Family set-ups take many forms. But the most important thing? Designing a space where everyone can thrive, no matter how long you live there. Entrepreneur and single mum Carrie Anne Roberts shows us how she’s refreshed her London rental to create a fun, playful home — one that both she and her son can enjoy.
Personality in a place is important to Carrie Anne Roberts. The thought of neutrals makes the 29-year-old shudder. “I’m a young parent so I’m not trying to have a ‘grown-up’ house. I want nice things but they need to be colourful and fun.” Raised in social housing in North Wales and moving around “pretty much every year of my life since I was fifteen”, private renting (especially independently) seemed unattainable. “Now I’m doing it, just about!”
When her son River was three months old, Carrie separated from his dad. Inspired by support received from the ‘Instamumma’ community she launched Mère Soeur, a collection of merch “celebrating the sisterhood.” What began as a few tote bags is now a successful lifestyle brand. So how did Carrie channel this creativity into making her rented flat a stylish family home?
There was no furniture when Carrie moved in. “All I had was a bed frame that belonged to my mum’s ex.” After sitting on the floor for three months, getting the sofa was a game-changer. “That’s when it became a home. I thought: ‘nothing’s gonna look sh*t with this sofa.’ It gave me a vision for the rest of the room.”
While an investment piece is just that, Carrie thinks it’s worthwhile. “You can make a really plain, basic place look sick with a statement lamp. I saved up weekly to buy mine but I know wherever I live, I’ll take that lamp. You don’t have to have everything; it doesn’t all need to be remarkable. But a couple of key bits make all the difference.”
Carrie doesn’t care about mess. “But stuff everywhere can feel really claustrophobic. It sounds boring, but storage is so essential in a small rental. Compartmentalise everything. You have to be clever! Riv’s puzzles go in a drawer under his bed. And I store all my clothes, shoes and paperwork in my [lift-up] bed. It’s become a heroic space-saver in my tiny London flat.”
The walls in Carrie’s home are covered with interesting artwork. “I’ve always used prints to brighten up my rentals and make them feel instantly homely. A bit more mine. I want people to come into my space and be like, ‘Okay, I get who you are as a person’. That’s your only job with a home, I think. Apart from making it a happy one.”
“I don’t plan — it just kills me. I’ve never sat down with a mood board. As long as you’re not getting pieces for the sake of it and they’re genuinely things you really like, it will all make sense. I’m the same with clothes. I buy statement pieces and throw everything together but it somehow works. It feels fun to me. FUNctional!”
“Some people [on Instagram] have sh*t loads of time, money and space. But it’s great they’ve gone and made this beautiful home because you can be inspired — within your own limits. Work out what you specifically like about the Instagram photo. It’s literally showing you what you can do; it doesn’t mean you need to have their exact house.”
"Homes are fluid, they’re malleable. It’s Riv’s place as much as mine. I don’t want him to feel stifled by his surroundings or my attitude towards them. I’m not going to follow him around with a vacuum cleaner! All I want is a happy and safe space for River. To have a home that feels like a home."
Carrie shares her parenting pearls of wisdom…
On controlling the purse strings…
“Your kid will cry, make a mess and generally be an enormous—and wonderful!—inconvenience. But you can control things to a certain age. I’ll buy Riv cool-looking toys like vintage Mutant Turtles. You allow what you want in your house.”
“You can’t sweat sh*t like that. I’m trying to run a full-time business alongside being a mum by myself. The last thing I want to worry about is a mark on the wall. Just get one of those Magic Sponges—wet it, rub it, sorted!”
On getting stuff done…
“I don’t decorate when Riv’s in the house. Last time I tried, he wasn’t even slightly helpful. I had the paint tray and brushes out and he just kept running in and out of the room in his undies, singing The Beatles songs.”
On raising the future…
“Kids have so much to give. They have these great opinions and see the world in a fascinating way. The things that can come out of their brain if you just give them some freedom to do what they want… it’s amazing.”
On the next move...
“I don’t want River to live in London forever. When we go to the beach I see how free he is — all that space and fresh air. The creative scene in Margate is amazing, the sunsets are insane, and I just happen to love the houses there. So that’s where I’d like to end up.”
Article written by: Natalie Wall
Photography by: Anna Batchelor | Art direction by: Laura Cumming