycled rose garland bought for the couple’s wedding décor. ‘I like the dainty vibe without using feminine tones in the house – I don’t want it to be too girly-looking,’ she explains.
Wall panelling has also added more character. Yooni put up square formation panels on the nursery and bedroom walls and added a whole section of wooden battens in the office, painted with lime wash for added texture and warmth.
‘It made the panelling look more vintage, which added even more personality to the feature walls,’ says Yooni. ‘The same goes for the wallpapers – I chose the weathered brush stroke look as I wanted a touch of vintage as well as a modern feel to this house.’
Yooni admits that there’s one last room to decorate, for now the proverbial dumping ground all young families need. However, the work she’s done so far all comes together to create a smart, cohesive sanctuary – quite a feat with a baby in residence!
Feature Lara Watson. Photos Fiona Murray.
This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Home Style magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?
Lara is a freelance editor and writer, specialising in interiors, craft and creativity