Freelance writer and editor Holly Swayne lives in Gibson Gardens – a tenement block of flats built in 1880 for the industrial classes. Having lived in Stoke Newington for over seven years, Holly jumped at the chance of buying a flat in the area – no matter how small it was. Luckily for Holly, every bit of space in the tiny flat had been redesigned by the previous owners - a pair of architects - before she moved in. We spoke to Holly to get her small space living tips.
They say home is in the kitchen, and Holly couldn’t agree more: “I love the kitchen. It has a really simple bright white Corian worktop with ash shelves filled with mason jars for ingredients. I’ve recently got into cooking and it’s the dream kitchen to cook in.”
“Because the flat’s small we really had to think about which furniture would fit the space best.” Holly and her boyfriend George use every inch they have. But it took consideration to make it work: “It wasn’t a case of ‘oh, I love that style of table’; the dimensions had to be pretty specific for the more awkward spaces.”
“The couple who previously lived here are architects. They reconfigured and designed the flat to make the best possible use of the space.” Holly’s flat features an open-plan living room, kitchen and dining room which usually makes storage troublesome, but the previous owners used their architectural skills to make the most of the space – a worthwhile investment for those considering moving to a small home.
“Every inch of the flat is designed to be useful. There’s even some three-inch-wide cupboards for keeping tiny bits and pieces out of sight. And we put a pulleymaid in for drying clothes so that it’s kept right out of the way at ceiling height.” Clever storage is priceless in a small space, but so is having the right attitude: “We did a huge cull of unnecessary clutter when we moved. You have to be ruthless.”
Floor space is valuable in small homes like Holly’s, so finding pieces that are both functional and design-led is essential: “I love that the Starkey lamp is a real statement piece but still very clean-cut in its silhouette. It’s perfect for filling (and lighting) an awkwardly shaped corner of our living room.”
One important thing to remember is that a small, city flat is still a home. But how do you make a small space homely? Holly does it by having a plant corner: “I have a lot of stone jars and vases from MADE, which I use to decorate the ash shelves in the living room.”
“A good friend of mine runs Still Life Flowers and she helped me fill the pots with succulents and cactuses - with strict instructions on how to keep them alive.”
What makes all the small space compromises worthwhile? The location: “Gibson Gardens is set back from Stoke Newington High Street on a gated cobbled street and is often used as a shoot location - most famously Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’ music video and ‘Legend’ the film about the Kray brothers starring Tom Hardy. When I’m working from home I’ll occasionally be able to watch filming from our top floor window which makes a nice distraction.”
“Wander is a small restaurant by a well-travelled Australian chef that does great sharing plates. Also, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele on Church Street is great. It was brought to London from the Naples pizzeria dubbed the best in the world in ‘Eat Pray Love’.”
“Church Street is the go-to for hipster-family coffee joints - but there’s also less over-run options like Esters on Kynaston Road and Yellow Warbler on Northwold Road. For a drink, I’d suggest Fontaines. It’s a tiny art deco themed cocktail bar on the high street. Gold palm trees, white leather sofas, vintage glassware and waitresses in full 20s outfits - it’s done in a cool, laid back way that doesn’t feel twee.”
Article written by: Carly-Ann Clements
Photography by: Trent McMinn