A Renovated London Flat Is Full of Light, Plants, and a Playful Spirit
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Name: Zoë, Neil, our baby daughter, and two shelter cats
Location: London, UK
Size: 1000 square feet
Years Lived In: 2 years, owned
It was never part of our plan to live in London long-term. We said we’d give a year and then either move home (back to Scotland) or move on (maybe to New York) but London stole our hearts and we decided to find a home here. It’s not the easiest task buying a flat/apartment in London—the market moves so fast that you have to be really on it. We saw so many places that were outright horrible or just plain weird (one had a staircase right in the middle of a small living room decorated with Channing Tatum!).
When we saw our flat, it wasn’t love at first sight for me. My first thought was how much work we’d need to do and would Neil agree to that amount of work? (He’d made me promise that we weren’t getting a fixer upper!) The flat was quite dark and didn’t get that much daylight at the back so I knew it needed more than a lick of paint. For example, the kitchen got hardly any light so it would need a window added in somewhere, which wouldn’t be a small DIY job! But Neil agreed that we would definitely do a renovation of the place so we put in an offer. We’d done a renovation of a flat once before in Edinburgh so we had some idea of the work and dust that would be involved!
And now… well, there’s still lots to be done, but I do so love our home. It’s gone from being a dark flat (every wood surface was a very dark brown—including the kitchen cabinets—and the walls were grey) to one that’s light and fun. Things I love most about it… when the sunlight hits the living room first thing in the morning, when the afternoon sun turns the bedroom pink… and it makes a great space for growing plants! (I joke that if a place doesn’t let plants grow then it’s not good for humans to grow in!)
We also have future plans still for our daughter’s nursery, the downstairs bathroom, and the kitchen, but they’re for another day! How we pass time here… reading, writing, playing music (I think the only time I don’t have music playing is when I’m asleep!) and now that our daughter is here, playing with her, reading to her, and playing her music! We also love having friends and family over (Neil is a very good cook).
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I guess I’d call it mid-century meets ’70s meets garden center! I would describe my decorating style as a happy accident. It’s an ever-evolving mishmash of things that I just like and that thankfully seem to go together. It’s a bit boho, a bit mid-century, a bit vintage school room mixed with granny-style dog figurines and ’70s wicker and spider plants.
Inspiration: I used to love bright colors but ever since I went to Joshua Tree (and then to Ojai) in the US, I’ve been obsessed with dusty sun-bleached colors (in particular faded pinks and greens) and ’70s vibes as it reminds me of being out there and feeling a world away from the hustle and bustle of ‘real’ life—so it’s nice to bring a bit of that feeling into our London life. And while my style has evolved, my love of vintage furniture and finds has remained firm.
Favorite Element: It’s probably the new living room. We’d taken it back to its original size (previous owners had chopped it in half to two smaller rooms—and the small bedroom was always a bit awkward as it was too small to actually be a proper bedroom) and it now feels “right.” It still has a few holes in the middle of the room from where the radiators were against the wall but I quite like them being there as a reminder of it used to be.
Biggest Challenge: Overall, probably the whole renovation—we didn’t mean to do it while I was pregnant but that’s just how life worked out. So we lived in the flat while everything was being renovated—and only our bedroom remained untouched—while I was in the third trimester. I think it meant that the builders worked super fast though as they were worried that I would go into labor while everything was so dusty and unfinished!
More specifically, adding light into the kitchen was a big challenge. I knew in my head what we wanted to do and how we should open up the ceiling but it was off spec—so it took quite a few chats with the builders and a first attempt that I asked them to redo before we got to where we are now. (Luckily we had really nice builders so they were very good about doing it again—I’d been so worried about telling them I didn’t like the first version but they were really understanding!) The mess that taking out the ceiling made meant no kitchen for around two weeks—not ideal when you’re hungry all the time—but it was definitely worth it!
Proudest DIY: Probably our customized kitchen chairs. They were really simple to do— some sample pots of paint and some Frog tape (painter’s tape). After we’d painted these, we did some matching plant pots just for fun. Again, it’s such a simple DIY—you just need some plain pots, some paints, some tape, and a free afternoon!
Biggest Indulgence: Probably my plants! Somehow I went from having a few to having a small jungle! I definitely went through a phase that if I needed a pick-me-up then I would buy another plant—now that I’ve started taking cuttings from the original plants I can’t justify new plants as much.
The variegated Monstera is probably my most expensive plant but he’s also the biggest (and the rarest) so that seems like an okay indulgence! Whereas my favorite plant is the monkey mask aka Monstera Adansonii that’s grown wild above the fireplace. He was only £5 as the guy who sold it to me said the plant was dying (shows what he knows!).
Best Advice: The British textile designer William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” And I guess my version of this is that I gravitate towards things that make me smile or feel happy. I think if you decorate or style your home in a way that makes you feel good in your space then that’s all you need.
What’s your best home secret? Most of our furniture and objects were ‘finds’ from car boot sales, vintage markets, or thrift shops so always keep your eyes (and mind) open as to what you might find. I love having things with more ‘personality’ or history—you almost never find the thing you were looking for, you’ll find a desk when you were looking for a chair but that’s part of the happy accident of it all!
- Floor paint — Ronseal diamond hard white
- Pink Daybed — Vintage but covered in Designers Guild velvet (Varese – Blossom Cutting)
- Grey sofa – Urban Outfitters
- Chest of drawers – Urban Outfitters
- Green locker – Mustard Made
- Vintage wooden box – eBay
- Vintage amoeba ‘map’ – Brooklyn Flea
- Rattan mirrors – La Redoute Pink light fitting – Nordic Nest
- Keep It Wild Banner – Oxford Pennant
- Eyes print – Rachel Richardson
- Plant stand – IKEA
- Cowboy chair – Vintage (covered in Cath Kidston fabric – they no longer sell the fabric but there is a wallpaper)
- Do I love you sign – Made by my uncle for our wedding (the Motown song Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) was our wedding song)
- Coffee table – vintage
- Sideboard – Vintage
- Chairs x 2 – Habitat (but customised with paint)
- Triangle table – La Redoute
- Print – Print Club London
- Bed – John Lewis
- Chest of drawers – IKEA
- Sideboard – Vintage
- Sun mirror – Anthropologie and Justina Blakeney
- Round mirror – Umbra hub mirror
- Linen bed sheets – made.com
- Blankets – dark pink; top blanket; knitted green blanket – Vintage
- Baby bed – snuzpod
- Pink tiles – Best Tile
- White tiles – Crown Tiles
- Shower screen – soak.com
- Shower, radiator, sink – Victorian Plumbing
- Pink locker – Mustard Made
- Art Deco mirror – Vintage
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