Real homes: A room of one's own

Studio flats can be an ideal first step on the property ladder, but boy are you going to have to be tidy, says ANNALISA BARBIERI
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Ten years ago I decided to leave home. A studio flat came up for sale, a main L-shaped room with a separate kitchen and bathroom. "What's the problem with a studio?" I thought. "I live in one room - my bedroom - at home." I didn't realise that this was not particularly difficult because there were other rooms that could be visited. And paraphernalia such as the Hoover and Christmas tree lights were never a bother because they had their own cupboard.

I love my studio flat. Actually I prefer to call it a bachelor-girl flat because that is what they are ideally suited for, the fast and single life. But when I first moved in, I had no idea that my possessions would expand to fill that space and that they would, a decade later, invade every horizontal surface.

"Burglar chic", I call my method of interior design. I remember buying baskets and being grateful for their bulk. They made the flat seem more lived-in, because for about six months it seemed like some kind of holiday- let: empty.

Soon, books bred and magazines were piled high until they formed pillars that joined ceiling to floor. I discovered "over-door hooks" and greeted their arrival with a joy previously reserved for love fantasies. How many clothes I could fling onto them, clearing what seemed like acres of floorspace. What did it matter that the doors warped under the weight? I would be moving soon...

But six years went by, then eight. The polished wooden floor was as gleaming as ever, protected from stiletto stings by layer upon layer of clothes, some of them quite expensive. I realised that the floor plays a hugely important part in a studio. It becomes a giant desk. The phone lives on the floor, papers are spread over it, mail is opened then discarded on it, meals are taken there...

Compact living has its advantages. Seducing boys was never a problem. When I was single I would bring them home and there was the bed. I sleep on a futon, so a quick shove was often all it took to get them bedded.

But then I began to fantasise about going "up" to bed. I would visit friends' houses and run from room to room to room. What did they do with all this space? What was it like to get up and be able to go into another room and turn the radio on really loud and not have to wait for your partner to wake up too? Working from home was a nightmare because I could never switch off by closing doors on my work. I read all sorts of ridiculous articles about "one-room living" and they would show corners that doubled as offices that doubled as beds that had washing machines underneath. Yet there was no improvement. Thank goodness for my fitted cupboards. All manner of things were stuffed into the back of them, popping out at three-yearly intervals. Often just in time for fashion revivals.

My fantasies have increased. I want to have people to dinner and have them all sitting round a table, not balancing plates on knees. I want to be able to say, "Come back to my place," without worrying whether I had been able to find my top that morning - if not, every other item of clothing would have been evicted from the cupboards during the search. I want to say, "Come in, come in," to ad hoc knocks on the door.

I might perhaps be moving. To a big, big, empty space. I want no walls. I want to be able to run from one end to the other and get out of breath. I know that, for the money of a trendy loft, I could buy a proper grown up house. But no. I still want a studio, just a bigger one.

ANNALISA'S GUIDE

Never take out subscriptions to magazines.

Shoes are the enemy. They take up floor space. You only need three pairs: boots, heels, flipflops.

Put hooks everywhere and hang anything you can off them.

Do yoga to keep you supple.

Only accept marriage proposals if they come with promises of five bedroom houses.

If you can, partition off your sleeping space. The best way to do this is with pieces of semi-sheer fabric hanging from the ceiling or screens made of such. These retain the rooms' illusion of space but can hide a multitude of sins.

THE EXPERT'S GUIDE

Paint radiators, window frames etc to match walls, and coordinate window- coverings and floors - this will make the room look larger.

For the same reason, link areas by using the same flooring and same colour paint throughout.

Don't be afraid of big furniture. A few generously proportioned, stylish pieces often look better than an assortment of smaller ones. Look for a huge sofa or table that will completely fill one end of the room.

Be creative with the use of furniture. A chest of drawers can accommodate cutlery and table cloths beside knickers. A large trunk can make a coffee table and hold out-of-season clothes.

Buy a bed. Going to sleep should be simple. Unfolding sofa-beds or vertigo- inducing platforms will exhaust your patience.

By Lorrie Mack, author of `Living in Small Spaces' (Conran Octopus), pounds 10.99.

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