High ceilings, period features and large rooms that can fit 30 people... Sounds too good to be true, especially for a two bedroom flat in London. But there’s one catch. You have to go back to school. Urban Outfitters’ womenswear designer Jenny Clemson got a whole new education in interior design when she bought a flat in a converted school in South London’s Peckham. Now, the home she shares with her partner Julien and their son Bodhi is an eclectic mix of rich colours, exotic ornaments and reclaimed furniture, all in an open-plan, industrial setting.
“The building was built as a school in 1876 but converted into flats in 2001.” Like many converted Victorian buildings, Jenny’s home retains original details inside and out. From the quaint signage on the exterior to the internal brickwork, the flat is rich with history.
“We love the patchwork floor. It’s parquet, concrete and painted, which only adds to the character.”With this kind of charm comes the industrial edge often found in conversions like these.Steel-framed mezzanines, a solid grey floor and timber accents make the space effortlessly cool.
“I’m a fashion designer so I’m interested in all aspects of art and design. My partner works in skateboarding so we have quite a mix of influences. This is the first flat we’ve owned and could decorate to our taste but I’m definitely still learning and it’s constantly evolving to grow with our family.”
Even in an industrial setting there’s room for soft edges, luxurious textures and plush designs. “We chose the Margot accent chair in peacock blue as it’s stylish while still being super comfy. It’s a great spot to curl up and read a good book.”
“One of the main draws of this flat was the light. We have a lot of west-facing windows and the light we get at the end of the day is really beautiful. So it’s important for us to have nice lighting in the evening. Lamps create a much cosier feeling than ceiling lights and the Miller floor lamp has a great classic modern design.”
“I think your home is your haven so it should have everything you love in one place. If that’s avant-garde and arty then great. But if you prefer simple styling then why not. As long as it’s what you want to come home to.”
“I find inspiration in all sorts of places like travel, magazines, vintage markets, museums, art galleries and my friends’ houses. I think this is why we have such a mix of styles in our apartment.”
“I love that our flat is a bit of a blank canvas that we can fill with colourful furniture and accessories we’ve collected along the way. But I’m learning to declutter and not have so many ornaments around as it can look messy. A few well-chosen pieces are better than lots of bits.”
Open-plan living is something many aspire to, but it does have its downsides: “As it’s so open, if one person wants to go to bed early and the other wants to listen to music, it can be a little noisy.” And noise isn’t the only problem. When everything is out on display, there’s nowhere to hide. Well, almost. “I recommend getting big cupboards so you can close the doors and hide the mess. We bought the Ledger wardrobe which we love as it is so large. As we both work in the clothing industry, we have an enormous amount of clothes so need a lot of storage.”
By having eclectic taste, an unusual space and doing things herself, Jenny has realised that there isn’t a textbook way to decorate: “I’d recommend buying things that you love rather than working to a colour scheme or trying to make everything match. If it’s your style, it will all go together anyway. If you try too hard create a certain look or feel it can become very impersonal.”And that applies to the more permanent parts of your home, too. “We redid our bathroom and I wish we’d done something more fun. We were thinking too much about selling the flat and not enough about living in it.”
Article written by: Carly-Ann Clements
Photography by: Anna Batchelor