Ingenuity and a certain quirky individuality have turned Tom Green's small space into a small wonder. Cayte Williams reports Photographs: John Voos
IF JULES Vernes or W Heath Robinson were alive and well, they'd probably be living in a home like Tom Green's. Tom is a well-travelled, rather eccentric and extremely inventive Englishman, whose castle is a testament to his imagination, lateral thinking and self-sufficiency. Except that his castle is a studio flat with Tardis-like properties.

What should be a room just big enough to swing a cat in, is home to a Corbusier-style bathroom, a Jetsons-style kitchen, a mezzanine bedroom and a rather large front room. The reasons for such transformation are Tom's great storage ideas, and his carpentry and metalwork skills.

He's had no formal training in either and describes himself as "an architectural designer", which basically means there's nothing he can't do. "I taught myself carpentry and got my artistic bent from my mum and dad," he says. So how did he manage to virtually re-build and design his flat from scratch?

"I made it up as I went along," he explains, modestly. "It's all common sense. When I taught myself metalwork, I did what made sense to me and it worked. I've had a flat since I was 18, so I've always been doing up my own place. I was also encouraged and helped by my dad from a very young age." His parents were of the post-war, brave-new-world generation, and set about building their own house during the Fifties, something which has had a profound effect on him.

"I had a very self-sufficient dad," Tom explains. "My parents were looking for a home after the blitz, when there was a shortage of builders, so they had to do everything for themselves. My dad bought a plot of land in Kent and spent his whole life doing it up. Then it had to be pulled down to make way for the M25. He died after they built the motorway."

Tom is now selling his flat to go to Brazil, where he plans to set up his own design company. He's designed and made his own brand of lava lamps ("I had to teach myself about chemistry, which is not as easy as metalwork and woodwork. I had to crack the formula") which he hopes will go down well in South America.

In London he's worked as a furniture, interior and product designer and his whole flat is influenced by the Fifties and Sixties. "It is the best reflection of my portfolio," he says. "When I moved in, I waited six months to get a feel of the place and during that time I stored up bits of wood and things I found on demolition sites. I used to have a small workshop, where I would collect things from the markets."

What could be a cold, designer's home has a warmth due to the use of wood throughout the flat. The living room is its nerve centre, with books, a work desk, design prototypes and endless old, battered suitcases. Rather than hiding them away, Tom has made a feature of the suitcases by stacking them atop six-foot wooden shelves, suspended from the ceiling with industrial- strength steel chains.

There's a strong retro theme, with classic Fifties wood and stainless steel time-pieces ("all that bother over a clock - they wouldn't do that now"), original Thirties speakers and an old barber's chair. The wooden floor was salvaged from a hospital in Dulwich that was about to be demolished. "You have to keep your eyes open," he says. "Demolition companies normally have contractors who remove all the flooring. They extract the wood by running a great big saw around the room and what's left over usually gets burnt. The mahogany I used for this floor was just lying outside the hospital."

Tom has cleverly hidden the necessities of modern life. The telephone and answerphone are inside a specially-made cupboard in the kitchen; he's customised an old suitcase for the fax and the stereo lives in a Fifties portable heater. "It's from France at a time when they had weird and wonderful heater designs," Tom explains. "This one looks like a cadillac, so I put wheels on it and a light inside."

A mobile stepladder, whose shelves double up as storage space, leads up to the mezzanine level which is the bedroom. "I believe in Feng Shui," says Tom. "That's why I've got my bed in the best place to relax." Tom even fitted the window above the bed, which looks over the kitchen into the communal garden. "The window was just a happy coincidence," he explains. "When we were getting the wood for the living room floor, they had a few of these. I had to cut the edges off to get it to fit."

He's even stretched fabric above the bed. "I wanted to make it look like a view from a Jules Verne rocket, so I painted stars on some blue material," he explains. "It's a nice ambience for sleep, really." Tom's flat is very much a Boy's Own abode. No girl in her right mind would stagger up mobile step-ladders to her bed, or keep clothes in a wardrobe that was just about shirt-length.

Even the bathroom is not built for comfort, but for speed. It's oddly located in the centre of the flat and its walls are made of thick, impenetrable glass tiles. The toilet is even in the tiny shower room, something you only usually find in continental hotels short on space. It might not be discreet, but it's certainly ingenious. "When I moved in five years ago, this was just a standard bedsit with a bathroom and a kitchen separated by a typical Fifties partition," Tom recalls. "It was the only way they could get a bath in and you know what the English are like with their baths."

Any economy of space in the bathroom is more than compensated by the spacious kitchen. Tom's kept all the original Fifties appliances and added his own retro chic. Little cupboards for groceries are made from recycled glass and wood, and the stainless steel frames on the kitchen units were found on scrap heaps. Light floods in from a wall-to-ceiling window and the room feels like it belongs to a mansion rather than a small studio flat. Some might think this was due to the high ceilings, but it's really down to that Tardis effect again.

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