When you’re a collector, owning a small flat can be a nightmare. But if you focus on your passions and talents, plus learn how to be selective, you can create a little museum dedicated to your life. Magazine Editor Jonathan Openshaw has made his 50 square metre South London flat a shrine dedicated to his family, hobbies and to nature - a big departure from the property’s industrial beginnings.
“It was built in 1937. It was supposed to be a factory space but the local residents were so up in arms about a commercial property moving in that it had to be changed into flats.” The 1930s repurposing wasn’t the only transformation this one bed flat received. Jonathan completely redesigned it when he bought it in 2015. “The lady who lived here before me had probably been here since it was built and it seemed like she’d done very little work during that time. I had to gut the whole place and start again, basically. But that’s what I was looking for in a place.”
Urban living can often drive a wedge between you and the natural world. But Jonathan has found a stylish way to introduce nature into his home. “I love the Reema bed as I have quite a lot of rattan furniture and bare wood. It makes me feel close to nature even though I’m in south London.”
But it’s not just nature that Jonathan wants to connect with, it’s his past, too. “I’ve always been a real collector. My granddad made me a little storage case when I was around five to house my collections of fossils and shells. I guess that’s always been my approach to interiors. I kind of see my flat as a place to display all the stuff I’ve found on my travels.”
A renovation project wasn’t the only draw to this beautiful building. Atmosphere also played a huge role in Jonathan’s decision to move into the flat. “I love how peaceful it is even though it’s in a very busy, vibrant urban area."
"I like sitting out on the balcony overlooking the trees from the overgrown garden next door. I’m on the top floor and the block is called Bushey Hall, so it does feel a bit like a tree house sometimes.”
“I definitely think your home should reflect your personality and interests. Taste is quite subjective so if you’re always trying to display perfect taste then you’re probably going to lose your way a bit.”
“My mum was obsessed with arts and crafts. She used to take me and my siblings to Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex at least twice a year. It’s an incredible space with every surface covered in handmade touches. I don’t think I could commit to quite that level of craft lifestyle, but it does still inspire me today.”
“All our paint is Farrow & Ball and I kept things super simple: Lime White on the walls with Arsenic detailing on the doors and skirting. It’s the same colour scheme they have at nearby Peckham Rye station, which has a lovely art deco entrance hall. My block design was probably trying to be art deco too, so it felt appropriate.”
“I like having lots of colour around but more in the furnishings and details than painted on the walls. It means that if I get tired of something I can just move it or get rid of it, so it lets me mix things up a bit. The flat itself is more of a blank canvas.”
And that blank canvas is brought to life with pieces big and small: “Because my walls are Lime White and the floorboards are light, it’s quite a neutral space with lots of colour dotted around it. I have the yolk yellow Tribeca sofa. I love the colour, especially when the light is flooding in first thing in the morning. And the Rohan rug looks great against the light floorboards. Because it’s a dusky pink it almost works as a neutral shade rather than being a bright colour.”
“I don’t really take much decorating advice, but my boyfriend recently reminded me of that famous Coco Chanel quote: ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.’ I think that’s worth remembering for the home. Especially one where you like to have lots of eclectic bits.”
“I had a display case made for an egg collection that I found in my grandparents’ attic. They were collected by my great-great-grandfather and have beautiful handwritten labels in pencil from the 1870s and 80s. When I was moving flats, I liked that I could put this display case up on the wall and feel like I’d made the space my own.”
“My flat didn’t have any dedicated storage so I looked into solutions used on boats. There are some really great tips such as making sure all seating has built-in storage. I made a divan for the living room out of two bookshelves laid on their side and covered with foam. It stores a load of books and magazines.”
"I really wanted my floorboards done in natural oil rather than chemical varnish. The main extravagance of it was the number of hours spent hand-oiling the floorboards… it dries really slowly and took me days. I love the soft, natural lime effect they have though, so it was worth it."
“I’ve made a lot of the stuff that’s in the flat. I’ve always loved working with clay and have been doing regular evening courses. I’ve made all of my own crockery and have started making quite a few sculptural pieces too, such as the fish plates or the sea-anemone totems.”
Article written by: Carly-Ann Clements
Photography by: Anton Rodriguez