Real home: ‘We made a one-bed work for us’

Tosia and Tomasz Waloch turned their compact, outdated rental into a cosy and contemporary family home

‘This flat was a lucky find that just happened to fit most of our criteria. We were looking for a place that had a little bit of character, and plenty of green space nearby for family walks and time in nature. When we came across this flat in Ealing, it felt like everything fell into place.

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‘It’s in a Victorian building, so it has the kerb appeal I’d been hoping for, plus a balcony, a garage for storage and building furniture, and a bay window, which I’d always dreamt of having in my home. I instantly began daydreaming about sunny afternoons spent sat on a bench beneath the bay window, looking out onto the green field opposite. We signed the rental agreement straight away and didn’t look back.

Welcome to my home

A bit about me

I’m Jola Waloch, but everyone calls me Tosia. I’m 35 and I live here with my husband Tomasz, 37, son David, 13, and Bailey the cocker spaniel. 

Where I live 

My home is a rented one-bedroom flat in a Victorian house in London. We have lived here for seven years.  

What I wanted to change

Almost everything. 

It was outdated and not at all to my taste. It needed nurturing into a cosy home.

How I made it my own

I used natural, raw materials and a pared-back colour palette throughout to give our home a calm and inviting energy. 

My favourite part

The feeling of home I get from being in my flat, surrounded by our many handmade, foraged and thriftily purchased belongings.

‘The interior décor left much to be desired and didn’t fit my definition of homely at all. We replaced the red carpets with wooden flooring and painted all of the walls for an instant refresh. Then, room by room, we built and developed our interior style.

living room portrait 1
The IKEA sofa is one of Tosia’s very few high-street buys. Other furnishings were either bought second-hand or made by the couple, such as the coffee table

‘A big issue that we faced was the size of the flat, and the lack of a bedroom for Tomasz and I. It made the most sense for us to make the lounge a multipurpose room, so that David could have a space of his own. To begin with, we slept on a sofa bed, which was neither comfortable nor compact enough, so we decided to build a fold-away bed into a large recess in one of the walls. It’s really allowed us to use the space fully.

‘Updating our flat has made me realise that buying new is rarely the best option and that the items I need can almost always be built by us or bought second-hand. It truly has been a lesson in honing my styling and DIY skills – snippets of which I share on my Instagram  – and I’m so proud of all that we have achieved with our own hands.’

Living/bedroom area

‘The living room doubles as a bedroom for Tomasz and I, so it was really important for me to create a space that’s bright and welcoming, but also cosy.

‘To begin with, Tomasz and I were sleeping on a sofa bed, which was a nightmare,’ Tosia remembers. ‘We built the fold-away bed into a large wall recess to save space and allow us better sleep quality’

‘Storage and careful styling was crucial this room so that it doesn’t feel cluttered. We’ve achieved this by being selective with our furnishings, avoiding pieces that dominate floor space and choosing items with narrow, high legs, and by building a hidden, stow-away bed so that we can enjoy spending time in the sitting room without having to awkwardly manoeuvre around it.

Tosia fashioned a rustic and characterful curtain pole from a fallen branch
Tosia fashioned a rustic and characterful curtain pole from a fallen branch

‘This room doesn’t get a lot of natural light, so painting the walls white seemed a quick and easy solution to add brightness. I’m drawn to natural textures, such as wood and rattan, and warmer, beige tones, which have helped to make our living and sleeping space feel homely no matter the time of day.’

Styling a dual-purpose room

Get more out of your space with these clever tricks:

Carefully consider the transition: how quickly, efficiently and easily can you switch the use of the room? Fold-away beds, such as Tosia’s, collapsible chairs and furniture on castors are all examples of ways your space can be changed in seconds. 

Storage is key for seamless living in a multipurpose room. Shelving and wall-hung cupboards can be useful where floor space is limited, as can sofas, beds, media units that incorporate storage options.

Custom-made isn’t always the cheaper option, but can offer more comfortable living in a dual-purpose room. Furniture can be built to fit specific spaces, or to neatly fold away out of sight, and unused nooks can be turned into storage, working or eating areas. 

Kitchen

‘Our kitchen is very small, narrow and quite bright. Tomasz definitely had his work cut out squeezing all of the essentials into such a compact space, but he managed it with some nifty reshuffling.

Together, the teal, navy and raw wood tones create a kitchen scheme that feels classic, yet contemporary, as well as rustic and relaxed
Together, the teal, navy and raw wood tones create a kitchen scheme that feels classic, yet contemporary, as well as rustic and relaxed

‘We chose Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue for the walls and Green Smoke for the cabinets as we knew that, because the kitchen gets so much natural light, it could pull off a dark scheme without becoming gloomy or making cooking and food prep tasks more challenging.

The shelves, which we made from old scaffolding boards, are one of my favourite features in the flat,’ Tosia says. ‘They’re home to my handmade dining sets from Christina Gascoigne, a small pottery studio in Richmond, and an old wooden tea box that dates back to 1930, which I found at a car boot.’
The shelves, which we made from old scaffolding boards, are one of my favourite features in the flat,’ Tosia says. ‘They’re home to my handmade dining sets from Christina Gascoigne, a small pottery studio in Richmond, and an old wooden tea box that dates back to 1930, which I found at a car boot.’

‘I replaced the door handles with vintage-style gold designs and we hung shelves made from scaffolding boards, which keep the room from feeling enclosed, as it would were we to have kept the wall-hung cabinets. Plus, it lets me display my boot sale finds.’

Dining room

To make better use of available space, Tomasz built a cupboard that doubles as a dining seat in the bay window. The shutters were bought second-hand and, unlike curtains, keep the room from feeling crowded
To make better use of available space, Tomasz built a cupboard that doubles as a dining seat in the bay window. The shutters were bought second-hand and, unlike curtains, keep the room from feeling crowded

‘I had difficulty decorating the dining room, as three of the walls have doors leading to other rooms in the flat and the fourth has a big, beautiful bay window. I wanted to ensure that all adjoining rooms were easily accessible, without compromising on the usage and enjoyment of this space.

Tosia and Tomasz built the space-saving sliding door from an old wooden milk barrel and made the kooky lamp base using a metal milk churn
Tosia and Tomasz built the space-saving sliding door from an old wooden milk barrel and made the kooky lamp base using a metal milk churn

‘Tomasz built a window seat and, to maximise storage potential, built a cupboard into the base so that we can stash belongings out of sight. To further save floor space, we made a sliding door from an old wooden milk barrel for the entrance to the kitchen.’

Bathroom

‘I really had to use my imagination when it came to updating the bathroom. It’s incredibly small, so making it look nice required a lot of creative thinking.

‘In the end, my inspiration for the bathroom makeover was woodland: muted greens, dried flowers and wooden accessories for an elegant, almost-Scandinavian-style scheme.

Wooden accessories against a backdrop of Farrow & Ball’s Green Smoke creates a Scandinavian-style woodland vibe
Wooden accessories against a backdrop of Farrow & Ball’s Green Smoke creates a Scandinavian-stylewoodland vibe

‘Tomasz cleverly installed a wooden panel to conceal the pipes behind the toilet, which worked a charm, and we painted one wall in Farrow & Ball’s Green Smoke – the same shade as the kitchen cabinets – to give it a calming feel.’

David’s bedroom

‘I think I almost fainted when I saw the original red carpet in David’s room; it wasn’t what I envisaged in our family home at all! His room is fairly large, so we had lots of space to play with, and there was less concern over using every nook.

‘Tomasz built David’s bed from planks of wood and made the shelving either side of his bed from copper pipes and wood scraps,’ Tosia says
‘Tomasz built David’s bed from planks of wood and made the shelving either side of his bed from copper pipes and wood scraps,’ Tosia says
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‘We painted one wall in a dark hue and the rest light for a contrast, and Tomasz built David a wooden bed and desk with a top made from scaffolding boards. The rest of the furniture was sourced second-hand from sellers on Gumtree.’

Not unlike the rest of the flat, David’s bedroom is full of repurposed finds and handmade treasures, such as the desk that Tomasz mad
Not unlike the rest of the flat, David’s bedroom is full of repurposed finds and handmade treasures, such as the desk that Tomasz made

What I learned…

  • There’s rarely a need to buy anything new, because I can build items myself or source them second-hand.
  • Trends come and go, but you’ll enjoy a space for longer if you fill it with timeless things that you love.
  • Storage is so important when you’re living in a small space. It pays to pick pieces that can be easily put away and to choose furniture that can double up as an additional storage option too. 
  • Whatever the size of your property, you can create a home that you love.

This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in HomeStyle magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?