How can I live and work in my tiny, cluttered flat?

The problem: Aya Sekine, a photographer, lives in a tiny, 326sq ft open-plan studio flat in central London, with an 18ft by 12ft main space, a separate bathroom and kitchen and little storage capacity.

"Previously, I lived in a two-bedroom, two-floor maisonette, so I had lots of space. But this flat was so cheap and I love the details, such as the flooring. But there is hardly anywhere to put anything. I'm constantly throwing things away, recycling or taking items to charity shops. It's really tough if I'm out shopping; whenever I'm looking to buy CDs, books or films, I have to think to myself, do I actually have the space for this?

When I wake up in the morning I'll fold up the bed and try to hide the duvet by the doorway to get it away from my field of view. It's such an eyesore, but there is nowhere else to put it. My magazines are becoming an issue. They're my portfolio as my work is featured in them, but the only place to store them is on top of the fold-down bed. But it looks quite messy.

"Another problem that I have is that the flat lacks a divide between my workspace and living space. Sometimes I'll spend all day working at my desk, then try to relax on the sofa or eat at the table – but they're just opposite the desk, so it's hard to zone out. Sometimes I'll keep working through the night just because I can still see my desk and I can't get out of work mode! And I've never had more then four friends round at one time, and even then it's quite crowded – they have to sit on the floor with my cushions." '

The solution: Tina Jesson is the managing director of an interiors styling company, Home Stagers Ltd, and frequently has to work with confined living spaces.

"The first thing that I noticed in Aya's flat was a common mistake in open-plan living space. People think that if they put furniture around the edges of the room, as Aya has done, it makes more space. But this loses the definition between living zones. You need a well-defined living area, dining area and office space, which makes a much more comfortable environment. The other thing people tend to do is not deal with the clutter that builds up in their homes. With Aya, it wasn't just a question of storage space, but how she organised her things, which looked higgledy-piggledy. For instance, you can tidy a shelf up by reordering books according to size, or put those odds and ends you collect into storage boxes to get rid of clutter. Storage boxes can also be a simple way to bring some colour in.

The big white duvet was one of the first things that I noticed in the flat, so we brought the trunk in (£199, It's wooden, so we added cushions and now Aya has extra seating. While you want to avoid increasing the footprint of furniture in a small flat if possible, multifunctional pieces such as this maximise the use of available space. (The trunk could double as a coffee table in another environment.)

I wanted to throw Aya's magazines away, but she needs to keep them for work. I looked for an existing unit to store them – you should reuse where possible. We decided to upend Aya's white, hand-built shelving unit, and moved it next to the doorway, where it looks very discreet; you can't even see it when the door's open. We then relocated most of her magazines to this unit, with shelving space to spare. By ordering and stacking the magazines, you could see they were there for a purpose.

We then brought in a stand-alone shelving unit (Expedit bookcase, £49, to take books and other magazines that she had stored around the apartment. Next, a green filing cabinet (Erik drawer unit, £49, Ikea) to provide additional storage for her DVD collection: it's also the right size for the TV and brings a splash of colour, making the apartment look less utilitarian. Finally, we added some storage boxes – four on top of the bed unit (Ikea Kassett DVD box, £3.99 for two) and a couple on top of the new shelving unit (Strikt CD Box, £2.59, Ikea) – for Aya to store everything from paperback books to general bric-a-brac, along with a faux-leather magazine rack (£10, (Storage boxes can be used on top of wardrobes in bedrooms, or added to the shelving you already have in place.)

To make the most of Aya's wonderful window box filled with herb pots, we moved the little dining table away from the wall, to the window. When Aya's at the table, she'll get the most from her window, and the move also creates a more defined dining area. Then, by moving the two chairs to make way for the chest, we've created a separate seating area that feels cosy – chairs against a wall can look like a doctor's waiting room. By bringing these chairs into the centre of the room, we delineate a clear living space, eating space and office space."

Home Stagers, 0800 542 8 952;

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas