Interior designer transforms rundown Peckham townhouse into elegant home

Buying a home should be an adventure — but for interior stylist Lizzie Crocker, her dream purchase in Peckham turned out to be more Indiana Jones than Grand Designs.

The property in question, a Georgian end-of-terrace townhouse, had multiple occupants and even after Lizzie had bought the place, one of the doors was still locked.

‘When we got the keys it was time to open that door,’ she recalls, ‘and we were just standing there nervously, waiting to see what was inside.’

Thankfully there were no snakes, skeletons or crystal skulls… but Dr Jones would still have been wary. ‘My stepdad isn’t afraid of anything and he didn’t want to go in,’ says Lizzie. ‘It was full of fake flowers, the wood was stained and there wasn’t one carpet but layers of carpets, all sodden. We chucked it all out of the window and into the skip.’

The house then, was a bit of a doer-upper. Lizzie and husband Charlie had been living in Rio de Janeiro for five years and moved back to their two-bedroom flat in Notting Hill. When Lizzie became pregnant with their first son, Cassius, like so many priced-out house hunters the couple headed to cheaper south-east London in search of a family place.

The four-storey house, complete with surprise bedrooms, was the only one they looked at.

‘It was the bones of the building I loved when we first saw it — great proportions and high ceilings. Plus having windows front to back in a number of rooms and the staircase gave a wonderful light.’

Lizzie started out in interiors as a set designer before co-founding and becoming creative director of Polkra, the beautiful boutique homeware store that creates its own designs by working with designers and artisans across the world.

She also offers tips and trips and a shopping guide on her website Lizzie Crocker Creates.

Once the inside of the house was cleared out — each of the rooms were decorated in a particularly unapologetic primary colour and the staircase was covered in chipboard — she set about creating what could be seen as a combination of her two careers.

The interiors are stylish but not fashion-conscious, delicate yet hardy and feature carefully chosen trinkets and memories from Lizzie’s time abroad.

Her set design background shines through in the intuition of the designs, your eye is drawn to the statement pieces in the room and there is a single-mindedness to the spaces that is subtle on first sight.

The rose shade of raw plaster in the front room is picked out by the faded cloth of a Fired Earth footstool and complements everything from a solid coconut tree stool and oversized terracotta plant pots to a bottle of Aperol, on the drinks trolley from Gumtree. Everything works together.

‘In my head I visualise and then create little sets everywhere in the house,’ says Lizzie. ‘I know what I have to have — with set design prep is everything. This room to me had to have a peachy, romantic feel. The flow of the eye is harmonious and the raw plaster, well, people either get it or they don’t.’’

Set design is also about working to tight budgets, and aside from lovely pieces from Lizzie’s own brand, Polkra, almost everything is second-hand. ‘If I see something nice in House & Garden I see if I can find it on eBay,’ she smiles. ‘I pretty much bought the whole house on eBay.’

The table in the living room is from the auction website while the giant cabinet came from a Victorian school. Lizzie did the measurements in her head and it fitted so close to the walls you couldn’t fit a cigarette paper in between. The desk is from Golborne Road and the room’s statement giant painting was from Battersea Arts Fair.

Upstairs, the family bathroom has the same brand of Italian-esque faded sophistication. The Lefroy Brooks sink and loo came from Gumtree and were picked up from the seller in a lay-by.

The rest of the bathroom is from eBay and the door pushes, last seen in everyone’s grandmother’s home, came from an auction house. The bath was £150 from eBay, the Bert & May tiles sourced from Gumtree. The prints are from Bermondsey Antiques Market.

‘I love the thrill of the search,’ says Lizzie. ‘A big part of set design is searching. It’s easy to find mock stuff these days but it doesn’t last and I don’t feel good about that. For me it’s more sustainable to buy good products second-hand.’

She wants the space to be ‘playful and fun. I am a creative mum of three under three — I don’t want the house to be perfect and I don’t want it to be too stiff.’

The ‘Bedroom of Doom’ that was locked when they moved in is now the master bedroom, and it’s a picture of uncluttered cool.

The Vinterior bedside table and Ikea chaise don’t look out of place against the custom wardrobes and Hamptons cushion, which was a gift from Lizzie’s aunt.

There’s an anything goes vibe here, where pieces fit together regardless of their heritage. The Feather & Black bed was from eBay. ‘We did buy new mattresses,’ Lizzie hastens to add.

Downstairs is a new kitchen that has been opened out with a glazed extension into the secluded garden. The six-week basement dig-out started in April and saw eight tonnes of soil carried through the house, as there is no side access.

With the family room at the front, this is the heart of the home. The kitchen, painted in Lulworth Blue from Farrow & Ball, is a perfect blend of classic and contemporary.

A small picture on the wall cost £8 from Portobello Road. ‘It’s my favourite piece in the whole house,’ says Lizzie.

‘I have no idea who it is by, but that doesn’t matter. Everything in the house is for us, it’s my eye, what I love. I wanted it to be creative, honest, down-to-earth with nothing too jarring. It feels like a deep breath.

‘I just wanted to love the house and I do love it — it feels like a happy home.’

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