Knowing when to splurge and when to save: how one designer transformed her flat on a small budget

Interior designer Beata Heuman relished the challenge of doing up her own small flat on a budget. It’s a showcase for fresh, inventive styling.
First-time buyer and interior designer Beata Heuman has done up her Earls Court flat on a budget. The secret, she says, lies in customising - from artwork to furniture: "The process doesn't cost much more and your home looks unique." 

Swedish-born Heuman spent eight years working with Nicky Haslam at NH Design and "learned everything on the job". Now she has a fledging interior design practice. "My clients enjoy my open-minded approach," she says, listing two exciting London projects and a Swedish villa as ongoing work. "I like to create one-off fabrics and wallpapers and get them printed, so there's always an original element." As a showcase for her design flair, her own home is full of creative ideas.

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A world of her imagination: Beata Heuman mixed textures and patterns, with a Mufti mirror as “headboard”

Her primary challenge was a difficult layout. As a designer, she knew it was important to invest in building work, so the wall between the kitchen and a spare bedroom was removed. "Now the open-plan area feels fluid with a feeling of space into the walk-through sitting room - however tiny," she says. She cleverly compensated for the lack of cupboards with concealed storage tucked within a dropped ceiling, a utility cupboard inside a structural column and tall bookshelves. "The investment in built-in joinery was minimal," she says.

The flat is small, so it was important to use continuity with finishes. She replaced mismatched flooring with engineered boards, and picked key upholstery and curtain fabrics in large-scale prints, but in soft toning shades on natural linens. "Less is more when it comes to colour," she adds. And while the kitchen/dining room has wheat-grey walls, a pretty shade that changes from morning to evening, Farrow&Ball's Pavilion Gray in the sitting room gives a sophisticated evening mood. "The bedroom ceiling is low, so Farrow&Ball's Lulworth Blue makes it seem higher, while creating a focal point."

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One-off: the L-shape sofa was custom-made to fit the Earls Court flat’s sitting room, while mirrors are used to reflect light around the flat

Heuman loved the challenge of her tight budget. "I identified areas where I could spend and areas where I could save," she explains, adding that she does the same for clients. She invested in quality fixed surfaces - a marble kitchen worktop and a stone bathroom floor - and chic soft furnishings. "A good curtain-maker is worth the investment, because curtains add height and drama." But she saved on budget bathroom fittings and inexpensive furniture - such as the mismatched dining chairs, bought in Portobello market at £15 apiece - as well as doing most of the artwork herself.

"Everything makes a difference in a small space," says Heuman, who advises: "Look for special versions of everyday things. If it has to stay on the work surface, I even decant green washing-up liquid into a pretty glass bottle."

You can read the full version of this article in the September issue of House & Garden, out now.

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