A 500-Square-Foot London Flat Is Fresh and Fun Thanks to DIYs and Bargain Buys
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Name: Tola Doll Fisher
Location: Islington — London, England
Size: 500 square feet
Years lived in: 10 months, renting
Creating a space of your own after a divorce can conjure up many mixed feelings. For Tola Fisher, living on her own was a transition she didn’t anticipate, but with time, came to embrace with open arms.
“I was afraid at first as I’ve never lived alone before and I’m very much an extrovert, I get my energy from being around other people. I moved into a flat share in London to be closer to friends and work. Having flat mates again was a big adjustment, but I felt so lonely after the separation that I actually didn’t want to live by myself. But after some time, I came to understand that I was craving the chance to make a real home again and actually getting to do what I want without checking in with anyone has been pretty awesome.”
Her new home consists of two small bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, and an open concept dining/living room where she loves to just sit back and enjoy the fun yet calming space she has created. From the beautiful Ralph Pucci-inspired mural she hand painted on the main wall of her living room, to the pink dishware featured on her DIYed dining room table, Tola’s new home has become a symbol of new beginnings that both supports and reflects her in every way.
Tola works as a journalist and has been featured on Tedx speaking on Debunking the Myth of Success. She is also the author of, “Still Standing—100 Lessons from an ‘Unsuccessful’ Life,” available here .
“I feel so blessed to be here, in such a beautiful part of London. I’ve given my home the name, El Shaddai, which is a Hebrew name meaning “God Almighty.” For me, this apartment is an example of how God has really blessed me—mightily!”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Fun, Fashion-forward, Unique
Inspiration: Pinterest, my neighbors’ homes, Grand Designs, Apartment Therapy
Favorite Element: The face mural I drew freehand on my living room wall. I saw a picture of it from a Ralph Pucci exhibiton on Pinterest and loved it. I drew it in pencil one night after a glass of red wine for courage! I didn’t have any tools but I used the spirit level on my iPhone 5s to get straight lines. The next day I went to CASS Art in Angel and bought acrylic paint to go over it properly. Everyone from friends to decorators comment on it. I’m so proud of how it turned out, I even signed it!
Biggest Challenge: I was living in a really beautiful Victorian split-level apartment so coming to live somewhere with low ceilings was an adjustment. I’m constantly battling with lighting as I like it low and atmospheric but that can sometimes look moody here. I hate the original light fixtures so will probably switch them out in time.
What Friends Say: “Wow,” “Where did you get that?” and because I always have background music on, “It’s so calm in here.”
Biggest Embarrassment: I had my front door painted pink and it looked so beautiful when I put my huge inherited plant, Angel, outside next to it. But the door furniture was silver and I wanted a brass effect. So I got a gold paint for metal and painted over the letter box, the door handle and the door numbers. Unfortunately I discovered that the handle and letter box are made of a cheap plastic, not metal, so the paint looks horrid now! I’m not sure how to fix this but it’s really frustrating. Any suggestions?
Proudest DIY: The previous occupants left me a dark wooden drop leaf table and an ottoman covered in a stained and fraying corduroy material. Because I live on the fourth floor in a building with no lift, it was easier to keep them than replace them. So I had to do something drastic to turn them into lovable pieces for my home. I painted the tabletop black and it instantly changed how it fit in with the room. It was a spontaneous decision so I only had a tiny paintbrush (the one I used to do my Pucci face mural) and it was like painting the Sistine Chapel! But so worth it—both coats! I also bought four barely used black leather chairs from a production agency in Soho for just £5 each and painted the legs gold. I was toying with paying about £150 each for black leather chairs with gold legs but I now have what I wanted for a fraction of the price. I had the ottoman reupholstered with some fire retardant scrap upholstery fabric I got from eBay for £15. I was skeptical as I really hated that ottoman but I love it now.
Biggest Indulgence: My rugs. I’m obsessed with them! My favorites are an Azilal berber rug which was sent in from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, three handmade Persian rugs from Khyber Place of Discovery on Kilburn High Road, and a hand knotted wool kilim rug from Rugsite, which sources from a fair trade company in India. This is a shoe-free home and I like being barefoot so it’s nice to sink my toes into the different textures. The second indulgence (in case rug-loving is last season): I bought a set of three vintage copper pots with lids from eBay for £35 and had them polished, re-tinned, and initialed. In total I paid almost £400 which might sound like a lot for three pots but new ones would have cost about £300 each so I have zero regrets. Copper and tin are such good materials for cooking and I will have these pots for life.
Best Advice: Try not to copy. Think about who will be using the house most and make it work for them. I love my kitchen rug and they look great on Pinterest, but if you have small children and pets, it might be easier to stick to a wipe-clean floor!
Dream Sources: Liberty Home. Liberty is my absolute favourite shop but the homeware is prohibitively expensive! I usually spend hours in there, come out empty handed and then try to find replicas online or in the huge H&M Home on Regent Street.
- Sofa — Bought from previous owners. I loved it on sight but also wanted to avoid lugging more stuff up four flights of stairs!
- Rug — This came directly from the Atlas Mountains via an eBay seller based in Morocco
- Mannequin tables — An eBay seller who collects granite off-cuts used this piece to create a table using the two mannequin bodies as the base. He took it apart for transportation and sold me the whole thing for just £26 Copper Floor Lamp — Shpock
- Table Under TV — Habitat
- Pink Telephone — A cute card and gift shop called Etc in Camden Passage, Islington
- Ottoman — The previous owners left it behind and I had it reupholstered by Karam Upholstery in North London (Bought the fabric from eBay)
- Roller skates — Selfridges. They were a leaving gift from an old workplace
- Table — This was an old dark wood drop leaf table left by previous owners. I painted the top black using materials from CASS Art Chairs — I bought these for £5 each from a design agency in Soho via Shpock and painted the chair legs gold. Instant upgrade!
- Tableware — Pink stoneware plates are from the Nona range at Habitat, Gold flatware is from Biba at House of Fraser, Letter glasses are from Anthropologie UK, Jute table mats from eBay
- Vase — H&M Home
- White floor lamp — IKEA (still boxed via Shpock!)
- Area Rug — Zara Home via Shpock (I went through a bit of an obsession with Shpock!)
- Rug — Reversible Kilim cotton rug from eBay