Small and Vibrant London Townhouse Renovation Features Recycled Furniture

Formerly a carpenter's workshop, this redesigned 430-square-foot townhouse is full of bright colors and reclaimed decor.

Small Townhouse Studiomama second floor


We've said time and time again that often the greenest building is the one that is already standing. The reality is that many cities have a lot of existing but under-utilized buildings that could be renovated and readapted, whether for affordable housing or other uses.

In London, local design firm Studiomama (previously on Treehugger) converted a former carpenter's workshop into a minimalist, small-scale townhouse of 430 square feet (40 square meters). Studiomama's co-founders, Nina Tolstrup and Jack Mama, initially intended to transform the derelict space into a workspace for their firm, but ended up revamping it as a place for friends and family to stay in whenever they visited, in addition to occasionally renting it out.

Nevertheless, there are a number of clever design ideas here that could apply to any small space. Nicknamed Small Townhouse, it's a bright and airy space with lots of pared-down, modern details, with touches of colorful, recycled whimsy to perk it up. You can see some of the design ideas at work here via this video tour from Never Too Small:

As the designers explain, the old carpenter's workshop already consisted of two floors. However, with just a footprint of 215 square feet (20 square meters), there was only enough floor area for one bedroom, and very little natural light coming in on the ground floor.

Small Townhouse Studiomama

One of the big changes that the designers first undertook was to raise the height of the roof by 19.6 inches (50 centimeters), so that the new scheme could then include a hanging mezzanine. In addition, new windows were installed to maximize light. As Tolstrup and Mama describe their new design:

"A warm Scandinavian and yet urban interior scheme is populated with brightly coloured artworks by Jo Niemeyer, characterful ‘hacked’ furniture that we upcycled from chairs and tables found on the street, and fittings built by local craftspeople. [..] The entire scheme, both internally and externally, has been designed sympathetically to preserve the integrity of the existing building."

Now, upon entering through the entrance on the ground floor, one sees a calm, clean space that is better lit, thanks to a new window that's been installed in the living room. The opening uses frosted glass, so that there's still some privacy, but also more natural light. A sliver of light coming in from the ceiling is actually another panel of frosted glass, which permits more sunlight to filter through from the second floor.

Small Townhouse Studiomama living room

The open-plan kitchen's minimalist look is emphasized by the wooden panelling on the cabinets, which hide the washing machine and refrigerator from view. There are a lot of bold, hand-made or refurbished pieces of furniture here: the angular wooden lamps; the kitchen chairs which were rescued from the trash heap and redone in neon orange. The kitchen table is a vintage school table that has been redone with a marble top.

Small Townhouse Studiomama kitchen

Underneath the stairs, the designers have placed an entryway bench that also functions as a place to hang coats. Once again, the style is simple and the color is bold, to offset the minimalist atmosphere.

Small Townhouse Studiomama coat rack and bench

Moving on upstairs to the second floor, there's another lounge area here, populated with two recycled, fire-engine red chairs that were refinished and re-upholstered.

Small Townhouse Studiomama second floor lounge red chairs

Instead of creating bedrooms, the designers opted to create cozy, wood-clad "sleeping pods" that are more space-efficient, yet still offers some privacy to guests.

Small Townhouse Studiomama sleeping pod

Nearby, the stair's handrail here has been expanded with a plank of wood on top, transforming it into a useable surface for books, or having a cup of coffee.

Small Townhouse Studiomama stair reading space

Climbing upstairs to the treehouse-like floating mezzanine, we see yet another space for sleeping, this time with two beds. Natural light filters in through a south-facing skylight in the ceiling. Once again, the decor is kept to a bare minimum to emphasize the cleanliness of the space.

Small Townhouse Studiomama hanging mezzanine

Here's a view of the bathroom, which has been painted in an eye-catching yellow. The vibrantly colored surfaces serve to reflect and brighten up the grey London sunlight that manages to make its way into this room.

Small Townhouse Studiomama bathroom

Every little detail in this small but modern townhouse has been carefully considered so that space is maximized, explains Tolstrup:

"In small spaces, every little square inch matters. It is more like designing a boat, or a caravan: how do you create comfortable bedding, how do you create enough storage, and comfortable seating that doesn't take up space you haven't got. And I think the compromise is that if it's well-designed, it doesn't feel smaller."

To see more, you can check out the designers' previous renovation transforming a 139-square-foot cab office into a modern micro-apartment, or visit Studiomama.