Inside one fashion stylist’s tiny north London flat that formed a very chic backdrop for a lockdown love story

People often start their home-buying story with grim memories of the former state of the place. Rose Forde, a stylist and consultant, first saw the one-bedroom flat in Crouch Hill. It was all pale neutrals, minimalist design, and minimal minimalism. The couple, which was owned by two Italian architects, had spent many years planning how to make the most of the small space. It is located on the second floor in a Victorian home and measures 485 square feet. Forde recalls, “Although it wasn’t as big as other places I’d seen, it just worked really well.” She bought her first home alone after being defeated by two previous attempts. It was soul-destroying. Although I was renting a Camden property with a friend I felt like I was in a constant rental loop. I found that I connected with the vendors and was able to give it another go. There was a great energy about the whole experience. Forde, who just launched Studio Paradiso, an art and fashion consulting firm, adopted a pragmatic approach when flat-hunting. “I realized that your first home is not always your forever home. I didn’t have the time to do a project. I wanted something that was already beautiful so I could add my own touch. “This flat perfectly met her needs and was easy to commute to her Finsbury Park office. Rose purchased Rose’s flat just before the pandemic. The layout was surprisingly adaptable when Ummar, her husband, moved in. Juliet Murphy / Juliet Murphy “I loved having a great view in my last home and I didn’t want to lose it.” She points out that she is high up in the treetops and sees lots of sky. “I am only 10 minutes away from Highgate Woods and Crouch Hill feels cool and creative.” Forde was the only buyer, apart from Bowie, her miniature dog. “I have worked hard to build my own career and financial security. I have owned my own company for 10+ years. It was important to me as a woman to be a homeowner. The flat was purchased by her for GBP425,000 just as Covid appeared. It was a daunting and difficult time to buy a house on my own. But I listened to a lot of advice and decided that this was the place I wanted to go. “A brilliant blueprint” The Italian architects decorated the flat with a multitude of Post-it Notes to welcome Forde into her new home. They included helpful tips on where to store the marble tiles and what cleaning products to use. These were particularly detailed in the white kitchen, which is located on one wall of the main living area. It’s timeless and well-planned. The sink has a hidden draining board and sockets are hidden under cabinets. “We don’t really like period properties, aside from the gorgeous tall windows, but this place feels modern and clean. It is designed for modern living. Fashion: Forde, a stylist, added some touches to the flat with Anthony Burrill artworks, and a vintage Moroccan rug. Juliet Murphy “They gave me a great blueprint, and I just modified it to my liking.” Limited by the lockdowns, she postponed plans to open up the main kitchen-dining-living room on to the generous hall beyond. “I love entertaining friends and wanted to make the space more open for socialising.” She decided to add colour pops and ordered a Ligne Roset Togo ottoman and sofa in high-impact red. She paired her new purchases with her favorite pieces, such as her vintage Danish dining table or sculptural string chair. “In a small apartment, everything must be beautiful and functional. “Blue blue, electric Blue: That’s Rose’s bedroom colour / Juliet MurphyForde is an artist and has consulted for Frieze Art Fair as well as her friend’s gallery, Cob. But fashion was her first love. She is today at the forefront of image consultancy, working alongside many of Britain’s most prominent actors. “I’m part a small movement that’s keen on pushing the red carpet forwards, in order to reflect contemporary fashion conversations.” She approached her flat’s interior the same way she would approach a client’s: “I mood-boarded every item, so I could see how they worked together and if the red sofa would look good with the oak table. “I think I’m better at fashion than at home. It has been a difficult task to put together an interior. “A new twist in her plot” Around the time she bought the flat, the world was slowing down, Forde started a new relationship, Ummar Rashid, an architect, and they were married last summer. Forde convinced her husband to sell his Clapton, two-bedroom apartment. He was eager to move in with her. “I couldn’t bring myself to leave my new flat so quickly and I wanted this place to work for us both.” Under pressure: when Ummar moved in the couple needed to find more space in the tiny flat, turning the hallway into a home office / Juliet MurphyUnsurprisingly, Rashid — who works with multi-award-winning practice Allford Hall Monaghan Morris — came with his own highly developed sense of aesthetics. Rashid prefers simple shapes and clean lines to interior design. His look is more serious, while mine is more playful and soft. The mix works because we both share a modernist view and love classic design like our Eames side table. Forde recalls that Rashid moved in during the work from home era. “So the flat had to adapt once more.” The hallway that was once so boring became an office. It was fitted with Rashid’s Vitsoe shelving, now in its fourth house move. Diamond Dog: Bowie in his Goya red Togo ottoman. Juliet Murphy. “It’s a beautiful example of functional design and we love how it can be added and reconfigured. The modular design of the Togo sofa allows us to add more pieces when we move into larger spaces. It was my first order, but Ummar loves it. Forde grins, although it may not be in red. They spent approximately GBP3,000 together on the place, which also included a new boiler. The bedroom is where Forde and Forde have made the most changes. They chose a rich teal color for the walls and built shelves to display their favourite pieces. “The flat is so bright and light, we wanted to make it feel cozy.” They made minimal changes to the marble-tiled bathroom. “The architects paid a lot attention to this space, taking space from bedroom to allow for longer bath in front. You can see the greenery from the bath. It’s a lovely space to relax and listen to a podcast in summer. “READ MOREInterior design Masters: Michelle Ogundehin, TV interiors guru, shares her step-by-step guide for a home makeover project. The biggest interiors and architecture trends in London for 2022 are homes that make us happy. Awards: London’s top 15 renovations and extensions are up for the top architecture award. The flat was originally designed to accommodate a single woman, then a married couple. It continues to deliver. We love the place and it works well for us right now, but we are looking forward to the next stage of our lives, where we can grow as a family. I am more open to a ‘project’ now that Ummar is an architect. We would love to buy a house but keep this flat as our little achievement.