Leanne Kilroy shares her journey transforming a dilapidated terraced house in Tufnell Park into a sublime family home…


What’s the story of your house?

It’s a Victorian mid-terrace, and by checking old censuses we discovered it was built between 1881 and 1891 and was occupied by the same family for at least the first 40 years of its life.

When we bought it last year, it was a boarding house with seven bedrooms and two kitchens, and was in desperate need of TLC. The old lean-to kitchen and the two bathrooms were especially dire – full of mould and quite literally falling to pieces.

Despite this, we fell in love with the grand proportions, the stripped woodwork and – most of all – the ornate original cornices and ceiling roses.

What are the main changes you’ve made?

Over eight months, we completely redid the ground floor, adding a side-return extension and a three metre extension to the original lean-to kitchen.

We created an entirely new kitchen and dining area, added a bathroom, coat closet and access to the basement. We also created a large doorway between the two sitting rooms, and turned the dark and forgotten middle room into a library with built-in bookshelves.

Other work included transforming an unpleasant old bathroom into a home office with vaulted ceilings, exposed original beam and brick; and changing the old boarders’ kitchen into a family bathroom with double sink and pink grouted tiles.

Have you been able to salvage any of the original details?

We took great pains to make sure none of the original cornicing fell during our rewiring of the ground floor. The builders screwed it into the ceiling joists above, just in case.

We also saved all the original high skirting and reused it where it had previously been removed. The seller had removed all the old cast-iron fireplaces from the top floors and stored two of them in the basement.

We purchased these from her and I set to work trying to remove layers of red and gold paint from them. In the end, I surrendered and we sent them away to be chemically dipped. With a coat of iron paste they look good as new, and we reinstalled them in the second-floor bedrooms. Though they’re merely decorative, they add so much.

More like this

You might also like 8 steps to restore a Victorian house

Was it easy finding fittings to suit the house’s history and aesthetic?

I found lots of antique fittings on eBay, including the massive double doors connecting the two sitting rooms and the French doors to the pantry. My father worked in the Scandinavian antiques trade for nearly 40 years, so my parents’ basement has also been a trove of old latches, escutcheons and the like – we used glass door knobs found in my parents’ house on three doors on the ground floor.

What tips would you give anyone thinking of taking on a similar project?

  • Get on Instagram. It’s been invaluable in getting advice, ideas and support when I needed it most. Without the guidance from those I met on Instagram, my kitchen would look so different!
  • Factor in a 30 per cent buffer on your budget. No matter how meticulously you plan, there are always things you couldn’t have accounted for.
  • Don’t restrict yourself to a specific style; my rule is to buy only what I love. This may mean pouncing on something, even if you don’t know how you’ll use it. We did this with our dining room bench and ended up reworking our plans to fit it in!

What did you buy for your bathroom renovation?

The bathroom tiles (which you can see a peak of through the mirrors) are from Walls & Floors and the basin is Arcade by Burlington. The vintage-style mirrors were a great find from Dunelm, the ceiling light was sourced on Amazon, and the wall lights are all from Pooky. I painted the wall light lampshades I bought on Amazon myself using old tester pots.

Bathroom renovation

Innocence smooth gloss tiles

Bathroom renovation

Buy innocence smooth gloss white tiles from Walls & Floors(£8.95 per sqm)

Mini elbow wall fitting

Bathroom renovation

Buy mini elbow wall fitting from Pooky (from £80)

Vintage bevelled edge mirror

Bathroom renovation

Buy vintage bevelled edge mirror from Dunelm (£20)

Arcade basin with ceramic console legs

Bathroom renovation

Buy Arcade basin with ceramic console legs from Burlington (£878)

Hempy scalloped rectangular jute rug

Bathroom renovation

Buy hempy scalloped rectangular jute rug from La Redoute (£139)

What did you buy for your sitting room renovation?

The fireplace and marble surround are original to the house. I bought the vintage overmantel mirror on eBay and the vintage sconces are Swedish, which I bought from @fablestores on Instagram.

Sitting room renovation

Overmantle Bow Mirror

Sitting room renovation

Buy overmantle bow mirror from John Lewis (£225)

Pink tapered candles

Sitting room renovation

Buy pink tapered candles from Etsy (from £4.50)

Fireplace dipping

Sitting room renovation

Get fireplaces stripped by London Door Stripping (£POA)

What did you buy for your office renovation?

All of the radiators in the house are the traditional victorian radiators from Cast Iron Radiator Centre (primed only: we couldn't afford to have them painted!) The rise-and-fall wall lamp is vintage Dutch from my dad.

Office renovation

Traditional Victorian cast iron radiators

Office renovation

Buy traditional Victorian cast iron radiators from Cast Iron Radiator Centre (£14.50 per section)

What did you buy for your kitchen renovation?

I designed the kitchen; it was made to my drawings by Monkey and Bird. The copper pans are vintage from my parents' years working in restaurants in Paris in the '70s and '80s

Kitchen renovation

Where are your favourite places to shop?

I always, always, always start on Instagram. I get so much inspiration there: it really helps me to see something over and over, used in many different ways. I found our amazing dining bench via Instagram, and have gotten the confidence I needed to make some bigger purchases (and choose paint colours!) by seeing them work so well in other peoples' homes.

I also always go to eBay - I have lots of eBay alerts set up and have found so, so many treasures there, from doors to mirrors!

I occasionally peruse 1st Dibs or Vinterior (where I found the chandelier in the living room) though I tend to try to buy directly from the dealer. As my budgets are never generous, I buy a lot of simple household items - like linens and pillows - at H&M Home, IKEA, and Dunelm.

I am lucky to have been brought up in the trade, as my dad sold Scandinavian antiques and Mid-Century Modern furniture for 37 years, so our house is full of the beautiful things he found over the decades.

I've been on quite a few trips with him, sending things back to London for our home, so, just a year after his retirement, I've just launched a shop to keep the legacy going and keep spreading the joy: Good Bones sells all the things I fall in love with and wish I could keep on buying trips to Scandinavia.


Follow Leanne on Instagram @goodboneslondon and visit her shop goodbonesshop.com