Show us your interior: how do you make your flat look beautiful on a budget?

Iona moved into her flat just a few weeks ago, but already she’s been putting up shelves and sanding down tables and hiding the tacky kitchen tiles. She let us have a look around.

Even as a child, Iona looked forward to owning her first home; the daughter of two artists, she grew up with a strong appreciation for design, as well as a hands-on approach to DIY.

So it’s no surprise that, just weeks after buying a two-bedroom property in Hackney, she’s already made the flat look entirely her own.

Tackling the green kitchen

The kitchen was the most offensive part of the new flat: painted an un-Iona green, with “really awful beige tiles with pictures of herbs with their names underneath them, in case you couldn’t work out what the awful drawings were”. It required immediate work.

Iona's kitchen before and after

Tackling the kitchen was a case of creating stopgap solutions. Iona plans to rip out the kitchen in a few years’ time and create an open-plan cooking, eating and living space, but until then – the tiles had to be covered up with tongue and groove wood, and the walls painted a more pleasing white.

She adds, “Because I’m not planning on keeping the kitchen forever I don’t want to put new stuff in that’s only going to get pulled out in hopefully a few years. So this is a temporary measure.”

Shelving – “it’s nice being able to do stuff yourself”

Her DIY skills have enabled Iona to create exactly the shelves she needs – ideal for carving storage space out of the flat’s little nooks and recesses, and making the most of the tall ceilings (an impressive three metres from the floor).

Iona's shelving - kitchen, bedroom and toilet

The shelving in the kitchen, for example, was created from wood sourced from Freecycle, and the brackets were taken out of her sister’s childhood bedroom several years ago and meticulously saved for future use.

Iona explains her foresight: “It’s really hard to come by halfway-decent looking large L-shaped brackets, which is a really specific weird thing not to be able to find, but you pay Etsy prices at £15 a set, or you buy disgusting metal ones for £4 at Screwfix. And IKEA don’t make those any more.”

The shelving in the bathroom and bedroom make maximum use of the wall-space created by tall ceilings. Luckily, Iona’s tall stature (5 ft 11) means she can reach the top shelves – and, she says, it’s great to be able to design the flat around herself. “It’s nice being able to do stuff yourself, because you go, ‘I really like that!’ and you go – ‘Oh I’ve got a half-day to spare, let’s do it’. You put it in where you want it.”

Living and dining space – “it’s nice to have things that have actually got a bit of background to them”

The living-and-dining room is the focal point of the home, and leads through to the bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom. The aesthetic is simple and pared-back, with muted tones: like Muji, but with more quirk. There’s a sofa, a trunk, dining table, and a bike leaning against the wall. More shelving contains books, design magazines and a plant.

Iona's Ercol drop leaf table

The dining table is a thing of beauty and draws your eye as soon as you walk through the door. It’s an Ercol drop leaf table, an iconic piece of 50s and 60s design which can fetch for hundreds of pounds.

In fact, it was a design she’d loved for a long time: “My godmother bought one years ago and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a really beautiful table’.” So she found one cheap on eBay in an unloved state and bought it, stripped it down, sanded it down, oiled it and varnished it – returning it to its former state.

The other eye-catching object in the room is a metal trunk used as a low table, which once belonged to a Supriya Suri. It’s actually a found object, left in the street to find a new owner, and is now home to a collection of winter jumpers.

Found object: storage trunk

From the look of the flat, it’s clear that with careful sourcing and forethought, you can create a beautiful living space on a tight budget.

And how does Iona characterize her interior design aesthetic?

“A mix of modern and vintage. I hate places that have got all entirely modern furniture, because they feel soulless and like a show home. It’s nice to have things that have actually got a bit of background to them, and history. Beyond that, whatever I find and like the look of.”


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