How This Teacher Built Her Dream Home After a Flood Ruined Everything
Forty plants and a few DIYs later.
Updated Oct 11, 2018 6:36 PM
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Noor Hasan credits her interest in design to the BBC. “There was this makeover show called Changing Rooms that was on when I was a kid, and it was my favorite program,” she remembers. “I loved the process: going from a room that you don’t really like, to completely renovating it so it reflects the personality of the individual.” When she was 11, she and her family moved into social housing, a silver lining of which was that she finally got to decorate her own bedroom. She painted it baby blue and picked out white furniture. “That was when it really became my ambition to have my own place—to have that stability that I maybe questioned at that point, even though we were always super happy,” explains the London-based psychology teacher.
She made it happen in 2016. The apartment was the ninth property she had toured and she knew it was the perfect match the second she stepped foot in it, cheaply done wood-veneer kitchen and all. “None of it mattered; the feeling of actually being able to own my own place and that dream becoming a reality was just so exciting,” she says. It was a complete blank canvas that Hasan could reinvent. She signed the paperwork without telling anyone: “Not even my parents or best friend knew! It felt very mine.”
The first order of business: Painting the space. After a decade of white-wall rentals, she impulsively coated her bedroom pink—it took three tries to get the color right. “In hindsight, I may have rushed the process,” says Hasan. She had lived there for just under three years, constantly rearranging and redecorating. Then, a flash flood in June 2019, sparked by a faulty upstairs boiler, wiped all her decisions away. “It’s a bit dramatic, but you know that scene in Titanic?” says Hasan. “That’s what this reminded me of. Just insane amounts of water.”
She once more found herself with a blank canvas. She stayed positive by looking at the situation as an opportunity to start fresh, and over the next four and a half months, she worked closely with a team of builders to redo everything—this time to her exact taste. Her biggest wish-list item? Revamping that veneer kitchen. She chose butcher block counters and installed a breakfast bar, which is where she’s been spending most of her time during quarantine.
As for the decorating process, Hasan is taking it slow this second round. She’s not rushing into picking paint. She spends time tracking down decor on eBay and in charity shops, and has even upcycled a few pieces, like the dining table she sanded down and the leopard-print chairs she reupholstered herself. Her secret weapon is YouTube. “Generally, the more boring-looking the video, the better, because that means it’s a specialist showing you the tutorial rather than an influencer,” she says.
Inspired by a woman named Emily Wheeler, whom she found on Instagram, she’s also tiptoeing into biophilic design. “It’s all about connecting with nature and using natural fabrics, neutral colors, and plants,” explains Hasan. She’s now the proud parent of around 40 greens, and after some trial and error involving a few drowned cacti, she’s settled comfortably into a nonroutine: “I remember one of my friends saying, just stop caring about them and they’ll do better,” she says. “A lot of plants actually tell you when they’re thirsty—the leaves will go limp and they’ll start curling up. I just stick my finger in the soil to see how moist it is and go from there.”
Sentimental trinkets she’s accumulated while traveling (some of which were luckily saved from the flood) make up her other big collection. “Whenever I go on holiday, I buy something for the flat,” she explains. “My best friend lives in Portugal, so I’ve got some ceramics from Lisbon dotted around. When I look at them they remind me of her.” These decorative souvenirs are scattered everywhere. There’s the blanket she bought on a road trip in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last summer, and a dish brush next to the kitchen sink she picked up while visiting Finland with her cousins.
Hasan’s relationship with design is ever-evolving, and that’s fine by her. She’s always planning her next update—right now that’s the rosy linen bedsheets she’s figuring out how to make from deadstock fabric. “I feel like my home will never be ‘finished’; it’s always going to be an ongoing project,” she says. “But that’s the way I like it.”
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