My Home: Rita Konig, housework guru
Changing colours to make Rita's small flat look bigger - a trick she learnt from her mother. By Tessa Williams-Akoto
Wednesday 28 September 2005
What I love most about my home is its wonderful smell, and that's what I miss most when I'm away. This summer, I spent a lot of time away in New York and I craved the delicious smell of jasmine evoked by the Santa Maria Novella pot-pourri I have in my hallway. That, and the smell of ground coffee, is what reminds me of home.
When I moved in four years ago, it was a standard two-bedroom flat: the hallway had eight doors leading off it. One of the reasons I fell in love with it was because of the large sash windows in the sitting room, and the trees they look out on to. Also, I love the proportions of Victorian houses. It was perfectly functional, but not how I like to live. It was too bland - everything was painted white, and it had laminate wood floors throughout.
The first thing I did was to knock through the living room and the bedroom and made a two-bedroom flat into a one-bedroom flat. You're always advised not to, since it can reduce the value of your property. I just thought: "Gosh, this is what I want to do." I'm 31, and don't want to share with a flatmate any more. While I have the chance to live very selfishly, I should take advantage of it.
I redesigned it with my brother Max, who has worked as a property developer for several years, and with my mother. He drew up plans for me. He worked out all the finer details, like how I would be able to get a kitchen into the tiny space I'd allocated.
I love storage, so we built a laundry cupboard in the hallway and a lot of cupboards around the fireplace. Although I didn't employ a professional architect, I did have a surveyor to make sure that the structure would withstand being knocked through. The work took about four months to complete; luckily, I was able to decamp to my mum's for the duration.
After the building work was done, I completely redecorated. I love purples and greens, and so took that palette completely through the flat. My mother taught me that in a small apartment you will get a greater sense of space if the colours are fluid throughout. The hallway is painted bright pea-green and my bedroom has beautiful lilac floral print wallpaper from Cole and Son. The flowers are huge; it's quite eccentric looking. Coupled with the antlers in the bathroom, and the huge pile of trunks that keep my telly at the right viewable height, it adds a lot of character to the room.
I like to think of my flat as a little luxury hotel. The layout is similar to a deluxe hotel suite, as I've got two large main rooms, which the other rooms lead off.
My kitchen wall is covered with Polaroid photographs, which was something I did before I decorated; I just left them up. You always need something to stamp your own identity on a house.
I love cooking, so adore my kitchen and spend a lot of time there. The units are from Magnet; my builders made my cupboard doors; and I have three clocks, showing the time in Paris, New York and Japan above my coffee maker, which is necessary if I'm working in two different time zones. I recently started working as a columnist for Harper's Bazaar in New York, so it helps to know my deadlines.
I went for blinds throughout the flat, as curtains are hugely expensive by the time you take into account the cost of the fabric and getting them made. And blinds make it look a lot more streamlined.
In my sitting room, the walls are painted in four different shades of white. It's an architectural range by Paint Library, and the scheme makes the place look clean and classic.
I tend to get furniture from antique markets. I find that I can afford things there, and get the type of things I like. I have an old dress mirror that I discovered years ago in Church Street market.
I'm also very fond of my decadent-looking strawberry lamp, which I found on Westbourne Grove. It sits on top of my glass coffee-table, along with stacks of magazines, usually the latest issues of World of Interiors and Vogue. I tend to accumulate magazines very quickly, but they are always good reference.
I mix my old junk-shop finds with things that are modern and extremely comfortable, like luxurious bed linen and pillows, and good sofas. My favourite way to relax is by lying on the sofa under the sash windows, staring up at the sky, chatting on the phone to my best friend in Los Angeles.
Even though it's a small space, I've had a lot of great parties here, and everyone seems to like it. All you really need for a good party are good music, masses of ice and a relaxed hostess, and everything else usually comes together after that.
I love living at this flat and can't see myself moving anywhere else for quite a while.
'Culinary Trickery' by Rita Konig is published by Ebury Press (£17.50)
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