The clock was ticking. Lena de Casparis and Scott O’Donnell had six months to overhaul their terrace house fixer-upper in East London. “We could only afford to rent somewhere for that time, and we have two young daughters, so living in a building site wasn’t practical; we had to make the project happen,” says Lena. “These house s have a tendency to feel like dark tunnels,” she adds. “Ours was very in need of modernization.”

The couple are accustomed to working on deadline and thinking deeply about details—Lena is the associate editor and culture director of Elle UK and Scott is a film producer at Somesuch. In addition to adding more light, their priorities for the remodel included hiring local talent, sticking to a tight budget, and incorporating salvaged elements.

These elements all went into the making of the family’s new eat-in kitchen set in a garden addition. The design is by Hølte Studio, a London workshop that combines its own fronts with Ikea cabinet boxes. “We love Hølte’s simple, beautiful work and sustainable approach [[the company calculates its exact CO2-equivalent impact], ” says Lena. “Also they’re right here and could work within our timeframe.” The room pays homage to a range of references, from George O’Keefe’s pantry shelves to the feel of the wooden floor in De Casparis’s childhood home. Join us for a tour.

Photography by Beth Davis, courtesy of Hølte Studio (

&#8\2\20;the design of the space centered around two things: a three meter  17
Above: “The design of the space centered around two things: a three-meter-long table for visitors to congregate around and dark cabinets,” reports Dan Robbins, the Hølte lead designer on the project. The latter were inspired by Ally Capellino designer Alison Lloyd’s kitchen as admired in The Modern House Journal. “I had an old Terence Conran book that I also looked at a lot when choosing elements,” says Lena. And the idea to frame the kitchen window in yellow? That came from memories of visiting filmmaker Derek Jarman’s celebrated dark cottage in Kent: “The yellow offers an optimistic touch—and keeps the black from looking too clinical,” says Lena.

The couple worked with George Beedle, an architect friend of theirs, on the back addition that enabled them to have a spacious kitchen: “it occupies what was previously a weird garden side alley,” says Lena. Will Elworthy, another friend, made the table: “we knew we wanted something that seats twelve comfortably.”

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