Style & Then Some

Ever-soaring property market forced you into a home of Sylvanian-family proportions? Me too. Here’s how I’m styling it out…

“World! I’ve bought a flat and finally made it onto the London property ladder!” I (metaphorically) cry from my building’s rooftop, jumping about like a loon, fist-pumping the air and generally flailing about in glee. That’s the good news. The not-so good news is that when I descend the metaphorical steps of said rooftop and approach my front door, I remember that, really, I’ve bought a shoebox, not a flat, because it’s London, and it’s 2016, and the ratio of pounds-sterling to square-footage is, quite frankly, a joke.

However, choosing to live in zone three was my decision. Without doubt, I’d have got more bang for my buck in zone 6. But I wanted the lazy life of convenient shop opening times, short commutes, coffee bars within strolling distance, expensive service charges and absolutely no room to swing a cat. I’m only five-foot-two; I don’t take up much room. So, being fully aware of my decision to live in miniature, I’m styling it out. And here’s how…

  1. Clever furniture. My shoebox is essentially a studio flat that has been converted into a small one-bedroom apartment, which basically means the bedroom is big enough for a bed, and not much more. The solution? Studio beds. I found two great retailers (Warren Evans and the curiously-named Get Laid Beds) who have a selection of beds especially designed for small-space living. Check out the ones without the burden of frames. Also pretty nifty is this clever table I bought from Ikea; it neatly folds down on both sides but the six drawers are great for kitchen utensils and things like scissors, pens, light bulbs, batteries, cling film and um, novelty chopsticks you bought in South-East Asia and will likely never use but they look sooo pretty.


  1. Storage. So many people urged me to look at beds with storage, but little did they understand how small my bedroom actually was (I even have to go for a petite-double so that it doesn’t completely engulf the space). Bring forth the storage sofa! Lift up the seat and you have a mini cave that’s excellent for seasonal bits and bobs like sleeping bags, Christmas decorations and ski gear. Another great storage option are these stool boxes – handy for bed linen and blankets, and sturdy enough to sit on. Also, forget the Billy bookcase, you don’t have room – instead, think shelves. Drawing the eye upwards and reducing floor clutter creates the illusion of ‘bigger’.

This one is from Amazon. B&Q has them for £10 each.

homebase sofa

From Homebase.

  1. Embracing white. Luckily, my pad was already painted white, but my predecessor’s furniture was slightly on the gothic side – dark wood, red furnishings and animal print accessories. Lavish and perfect for sizeable hotel rooms, but dark colours make things look small (why else do we gravitate to LBDs and black undies if we’re not feeling svelt?). So, I embraced white – white kitchen table, white chest of drawers, white TV unit, off-white rug. They all beautifully blend into the walls and the floor, and even if I can’t swing a cat, the illusion that I can, is there.

Image courtesy of House & Garden

  1. Cooking. I have a kitchenette, and until I save enough mulla to make a few structural changes to replace a large and fairly useless cupboard with useful kitchen units, I’m left to make the best I can of a microwave, a portable hob ring, a kettle, a toaster and some sort of cooking vessel that looks like a glass pressure cooker but with an oven dial (the latter was left to me by the previous owner and I have never seen a gadget like it before… I’m a bit scared of it actually). Honestly, aside from whipping up eggs, spinach and beans on toast a week ago, I have not yet mastered cooking with so many gadgets and so little space. Which does mean I am eating a lot of salads, but also means the local restaurant trade is doing far too well out of me. However, I’ve only just bought my kitchen table, thus a surface on which to prepare food, so I’m cutting myself some slack before I delve into the infinite wisdom of shoestring cookery from Jack Monroe and all-in-one-pot recipes.

Microwave mushroom soup recipe by Jack Monroe

  1. Getting rid. There’s no getting round getting rid of your stuff. Take stock of what you have room for and stick to those boundaries. Be ruthless. If you only knew the old me, you’d realise it’s been hard taking my own advice. A little bit of mess is genuinely comforting, and I used to love spending a whole day nostalgically pouring over old photos, ticket stubs and magazines.  But small spaces fill up fast and there’s no room to hoard or deliberate over whether to keep a chipped Star Wars mug you’ve had since you were 14 or a jacket you haven’t worn in four years. I’ve started to employ a one-in-one-out rule with clothes, giving one item to charity if I buy something new. I’ve employed a filing system and sought out a shredder for paperwork more than five years old (well, not all paperwork, some bits are important, like P60s and tax-related letters… I don’t want The Man to dupe me into thinking I owe £1057 from 2002). I make sure I wash up after every meal, and put everything back in its place. I empty the bins more than once a week. Hey, I never said it was fun… but it will never be a chore if you’re doing it as you go.
  1. Small pleasures. One of the best pieces of advice for coping with micro-living is remembering the little things that make you smile. A friend of mine said to me, “what does it matter, you have your very own slice of London now.” And he’s right. Not only that, I can…
  • Play music from one room and hear it everywhere
  • Make coffee in the morning and not have to bring it upstairs as I get ready
  • Buy a snazzy cordless vacuum cleaner with a battery-life of 15-minutes knowing that it’ll only take me 5 to do the whole flat
  • Leave the heating off (yes, even in winter) because it’s so small I get heat from the flats around me
  • Sing loudly (and badly), dance around my undies and come home when I want

Of course I’ve given up space to live close to the city, but that’s all I’ve given up. It doesn’t make it any less mine, or any less enjoyable, or any less special. My name is on the deeds to this tiny plot of London, and you don’t need umpteen square-feet to feel proud of that.


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This entry was posted on February 2, 2016 by in And Then Some, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , .
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