Organic, Vintage Scandinavian-Inspired Style in London

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Name: Ruth Steadman
Location: Crystal Palace, London
Size: 550 square feet
Years lived in: 9 years, rented

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This high-ceilinged apartment in a large early-Victorian house is home to writer and psychotherapist Ruth Steadman and her cat Tallulah. Although it’s rented, in the nine years Ruth has lived here she’s managed to create a home that feels truly her own. It is spacious and calm thanks to the abundant natural light that pours in through the vast windows and the gentle Scandinavian-inspired color palette and textures that Ruth has used throughout: organic materials, earthy neutrals, chalky whites and soft blue-greys. (Even Tallulah matches the color scheme!)

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

An enthusiastic collector and curator, Ruth has filled her home with many personal items that tell of her life and loves: works of art, books, upcycled pieces (including her old school trunk, which she’s painted in chalk paint and repurposed as a bedside table) and numerous treasures sourced from local flea markets and from places visited on her travels through Europe and beyond.

Ruth’s rented flat is an excellent showcase for her ethos as a designer, which is that our homes (whether owned or rented) have the potential to tell a personal narrative and to contribute to emotional well being. She’s now exploring a move into interior design, to complement her existing writing and psychotherapy practice, using her ethos to help others make the most of their homes. You can see more of her work and style on her website.

(Image credit:

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: is evolving and adaptive. I would describe my current home as Vintage Eclectic with Scandinavian and organic elements, but put me in a beach cottage, a crumbling Italian villa, a warehouse or mid-century apartment and things might be quite different. One constant is my use of bespoke, hand-crafted decorative pieces, upcycling and small-scale furniture restoration.

Inspiration: Gosh, where to start? Travels through Europe, design blogs, artists’ homes, glimpses into London’s windows at dusk, quirky commercial spaces—I’m a bit of an interior design magpie, if I’m honest.

Favorite Element: The light, whether slanting through the bedroom’s Venetian blinds on a weekend morning or softening to indigo from my writing desk—I feel very spoiled by how much the huge double aspect sash windows give me (even if they do make the flat very cold in winter).

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Biggest Challenge: Fitting separate areas for entertaining, working, relaxing and a piano into a 16 foot by 13 foot living room. Oh and sticking to a budget whenever I go flea market shopping.

What Friends Say: They often ask me for advice about their homes, which is lovely. And the son of one of my friends apparently described my place as his “ideal Tumblr feed,” which I was rather chuffed about.

Biggest Embarrassment: The rental issue moss green carpet. I’m sure there are some gorgeous floorboards hidden underneath that I’d love to liberate.

Proudest DIY: Replicating the existing floating shelves across the remainder of the landing library wall. I’m also pretty pleased with my first attempt at upholstery (on the piano stool I recently sourced from Freecycle and upcycled).

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Biggest Indulgence: Stella, my piano. She took a long time to find, as she needed to both sound gorgeous and fit my aesthetic. Someone told me at the start of my search that pianos have souls and that I’d know when I found my soulmate, and they were right. The day she arrived my living room felt complete.

Best Advice: As a writer and therapist I believe that our homes have the opportunity to help create narratives about who we are, and to contribute to our emotional wellbeing. Whether you own, rent or share, it is wholeheartedly worth taking the time to curate a space that makes you feel good and that tells your story. And that thing everyone says about the fresh flower habit? It is entirely and gloriously true.

Dream Sources: Found while travelling in Europe, mostly. I would happily go back to Arezzo’s antiques market every month if I could. I loved wandering through Amsterdam’s De Negen Straatjes. And of course I could spend a lot of money in pretty much any homeware store in Stockholm. Closer to home, pottering around Crystal Palace’s various vintage and antique shops is one of my favourite weekend pastimes.


(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)
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Ruth made some of the cushions in her living room using material from Verona antiques market. (Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Thanks, Ruth!

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