The Househunter: An Antique Dealer’s Apartment

It’s all about the simple details this week. Good bones, great furniture and no fancy paint tricks. And while I speak as a fan of fancy paint trick, this lovely one bedroom apartment in a building dating back to the 1800s shows you the power of buying well. I also think it shows you the power of good photography as in the hands of a more conventional estate agent you might need more of an eye to pull this out of a crowd of listings. Never underestimate the power of good images if you are selling your house. I look at a lot of houses and I’m good at spotting details but a) I have trained myself and b) I’m prepared to spend a lot of  time looking. When your search comes up with 100 possibilities it’s the good pictures which will pull you in first and you may never get as far as the hidden gem with terrible decor and bad images.

So what do we have? Well it’s a great location in North London between Tufnell Park and Kentish town, a short walk from a tube and some lovely independent shops and not far from Hampstead Heath, one of London’s “lungs”. And I know this because I know the road. Architecturally it’s a beauty with tall arched windows on each floor – on the outside that is.

Inside the ceilings are high, the floorboards have been restored along with the original wooden shutters. Now, of course, we don’t all have this bone structure to work with (it’s the old Kate Moss would look good in a bin bag scenario) but here the antique furniture works with the period features.

That said, this kind of architecture loves anything and also looks great with the clean lines of mid-century modern which works to highlight the cornicing and more ornate details. You can see how small the kitchen is and the owner has opted for a more freestanding “unkitchen” feel with open shelves and a cupboard skirt (no1 instagram trend although I don’t suppose it was done with that in mind here!).

Given the wealth of original details elsewhere you could also have stuck in a fantastically modern sleek kitchen as a contrast.

In this space I’m a fan of the natural colour palette which works well with the building and never underestimate the power of a bowl of lemons for a splash of natural colour!

On a more serious note look how a tiny desk has been created in the alcove. Yes the reality is probably that you would work at the table if you were on your own but if the last year has taught us anything it’s that having an extra, or change of scene, to work at now and then is a good idea.

It also shows you how you can create a desk in a small space. If this is you then you can replicate this – and the pictures make it look less “office” for the evenings or, if you need a large desktop computer, you can add a door that either slides across (depending on the wall either side) or cut a normal door in half so it takes up less room when open.

That’s a good way to shut the work away at the end of the day. And if you have a large keyboard that won’t fit with a desk top computer stand then you can install a second shelf just under the desk one and put it on runners so that it slides out with the keyboard already on it when you need to work and folds away again at the end of the day. That’s also a good way to avoid getting crumbs in it when you lunch al desko (as opposed to fresco).

Finishing in the bedroom where there is a little colour – the softest of pale blues which works so well with dark antique wood. Below you can see the arch of the window and the plain linen curtains do nothing to detract from that although you could also go for a mad flamboyant pattern if you wished. And as I write the samples for the Liberty collection of fabrics and prints have just landed on my desk.

So what do you think? I have just realised I forgot to tell you the price. Let’s see if it’s better to reveal it at the end. It’s on with Inigo for £540,000.



Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. ooooh yes please! I need a bigger place now but this would be my perfect home and location pre-children.

    Kate, would you mind telling me where the marble looking hand on your fireplace comes from? I love it as a bit of a collector of hands (much to my daughter’s horror – she finds them creepy!)

  2. It is lovely and looks very tranquil! I moved to my house within the past year and it’s making me have a rethink about my interior design ideas. Having an opening from the kitchen makes a huge difference to the space! I also have a tiny, cut off kitchen and, in order to feel connected to my living room, I am reinstating, but extending a hatch that was there when the house was built in the 70s. And yes, the photography is certainly a great improvement on the normal run of the mill photos!

  3. Lovely simple living. The windows and high ceilings make even a small space feel liveable.

  4. This flat is owned by a very talented young woman, who I follow on Instagram. She is a natural and we can learn a great deal from her. Her taste is catholic and her beady eye, like yours Kate, is trained.

  5. The period features are what makes this house so lovely with the high ceilings and those windows (perfection!). The easel is a great touch 🙂 – and that little stool so simple but so effective x

    We sell a ton of stools people go mad for them and the French easels we have fly out of the warehouse!

  6. Yes, a beautiful home indeed and I agree with Susan! But it will come as no surprise to you, Kate, that I love that bedroom!

  7. Aaah, yes indeed, if I had my time again!

    I have just had a surreptitious look at the estate agent listing and there is a feature about how the owner renovated. The genius move seems to have been to knock through an opening from the kitchen to the living room which really seems to open things up, and seems to gain far more than would have been lost in the (not insignificant) sacrifice of a base cupboard in a tiny kitchen – I would never have thought to do that!

  8. It’s very lovely indeed. I might just fantasize a while about a single life with walks in the heath and writing at that wooden table before I get on with my very different reality.

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