Sunday, October 17, 2010

My First Place...

I was posting with one of my favourite bloggers Alicia.. the newly Mrs Parsons from Australia the other day and I happened to mention to her that my first flat was just a 17ft by 17ft studio room with a corner cut out for the kitchen... and it got me to thinking.
I bought it back in 1986 when I was 21, for an amount that sounds laughable now.. [20,500 pounds] and I lived there for two years...
It was TINY, but it was my first home and I LOVED it... So I thought I would tell you about it.
It's interesting from a design point of view because I wasn't sure whether my personal style had changed all that much in 20 years...  so I went and dug out some old photos... and this is what I found.

First here's a link to the outside using Google Earth.. to show you what the building looks like.
Hope it works here goes... 76 Rowlands Road ..
Ignore the 'posies' shop link on the left of the photo.. and it's not 110 either which is the designation given to it by Google Earth.. it's # 76 Rowlands Road.. the left half of the big white Edwardian semi, in the centre of the photo, and I had the flat at the rear of the first floor. That's the second floor to the North Americans reading this... since you guys call the first floor what us Brits call the ground floor. One up from the ground anyway.
It was converted into flats in 1982/3 after a fire destroyed the inside of the building..
In a curious coincidence, I was dating one of the firemen who put out that blaze. I even went down to watch for a while.. since fires that big were news in my town back in the day. Three years later I bought one of the flats.. spooky huh ?

Ok.. I'm prattling..

I've done a sketch of the layout.. and just to let you know the kitchen window and the window at the end of the bed face north.. and the ones next to the couch and in the bathroom face west, so the afternoon light was nice.

I'm no artist so I apologise for the scruffy.. but it will give you some idea of how small it was. About the same size as a brand new Vancouver condo actually ;o)

The room itself was 17ft by 17ft, with a kitchen about 6ft by 8ft carved out of one corner.
The bathroom off the hall was about the same size as the kitchen and the hall was about 3 by 5.

Here's a bit of free advice.. don't buy a converted flat anywhere other than the TOP floor... especially if the single girl living upstairs has a squeeky bedframe.. nuff said.

I'll start with the photo of the bathroom because it was the first thing you saw when you opened the front door.


YES !! the sanitary ware IS orange. It was a colour called Sun King, which apparently was very popular with blind people back then.
The wall tiling ISN'T tiling either. In the UK we call it 'tiling on a roll', and basically its just a plasticised wallpaper.. although to be fair the area round the bath where I had a shower put in did have proper tiles.
I WAS responsible for the curtain unfortunately.. which if I remember correctly was made from a tablecloth cut in half then frayed round the edges on to make it 'country', The tie backs are just satin ribbon... you have to laugh don't you... arh ! the 1980's how I miss them.
Oh and you can't see it in this pic, but there was carpet on the floor... I know how that freaks you North Americans out.. ;o)

Next we're in the main room itself.
This sofa backed onto the bathroom wall, and this must have been quite early because later I got a slip cover for it. Both came from a Habitat superstore on the Purley Way I remember, which was the first one of it's kind..  Habitat's response to the first UK IKEA opening at Wembley. 
It was a floor model so it was a bargain, and because it was dark if it was marked it didn't show. I think the slip cover, which I bought a year later, cost as much as the Sofa. Another first for Habitat.. slip covers for their couches. Wonder where they got that ikea.. I mean idea. ?
The weeping fig on the right behind the sofa is Bernard. He stayed with me until I moved to Canada in 2002, 15 years after this was taken. I mention it because when I show you the photos of the place I bought next, you will see Bernard again.

I think it's seems I had a more girlie/frilly style when I was younger.. but you have to bear in mind that I had no money, so there are a lot of bits and pieces.
For the entire time I lived here I only have a portable B&W telly... and the TV stand was a painted cardboard box stuffed with newspaper to give it strength.

Next is a turn through 90 degrees.. so this is the west facing wall. You can just see Bernard in the corner.

Interestingly this shows a collage of art and to this day I still like art displayed this way. Back then it helped to give to weight to what was basically just a collection of clip frames with greetings cards and magazine covers in them. I still have most of these.
The curtains were M&S and a soft peach colour.. very fashionable at the time, and matched my duvet cover as I recall.
Just another view to show the wardrobe in relation to the couch.
The slip cover I bought for the couch was also peach.. with a tiny white dot detail.
The huge pine wardrobe was one of the first pieces of 'good' furniture I ever bought.. Made of old church pews, the top was hanging and the base had a huge drawer in it. Fabulous storage. Unfortunately when I moved my next flat had built in wardrobes so I had to sell it.. shame.

Opposite the wardrobe these two pieces are the only furniture I still have from those early days.
The wicker and bamboo cupboard my mum and dad bought at auction for my sister.. and I aquired it later.[ It's on the upstairs landing you can see it here. ]
The pine chest of drawers is my all time favourite purchase. It's circa 1860 and came from a rather nice antique shop in Chichester. These days its doubles as my bedside table, and if I had to pick one thing in the whole house to save from a fire.. apart from people and animals of course, this would be it.

 Just a bit further round and you can see the kitchen door.
I kept my hairdryer on the floor in front of that mirror, and that's where I used to get ready in the morning because the light in the bathroom wasn't good enough.

And yes.. I know that little print on the wall is too high. !

So here is the kitchen. 3 wall cupboards and 1 corner base unit and 1 drawer. Tiny.
The space under the sink was for a washing machine but I couldn't afford one. It's hard to tell but the flowers on the wall paper were red, which was hot in kitchens at the time.. hence all the red and white accessories. Red handled cutlery, red lid on the kettle, the bin and dish bowl, mugs, tea towels, dish drainer.. all red.

I can't understand why I never did anything about those horrid brown flat panel doors and cheap & nasty handles.. couldn't live with them now..

And finally round to the dining area.. just big enough for a cheap little pine table and folding chairs.
You can just about make it out under my gym bag and aerobics gear.. Yes I did aerobics.. everyone did in the 80's.
You can see the kitchen door on the left and the door on the right opens into a big storage cupboard.. usual home of the gym bag. 

So what has changed..?
The overwhelming and ubiquiteous peach was an 80's thing.. I liked it then, but of course I wouldn't have it now. The fussy bits and pieces, the frilly curtains and the twee lighting would no longer find a home at my house.
No more red kitchens or orange bathrooms either.. but again that was partly affordability, and partly fashion.
My taste is MUCH cleaner and more linear now, but also much richer I think.
I will concede though that I still like STUFF... and I will never be accused of being a minimalist.
One thing that hasn't changed though is that I like interiors that are warm and welcoming.. whatever the style or colour scheme. This little flat was certainly that.. and visiting bodies were regularly found strewn about the place in the mornings.. and NO not just male ones.!! ;o)

Jo xx


  1. Hi Jo -
    How interesting! I need to dig out pictures of my first apartment. Do recall going nuts with an ivy stencil in the kitchen. Worse yet, I did it to match the ivy border. I dare say that I have evolved.


  2. I LOVE this post! It's so funny to get these small glimpses into another person's life :) And of course, it's always nice when people are able to laugh at themselves and their past. I agree that most of the colors are rather... too 'peachy'. And a carpet in the bathroom? Gross! :D

  3. Love this post! It is so interesting to see how your taste evolves over the years. I love taking pics of my home regularly for just that reason. It;s such a terrific walk down memory lane.

    And it's interesting too what crap you put up with because you don't have the funds. I keep thinking of the oh so lovely (not!) avocado bathroom suite and pink bathroom carpet we put up with for years at our old place. In the end we were almost immune to it.

  4. A bathroom with plastic sheet tiles and carpet?! *shudder* Gooooorgeous exterior though!

    I agree about the frame wall. I had something similar in my room at my parents' house and I miss it. Spare walls are hard to find in our house but I must try to find room.

    It's fascinating to watch someone's home and personal style evolving - thanks for sharing. I am only at the very beginning of my journey so in ten years who knows what I will think of my decisions?

    - Alicia

  5. Do you name all your plants? ;D Bernard must have been a happy weeping fig! I think it’s great that you have all these pictures from your past. A lot of people haven’t got a single picture to show of their first apartment. How do you feel reminiscing? Good memories? BTW Scandinavians find the “carpet in the bathroom” just as weird as the North Americans do!

  6. Alicia.. your comment made my husband laugh out loud, then he turned to me and said.. 'look ! she thinks you're old'.. ;o)
    In my defence the plastic walls and orange loo weren't my fault.. I inherited them...
    On the style evolution front, I think my next apartment will be much more revealing, because by then I had much more discretionary money to spend.. I could make choices based on what I wanted.. rather than solely on what I could afford.

    Siri.. I know the whole 'carpet in the bathroom' is contentious everywhere.. clearly reading Alicia's comment above the Aussies aren't fan either. I only have carpet in my en suite now.. the other loos and bathrooms are tile. But I like how its warm underfoot.. and the hygiene argument doesn't fly with me because the area round the loo and the shower is tiled, so it's quite clean.
    No on the plants.. Bernard was a one off. Only because I had him so long.
    To answer your other question I think I'm going to post about it.. because it's a great question and it got me thinking..

    Jo xx

  7. Haha no I didn't think it meant you were old!! Just that you'd inherited a rather garish bathroom.

    I'll be interested to see the sequel with the next apartment.

  8. thanks for sharing ... made me think of all the flats I lived in after starting my own life ... Here ( ) are some of the flats and as the same with you and your photos of your first flat, those plans bring back a lot of memories!

  9. Thank you so much for the comments ladies. It's so reassuring to know I'm not just talking to myself.

    Hi Monica.. I managed to avoid the whole
    'stencilling' thing. Oh don't get me wrong.. I bought a box from QVC, with all the materials required for a huge Wisteria that I was going to put put somewhere. I just never got my act together to put it on the wall.. and by the time I was ready 'stencilling' was OUT. I finally sold it.. untouched at a garage sale last year.
    No.. my addiction was wallpaper borders.. had the bloody things everywhere. ;o)

    Detailing Life.. Hi, sorry I don't know your name... I knew that bathroom carpet would freak people out. But I confess I had carpet in every bathroom I owned until I moved to Canada... and even worse, when I was very little, my parents even had carpet in the kitchen. And they didn't inheirit it. They deliberately put it in.. ;o)
    It was quite the thing in the 70's..
    Arh the 70's.. the decade that taste forgot.

    Carin.. Oh I so know what you mean about Avacado bathrooms ! UGH. But if you can believe it.. there are actually high end shops now selling them new, as classic fixtures of their period.. go figure.

    Jo xx

  10. I know - but you`re used to it. Over here nobody have carpets in their bathrooms. And when I write nobody I mean nobody. Actually people don`t use carpets that much in any room these days over here.

    BTW It started to snow here today!!!!

  11. Siri.. That's true about the carpets here on the west coast as well, [in any rooms I mean] but here I'm sure it's just a fashion trend. In a few years carpets will be back in everyones good books.
    Sorry about the snow looks like my finger crossing didn't work !
    Jo xx

  12. Benigna.. thanks for commenting, it brought back a lot of memories for me too.
    I can't believe you managed in 193 sq feet, [which is what your first flat converted to.] That first studio of mine was about 350 sq ft by my calculations, so yours was REALLY tiny. We're they all in Japan or were the earlier ones in Germany ?
    Jo xx

  13. You guys are preparing for snow and I'm cleaning the outdoor table ready for the warm weather!


Thanks for letting me know I'm not talking to myself..