What do you do when you move into a rented flat and find it full of your landlady's junk? Cayte Williams offers a solution
The new flat you're renting is full of the landlady's possessions. Do you ignore the itinerary, chuck them all out and face the consequences later, or live with it in your own inimitable style? That's exactly what landscape architect Simon Munro did when he moved into his north London flat.

The landlady in question is an eccentric old lady, whose weird and wonderful collection of colonial bric-a-brac takes up all the storage space. "The landlady's agents told us there was a cupboard the size of a small room in the kitchen and that we should not go in there - but of course we did," he says.

The intriguing space revealed ornamental swords, unusual paintings and animal-head trophies, and Munro decided to fish out what he needed. "The cupboard is enormous," he says. "It's about 18ft by 18ft and we've never got to the back of it. We still don't know what's in there all together." "I was worried about this landlady," says his flatmate Dai Rees, the milliner and fashion accessories designer. "We thought we might have a Dr Crippin on our hands."

Instead of Dr Crippin they've got "granny on acid" as they have mixed granny-flat chic with quirky contemporary touches. In the bright yellow bathroom, the original Victorian fittings share a space with kitsch plastic toys and Smarties tubes which have been stuck together and hung on the wall. Munro and Rees have heat-sealed sheets of an old Thirties magazine between Perspex to make a one-off window blind - a far more interesting option that its predecessor, a nasty old net curtain.

"I love it here because it's very homely," says Munro. "Our contemporaries live either very functionally or fashionably and it's quite a relief to come into a space full of all the things you remember from holiday cottages. This is a haven away from everything that is fashionable and superficial and it's actually quite nice to come back to something that is timeless."

Munro was the founder of the flat's style, but over the years it has evolved as his flatmates - interior designer Diana Cochrane, knitwear designer Carol Fraser and Rees - moved in over the years. "Everyone's personality has gone into it in their own kind of way," Rees explains. "It is quite weird because everyone is different style-wise, but it all works."

The living room is the biggest tribute to the landlady's colonial past. Huntin' shootin' and fishin' pictures line the wall, antelope horns sit atop an old mirror and a heavy dark-wood table and chairs sit in one half of the room. A feathered hat from a fellow flatmate's degree show hangs on the wall, as do ceramic pieces by Eduardo Paolozzi, Rees's tutor at the Royal College of Art. In one corner, the landlady's battered room- divider is a base for one of Rees's opulent hats and half obscures an Thirties haberdasher stand that he has decorated with dried flowers.

"We like to test tacky and new things," Munro continues. "The flat works as a testing ground for rubbish. We never set out to buy methodically, so it was just seeing things in second-hand shops and markets or using bits of rubbish left over from someone's work. The people upstairs are more reckless than us. They break things and put them down in the back- yard and we pick them up and bring them back up again!"

They rescued a four-legged swivel chair from the junk heap and turned it into a small table for the living room. "I don't really like anything that is manufactured, I like things that have a history to them. I'm a terrible snob and I hate shopping. I hate the whole idea that you can be seduced into parting with thousands of pounds just because something is a new idea. I would rather go down to a second-hand shop."

Most of the clutter comes from local junk shops - the olive oil cans for the potted plants were found outside the local Turkish supermarket, the hat-stands were bargain buys from a nearby Thirties drapers. Apart from the kitsch and recycled objects, the flat has a strong African influence. "Diana's mum lives there and used to dump things here when she came over," Munro continues. The tan leather chairs in the living room are from a hotel in the Sudan, and African baskets in the hallway tie in nicely with wooden fertility figures Rees found in the cupboard (found, strangely enough, in a fertiliser bag). A tree sculpture from Dar es Salaam shares the top of the hallway cupboard with a modern glass torso and landlady clutter.

The cooking area is an odd mixture of farmhouse kitchen and Alice in Wonderland's tea party. They have painted the pine dresser bright pink and hung Rees's three-year-old birthday cakes on the wall (wrapped in cellophane on their original plates - "the sugar preserves them" he explains). Their pride and joy is the set of four Arne Jacobson chairs around the kitchen table, bought in a junk shop for pounds 15 just before they became fashionable. "The flat's like a modern Miss Havisham," Rees says with relish. "We're living in the past as well as the future."

At first glance, their home appears to be a shrine to faded grandeur - nothing looks like it has been moved for 50 years. It is only on closer inspection that you spot the quirky touches that makes the flat so unusual. Occasionally, they will spot something from a junk shop that fits in perfectly. Cochrane found some Victorian floral magazine racks for the living room and Munro added Thirties' glass picture frames encasing dried flowers. "I paid pounds 6 for the lot," he says proudly. A ram's skull brought from the Scottish isles mirrors the antelope horns at the other end of the room, and a bookcase is stuffed with Munro's collection of Blackie & Son books (Margaret MacDonald, Charles Rennie Mackintosh's wife, designed the covers).

The only modernist touch is Rees's dressmaking dummy - but even that doesn't look out of place.

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