interior designInteriors

A Stylist’s Small Space in Southeast London

by Lauren Chorpening Day

My lease doesn’t allow me to repaint. I knew when I signed it that I’d have to live with the dark, yellowish-green walls, hoping that there’d be a way around it later. After living in the building for two months, keeping a clean, decorated space, my landlord let me know that painting my apartment would be okay with her. It was the best news. My rooms are now intentionally light or dark, but not dingy yellow. It just makes things easier (and potentially prettier) when landlords can trust that their buildings will be left in better condition than when first leased.

When stylist and photographer Carole Poirot, her boyfriend Bill and her son Dylan started looking in their current neighborhood, they were only finding rough, expensive places. Their 900-square-foot flat wasn’t much different, but the natural light and location gave it an edge and they have embraced the apartment and what it could be. “Knowing the limitations of a rental property, my main goal was to make it feel like home,” Carole says. She brought the flat to life with space dividers, plants and details that fit within the restrictions of her lease. “Renting in the UK can be difficult as landlords will often not allow you to change anything or even let you hang up pictures that might require nails,” Carole says. “However, after a few months we started to gain our landlord’s trust and were allowed to repaint, which was great as the whole place was painted in horrid magnolia with the exception of the kitchen, which was terracotta!” Carole’s home is a reflection of her and the people she loves, as much as a rental can be. The family has created a lovely, airy place, partially with the earned trust of their landlord. —Lauren

Photography by Carole Poirot


A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
Carole's living area doubles as the guest room whenever needed. She has created extra storage, functionality and cohesion throughout the home to get the most out of it.
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
Carole used a credenza to divide the living room area from the dining room.
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
While Carole, Bill and Dylan are all thankful to be without magenta walls, Carole's ability to make the flat feel comfortable and cared for would show through no matter what colors the walls are. The plants, objects and artwork that layer together make it beautiful and homey.
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
"From seashells and plants to teapots and tiny vintage bottles, my 'cabinet of curiosities theme' continues on top of the large cabinet," says Carole.
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
"My 'office,' so basically my desk, sits in the large room which is the entrance, dining area and living area," says Carole. "Whilst I do sometimes whish I had a separate room with more space, I don’t think I’d actually really like to shut myself away completely."
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
The entryway to the flat is styled with simple pieces that set the tone of the rest of the apartment.
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
The simplest objects are some of the most beautiful in this space. "I have stones and bits of nature, books and trays all over the place," says Carole.
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
"Our dining table sits right in the corner with the largest windows and gets the best of the morning sunshine and a view straight into the trees outside," says Carole.
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
"Despite having trees right outside our window, I still like to add more plants on the inside," says Carole.
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
"Our kitchen is narrow with pretty hideous wood effect built-in units and tiny round mosaic tiles. If I owned this place, the kitchen would be the first thing to go," says Carole. "Since storage is a real issue here, I painted a piece of garden trellis to lean against the back wall and hang up some of my pots, pans and utensils."
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
Carole's styling and innovation are both used in her kitchen. She used stacked wine crates to make a pantry for her most frequently used ingredients.
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
Carole's flat was built in 1980 and doesn't have much architectural interest. She brought it in with vintage pieces and greenery.
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
"Our bedside tables are two stools which were a lucky eBay bargain, as it’s rare to find a matching pair. I keep small treasures there like the blue vintage bottle found in a small antiques shop in Provence and which Bill bought for me to remind me of our holiday," says Carole. "I love pure linen bedding as it just gets softer with age and has a beautiful, natural look to it."
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
"A few years ago one of Bill’s friends bought a house which used to belong to an old lady and hadn’t seen any updates in several decades," says Carole. "He found the mirror when he moved in and declared it 'ghastly' and gave it to me. I love it and it now hangs on Bill’s side of the bed."
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
A Stylist's Small Space in Southeast London | Design*Sponge
From left to right: Dylan, Carole and Bill

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  • Personally as a landlord and DIY home decorator, I would not allow anyone to make changes. That’s really for my own headache prevention after you move out in case you like lime green everywhere. Or whatever. :) However — if you sent me a pinterest page or pictures of your previous homes, I would definitely make exceptions without any trouble. If I could trust you to make changes that don’t have to be changed back after you leave, I would have no problem with a DIY renter.

  • would you be able to share the name of the paint color in the living room? It’s looking like an amazing dusty blue on my computer…not sure if it really is, or just a cool white…but either way i love it :)

    • Hi Kiki, the paint colour is Swedish White by Dulux (they mix it at the paint station). I’ve used it all over the apartment and it’s a very light grey. Happy you like it :-)

    • Hi Pamela, if you mean the plain, white ones on the daybed, they’re from Ikea – though several years back. Hope that helps :-)

    • Hi Pamela, if you mean the plain white ones on the day bed, they’re from Ikea – though several years back. Hope that helps a little :-)

  • Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful home, Carole! Lots of great ideas for fellow renters. I especially like the way you’ve added more storage in the kitchen. Perhaps you could swap out the cabinet handles with some oil rubbed bronze-effect ones like Ikea’s Möllarp?

    • Thanks so much Meg :-) To be honest, I’ve learned to live (well, to an extent anyway) with the kitchen and live in hope that one day I’ll have THE one. Though I do like the idea of swapping the handles… :-) x

  • This is a great little article. I can work with small spaces and am actually about to embark on a makeover of the one-bedroom flat we have just rented.

  • I love all the light, the greenery – indoors and out! – and the bits of old and natural treasures scattered about. But I’m curious to know what’s behind the door behind the mirror over the desk in the bedroom!

    • Hi Kitt, thanks so much for your lovely words. Behind that door is a shower. Only a shower, in the bedroom, with no space for even a towel. No idea who ever thought that would be a good idea as using it would mean a sprint to the bathroom afterwards. So we’re using it for storage and I’ve put my dressing table in front of the door. :-)

      • Four years later I read your answer! Now I can rest easy LOL! I could see a bath TUB in a bedroom, but a shower in the closet? That’s a first. Still love you space. I wonder if you still live there!

  • I love the idea of using the credenza to divide the living room from the dining room and love as well your kitchen details. Pretty amazing!!!

  • Love the layout and feel of the space. Where did you get the bedside table from? I’ve been looking for something just like this. Thanks!

    • Hi Britt, thanks so much, I’m glad you like my home. The bedside tables are actually a pair of vintage stools I found on ebay. Hope this helps x

  • I love seeing pictures of the people who live in the homes and that final family picture made me smile! Thanks for such a relaxing home tour.

  • this is defently one of my favorite epartments shown here, everything is so lively, green, warm and intresting to look at. great insperation, thanks for sharing!

    • Hi CJ, our “couch” is a daybed I bought many years ago from Ikea and it doubles as a guest bed. Hope this is helpful. x

  • Lovely. You’ve managed to make it feel home-y, despite the lack of age and architectural character. Very well done!

  • Love your style…heart and soul revealed but not over styled or precious….keep bringing on the ‘real’ design sponge and more power to you Carol and family!

  • Wonder what the owner will think when she reads the word ‘hideous’ to describe the kitchen? She was nice enough to let you re-paint, but doubt you told her your true feelings about the color. Perhaps a bit of diplomacy is in order.

    • Seriously Debbie, we all know how hard it is to live in a rental property and the amount of restrictions placed on the renters whilst trying to make the place their ‘home’. Many places are done on the cheap, or lacking any features or luxuries. Carol has obviously developed a good relationship with her landlady to the level that she has cherished and added to the flat. Lucky landlady. Carol pays an enormous amount of money to live in London, why should she not be able to express her view? She isn’t beholden you know! Its not a charity. Your attitude is what fuels the belief that people renting should be grateful and put up with poor quality finishes. Try to look at it as a positive collaboration between Carol and her landlady. It works both ways.

    • Hi Debbie, I don’t think she’d care too much. The property is an investment, the owner lives abroad, I’ve never met her in five years of living here and only deal with an agent. As long as I don’t damage it (which I never would) and pay the rent on time I don’t think anybody cares what I think about the kitchen – apart from myself, clearly. I also don’t think a landlord/lady letting a tenant repaint the home (in a “normal” colour) that they’re paying for through the nose is about being “nice”, it’s simply about understanding that whilst I’m paying rent, it’s my home. Btw, the agent agreed that all the walls looked, er, hideous and was very happy about me doing the work and repainting. Saved the landlady work and money :-)

  • I love your aesthetic and the lovely little vignettes throughout your home. you are indeed a very talented stylist. I can’t wait to see the kitchen you get to design from the ground up!

  • The interiors is very neat, clean and pleasant to the eyes. The matching of the colors are really great. I really do love seeing a white colored wall than in any other color because of the neatness it contributes to the area or in a room.

  • Small spaces can beautiful and full of personality!

    Love the project :)