Look around this East London flat that mixes sustainability with vintage cool

You don’t need to step far into Lauren Bravo’s home for her passion for interiors of yesteryear to be self-evident.

From the 1960s teak sideboard in the living room, to the William Morris wallpaper in the dining room, every corner is filled with carefully collected treasures from the past.

‘I’ve always been obsessed with the past,’ she admits.

‘One of my favourite furniture shops is Arch 389 in London Fields, because it specialises in mid-20th century furniture.’

The tall, terracotta lamp with a 1960s vibe in Lauren’s living room, is from there, and so is the sideboard, and oversized West German ceramic lamp that stands on it.

The first-time homeowner was keen to have bare wooden floorboards throughout the flat, but many of them were ravaged with woodworm, so were ripped out and replaced with thick composite flooring and then carpeted.

But in the dining room, the floorboards were replaced with hardwood floors. Those without woodworm were varnished and used as book shelves for the living room and dining room.

‘It’s nice that the good floorboards are still a part of the flat. Having them also saved us money as we didn’t have to buy shelves,’ says Lauren.

Her home is littered with ‘street freebies’ she found outside homes in the local area. Finds include a 100-year-old Persian rug, which sits under the coffee table in her living room, a vintage coffee jar and a brand new set of frying pans.

‘We like to joke that our flat is the local waste and recycling centre – we take it all!’ laughs Lauren, who lives in Leyton, east London, with her partner, Matt Brennan.

One of the few new or modern items in Lauren’s lovely light-filled living room is a super-comfortable, midnight velvet sofa, which she purchased from an eBay business based in Yorkshire.

Lauren’s decision to furnish her home with mainly second-hand goods was partly down to affordability, but also down to her commitment to sustainability.

‘I’m trying to limit the impact my purchases have on the planet by not buying new furniture,’ says Lauren.

The 32-year-old says that her purchases all reflect her personality – ‘a little battered around the edges, but full of character,’ she jokes.

Lauren’s obsession with the past is also evident from her habit of trawling charity shops and eBay for vintage clothes.

A quick peak through her wonderful wardrobe reveals floaty and flowery dresses from the 1970s and even clothes that once belonged to her grandmothers, one of whom is now 94-years-old.

‘I really love wearing things that were owned by my grandmothers. I have a few of their old jumpers and coats, they’re my style icons,’ enthuses Lauren.

As a fashion journalist and author of How To Break Up With Fast Fashion, a guide to more sustainable ways of shopping, it would be fair to say Lauren definitely walks her talk.

Her inspiration for buying second-hand goods comes from her parents, whom she says were sustainable long before it was cool.

‘When I was growing up, a lot of my clothes were second-hand and my parents were obsessed with car boot sales and charity shops; they still are,’ she said.

‘My dad, for example, collects and sells vinyl. For my 18th birthday I got a record player and an iPod – I guess I’ve always had one foot in the past and one in the present.’

The record player sits proudly in a corner of her dining room next to a collection of vinyl records, which includes The Kinks, Elvis Costello, Blondie, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.

Also, in the dining room are transport-related objects such as a model train. They all belong to Matt, who Lauren affectionately describes as a ‘train nerd’.

Matt, 34, works as a project sponsor for Network Rail in Stratford and coincidentally, the flat has a history related to trains, as it was originally built to house railway workers.

One wall in the dining room is decorated with William Morris patterned wallpaper.
‘The wallpaper is one of his designs called Blackthorn,’ explains Lauren. ‘We had different samples of his wallpaper designs and couldn’t decide which one to have. Then I watched Sex Education on Netflix. Gillian Anderson’s character in the series has the most incredible house in the Wye Valley.

‘It’s very 1960s/1970s, with different loud floral wallpaper clashing in different rooms and in her kitchen, she has the Blackthorn wallpaper and so I thought, right, we’re having that one!’

Lauren and Matt loved the layout of the flat when they viewed it back in the spring of 2018 – six months before they purchased it.

‘We liked the fact that you have your own front door and you go up the stairs to the first floor where you have the living area and then you’ve got the stairs again at the back, leading to the garden,’ explains Lauren. ‘It felt fun and made the place feel more like a house.’

The pair dubbed the back steps that lead to the garden ‘murder stairs’, as they looked so grim, with old, brown carpet and rust-stained walls.

‘When lockdown happened, we thought, “right we’ve got the time, we can actually give the area a good paint job”, and so we stripped and sanded the back stairs, painted them and painted the walls. We also took the door off that leads to the stairs to give it a more spacious, homely feel.’ The couple’s next renovation projects will be the kitchen, before tackling the loft.

‘We would like to get that converted if we can afford to, so that we have more space,’ says Lauren. An incentive to live in their property for as long as possible is not only because they love it, but also the rather arduous nature of house-hunting. ‘We were doing five or six viewings every Saturday for about six weeks and so we probably looked at 25 to 30 flats.

‘Every Saturday, we would get on the Overground, from Stroud Green where we lived, to look at flats in Leyton or Walthamstow, and it was so funny because we always saw the same couples in every flat.

‘There was one time we were looking at a flat at the same time as another couple, and I remember thinking they’re our competition. Then, when we moved in, it turned out they’d bought the flat next door. Now we all go out for drinks.’

Lauren Bravo is the author of How To Break Up With Fast Fashion, a guide to more sustainable ways of shopping, from the clothes swap to the charity shop.

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