In the first of a new series, residents who share the same building reveal what they've made of their separate spaces. Here, five flat-owners in east London show how they turned a disused factory into a domestic palace
Two years ago this large, white warehouse on King Edward's Road in Hackney, east London, was a shirt factory. It was originally built in the Thirties for the suit makers Home Brothers, who occupied the premises until 10 years ago. Lemon Land developers bought the building in July 1997 (after it had been used as storage space) and began selling the space off plan in October. Working with architects Peter Smith and Stephen Duffy they managed to complete the building work in nine months and in January 1998 the first residents moved in.

Because of the location, prices were relatively cheap (between pounds 60-pounds 97,000, compared to pounds 200,000 minimum in Clerkenwell). It is now filled with young, creative types, many of them working from home. Everyone comments on what a friendly place it is to live. In each of the flats neighbours look after each other's keys, water their plants and go round for coffees. It doesn't feel like unfriendly London at all, more like an episode of Friends.

Each flat has wooden floors, double-height windows, a built-in kitchen and bathroom, and a steel staircase to the mezzanine level. Some people kept their homes very simple and minimalist with neutral colours, while others have gone for brightly coloured walls and furniture. Each of the residents see their loft as a place to experiment with design, by knocking down walls, painting them bright colours or even moving the staircase.

Who's in the house?

If you are a group of people who live, or work, separately but within the same building and would like to be featured on this page, write to Who's in the House?, The Independent Magazine, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, giving a contact phone number, your address, and details of the type of building you occupy. Please also include recent photographs (which you do not want returned) of your homes or offices.

Paulina and Alex Deutsch

Run on-site massage company called Total Body Network

Moved in: November 1998

Alex and Paulina's flat is an urban jungle. All the computers and phone lines are hidden on the mezzanine behind a camouflage net strewn with fairy lights. The living room below it is filled with large plants, a huge yellow bean bag and a sofa covered in a red throw. As this is a living and work space, the room has many functions: Alex and Paulina use it as a training room for massage therapists, and Paulina also sets up her easel here to paint. As Alex explains, "It's very practical for us because we can actually convert the space into anything we need it to be without being too inconvenienced."

Frank van Bockryck


Moved in: March 1998

Frank bought his loft in Hackney because "it is a cheaper area where you can get real space". He has lived in flats and lofts across London but finds himself returning to the East End. "There is something about it here," he says, "the friendly people and the local colour." Frank visited his native Belgium to do "a gigantic shopping spree" for his flat. He bought all the furniture there and shipped it over for pounds 400. The curtains he made himself, from 24 metres of canvas, divided into equal sections.

Richard Gough

Computing operations manager

Moved in: April 1998

Richard was in the Navy for 16 years. Living on board ship, it was cramped, with little privacy. When he left, he was looking for a home with a light, airy feel. He painted the walls in shades of lavender, blue, green and yellow and even bought a computer programme to work out the exact colours. The mezzanine level of the loft functions as a meditation platform, from where Richard can gaze out of the window at the changing sky or just read and relax. "The skyline is absolutely gorgeous, it's what sold the flat to me."

Phillipa Weaver-Smith

Personal fitness trainer

Moved in: March 1998

It was Phillipa's dream to live in a loft. She came along to look at this development on the Open Day, never really imagining that she'd be able to afford it. Phillipa managed to buy one for a bargain price but then waited "for a long, long time" for it to be finished. She has fully embraced the ethos of loft living and has only a few pieces of furniture and no clutter. Everything in the flat is on view, there is no storage as yet and the bedroom is visible on the mezzanine level. Luckily she enjoys open-plan living. "I wanted to live in a very minimalist way," says Phillipa, "in complete contrast to having lots of rooms and chucking things into cupboards."

Sean McDonald

Special needs teacher

Fraser Purfit Designer

Moved in: July 1998

"We only saw one flat and wanted it because it was cheap." The flat hadn't been painted and it had no floor and no light bulbs. It required some imagination to transform it into its present state. They bought school furniture from a shop in Victoria Park, including oak pieces, such as school pigeonholes, a polished steel filing cabinet and a Forties fan. The sofa, mirrors and dining table are from Habitat and Heals. Sean and Fraser enjoy this contrast between old and new, placing a battered leather chair from Alfie's Antique Market next to a bright white modern sofa.