Photograph of Abigail Edwards' kitchen

Once inside the north London home of stylist and designer Abigail Edwards, the hair-raising encounter with a number 57 bus gunning past her front door is quickly forgotten. With its rugged brick walls, tactile reclaimed wood and calming prints, her flat is a balm for the soul, belying its resolutely urban location.

“I see so much new stuff through my work that I crave things that aren’t too finished or designed,” Edwards says. “I like everything to have a bit of a patina to it.”

When she bought her maisonette flat, which spans the first and second floors of a Victorian terrace, it had patina in spades – albeit not exactly the right type. “It had been rented out for 30 years, and it was like walking on to the set of a 1970s horror movie,” she says, recalling the layers of peeling wallpaper, boarded-up windows and cramped layout, with three bedrooms on the first floor and the kitchen, living room and bathroom on the level above.

Edwards wanted a studio in which to create her intricate pen-and-ink illustrations, which are then translated into wallpapers and fabrics, so the space appealed, despite its rundown appearance.

By the time Edwards got hold of the keys, though, she had only just enough cash left to pay for the drooping ceilings to be propped up with scaffolding poles. “If I had realised back then just how much work this place needed, I would have felt overwhelmed.”

She moved into one of the bedrooms (now the kitchen) and in her spare moments began trying to make the flat habitable, peeling back filthy carpet and chipping away at rotten plaster, which revealed a crack in the wall wide enough to fit a fist into. “It was hard living without any furniture or even a fridge,” she says. “I’d turn up to meetings trying to appear professional, my hair solid with dust.”

It was only when a section of panelling fell down and hit her cat that Edwards capitulated. “I remember a deep sense of relief when my builder told me I had to move out for a few weeks,” she says. “I hadn’t realised how depressed it was making me.”

The project went on in piecemeal stages for four years, with Edwards calling in the builder whenever she had funds for the next stage, be it knocking down walls to turn the first floor into one large, open-plan living space, or converting the attic into a studio. Where she could, she salvaged original features, patching up and resanding the pine floorboards, and matching new cornicing to a remaining section of the original. To her builder’s dismay, she has left much of the brickwork exposed – a nod to time spent in New York just after her fine art degree. “It reminds me of the East Village apartment I shared with my cousin; it has that industrial, loft feel.”

Photograph of dining area

Tireless eBay trawling has rewarded her with various bargains, including a 1950s Danish sofa and an Edwardian fire surround that has replaced a brutal 1940s concrete fireplace. Plants add to the organic feel of the rooms: “They make up for the fact that I don’t have any outdoor space. I love doing the tiny bits of weeding and watering; it is therapeutic.” In the dining area, Edwards has left a section of 1940s wallpaper, which reveals glimpses of a Victorian paper beneath. “It felt disrespectful to take it off.”

Her own wallpapers – drawn by hand and printed by a family-run firm in Lancashire – are found throughout, together with her recently launched fabrics, which are digitally printed on Scottish linen. The designs share the common theme of nature and feature a knocked-back palette that sits quietly with the natural materials. “I grew up in a rural part of Gloucestershire and spent my childhood in the woods and fields surrounding the house. I took it for granted, but ever since I’ve lived in London, nature has become more important to me.”

Her latest print, Bird, graces her bedroom, appearing from a distance as a beautifully textured grey wall, which on closer inspection reveals a pattern of minutely detailed feathers. The design was inspired by the plumage of a pheasant that visited the garden of the family home every day, during a stay when Edwards was escaping the worst of the building works.

Another of her designs, this time on the living room wall, depicts a tangle of brambles that, she says, recalls the thorny thicket that entwined the castle where Briar Rose lay sleeping. And, indeed, there is a sense of time standing still in this flat, with its aged surfaces, calming colours and lack of hi-tech gadgets. It is only the sound of another kamikaze 57 bus below the window that breaks the spell.

Photograph of attice office

House rules

Pet hate Anything plastic.

Biggest extravagance The concrete worktops and handmade sash windows.
Worst decorating mistake I converted the bathroom into a studio, then back into a bathroom when I did the loft – a very expensive mistake.
Most treasured possession A beautiful cabinet my grandmother gave me, made by her brother. I keep my shoes in it.
Favourite home scent Diptyque Feu de Bois in winter; or, in summer, lavender as it wafts through the kitchen from the window boxes.
Design hero Paola Navone – her designs have integrity and warmth.
Inspiration Nature and fairytales.
What next? I am working on some rug designs to go with the wallpapers.

[Source:- The Gurdian]

By Adam