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Real homes: a designer's £800 total renovation

Bobby Petersen's amazingly thrifty warehouse flat in north London filled me with inspiration when I went to nose around it a few months back.

I was there to write about his place for a piece published in last weekend's Guardian Weekend mag. You can read that here, but here are some bonus pictures of his insanely creative ideas.

The flat was a derelict, one-room warehouse space when Bobby, then a Royal College MA student, moved in a couple of years ago. It had long abandoned by its original manufacturing tenants, and used since only by some shady characters requiring nothing but the concrete floor and some privacy.

Now, just £800 later, it looks like this.

Bobby has created two raised bedrooms, a kitchen, a wholesome glossy floor, a whole workshop area and a lovely, airy feel. Oh, and there's a boat hanging from the ceiling (one of Bobby's pieces, designed for the American Hardwood Council: he made pretty much everything in the flat that he didn't find on the street or get given by college friends – it's handy studying alongside a bunch of product designers). AND the brilliant cardboard lampshades you can see over the big table, made with plain old cardboard boxes stuck together with a glue gun, some rice paper to reduce glare and – importantly – very low-heat bulbs so as not to cause a massive fire.

Isn't the bedroom door – that giant turquoise flap in the image above – clever?

The stairs (also made by Bobby) were rather hairy. Beautiful, though.

And the ceiling height is perfect for growing indoor climbers. This idea – of hand-built shallow boxes either up against a wall, with wires extending upwards – is something I aim to steal shamelessly for my mad, fat empty wall.

I love how simple things can be: the wires don't even have to be attached through drilled in holes (great if you're an impatient DIYer like me). Just get busy with the bulldog clips.

And who needs plant-pots? Good to see another fan of plastic animals around the house too.

This beautiful cast iron stool weighed a tonne. It was made Bobby's friend and sometime design collaborator, Tom Gottelier.

The baking trays are part of a design experiment Bobby is collaborating on, coating metals with inexpensive industrial treatments. Nice effect.

Love the leafy, light work nook. A bit of clever zoning and you hardly notice there are no walls.

The designer by his scarily vertical stairs.

And the excellent entrance gates.

Some of Bobby's designs, in collaboration with Made by Works appeared at Heal's Modern Craft Market earlier this year. You can also read about Bobby's inexpensive-themed collaborations with his friends Tom Gottelier and Elliot Hartwell, who also took part in the Heal's event, at Going Into Business. (Do seek out his marvellous Polar Bear Puzzle.) 

Words and photography: Kate


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  2. Love the stuff you post on here, do you do interior designs for homes?
    Mike from

    1. Thanks for making contact Mike. I don't, though I am considering it...