A tight fit
22 January 2012
One of the advantages of living in the tiniest flat in London is that you don’t have to go very far for things. I tumble out of bed early and in two footsteps I am making a cup of tea. Having previously walked two steps into the bathroom to run my bath. People don’t really believe me when I say I live in 350 square feet (especially, I have noticed, estate agents), but I do (this dimension, incidentally, includes the wardrobe space), and I love it… let’s face it I will have been here on Great Ormond Street for 8 years this summer.
I think it is fair to say that I might have moved from my flat if I hadn’t rented the Old Parsonage a few years ago – I mean, I feel that by the time you turn 40 you need a little bit of space in your life somewhere, and I’ve chosen to find my space in West Dorset (where it is a bit more restful to the soul, a little more expansive – and, let’s not forget, rather cheaper per square foot than WC1).
But returning to London, for a moment. One of the disadvantages of living in the smallest flat in London, if you are a person like me, is that it’s getting a bit full up. As I am sure you can tell, one of the reasons I had to rent a whole new house in Dorset was just to find space for stuff. Which is all very well, but can still present a bit of a problem up here in my 35 square metres (for continental readers).
Do you remember an advert, by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, for a mortgage company in the late 1980s… with Fry describing to Laurie his one room bedsit as ‘compact and bijou, Mostyn, compact and bijou’ ? You do? You are revealing your age. For those who are not in the know, you can watch below on youtube, making sure to scroll to 3 minutes and 6 seconds in. (Or, for a trip down memory lane on this Monday morning, start at the beginning, and feel glad that the 80s revival is not quite the same as the real thing).
I digress. My only fear is that this may be what’s happening to my flat. Most recently, I have gone a bit mad and bought a Palladiana Chest of Drawers, by Fornasetti.
This is something I’ve coveted for a very long time. It must have been 20 years ago that the V&A put on a great Fornasetti exhibition, which is when I first really discovered how much I loved his extraordinary, surreal, engraved and lacquered world. I think I’ve been thinking about Fornasetti ever since. So when, a little while ago, my friend Maria interviewed me for the FT How to Spend It, and ‘What are you eyeing next?’ was one of her penetrating questions, I confessed about Fornasetti. I thought nothing of this until a few weeks later the sharp-eyed girls at Themes and Variations sent me an email, just checking I wasn’t serious.
Oh dear. That was that. Destined for my bedroom, I made the move, and shipped out my old mahogany chest of drawers to the Parsonage. The day came a week or two ago when the new chest of drawers was to arrive.
Oh dear again.
It just didn’t work in my little panelled bedroom (maximum dimensions, 8′-0″ x 9-0″). It didn’t work at all. It was curiously a lot smaller than the handsome piece of plain old Georgian mahogany that had rather comfortably settled into place all these years. And yet, because you couldn’t really get very far away, it wasn’t really possible to have a good look. It needed more space. Unsettling.
So this morning, I moved it through to my little pink sitting room. It’s what you might call rather neatly tucked in the corner, with about a quarter of an inch to spare all round. It feels very at home with the pink walls, and with the Josef Frank armchair, and Peter Hone leaves, and with one of Marianna Kennedy’s lamps. I particularly like the way when the sun shines in, the engraved shadow of the portico responds perfectly to the light.
And I adore it. But I have to be honest. I am not quite sure there is space. It feels very happy in this room, but if I listen very carefuly I am wondering if the chest of drawers is also quietly asking: ‘do I look big in this (corner)?’ (in Italian).
I would be interested to know what you think. I suspect time will tell. If I have made a bit of a mistake, then I wonder if you can guess what will be appearing the window of a little shop around the corner? You can.
But not just yet. We’ve got to try and make room for our dreams. And this evening it feels, well, right.
This last image shows the book that I bought at the V&A exhibition 20 years ago. A little easier to house than the real thing. But not quite so amazing.