10 playful design ideas to steal from a whimsical, candy-coloured home in Islington

The lower ground floor of a Victorian townhouse in Islington has been transformed into a joyful, bright and colourful escape from its grey London surroundings. Here are 10 key takeaways from the project

colour block house
(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

The lower ground floor of a Georgian townhouse in Islington has been remodelled for a young family of four. Previously a damp, dark, and cramped basement, it's now a modern home full of surprises, and playful touches at every turn.

Designed by Office S&M, the project was named Mo-tel House to signify the owners’ aspiration for their home: to be a joyful, bright and colourful escape from grey London. 

Internal walls were removed to create a more open plan layout, and the architects designed custom furniture pieces for each nook, highlighted by a bold colour palette, sculptural details and unusual lighting.

Here are 10 key take-aways from the project...

1. Dare to highlight features with contrasting colours

The architects injected a bold, tropical inspired colour palette, which highlights the various shapes and silhouettes of the custom furniture pieces.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

2. Incorporate on-trend arches

Peaks and arches throughout the apartment are a nod to the surrounding buildings and city. Round, arched shapes soften the more graphic lines.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

In the blue kitchen, a light blue volume with a rounded top forms a pantry. The blue arch also acts as a visual anchor for the green terrazzo countertops, which were made from recycled marble chips and offcuts.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

The rounded shape is complimented with playful bubble lighting on the ceiling.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

Aside from the arched pantry, the architects incorporated further rounded shaped through arched mirrors and accessories – like in the ground floor powder room.

colour block house


(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

See Also: The 27 biggest interior design trends for 2021 revealed

3. Transform joinery with peaks and angles

Another way to transform simple joinery is to give it a peaked roof.

In the dining area, a pale pink structure is crowned with a double-pitched "roof", incorporating a seating nook with built-in storage.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

The architects designed each piece of furniture to serve more than one function. The pink and blue bench with crested canopy acts as dining seating, a cosy reading nook and storage. It has become a much-used space.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

Pistachio green, blush pink, navy blue and vibrant yellow make an unlikely colour combo but it feels energetic, fun and happy – plus it highlights all the different shapes.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

The angular peaks of the dining space contrast the rounded arched top of the kitchen pantry next to it.

It's a very playful space; there are plinths to climb, soft surfaces to nestle in, and tiny spaces to crawl into. Tropical colours and tinted mirrors are used throughout to reflect and frame views.

The light pendants are made from recycled brick grog.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

4. Paint the ceiling

Painted ceilings add to the playful vibe, with a pistachio green paint applied to the ceiling, window recesses and a band around the upper walls.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

5. Inject colour via the banister

You wouldn't usually consider the staircase as a way of injecting a pop of colour, but as this home proves, it can be a very fun and effective way of introducing a contrast colour.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

Canary yellow, bubblegum pink and navy blue sit harmoniously together.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

See Also: A Georgian Home Is Updated With Crittall Doors And A Playful Palette

6. Have fun with hardware

The bold coloured surfaces extend to hardware including the radiators, light switches, electrical outlets and the door handles.

Why choose off-the-shelf items if you can get hold of designs that add a little more pizzazz?

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

Light switches are a matching yellow shade to the staircase.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

Cupboard handles have been replaced with something more graphic.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

7. Experiment with grouting

The second bathroom is upstairs. This washroom was reconfigured to fit a shower as well as a bathtub, and now features bathroom counters made from melted, discarded milk bottles and chopping boards.

Yellow tile grout was chosen to match the bathroom's window frame and shower curtain, while the rest of the space is white. It's an unusual choice and won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it suits this wacky home.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

See Also: Tour This Strikingly Playful, Modern Country Home in Petworth, West Sussex

8. Got structural pillars? Paint them in a block colour

As it's a basement apartment, structural pillars needed to be put in when walls were taken out. This way the layout can still be open plan, without the ceiling collapsing. 

To turn the pillars into more of a design feature, they were painted a bold blue shade.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

9. Diagonal flooring

Even the wood flooring foregoes the traditional parquet or herringbone choices. Instead, pale timber floorboards are laid diagonally and contrast with the brightly coloured surfaces.

colour block house

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

10. Choose bubble lighting for a playful look

Throughout the home, simple, bubble-shaped lighting is mounted onto the walls and ceilings. The simple shape feels fresh and modern, and further adds to the playful mood of this home.

colour block house

Create a playful look with whimsical bubble lights

(Image credit: Photos © French + Tye)

See Also: Explore A Playful Coastal House in Martha's Vineyard (This coastal home is full of surprises, from a Carsten Holler inspired chute to secret doors, whale shaped seating, stars on the ceiling and even a boat in the playroom.)