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Renovated Victorian terrace house with a calm, clutter-free feel

The East Dulwich home of interior stylist Hannah Bort takes practical tips from John Pawson’s minimalist approach

hannah bort renovation london
Beth Evans

Working as an interiors stylist for magazines and international brands, Hannah Bort has cultivated her ability to select only the most beautiful pieces to grace her photoshoots. As she says, ‘You don’t need hundreds of things in an image or in a life to make you feel fulfilled.’

It’s an ethos that she has carried through into her own home in East Dulwich, south-east London, which she shares with her husband, Sam, who works in marketing for the Barbican, and their newborn daughter, Olive.

‘You don’t need hundreds of things to make you feel fulfilled’

Everyday minimalism may not be for everyone, but Hannah’s love of all things pared back was strengthened, years ago, by some practical advice from a personal hero. ‘I remember going to architect John Pawson’s house and just being blown away by how there was no clutter,’ she recalls. ‘It was so calming, so peaceful. I recall asking him “How do you live with so little?” He just smiled and pushed open a concealed cupboard. Inside was all of his stuff!’

hannah bort renovation london
Beth Evans

It’s been a long journey for Hannah and Sam to create their own tranquil sanctum. What was originally forecast to be a five-month renovation job – building a side return and a rear extension (designed by RDA Architects), as well as pulling down internal walls on the ground-floor to create an open-plan living space – ended up taking just shy of two years.

‘I remember going to John Pawson’s house and being blown away by how there was no clutter’

It also involved Hannah taking over the role of project manager after letting the original builders go. Her mission to simplify this Victorian-era property also included taking out fireplaces and cornicing. Luckily, there was no guilt involved. Two previous renovations had removed all original features, so the only things to hit the scrapheap were some tired 1930s additions.

hannah bort renovation london
Beth Evans

Once the building itself had been decluttered, it was time to focus on the interior. Hannah opted for a palette of soft greys and blush pink to amplify this home’s soothing atmosphere. ‘Some people have been surprised, thinking that the house would be much more colourful, like my shoots,’ she explains, ‘but I think that’s where I draw the line between work and home. Sam and I wanted this to be a place that we can really relax into.’

That’s not to say Hannah’s day job hasn’t been a deep well of inspiration for the look of her home. One particular furnishing choice had been on her wish list for some time: Massproductions’ ‘Crown’ easy chairs. Upholstered in mustard fabric, these sculptural pieces stand like works of art in her living room.

hannah bort renovation london
Beth Evans

‘Finding the perfect armchair is one of life’s great missions,’ jokes Hannah, who first came across her ideal match when planning a shoot for fabric brand Romo. ‘To find a piece for work and mentally clock it as one of those things that you want to live with is incredibly special,’ she adds.

Currently, these much-coveted pieces are hidden under an avalanche of throws, as the realities of parenthood take hold. ‘I’m not sure we chose all the right furniture for a child’s small, grubby hands,’ laughs Hannah, ‘but I’m sure we will learn to be less precious. I may make Olive tidy her room a little more frequently than most parents, though!’ hannahbort.com

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration February 2020

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