A Studio Becomes a Cool Two-Bedroom in this Clever London Reno

updated Sep 6, 2019

A Studio Becomes a Cool Two-Bedroom in this Clever London Reno

updated Sep 6, 2019
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Name: Julia Maile and Kurt Maile and their daughter Florence
Location: Angel — Islington, London
Size: 620 square feet
Years lived in: 9 years, owned

Nine years ago, lifestyle journalist Julia and her husband Kurt, a tech consultant, invested in a tiny, run-down studio flat in a period conversion in the heart of Central London’s Islington neighborhood. The flat had a strange sleeping platform arrangement, but also had the benefit of a huge (by London standards) flat roof terrace. So the couple hired architects and builders to build an entirely new level on the flat roof, enabling the whole space to be rearranged over two levels, creating a beautiful open living area and two bedrooms. The entire home is still only 620 square feet, but as Julia reports, “the clever design really makes use of every square inch of space.”

So unique is this flat’s renovation, Julia reveals it even got its own nickname: “The property is in a conservation area — an area considered worthy of preservation because of its special architectural and historic interest — so that meant the new extension was not allowed to be visible from the street. Our architects, What Architecture, were very creative and came up with a unique design for a glass extension with a sliding roof and door and dubbed the project ‘The Invisible House.'”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our style: A laid-back Antipodean style with a neutral palette and lots of greenery. I’m from New Zealand and Kurt is from Australia and we both hanker after the kind of outdoorsy living we grew up with, so we tried to re-create it as best we could in a tiny central London flat with no garden.

Inspiration: I spend waaaay too much time scrolling on Instagram Most of the interiors accounts I’m obsessed with are based in Byron Bay, Australia, and I was thrilled to visit some of them when we stayed at The Bower Byron Bay earlier this year. Current faves include Tigmi Trading, Marr-kett, Yoli and Otis, Atlantic Byron Bay, Pampa, Byron Beach Abodes and Ahoy Trader. I’ve had my eye on a Byron Bay Hanging Chairs love seat for ages but sadly my luggage allowance didn’t quite stretch that far.

Favorite Element: The sliding glass door/roof to the terrace, which opens up the space to create a seamless transition between inside and out. The terrace has a south westerly aspect so gets beautiful afternoon sun and we’re treated to beautiful sunsets over the church spire down the road.

Biggest Challenge: Finding furniture to fit the small space. The stairways are incredibly narrow and the first sofa we bought before the renovations had to be craned in through the sash windows. To this day we have no idea how the builders got it out again. I bought four beautiful black vintage Eames DSS fibreglass dining chairs on eBay but had to sell them as they were just too bulky. I searched high and low for a round dining table that expands to seat eight — the one I finally found had a shiny yellow finish so our friend Simon sanded and painted it. [Disclosure: We keep the spare table inserts under the sofa and the Berber rug was bunched up over them in this photo shoot. It haunts me every time I look at the images!]

What Friends Say: We’re coming over for drinks on the terrace.

Biggest Embarrassment: The lack of artwork on the living room wall. I’ve tried lots of different pieces, from a huge Slim Aarons print to a gallery wall, and I just can’t make up my mind. Luckily the numerous pigeons and police helicopters that fly over the big glass roof keep things interesting.

Proudest DIY: We are both totally useless at DIY. We needed something to hide the cables under the TV so I covered a bunch of paperbacks in white computer paper. They’re inconspicuous, easy to move if we need to access the cables and the remote works through them. That counts as DIY, right?!

Biggest Indulgence: The solid oak floating stairs. Our budget was tight during the renovation and it was tempting to stick with a traditional staircase but I’m so glad Kurt convinced me to splurge on the floating stairs. We love the way the light casts different shadows throughout the day and they make the study area so much brighter. It’s just a shame they’re not the most baby friendly…

Best Advice: Always check the current planning rules. We assumed (wrongly) that we could extend out as far as our immediate neighbours but the rules had changed. It actually turned out to be a blessing as it meant our architects came up with the glass sliding roof design, but it would have been much less costly if we had known earlier.

Dream Sources: If money (and space) were no object, then our apartment would be home to an elegant line drawing by Frédéric Forest and a huge marble Saarinen dining table teamed with vintage rosewood dining chairs by Kai Kristiansen. And not forgetting a well-stocked Frans drinks cabinet by Pinch, a dreamy Bulb Chandelier by Lee Broom and a budgerigar by Miho because every house needs a pink paper bird, obviously. I really should stop now as I’m getting rather greedy…


Outdoor seating – Iman Deco
Barbecue – Big Green Egg
Planter – Organics

Wooden flooring — Reclaimed Flooring Co
Rug — Vintage Beni Ourain from Essence of Morocco
Sofa — Sofa.com
Cushions — House of Hackney and Ikea
Drinks trolley — MADE
Woven pouffe — Ikea
Dining table — customised extending solid oak table by Top Furniture
White mismatched chairs — Bistro chair, Windsor chair and Talia chair
Candle — Neom Organics
Assorted plant pots and holders — Paper Mache Tiger; Conservatory Archives and Columbia Road Flower Market
Swan vase — vintage Crown Lynn
Spray mister — Botany

Counter top — Silestone in Kensho
Cabinets — Ikea
Appliances — Neff
‘Paolo Roversi 167’ print by Paolo Roversi — Fotografiska
Turkish tea set — Grand Bazaar
Copper cup — Everything But The Dog
Champagne coupes – vintage — belonged to grandparents

Desk chair — vintage Eames from Twenty Twenty One
“I like boring things” print by Andy Warhol — Moderna Museet
Heart print — Bodie and Fou
Paper Bag — Be-Pole
Copper air plant holder — Adorn Homeware
Storage boxes — John Lewis and Ikea

Lamps — Design House Stockholm
Curve hooks — Normann Copenhagen
Side table — Made
Ceramic bowl — Broste Copenhagen
Jug — Flying Tiger
Palm tree print — Wilder California
‘Marilyn in Grand Central Station’ print by Ed Feingersh
Cacti print — Ollie Ella
Mohair throw — Brun de Vian-Tiran
Round pink tray — Abigail Ahern
Crumpled candle holder — H&M
Green oil lamp — purchased while travelling in Galle, Sri Lanka
Marble inlay plate — purchased while travelling in Agra, India
Bed — Dreams

Mirror — Hay
‘Columbia Road 2013’ print by Vic Lee
“Bouncing Rabbit” print by HAM
Wooden toy — Hop and Peck
Wall hanging — House Doctor
Storage Bag — Nobodinoz
Drawers — Maisons du Monde
Bed — Warren Evans

Handwash and moisturizer — Aesop
Candle — Ralph Lauren
Towel — Bohemia Design

‘Paolo Roversi 168’ print by Paolo Roversi — Fotografiska
Oval bulkhead light — Old School Electric

Thanks, Julia and Kurt!

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