A Tiny 270-Square-Foot Shared London Studio

published Jan 9, 2016
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(Image credit: David Telford)

Name: Dave and Cathy
Location: South West London; UK
Size: 270 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

Editor’s note: This greatest hits tour of a teeny shared studio apartment is cleverly furnished and the commentary from the person who lived in it is hilarious!

I always tell people that this studio was both the best and worst place I’ve ever lived. It was super convenient for travel, shopping, and friends, and the building had bags of character… but it was also insanely noisy, largely devoid of conveniences, and really, really small. Moving from a house to a studio was a huge adjustment for me, but when my partner Cathy moved in with me about a year later, that’s when we really had to re-think how we felt about possessions, personal space, and the co-ordination of movement.

(Image credit: David Telford)
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The characterful Art Deco block in South London, one of the largest buildings of privately owned apartments in the city. (Image credit: David Telford)

Among the biggest concerns for us was the tiny kitchen. For people who love to cook and entertain, this was a major challenge—but one we embraced. The chance to live in a lovely old building and have a place that we could make our own was more important than, say, an oven (conventional or microwave), or a dishwasher, or even a washing machine. We made do by supplementing the electric hob with a bargain toaster oven and doing laundry across the street in a local laundromat where we made friends with the owners.

Otherwise, the studio was very much a blank canvas. The only existing feature was the large mirror on one wall and we were glad to have it. When I first moved in, I put some new blinds up and got a bed that was only as large as it needed to be. After some vintage furniture shopping expeditions and adding some soft furnishings, it was almost a home. When Cathy moved in, we also bought a small sofa and with her help, the studio became a much more lovely place to spend time together.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: To say we had a specific style might be too grand a statement for our first place together. But we are both fans of Mid-century modern, leaning towards a modern rustic feel. Where possible, we tried to be sympathetic with the age of the building, but going full Art Deco would have been too challenging for us, and also would have left us with an aesthetic which doesn’t transfer very well when you move on.

Inspiration: One of the reasons I discovered Apartment Therapy was the Small Spaces section. We both spent hours and hours looking through the blog finding ways other wonderful creative people had made the best of their tiny spaces. It literally changed my life for the better, and continues to do so.

Favorite Element: Our favorite part of the flat was always the large period window. We spent far more time enjoying the view of our neighbors (not in a creepy way!) than we ever did watching the television. Because it was the only source of natural light, we were even able to black it out one day and turn the whole room in to a giant camera obscura, a project I wrote about on my photography blog.

Biggest Challenge: That kitchen was by far the biggest challenge. The lack of appliances of any kind and the severely restricted space made our dinner parties very interesting. But we did have dinner parties—I think the record number of guests (including us) was six!

What Friends Say: “Where do you keep all your stuff?” For the most part, we both really tried to keep our worldly possessions to a minimum, which I would recommend, but the two cupboards in the main room were crammed and we did in fact keep a secret storage locker not far away so we could keep some items that would just get in the way like camping gear, etc.

Biggest Embarrassment: The wall finishes. As renters, we were loathe to spend money on painting the studio and the landlord didn’t want to do it for us, so we just lived with ratty walls for the whole time. It wasn’t great but we had enough surprises around the flat to keep wandering eyes captivated.

Proudest DIY: One winter we decided to put some temporary wallpaper up and ended up with the snowy forest scene. We loved it so much we kept it until we moved out. It took a day of careful and frustrated measuring and lining up—the sticky back is less forgiving than wallpaper glue—but we were very proud of ourselves for turning the wall into a feature—and another excuse to hold more parties.

Biggest Indulgence: Possibly the Hudson Bay Point Blanket, bought on a trip to Canada. It’s low profile so it doesn’t add bulk to the bed like a duvet (and steal space) and it’s very warm… but it wasn’t cheap or easy to get home.

Best Advice: We tried hard to split the very limited space in to zones, so in our main room we had the bedroom space, the lounge room space, and the dining space. They overlap in places but when you’re in one space you can sort of blank out the rest, with a little distortion of reality. I think for small space living it’s essential.

Dream Sources: Skandium, Midcentury Modern design show at Dulwich College, the vintage furniture stores in our new neighborhood, Crystal Palace (where we got the table and chairs seen here).



  • I can’t confirm the paint and colors in any of the rooms, and I also can’t imagine anyone would care to emulate a shade that I would refer to as “neglect”. Magnolia, possibly? Avoid if possible.


  • Ironing board: The ironing board was a necessity, but with limited space to store one, we decided it had to become a piece itself. We got this one from Betty Twyford.
  • Clock: reproduction of a vintage Newgate face, purchased on Portobello Road in Notting Hill.




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