AT Europe: London House Tour: Claire of Lola is Beauty

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Name: Claire
Location: London
Rent or own: Own
Size: Approximately 600 sq/ft
Years lived in: 6

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We asked London blogger Claire of Lola is Beauty to share some images of her charming London apartment and tell us a little bit about how she gently restored its Victorian period details and furnished it with a mix of family hand-me-downs and IKEA for an eclectic, feminine and timeless feel.

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You didn't knock down any walls, but what have you done to transform the apartment?

When I bought it, the flat had been rented out for years and was very unloved. It sounded perfect on paper -- high ceilings, large living room, French doors onto a terrace; but when I saw it my heart sank a bit. It was very depressing and every single wall and ceiling had horrible yellow textured wallpaper of the kind used to disguise damaged walls. All this was stripped off, the walls and ceilings repaired and sanded, then re-lined before being painted eggshell blue (now known around here as "my blue"). I had new oak floors laid to replace the bright blue carpet everywhere and laid "fake" limestone tiles in the kitchen and bathroom. The walls and floors still aren't straight but I think that's part of the charm of an old building. I put up some fairly subtle period cornicing and ceiling roses as all the original Victorian features had been stripped out by the previous owners. I made fitted wardrobes from MDF for the bedroom and put in new kitchen cabinets. It took two years to find salvaged wooden shutters that fit the bedroom window. After the basics were in place I had absolutely no money for furniture so the rest was all done on a budget of practically nothing.


What is your favorite design element of the apartment?

Well, I live, work and sleep here and the layout works really well for me. My "office" stuff stashes away mostly inside the bench at the table so I can have people round for dinner without feeling like we're sitting at my desk.


Where are the furniture and accessories from?

Literally everything I have is either a hand-me-down from relatives, from Ikea (the bed, sofa and kitchen cabinets) or from flea markets/second hand. The metal chairs at the table were £20 for the pair from Greenwich market and I re-covered them in Marimekko fabric. The bright pink Art Deco chair was my grandmother's but my cat destroyed the original natural hessian fabric. I had it re-upholstered in pink. I seem to have a lot of vintage suitcases and boxes which I use for storage -- they're all family things someone was about to throw away. The huge painting in the living room belonged to my grandmother as well. I grew up with it and it's strange how well it fits in here. Although it's about 2.5 meters wide, it doesn't dominate the room oppressively.

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Is there anything you don't like about it or want to change?

Classic first timer mistake: I really wish I'd had the foresight to (at great expense) replace the ancient boiler and ugly radiators when I moved in, instead of just building a cupboard to hide the boiler. To replace them now would mean pulling up the floors again to lay new pipes and I'd probably choose much nicer, smaller radiators so the walls would have to be done again.


Where do you get your design inspiration?

Usually on my travels but from everywhere really. I have sketchbooks filled with images I like and ideas jotted down.


What was your biggest indulgence or splurge?

Really, nothing. I've never bought an expensive piece of furniture. I buy art from artists on etsy or frame old family photos. Probably the oak flooring was the most expensive thing.

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What kind of look/style were you going for?

I like to keep walls and larger areas in light, pale colors and then use bits of bright color and pattern that I can change around when I feel like it, which is often.


Was there any look or style you wanted to avoid?

Any kind of "themed" look.


What's the most common comment you hear about your place?

What a big painting!

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- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. If you have an idea for a European house tour, please write kristinh @ apartmenttherapy . com

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