Ocean's heaven

What does a design editor put in her seaside home? The latest furniture fashions? Rebecca Armstrong pays a visit to Michelle Ogundehin's chic coastal pad to find out. Photographs by Marianna Wahlsten
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The Independent Online

Before arriving at the home of Michelle Ogundehin, editor of interiors bible Elle Decoration, visitors could be forgiven for imagining a flat filled with the latest furniture, decorated in the latest colours and packed with designer pieces that have featured in the magazine. But while Ogundehin's seaside apartment is achingly chic, she laughs at the idea that her home is a showcase of every interiors trend under the sun. "Everyone always asks me if I change things round every month. Don't be ridiculous, of course I don't!" says 39-year-old Ogundehin. "Most of the things I have, I've had for a very long time and what I like doesn't change." Her Brighton home is a carefully crafted oasis of calm. It's light, airy and open-plan, and has a breath-taking view of the seafront. "I've always said that you cannot get stressed out if you're by the sea, it just won't let you." And moving here in the first place was an exercise in reducing stress, she explains. "I'd lived in London for a very long time and there was a moment about six years ago when I was driving around Old Street roundabout and I was the one winding my window down and yelling extremely unfeminine curses out of the window because someone had cut me up. It was one of those moments when you just think, 'Oh my God, this isn't who I want to be.'" Despite being the proud owner of a loft apartment in Shoreditch, Ogundehin decided that she needed to get away from the capital. "I visited Brighton for a weekend and when I went back to London I said 'I'm moving'."

Although many people have a similar dream, few will pursue their goal of a perfect bolthole quite as efficiently as Ogundehin. First, it was a case of finding a flat, which she did after renting for a year. "The flat is in the oldest square in Brighton so it's Georgian stock. The reason I bought it is because the bone structure of the place was really good - it was a one-bedroom apartment that was allowed to be a one-bedroom apartment, rather than being turned into a cramped two-bedroom place. Then Ogundehin decided exactly what she wanted from the space. "The first thing I did was to take all the doorways out to make the flat much more open," she says. "I was always very clear about the materials and finishes I love. I knew I wanted a marble floor." And the sleek marble underfoot is heated from beneath because "I think it's nice when you get home to be able to take your shoes off - there is nothing more luxurious than padding around on a lovely warm floor." f

Another key feature in Ogundehin's home is the black mosaic tiles that appear in the living room and hallway. While slick, dark tiles might sound like a brave choice for a small flat, they work by reflecting the light rather than absorbing it. "I really like texture so I knew I wanted a black mosaic wall and I love it. Because it's glass mosaic, I knew that it wouldn't suck the light out of everything."

But creating the perfect effect took time - and patience. "I had the world's greatest builder who understood my rather obsessive attention to detail. He laid the mosaic for me, because one of the key things about mosaics is that because they come in 30 x 30 sheets, if they're not done well you can see the joins." And if finding a brilliant builder sounds like a miracle, it was anything but. "I interviewed each tradesperson I brought in to get the right person," she says. "I saw five people to do tiling, five people to do the electrics and so on until I felt really comfortable that this was someone I was going to give my keys to."

The wallpapered panels that appear throughout the flat were inspired by Ogundehin's work on Elle Decoration. "I'd always thought using wallpaper like this would be a fun idea and it was something I'd done on shoots. It was all about creating a composition using different patterns that complemented each other." Ogundehin's eclectic collection of art has also been put together with a view to each piece complementing the rest. A Gary Hume picture called The Cleric is hung with two less lofty paintings. "I bought them at Brighton flea market - I love them because they're traditional still lifes," she says. "I painted over the one on the bottom because I don't think the painter was very good at painting glass-wear and there was really bad glass in it." Even Ogundehin admits that she is a bit of a perfectionist about her flat: "I did freak out my electrician and plumbers quite a lot with my incredibly detailed plans," but as the editor of an interiors magazine and a trained architect, it's hardly surprising that she wants her flat to be just so.

Every item inside her flat has been carefully chosen because, she says, "I don't buy anything unless I have somewhere to put it." So while she's quietly lusting after a new Saarinen table - "I love them, they're the definitive table" - to join her existing vintage ones, she says that she'll "have to move first, because where would it go?" The Perspex chairs designed by Erwin and Estelle Laverne are another much-loved addition to the flat. f"I bought them ages ago when I worked at Blueprint. I used to go and visit these chairs on their stand and then one time there was an American guy there who was considering buying them. So I lingered and loitered until he left to think about it and then bought them instantly. They are fantastically uncomfortable, but then I don't use them to sit on I have to say - they're beautiful and very rare."

No unnecessary furniture, an immunity to faddish trends ... does Ogundehin have any bad home habits? "The one thing that does seem to take over is magazines," she admits. "They are kind of piling up all over the place, which is one of the reasons why I probably will move very soon." But decorating another home holds no fears for her. "I've always said that if you can get dressed in the morning you can do your home, it's really not that complicated." Well, not if you're willing to put in the time and effort, that is.

Top: the bathroom, with double sink and a feature wall. Ogundehin got the idea for the wallpaper panels from an Elle Decoration shoot.

Bottom: another vintage Saarinen table stands next to the windows which overlook the sea

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