Retro Colors and Patterns Boldly Beautify a Formerly Beige 525-Square-Foot London Flat

Throwback Month

Retro Colors and Patterns Boldly Beautify a Formerly Beige 525-Square-Foot London Flat

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Bedrooms
Square feet
525
Sq ft
525

Name: Emily Brinkley and puppy Dolly
Location: Bromley, London
Size: 525 square feet
Type of Home: flat
Years lived in: 1 year, owned

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When I first saw my plain, beige, one-bedroom flat, I probably saw something in it that others didn’t. Sure, it was perfectly decent to move straight into and live quite happily — there was literally nothing wrong with it. But I knew I could transform the space into something special. Originally used for office space, this blank canvas of a flat was just screaming for a makeover and I couldn’t wait!

As an illustrator by profession working from home, it was important for me that my surroundings express my creativity and personal style. After renting for a while and getting frustrated with being unable to change any decor, I was desperate to buy my first place and truly make it my own. I wanted people to walk into my house and say, ‘this is so you!’ When I found this flat ready as a blank canvas I already had 20 different ideas in my head of what I wanted to do with the space to put my retro-inspired, colorful, and bold stamp on it.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Retro, 1960s and 1970s, bold colors

Inspiration: I’ve loved the retro styles of the ’60s and ’70s ever since I was a teenager, totally absorbing as much as I can about the fashion, design, and music and incorporating it into my personal style. I’m drawn to bold psychedelic patterns, bright colors, and funky shapes. To harken back to these decades, I’ve covered the walls of my flat in bold, retro wallpaper and filled the space with bright colors and vintage furniture to really step back in time. I even bought the same lamp that my nan used to have in the 1970s! The flat isn’t totally vintage however; I do have quite a few modern pieces with a retro feel to help bring everything together.

Favorite Element: My favorite thing in my home would be my Orla Kiely rug, which takes centre stage in my living room. I get so many compliments on it! Orla’s legendary pattern designs are a huge influence for me and I love filling my home with her bold, graphic, retro-inspired pieces. I loved the 1960s style pink, yellow, and brown daisy print so much that I designed the rest of the living room decor around it to match. Just try not to spill a drink on it when you come round my place!

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was the relatively small size of the flat — I already had all of my furniture from my bigger rental flat and I soon realized the layout I had meticulously drawn on my iPad was not going to work! I sadly had to get rid of some furniture and after months of swapping and shuffling things around I’m finally happy with the overall layout of the flat. I just miss my vintage dressing table!

Proudest DIY: My proudest DIY would be transforming my tiny, dull bathroom into a bright and cheerful psychedelic flower power-inspired room on a tiny budget in one weekend (with most of the work carried out by my dad, I should add!). I found this amazing retro style daisy print vinyl wallpaper by @fayejennifervinyldesign to cover the bath panel and wall section, and then painted the other walls a complementary turquoise. A few yellow and pink accents (shoutout to my pink toilet seat) were added and then the whole space really came together!

Biggest Indulgence: The biggest cost was on the kitchen and it was so worth it. I replaced what were beige cupboard doors with teak style wood to harken back to mid-century style, and covered the walls in this amazing 1970s daffodil wallpaper by @familjetapeter.se. For someone who didn’t cook a lot I now spend so much time in my cheerful retro kitchen!

Where are your favorite places to buy or find vintage home decor? I spend a lot of time rummaging around boot sales and charity shops with my mum for retro bric-a-brac, as well as scouring eBay for pieces like my vintage 1970s West German lava lamps and mid-century teak mirrors. Facebook Marketplace is great for bargain vintage furniture from house clearings — I would say that all of my bigger wooden pieces like my retro sideboard, chest of drawers, and dining table came in between £40 – £90 each, and I found my vintage 1970s G Plan bookshelf on Facebook Marketplace for free! I also love Etsy for repurposed home furnishings, like my sofa cushions covered in groovy 1970s fabric.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? When it came to decorating the flat I used Photoshop to plan my vision of the space. Using photos of the rooms, I would roughly edit wallpaper patterns and colors onto the walls so I knew my “vision” wouldn’t end up being a disaster!

Resources

PAINT & COLORS

  • Hallway pink doors — Valspar “On Pointe”
  • Hallway yellow doors — Valspar “Table for Two”
  • Bathroom — Valspar “Spin a Yarn”

ENTRY

  • Vintage wicker shelving unit — Facebook Marketplace
  • Rug — Wayfair
  • Ceiling light — IKEA
  • Picture frames — IKEA
  • Artwork — My own
  • Orange Kit Cat clock — Kit Cat

LIVING ROOM

  • Sam Sofa — DFS
  • Peace Armchair — DFS
  • TV cabinet locker — Habitat for Argos
  • Vintage sideboard — Gumtree
  • Vintage coffee tables — Antiques dealer
  • Orla Kiely Rug — The Rug Seller out of stock
  • Vintage dining table — Facebook Marketplace
  • Desk — Wayfair
  • Office chair — Very
  • Vintage West German lava lamps — Ebay
  • Vintage teak mirrors — Ebay
  • Rainbow cushion — Peachy Parrot
  • Grid cushion — Lizzie Rudrum
  • Daisy cushion — Castle
  • Retro fabric cushions — Etsy
  • Beatles cushion — House of Fraser
  • Ceiling light — IKEA
  • Velvet curtains — IKEA
  • Net curtains — IKEA
  • Sunburst clock — John Lewis
  • Vinyl wire rack — Urban Outfitters
  • Wicker plant stand — TK Maxx
  • Mustard wallpaper — Scion Living

KITCHEN

BEDROOM

  • Wicker headboard — LaRedoute color out of stock
  • Divan bed — Bedworld
  • Mirrored wardrobes — IKEA PAX
  • Vintage G Plan bookshelf — Facebook Marketplace
  • Vintage chest of drawers — Gumtree
  • Vintage peacock chair — Facebook Martketplace
  • Rug — George
  • Curtains — Dunelm
  • Ceiling light — IKEA
  • Bedside cabinet lockers — Habitat for Argos
  • Orla Kiely wallpaper — Wallpaper Direct
  • Sheepskin rugs — IKEA
  • Daisy duvet cover — Orla Kiely
  • Crochet blanket — British Home Store — bought years ago
  • Bedside lamps — IKEA
  • Wicker mirror — Tiger
  • Green velvet cushion — Dunelm
  • Dusky pink velvet cushions — Dunelm
  • Yellow daisy cushions — Dunelm

BATHROOM

  • Vinyl wallpaper — Faye Jennifer Vinyl Design
  • Pink toilet seat — Amazon
  • Mirrored cupboard — IKEA
  • Bathmat — Peachy Parrot out of stock
  • Wicker mirrors — Tiger
  • Plant hanger — Etsy
  • Wicker shelf — Charity shop
  • Fake plants — IKEA

Thanks Emily!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

This piece is part of Throwback Month, where we’re revisiting vintage styles, homes, and all kinds of groovy, retro home ideas. Boogie on over here to read more!