MADE.COM TALENT LAB
Just add black: Rhonda Drakeford's designed space

Just add black: Rhonda Drakeford's designed space

MADE.COM’s latest designer collaborator, Rhonda Drakeford, is half of Darkroom London - the duo famed for painting their London shop black before it was a thing. She now runs Studio Rhonda creating inspiring spaces for private clients, and most recently, worked with us at MADE to design a line of encaustic tiled tables for her Vitti collection. We visited her small two bedroom rental flat in Hackney and found out how she transformed a rundown former shop into a space with bags of personality and a very Instagrammable exterior.

 

Snapped up

Transforming a generic rental flat into a space that’s anything but is something of a skill. But it’s second nature to Rhonda Drakeford whose designer eye and clever use of scaffolding planks turned a once grotty shop into an Insta-worthy home. “The flat was typical rental fodder with a cheap kitchen and cracked laminate flooring. I just loved the location and tried to see beyond the décor. I asked the landlord if I could do some work on the property to improve it in exchange for a couple of weeks free rent, which they agreed to.”

Kitchen shelves made from scaffolding lined with jars of dry ingredients and wire baskets filled with teas and spices

Back to Black

Black features heavily in the flat, but rather than being overbearing, it acts as a neutral against Rhonda’s other, bolder touches of colour. “I ripped up the laminate floor revealing nice wooden floorboards which I’ve painted black.”

Monochrome kitchen with black tiles and white shelves lined with black and white crockery

Tearing down the house

“I also tore down the upper kitchen cabinets which were practically hanging off the wall and replaced them with shelves made from cheap but strong scaffolding planks.”

Rhonda Drakeford's window covered by shelves filled with plants

Green House

A flat with a shop front window has the advantage of plenty of light but the flipside is compromised privacy. “I used scaffolding planks to build some shelves for plants to give the large shop-window a little screening from the street without blocking out any light.” The effect? One very snappable plant-based view from the street. “I now find passers-by stop in their tracks to look at the plants and take photos, even peering right in! The plants make me feel such calmness and really create a dialogue between the indoors and outdoors.”

MADE's Ted lamp in black in front of shelves filled with plants

Rhonda Drakeford watering plants

A small living room with an L-shaped sofa and yellow Tribeca sofa

Call The Professionals

“Your home should talk your language, not be a soulless show-home of brand new stuff. It takes time, collecting, curating possessions, souvenirs from travels, furniture from old family members. All your stuff, however disparate can be grouped and made to work in interesting ways and give it soul and a history. If you are struggling to make sense of it, get help, it’s more affordable than you think to get professional advice on decluttering and creating a joyful space.”

A sofa with multiple green, blue, black and white cushions with a black and white spiral patterned plate on the wall

Make it yours

“My home needs to be a balance of somewhere between visual stimulation and calming sanctuary. My taste is for oddness and contrast — it’s not really about being daring or tasteful, it’s about being creative and comfortable.”

Open-plan living space with a sofa and multi-coloured print next to a black and white kitchen

MADE's Tribeca yellow armchair next to a small table with a yello Tuli lamp on it

Multi-coloured books on an elevated shelf above doorways

Look Up

In such a small space, using every nook available for storage is essential: “I built a high bookshelf around the top of the tiny hall which allows me to store many books without taking up any valuable floor space. Always look for nooks and crannies that can be commandeered for clever storage.”

Black and white bathroom with mustard Waffle towels and mustard Laza bath mat

Grey Brisa bathrobe hanging on the back of a bathroom door with mustard Waffle towels

Bedroom with large wooden wardrobe decorated with terracotta jars and plants behind the double bed

Bargain basement

We loved the stand-out pops of colour on Rhonda’s walls: “I’ve painted the decorative coloured panels on the rental-standard white walls using paint I sourced from the bargain bins of my local DIY store where accidental colour mixes are sold off cheap.”

Rhonda Drakeford's Vitti console table against a wall decorated with black and white plates and canvas

The big three

“Every home I’ve lived in has been an evolution of my personal style. Boldness, contrast and texture are always key features, and I always start with and work with whatever the interior architecture of the place offers.”

Rhonda Drakeford's Vitti console table with white sculpture placed on it

Visual Journey

“Black has been my neutral and base colour for most of my spaces for some years now, and I work in a sculptural manner, building shapely compositions of furniture, artwork and objects that create a visual journey through each individual room.”

Rhonda Drakeford in her garden organising patterned plant pots

Can Do Attitude

“I was brought up on German Army bases. Due to constantly moving, we had few possessions. My dad made furniture out of wooden packing crates, and my mum made soft furnishings. It taught me you can create a home out of practically anything."

Rhonda Drakeford's Vitti coffee table in her garden

Rhonda Drakeford's green, blue, white and black Vitti coffee table in her garden

Rhonda Drakeford's outdoor studio in a garden surrounded by trees

Nature Calls

"My last workspace was in a basement. In winter, I’d arrive and leave in the dark and get no natural light during the day. I realised when I moved into this studio cabin how conducive to working it is to be surrounded by nature. When I’m here I’m so productive, it’s magic."

The colourful interior of Rhonda Drakeford's studio with Vitti table

Work Life Balance

"I like to treat the decor of a workspace in the same way I’d treat a home — comfortable chairs, rugs, plants, interesting artwork and a healthy dose of colour. I personally need a decent sized window, ideally with a view of some greenery or sky — it’s really therapeutic to look up from your computer screen or desk and be able to rest your eyes on a long view. There’s a tree directly opposite the window I sit at with a veritable soap opera of different birds to watch."

Rhonda Drakeford sitting at the Vitti table working

Brand New Start

"I did a degree in Graphic Design and had a design consultancy called Multistorey. We started working on the interiors of the shops and restaurants we were designing the branding for which started my evolution into interior and product design."

Rhonda Drakeford working on a laptop at the Vitti table

Signature Look

"In 2005 I launched a range of cushions made from African wax print dress fabrics, teaming them with chunky contrast coloured piping - they were nominated for the Elle Decoration Awards. These eventually became a signature product at Darkroom.”

Close up on the pattern of the grey, white and black Vitti table

Line Up

“I’m drawn to clean modernist lines and bold shapes, but like to roughen and soften these lines with texture and planting. “

The Vitti table with an Ogilvy lamp and Tibit desk accessories

It makes sense

“My first graphic design job was in the art team at Elle Decoration when Ilse Crawford was the editor. She has been a constant inspiration ever since. I particularly love her philosophy that interiors should always be looked at from the perspective of all the senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.”

Rhonda Drakeford looking at a sheet of patterns in her outdoor studio

Career Plan B

“I would have been an architect if I could have been bothered to do 10 years training. I’ve travelled a lot for architecture - if there’s a building I want to see that’s a reason to go to the place to see it. I went to the Gio Ponti hotel in Sorrento. It’s so amazing to be able to go and stay in  a space you really like and be able to wake up surrounded by it all.”

The Vitti table with an Ogilvy lamp and Tibit desk accessories

The Vitti table with Tibit desk accessories and a metal chair with pink and grey cushion

Rhonda Drakeford and MADE's Vitti encaustic tile table collection

Vitti Collection

Rhonda’s collection for MADE features encaustic tiles in graphic black and white with shots of bright colours on some tables “I’ve absolutely loved designing this range of furniture and textiles for MADE because they are not afraid to do something different and create statement furniture.”

Article written by: Pat McNulty
Imagery by: Anna Batchelor

Shop the look

Enjoy the article? Sign up for our newsletter

This is a required field

Please enter a valid email address. For example johndoe@domain.com.

You might also like

6 copper pieces to upgrade your bedroom

6 copper pieces to upgrade your bedroom

From statement pieces to accents, here are six ways to incorporate the metal-of-the-moment into your home.

Read More
The home the internet built

The home the internet built

Is renovating worth it? We spoke to Alex and Paul about their experience and using the internet to do it.

Read More