Over 80 Plants Make This Small UK Rental Feel Like a Jungle
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Name: Dr. Perpetua Neo
Location: Brighton, UK
Size: 700 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, renting
When I stepped into this house, I fell in love with it. It was furnished in a way that didn’t do it justice, but I saw the bones, molding, and gloriously high ceilings—it was a dream come true. This property was mighty popular—30 people came to view it! I told my (then-future) landlord I’d pay him in advance for the next six months, and we bonded over a conversation about my brioche French toast recipe. The next day he called me for coffee, and said, “I want someone who will really live in this house and make it theirs.” I showed him the photos of how I’d transformed my previous temporary properties. The rest is history.
I love colors but I dig it moody and brooding even more. The gallery wall features plants; a rather “strange” art collection; medicine references (a Santiago Ramon y Cajal brain drawing, Traditional Chinese Medicine print, phrenology head); loads of vintage books; random snakes; and dinosaur figurines.
I also run part of my business from here, and can only work in beautiful spaces. So I styled it accordingly, making sure everything is intelligently streamlined, neat, and running from my tiny reclaimed wood industrial-style desk. I’m a psychologist and executive coach for high performers globally, and specialize in helping people to master their time, mind, and sleep—essentially “Master Your Psychological Capital.” My work’s an intersection of cutting-edge neuroscience, psychology, and ancient wisdom, and it’s all about walking my talk. So my living/working space is not only hacked for performance, it’s also about rejuvenation, creativity, and inspiration. I write for quite a few publications and my work’s in 33 languages, so you can imagine how important creative space is to me. Also, I work next to my shoe collection—I’ve been collecting high heels since I was 18 (i.e. my first paycheck) and this bookcase is my only IKEA piece. My shoes inspire me to work smarter so I can buy more!
I love this home. I affectionately christen her The TownHaus. It’s cool even on the hottest summer days, and warm-ish in the winter. I love entertaining and feeding people here, and I also run empowerment urban retreats and gatherings for people from this space. It’s a reflection of my journey and how I’ve grown into myself—daring to choose, buy, and create the things I love. When my friends visit or see pictures of it, they go “It’s very you.” And that’s the greatest compliment anyone can lavish!
What is your favorite room and why? The bedroom. I’ve got a banana tree in it, on top of a marble fireplace! I’ve been dreaming of owning one for years, but it was hard to track down in the UK. Banana trees remind me of home (Singapore) ultimately, and waking up in a lush jungle feels divine even in the winter. There’s a running joke amongst South East Asians that pontianaks (something like banshees) lurk by banana trees and they ask me if I’m worried. That causes quite a few chuckles, but my home is so peaceful.
It’s also got a giant forest-green velvet ottoman, which I’ve dreamed of owning since I was a teenager. I finally bought it this year and it’s like having my chair dreams come true.
Also, there’s a magically amazing floor-to-ceiling wardrobe, which houses all my clothes. As an unashamed very vain person, having an organized space for my gorgeous clothes—I have props and outfits to dress for any theme—fills me with gratitude.
Any advice for creating a home you love? Your home reflects your identity. Buy what you love, not what’s trendy, regardless of how offbeat it is— you can always create a lateral use. Amongst my favorite possessions are a thurible (those things from which you waft incense in Catholic churches), pantry organization, tea cups, vintage-style DeLonghi Icona kettle, and gold wooden ladder.
And of course my collections.
I LOVE chairs. How much? My friends often scold me for spending more time noticing/taking photos of chairs when there’s supposedly some man smiling at me. I have a chaise lounge (the first piece of furniture I bought myself, ever!), ghost chairs, giant velvet ottoman, gold modern Ming stool, benches and… let’s just say I often wish I were an interior stylist so I could collect chairs.
I cook a lot—food is in my Peranakan and Chinese bloodlines—so my pantry is extensive. I easily whip up a 15-meal spread. I read a lot too and love clothes. So even though I have a lot of stuff, I’m often ruthless about throwing things out and not bringing unnecessary things home unless I really want them. And when they make it past the door, there’s an organizational system for them. Basically, it’s not just the displays that are neat. The insides of my cupboards, refrigerator, and boxes are organized, too.
If you’re a home person and a major introvert, then your home is a place where you rejuvenate during your Introvert Hangovers. So invest in your house and buy the things you really love, rather than spending on an experience you feel pressured towards but won’t enjoy. Be selective about your life and choices, it increases your mental fitness and performance.
And keep reading Apartment Therapy. I’ve been geeking out on you since I was 19 (that’s 2009).
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* This home submission’s responses were edited for length and clarity.