How to zone a space: an ingenious eco refit of a rundown studio flat on the City of London’s Golden Lane Estate

Ogi Ristic, an architect, fell in love with London’s Grade II-listed Golden Lane Estate while he was a student. He was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to live there. He and Hayley Smith went flat-hunting together a few years later, thinking this Le Corbusier-inspired neighborhood would be too expensive for their first-time buyers budget. “I moved here in 2010 renting with some friends. It is a beautiful architectural gem, so central, and has an amazing community feel. Hayley and me thought it was impossible to reach until we found this apartment. The estate was built in the 1950s by Chamberlin Powell and Bon, who were also the architects of the Barbican Estate. It was a model for urban living and social housing. The 45-square-metre studio flat is located on the fourth floor of the Crescent House. It has a stunning vaulted ceiling and measures 45 square meters. The place was in disrepair. Choice buys: Hayley Smith and Ogi Ristic used a telescopic light to save space in their lounge area. They also used natural cork tiles. Juliet Murphy Photography. The bathroom was in a very poor state. It was obvious that someone had lived there for many years and overloaded it with too much stuff. It was largely unimproved and I felt that it just required a few key improvements to make a big change,” Ristic says. Insulation investmentThe couple purchased it in 2019 for GBP360,000, and they lived there for six months while they planned improvements. It was without insulation so they had to deal with the cold and condensation. Ristic is the co-founder of Type architecture practice. He is passionate about environmental responsibility and has previously worked as a project manager for his father’s Passivhaus construction company. Ristic decided to heat the place with a Spacetherm insulation. The thicker standard version would have caused problems with the penthouse’s carefully planned design angles and points. It was expensive, and cost them about GBP5,000 of their GBP30,000 budget. It was all about investing in building fabric, the things that you don’t see but make a home comfortable and warm. “Underfloor heating occupied another GBP4,000 of our budget. Ristic says that the radiators had been installed by the previous owner. Ristic adds that they wanted to restore the space to its original appearance and have more space without radiators. Their washing machine was too small so it was stuck in the hallway. The pipes ran into the bathroom. Ristic and Ristic then created a large laundry room by rejigging all the pipework. This is where the washing machine, as well as essentials like cleaning products and vacuum cleaner, are now located. Details: 45m2 1950s studio. Cost: GBP360,000. Renovation budget: GBP30,000. Ristic also improved the space and light by replacing the original kitchen wall with a panel made of glass. This was from the worktop height upwards. He also added a bank of slimline storage below. Ristic developed a strong relationship with the City of London’s listed and planning teams. They appreciated his respect for the original architecture. While the worst was happening, the couple decided to stay with their friends in Walthamstow. The first lockdown came and video calls were used to replace most site visits. “We managed to sort everything out, even though we ended staying with our very accommodating friends 12 weeks instead the six planned. The original architects had a great idea for the layout of these studio apartments. It still works well. The kitchen and bathroom are flanked by an entrance hall. Two doors lead to the bedroom, which is partitioned off, and the main living/dining area. The kitchen features bespoke cabinets in EcoBoard white and durable teak worktops. These are made from reclaimed school desks. Through a pair horizontal glass panels, this space is connected to the dining area. It’s a good thing that the kitchen is separate in a studio apartment. The couple enjoy entertaining and wanted to make the flat available for overnight guests. Their bedroom is connected to the hallway and the main space via doors. This allows guests to access the bathroom while they are in the living room. The entrance hall, flanked by the kitchen and bathroom, has two doors, which open on to the partitioned-off bedroom and the main dining/living space / Juliet Murphy PhotographyChamberlin, Powell and Bon provided a bank of wardrobes in the main room, next to the bedroom. Ristic installed three sliding veneered birch panels to create a more flexible option that allows for a private dressing area when needed and more space when not. It was an underused space, but it has been so valuable during the work-from home restrictions. The dining table has allowed us to have two work areas in our studio apartment. Puretree Cork’s palette of natural and inexpensive materials allows the birch to sit comfortably alongside the cork tile flooring. These low-cost finishes have helped to balance the budget. “The flooring is warm and complements the utilitarian aesthetic of our flat.” The couple also spent a lot on their small bathroom, spending approximately GBP4,000 on Duravit, Bette sanitaryware, and Crosswater taps. “It was important that we invest in high-quality bathroom fittings because they last longer. Mosa tiles were also used, which are affordable and sustainable tiles in off-white or soft green. Mosa tiles were used in the bathroom. The G Plan dining table can be extended when the couple entertains, and the spare chairs can double up at their desk. A desk with a view: A study area is located in the space below the window. Left: The separate bedroom provides privacy in the small flat. / Juliet Murphy Photography. This Hans Wegner sofa is a compact design. It was purchased on Danish eBay and reupholstered with a teal Kvadrat fabric to complement the sage green they had painted the bank of wardrobes. Ristic had to be creative about lighting the flat in order to preserve the beautiful vaulted ceiling. Hidden strips on the top of the bedroom partitions and dressing room partitions provide a functional background light that is great for working at home in winter. Green cuisine: The kitchen’s EcoBoard cabinets are partitioned with panes glass to create separate zones. / Juliet Murphy Photography. The lounge area is lit by a floor light and strategically placed indoor plants. A DCW Editions telescopic wall lamp creates a warm glow around the dining table. Flexible lighting is a great way to transform a small space. We wanted to make sure that everything we did maximized the space in a cost-effective and simple way. This was important for us as well as future users. “Get the lookFusion basin two-hole set, GBP135, CrosswaterLampe Gras No 213 by DCW Editions, GBP413, at NestVictor Wilkins, GBP990 for six NestVictor Wilkins G Plan dining chairs, VinteriorHans J. Wegner three seat sofa, GBP2,937. 1stDibsDragon plant Flick’, GBP5-60 at Patch