Homes inside a print designer’s colourful east London flat Life and style The Guardian

Michelle Mason’s staircase is decorated with her own typographic paper. Photograph: Rachael Smith

Michelle Mason grew up in Sheffield in the 1970s, and recalls the thrill of being driven to Habitat in Leeds by her best friend’s mum. “She was a Biba chick, and I loved how she dressed and the way she decorated her home, with bright colours and bold prints,” Mason says. “She was my first introduction to pattern and colour, and she was a massive influence on me.”

Pops of bold hues and eye-catching designs now inform the small east London flat that Mason, a print designer, shares with her photographer husband, Bill Osment, and 10-year-old daughter, Marni. From a staircase decorated in typographic paper to a wall of prancing zebras in the bedroom, she evidently practises what she preaches: “It’s very important to trial the designs. You have to go with your convictions.”

Mason, who studied illustration and screen-based media, spent years working as a graphic designer before she bit the bullet and launched her eponymous homeware company. One of her first creations was the Stella rug. a circular felted merino design featuring a contemporary cut-away pattern inspired by lace. The rug caught the eye of interior stylists across the globe, and proved an overnight hit. Since then, she has collaborated with Transport for London and the Southbank Centre. most recently launching a range of bedding for John Lewis and a collection of rugs for Heal’s .

Last November, Mason teamed up with an old friend, Tim Painter, to open Mason & Painter. a shop selling a mix of vintage pieces and contemporary designs on Columbia Road in east London. Every Sunday, the area is transformed into a verdant oasis with its hugely popular flower market.

The chimney breast had been bricked up, but a salvaged cast-iron fireplace was reinstated. Photograph: Rachael Smith

Mason’s flat, housed above a busy cafe in a building that once served as the local electricity showrooms, is a 10-minute walk from the shop. “Ever since I left the north, I’ve gravitated towards this area of London,” she says. “It has a strong, creative vibe and is incredibly family-oriented, with lots of great restaurants and green spaces.”

When she and Osment first saw the flat four years ago, it was a one-bedroom space; but the pair spotted the potential to extend into the disused attic to create a mezzanine. Together with Painter, a trained carpenter, Osment undertook the work, building a staircase in the open-plan living room – the void beneath now houses the tumble dryer – and adding a Velux window to pull light into what was a dingy roof space.

The main room, which houses the kitchen, living and dining areas, is small and predominantly white. “There is a lot going on with our things, so it made sense to keep the backdrop simple,” says Mason, who works from the kitchen table. White Ikea cupboards were fitted to run the length of the back wall, while the flooring, originally a rather orangey laminate, was simply painted white.

In the kitchen, Mason chose Ikea cabinets and worktops and ‘cheap as chips’ tiles. Photograph: Rachael Smith

The fireplace was reinstated to provide the sitting area with a focal point, and Mason painted the chimney breast a soft pink hue, a soothing shade she says reminds her of calamine lotion.

The staircase wall was originally white, but a couple of years ago Mason put up her Bus Blind wallpaper. created in collaboration with London Transport Museum: “There was a danger of this becoming more or less a white box, so this just takes the edge off. I love turquoise, it is such a seaside colour.”

Many of the pieces in the space – sky blue Tolix chairs. old Photax photography lamps, typographic prints – have a punchy, graphic quality that Mason admits is an underlying theme.

Mason’s Zebra wallpaper, which will be part of her new collection from January next year. Photograph: Rachael Smith

Some of the objects, such as old preserve jars from eastern Europe and a striking 1950s-style school chart, have found their way into her home from the shop. “Having the flower market has definitely influenced what we choose to sell,” she says. “Tim and I will both home in on floral prints or glass vessels that will make great vases.”

The most recent change has been in Mason’s bedroom, where a moody grey wall was recently papered with a fun zebra print that she’s launching early next year. “It’s a bit mad but it’s uplifting,” Mason says. “My designs are all about injecting fun, colour and energy into a space – I try not to take anything too seriously.”

Homes inside a print designer’s colourful east London flat Life and style The Guardian

House rules

Most treasured possession Most things are replaceable but I’m pretty fond of my Paula Rego etching. She gave it to me after I designed her show at the National Gallery .

Design heros Hans Wegner for genius chairs, Eric Ravilious for amazing works on paper and Lucienne Day for textiles.

Pet hate Too much clutter.

I couldn’t live without My cafetiere. I need a good, strong coffee in the morning.

Dream home A little house in the hills above Nice with a view of the sea. Otherwise I’d settle for a roof terrace in Hackney.

Favourite home scent My vetiver perfume. People say they can smell me coming up the stairs.

If I could own any art work It would be anything by Howard Hodgkin .

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