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New Project – The 70’s Flat

The 70's flat

Another project, another two bedroom flat and another excitable homeowner who’s desperate to finish all the works by this time last week. Let me show you around this 70’s apartment.

70's flat before

The Floorplan

The flat is a great size for this young professional. There’s a lovely long hallway with two good sized double bedrooms off to the side, at the end there’s a small but functional bathroom with large storage cupboard, and to the right the hallway leads into a large open-plan living space with small kitchen just off the dining area. In terms of any structural changes, there’s no scope due to the agreements and clauses in the leasehold (which sucks as I had some ripper ideas) but there’s certainly plenty of opportunities to turn this tired flat into a very cool new home.

I’m going to share the plans for each room so you can get a feel for the place. Let’s start with the open plan living space:

70's flat before

Estate agent pics

A lovely large, light and bright, dual aspect, L-shaped room. Ample space to fit a small sitting area, dining space and work area.

70's flat before


The homeowner moved in in February and started by getting everything ripped up and out. His aim is to get the whole flat completed for October (which I think is mental – tell him will you!) but I’m aiming for spring 2020. A year to completely rip out, refurb and reinstall a two bedroom flat when you’re working full time is pretty good going I’d say.

To try and keep costs down as much as possible and stay in budget, the pieces selected for all of the rooms are are from highstreet and online stores you’ll all know and love. Nothing fancy, nothing bespoke, just well considered design to give as much bang for your buck as possible.

Here’s the plan for the sitting space:

Living Room Moodboard


Despite the new homeowner having aspirations all things period property (panelling, grand sofas and the like) I’ve had to remind him to be realistic about what a 70’s flat can achieve. In a previous post, I wrote about scale and proportion and it’s a must read for those who struggle to put their finger on why something works (or doesn’t) in a space. More often or not you’ve chosen something where the scale is fighting with its surroundings. You should always try and work with what you have – be true to the building you’re renovating, this way the overall design will feel more cohesive and more importantly authentic. Trying to make a room or building do what it can’t can look blooming awful. There’s nothing worse than trying to make something be something it’s clearly not.

  • Blue velvet Scott sofa – eBay
  • Blue velvet Scott ottoman – MADE
  • Dar Alana light – Dar
  • Hendricks Mustard Velvet Loveseat – John Lewis

70's flat before


1970’s architecture was the era of open plan, any panelling was replaced with cladding, ceilings were the standard 2.4m so flush lighting was used a lot and architectural mouldings were minimised and what did remain were flattened and squared off to provide cleaner lines. I have a real soft spot for this era as I grew up in a 1970’s house and my first home was also a 70’s property. So I instinctively know what works in these spaces. Instead of turned legs, ornate detailing I steered my new client towards mid-century lines and vintage -esque furniture. Not only does it have a smaller footprint, which is exactly what this flat needed, it should also be able make it up the two flights of stairs into his flat. Always a bonus when you’ve paid for it – being able to get it into the room.

Despite having his eye on a very large, six seater dining table, I convinced him to opt for a simple circular four seater and paired it with these bauhaus inspired chairs:

Dining Room Moodboard


I am so excited to see these in the space. They are very cool – that mustard corduroy fabric on that chrome tubular frame is just perfect for this 70’s pad. I was going to add the link to them, but they’ve since disappeared from the website. Soz.

  • Glass circular dining table – Furnish
  • Chrome Bow Lamp – MADE

There’s also a work space to add along that back wall to the right of the French doors – but that will be one of the last bits to sort. Tbc…


Onto the compact kitchen which is just off to the side of the dining area:

At approx 2x3m it has to work hard to get everything a modern day kitchen needs in there. One of the first suggestions I made was to take out the old huge boiler. It took up the whole left hand corner of the kitchen so that had to go. As did the washing machine. I suggested we replumb the washing machine into the massive bathroom storage cupboard on the other side of that left hand wall. Originally the old water tank was stored in there, but as we’d updated the boiler it could now be removed.

Kitchen – Before

New boiler – all due to be boxed in behind a cabinet – fear not!

In a post I wrote a couple of years ago now about where to spend your money at home, the heating system is top of the list of things to update first in any home renovation project. Not only do you gain space but you also have a much more efficient and economical set up, where overtime it pays for itself. Bonus!

70's flat before


Kitchen Concept – Back wall

We are keeping this space simple and light with light grey cabinets and marble effect worktops from Ikea. The floor and walls is where i’ve added the designer details;

  • a pop of retro colour with the vinyl floor to tie in with the mustards in the living space
  • an orange kitchen tap (because who wouldn’t want one of those!?)
  • blue grout around simple white brick tiles fixed in a vertical and horizontal stacked layout

There isn’t the budget (or space) to play around with bespoke doors, brass handles, real marble worktops, or anything fancy, but I have added little quirky design touches for a bit of fun. I think it’s gona look smart.

Right hand wall

There will be no wall cabinets on the right hand wall to give a greater sense of width as you enter.  The wall cabinets flanking either side of the room made it feel even smaller in there. Instead there’s just be a simple rail to add herb pots and some cool utensils against a full wall of tiles. Using coloured grout is one of the cheapest way of making a cheap white metro tile look a million dollars. And it literally costs no more than your standard grout. The blue echoes the rich blue walls of the living space and of course blue and orange are best friends (aka complimentary colours on the colour wheel – bit of colour theory for you there).

Left hand wall

The boiler is behind this right hand wall cupboard, the left hand side is the fridge freezer and the central space is dedicated to tea and toast with a dishwasher underneath the kettle.

Kitchen elevations

Overall Kitchen Concept


Now, moving onto the bedrooms:

70's flat before

Guest Bedroom – Before

Bedroom Moodboard

Guest bedroom concept

This room is going to be a veritable feast for you botanical boho lovers out there. The crisp white walls against the rich green is such a calm and classic look and those textures of rattan from the wardrobe and pendant light add another strong 70’s reference.

  • GJORA Bed, BJORKSNAS Bedsides, TANKVARD clothes ladder and SINNERLIG Pendant light – Ikea
  • Liana Wardrobe, Charley Chair – MADE
  • Design Project Wall lights – John Lewis
  • White Linen Black-out Curtains – La Redoute

70's flat before

Guest bedroom before

Green bedroom


The green wall is in Dulux 90GY 08/187 (easy for you to say) and is the perfect shade for the birch bed frame to pop right off. It’s a yellow based green (so no blue undertones) so it never looks teal like most greens do in photos. A very strong green – love it.


Onto what will be the master bedroom:

70's flat before

Master bedroom before

The homeowner already knew he wanted a smokey blue bedroom with brass accents. On my first visit there were approximately 32 samples painted onto the walls – all varying shades of blue. None of which were quite right.

70's flat before


After looking at lots of images online (one blue bedroom in particular) I convinced him that it was Dulux’s Denim Drift he was hankering after. Once the wall colour was nailed, the other elements of the room quickly followed suit.

Master bedroom concept – a very masculine room me thinks

The built in wardrobes need to stay as budget doesn’t allow new bespoke ones to be built. So I have suggested that we paint the louvered doors (so 70’s) in with the walls and add some brass knobs to tie in with the rest of the metallic detailing.

  • Bed – eBay find by the homeowner
  • Alana Brass Valet Mirror, Tangle Wall light, Mara Bedsides – MADE
  • Elori Ceiling light and Onega Grey Linen Blackout Curtains – La Redoute
  • Rococo Small Brass Knobs – Dowsing & Reynolds


And finally, it’s onto the bathroom – the trickiest and most expensive room to refurb.

70's flat before

Bathroom – Before

Most people underestimate how much it costs to renovate a bathroom. Which makes sense as we only tend to do them every 10-15 years or so, so keeping up to date with labour costs on top of everything else “bathroom” it can all be a little overwhelming. They’re definitely the most difficult spaces to plan for as they’re more often than not the smallest room. And smaller means fiddly. And fiddly means you need to find solutions. And finding clever solutions come at a cost.

Bathroom ConceptInstead of the loo and bath being side by side at the end of the bathroom, there will now be a walk in shower with sliding doors across the back wall. The foul pipe needs boxing in all the way from the left hand corner around to the right hand wall where the loo will be repositioned. As much as I’d have loved to run the soil pipe straight outside, we couldn’t as it runs down, internally throughout the three floors of the building. Cue some clever boxing in.

Bathroom Concept

The large storage cupboard to the right is now where the washing machine is plumbed in with the above space being used for bathroom storage. I would have loved to have knocked this cupboard out in order to gain some more space in this very small bathroom, but all of the walls are structural so alas, we’re not allowed. Booo.

I’m not going to list the shopping list for this room just yet as it’s still in progress design wise, but this is what we’re aiming for and the bathroom fitter says it’s all doable (so far). But we’re nearing the very end of the budget so there may well be some compromises to make in this space. Time will tell. Tbc in another blog post for sure.

So then, that’s another one of my projects that’s been bubbling away in the background and keeping me busy. I will of course be back soon with more updates as to how it’s all going. The kitchen is due to be fitted this Monday, fingers crossed it all goes swimmingly like all kitchen fits do (ahem).

As always, I’d love to hear what you think of our plans for this fab flat – am looking forward to posting updates again soon!


  1. Can I just saw that yours is one of the best blogs out there? The way you explain everything so clearly for the design decision (incl. limitations) and the fact that you respect client budgets whilst nailing the spec – amazing! Thank you for the work that goes into writing them.

    • Karen Knox says

      Well thank you very much indeed, made my day that has 🙂 Super happy to hear you find my posts so helpful!!

  2. Anonymous says

    I couldn’t agree more with Jo……you are amazing at sharing……love you for that. (and your amazing talent obvs)….So many instagrammers especially just ignore req for what colour is, where’s that from etc etc. So rude!!! Well done Karen, I’m looking forward to seeing the next reveal on this one. Great bones in this flat.

    • Karen Knox says

      Thank you so much!! Really appreciate your feedback – always so nice to know that people are reading and finding it helpful! 🙂

  3. Shenleyonthames says

    Another vote for Jo’s comments. You certainly are a designer for the real world. I would deffo have engaged you if I still lived in Yorkshire. Another realistic designer is Amelia Wilson in Cumbria who has done a great job for my sister.
    Thank you so much for introducing me to these great brands selling online. ( Could you make money from affiliate links?) .
    Boiler tip: my kitchen design ( and life) was transformed by the central heating guy who suggested replacing my 1980s floor mounted corner boiler with a modern one situated in the loft. I was then able to close up the side door opening onto a dank alley and install a u- shaped kitchen. A window was changed into french doors opening from the breakfast area into the south facing garden. The cat was confused by the cat flap relocation for a while ( kept peering under the range) but I loved it.

    • Karen Knox says

      Ah that classic case of moving the elephant in the room. I LOVE how just one change can have such an effect on a room as important as the kitchen. Thank you for the lovely comments Sue, and yes I do know Amelia – good to hear your sister had such a great experience of working with her!

  4. Elaine says

    I like the way you respect limited budgets, in that you find creative ways to get the maximum effect for a small spend. I think it’s easy to solve problems by throwing money at them- the skill is solving problems imaginatively when cash is tight. These rooms aren’t my style at all, but I love the transformation.

  5. Joe says

    (Speaking as the client)
    Awesome post, when you showed me a sneak preview I was really excited about this – I hadn’t seen the flat in the condition I bought it in for a while, so a nice little reminder of how well it’s come along. A reminder also of your excellent work, and some of my terrible ideas you’ve steered me away from 😀 – And of course all of your excellent ideas you’ve convinced me of… You’ve been so great to work with and I’m really looking forward to making more progress.

  6. Jenny says

    Looks great and I am making a note of that Dulux green as that is exactly what I am after!

    • Joe says

      The colour is awesome 🙂 I have the normal matt version and it marks ridiculously easy…If I did it again I would go for one of the more durable finishes, I think they should be able to make it in durable flat matt (They can’t make the deeper, richer colours in the super durable diamond finishes)

      If you go to a Dulux decorators centre you’ll get higher grade paint than the Dulux in B&Q…Also, if you purchase a sample pot from a DDC, they’ll knock the cost of the sample pot off a room sized can.

  7. Rhian says

    Love all of this. Realistic but inspiring design. Thank you for sharing.

  8. The guest bedroom is so similar to what I’m attempting in my own guest room (down to the wooden bedframe & sinnerlig pendant) except I’m going for a Benjamin Moore yellowy/grey green on all the walls. My only challenge is – what wall-mounted mirror / clock would you put in there? Part of me thinks yet more pine would be too much but I’m worried brass isn’t very scandi, black metal is too industrial and silver is too cold.

    Your blog is the best in the business. Really. I would have hired you had I not spent £1000 on a useless interior decorator already!

    • Karen Knox says

      That’s very kind – thank you Ani!
      Always soooo hard to make suggestions without seeing the room in context. All depends on what other finishes you will be adding to the room (switches, sockets, colour of skirting boards, curtains etc..)

  9. Anonymous says

    I’m so happy to find this. I am buying my first home. A 1970s purpose built flat. You put into words exactly what I’ve been feeling about staying true to the building. One day I may have high ceilings and feature windows but right now I’ve got to work with what i’ve got. I’m so thrilled you linked Dar Lighting. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. Their retro range and those different glass finished. OMG I’m in love and can’t wait to get started!

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