Her darkish supplies: how a designer made her mark on a tiny rented flat | Life and elegance


A small residing house with out a lot gentle is a problem. But for the proprietor of cult model Darkroom, it simply made her extra ingenious

Rhonda Drakeford in her living room with plants on shelving the length of the windowed end wall

Shelf esteem: Rhonda Drakeford in her Hackney flat. The vegetation within the window provide privateness from the road outdoors. Photograph: Rachael Smith for the Observer

When it involves creativity, the clean canvas can have a paralysing impact. More usually than not, the mind will get going once we’re dealing with just a few restrictions. So it’s no shock that Rhonda Drakeford’s east London rental flat has concepts by the bucketload, as a result of there was no scarcity of limitations.

The inside designer moved right here 18 months in the past following a change of course at her cult model Darkroom, and a relationship break-up. A buddy, renting subsequent door from the identical landlord, advised her about this flat in a former baker’s store. “It’s not big enough for dinner parties so it is more of a sanctuary, which was very timely and just what I needed,” says Drakeford. “But it was such a hole: small, long and thin, not much light, peeling laminate and cupboards hanging off the wall. On the plus side, it’s on a gorgeous street close to Victoria Park, where I love spending time.” Crucially, the owner was hands-off and relaxed about Drakeford making her mark – up to some extent: “If I owned this place,” she says, “I would gut it and start again, but I’m renting so I have to compromise.”

Her pragmatic spirit is grounded in her previous. Before her household settled in Preston, Lancashire, Drakeford spent her early childhood shuttling between totally different army-base homes. This fired her up with a make-do-and-mend mindset and a capability to thrive on change. She got here to London to check graphic design at Central Saint Martins and co-founded a profitable inventive company, Multistorey, earlier than beginning the approach to life retailer Darkroom along with her buddy Lulu Roper-Caldbeck in 2009. When hovering rents compelled them to shut the store in 2016, the pair parted amicably and Drakeford continued with Darkroom alone. Now she concentrates on her own-design items which promote on-line and thru shops together with the Design Museum, in addition to pop-ups and collaborations with the likes of Bert & May and Somerset House.

A patchwork of different colours and shapes on big square plant pots and a table in the garden.

Plant an thought: a patchwork of colors and shapes within the backyard. Photograph: Rachael Smith

Right now she’s working with Made.com and doing extra inside design beneath the identify of Studio Rhonda. “This has been an opportunity to explore areas of my aesthetic that fall outside the strict parameters of Darkroom,” she says. “Each project is site specific and client specific, too – I enjoy getting to the heart of a space and the people who will inhabit it.”

Darkroom is understood for its liberal use of black, and Drakeford’s earlier flats all had black partitions. But that didn’t really feel proper for this light-starved format. “Black is a neutral for me but it wouldn’t work here in this long, narrow space and I was keen to explore some new ideas here anyway.”

So, to create a cohesive look that unifies the house, the entire flat has been painted white, and black is confined to the floorboards – which had been found, to Drakeford’s pleasure, when she peeled again the dodgy laminate.

The flat’s large entrance window appears to be like straight on to the road and was coated in frosted-effect vinyl when Drakeford moved right here. She stripped this away however has carved out some privateness, whereas holding on to the sunshine, by putting in scaffolding plank cabinets organized with vegetation and fascinating objects – each discovered and made. “Plants cover a multitude of sins,” she laughs, “and I encourage all my clients to introduce some because they bring life to a home.”

The small bedroom with a teak wardrobe and bed

Teak observe: multipurpose cabinets within the bed room. Photograph: Rachael Smith

The identical scaffolding planks have helped Drakeford make her mark on the kitchen, the place she eliminated the rickety higher cupboards in favour of open cabinets, dividing up her stuff into what she likes sufficient to have on present and what stays out of sight. Luckily, the present black tiles and worktop are OK by Drakeford, who has swapped the twee cabinet handles with purposeful Ikea designs.

In the bed room she has created a dressing space by backing her grandparents’ teak cabinets on to her mattress, making a headboard and displaying vegetation and pottery on prime. Drakeford has made use of painted panels of color to zone the flat: heat terracotta surrounds the sleeping space whereas a yellow arch highlights the kitchen desk.

A black triangle painted on a wall with missing tiles in the bathroom

Shape shifter: an ingenious resolution for lacking tiles within the rest room. Photograph: Rachael Smith

The rest room has proved the most important problem. The room had swathes of lacking tiles and Drake feared the owner would exchange them with mismatches, as he did with the property subsequent door. So she opted to color the hole with epoxy ground paint, making a graphic black triangle that places the room on the precise aspect of liveable and makes a function of a former flaw.

In this tiny residence, all Drakeford’s “stuff” has created one other problem: “I’m a sentimental maximalist and I’ve collected many objects and pieces of art and furniture over the years that mean a great deal to me,” she says. “I love having lots of them out on display as they create dialogue in the space, telling tales of my travels, friends and family.” It has been a problem to search out house for all of it however she believes that that is the important thing to creating the most effective of rented housing. “I found it much more liveable here than I expected and I think that’s because once all my things are out, wherever I am becomes mine.”

Kate Jacobs from theguardian.com

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