‘A friend of ours once said that everything in this house is unusual,’ laughs Atticus Branch–and indeed, that might just be the easiest summation of the East London spot he shares with fashion photographer Ahmed Hassan. A Hackney maisonette, the duo have pulled off a great feat of creativity and originality, filling the space with collected oddities and bold colour combinations.
Returning in 2019 to the flat he spent the first ten years of his childhood in, Atticus had his work cut out for him. ‘It was a “style-less” place and very dingy when I was growing up. We’ve made enormous changes,’ he remarks. Untouched since the early 1990s, extensive renovations were needed to bring the flat to a state of modernity. ‘The walls were all cracking, and the old wooden kitchen was totally rotten.’ To that end, Atticus replaced, replastered, rejoined and repainted alongside his design partner and good friend, Jon Haye, who taught him how to do a lot of the jobs himself. ‘I don’t think you’d even recognise it as the same place now.'
Primary colours, clean lines, and a certain 1960s pop-art aesthetic characterise the space, and the whole interior is inspiring for anyone considering how to decorate on a budget, as so many pieces are second-hand. The first room to be completed was the upstairs sitting room–a sunshine yellow space that doubles as a dining room. It was here that the worst of the damp was discovered, with rotting plaster falling away from the brick in various places. Stripping it back, Atticus soon realised he was rather fond of the contrast, and decided to leave it exposed.
It was soon after the completion of the sitting room in 2020 that Ahmed moved into the flat. Though Atticus was still in the process of decorating and renovating the rest of the house, his vision was evident. ‘I got an immediate sense of the style even in those early stages,’ explains Ahmed, ‘it always just made sense. I think the block colour really speaks to me.'
That clarity and singularity of vision is something Atticus credits, in part, to his own father. ‘He's always had very contemporary taste, perhaps even more so than myself,' he elucidates, before Ahmed adds, ‘there are definitely similarities and moments of inspiration between the two homes.’
For many, a tight budget can be a constraint. For Atticus and Ahmed, it was a pilot light for their creativity. ‘I’m increasingly someone who works with their hands,’ explains Atticus, and examples of his work can be found all over the house: from the artwork on the walls, to the bathroom sink. ‘We couldn’t afford to buy another basin, so I just put it together with some scrap ply my friend had lying around. It has at least a 95% percent success rate!’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, the project Atticus is proudest of is outside, where he has constructed a ‘secret garden.’ A large wooden cube, the structure provides ‘shelter and a peaceful space that isn’t overlooked by the neighbours'; an astonishing rarity for a London flat.
It’s not just handcrafted items that add interest in this flat, but found ones too. ‘A lot of our furniture was discovered on the street. You’d be surprised at how much is free, or very cheap,’ Ahmed jests. ‘We once missed a dinner reservation because we saw a red cabinet on the street on our way to the restaurant. We just had to have it and ended up bringing it back to the flat.' Atticus continues, ‘the red cabinets in the bedroom tell a similar story. Ahmed just rang me and I ran to help him bring them back!’
For now, the flat seems to have ‘reached its final form,' and though the duo are always arranging and rearranging things, there are no major plans for the future (except ‘even more ferns in the garden!’ Atticus adds). The reaction to the house is ‘overwhelmingly positive,' and when ‘friends come to stay, we can never seem to get them out!’ the two joke. Proof indeed that the project has been a success.