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The 125-square-foot attic nook in Laura Stephens’s South London home previously housed her middle daughter—a fact her husband, Luke, was reminded of every time a gold star decal or Tinkerbell light showed up in the background of his Zoom work calls during lockdown. “I realized we needed to sort it out fast and make it look professional,” says Laura with a laugh. She wanted the space to be flexible; somewhere tranquil and studious for Luke to work, and yet homey for when her mother comes to stay. “Often these hybrid rooms can feel quite clinical, so it was about bringing in layers of texture, pattern, and color,” says the designer. Here’s how she went about transforming it into a double-duty space.

Look at It From All Angles

Bed, John Lewis; Custom Headboard upholstered in Mulberry Home Fabric; Printed Quilt, Etsy.

In order to comfortably fit a desk and chair, a pull-out bed was the only option. Laura bought a basic double daybed and dressed it with tonal soft textiles, including a custom-made linen valance, an Indian block-print quilt, and an abundance of cushions. What really anchors it is the headboard, which was made by a local upholsterer from plywood (and clad in fabric from Mulberry Home) and is angled into the sloping wall. Matching bolsters at each end create the illusion of a proper sofa.

Get the Light Just Right

“I didn’t want to spend loads [of money] on this room and start rewiring,” explains Laura. The only light source was a ceiling pendant lamp, which she breathed new life into with a rattan shade from Vinterior. By the daybed, a wall light with a swing arm can be easily maneuvered, acting as both a bedside lamp and reading lamp. Because the cable is braided, you barely notice that it’s plugged into a socket by the floor and not wired into the wall.

Rethink Bright White

Laura knew instinctively that she wanted to use Smoked Trout by Farrow & Ball from floor to ceiling. “Going white with woodwork can be a distraction for the eyes and create the illusion of stripes in such a small space,” she explains. This dark mushroom tone, however, doesn’t create any unwanted shadows. She applied it just about everywhere, including the skirting board, door, and architraves. The only thing she did paint white is the fireplace, “because I wanted that to stand out as a feature,” she says. The navy border of the scalloped jute rug recalls the tasseled trim of the small antique chair, creating a cohesive look. 

Let the Desk Do the Hard Work 

Chair, Decorative Collective; Lamp, Pooky; Table, Scumble Goosie.

Laura searched high and low for an antique desk, but time was of the essence, so she asked the team at Scumble Goosie to paint its Empire piece in Teresa’s Green by Farrow & Ball, a pale green hue that gave it that old-school look. It fits the alcove perfectly and functions as a dressing table when guests stay. There’s no wardrobe, but a hook on the door can be laden with hangers for her mother to unpack. “It feels really quite special and sweet in here,” says Laura, who stocked the simple shelf above it with personal keepsakes. “So much so that it’s almost wasted on my husband—somehow I’m the one who has ended up working from the kitchen table!”

Photography by Chris Snook