An idiosyncratic London flat filled with auction-house treasures and handmade pieces

A tiny rented flat in London is an ingenious home for modern furniture dealer Stanley Quaia and their partner, along with their art, furniture, and interesting finds and inventions.

The most joyful thing about the flat, however, is the accumulation (and constant flow in and out) of fascinating pieces both large and small – some of which are charming trash, and some legitimate treasure – that Stanley has brought into the space. As a modern furniture dealer, he has iPhone alerts set, and eyes constantly on every auction site that one could think of. Some of the things he buys are sold on, and some come home to roost in his flat for an indefinite period.

There seems to be a preponderance of Italian and particularly Memphis Milano design. For example, the sofa is a vintage example by Mario Bellini, the marble and glass coffee table is by Castigliani, and in the corner of the living room stands a ‘Yang’ light by Gary Morger. Upstairs, the ‘Thinking Man’s Chair’ by Jasper Morrison, one of Stanley’s favourite designers, takes pride of place.

Jasper Morrison’s ‘Thinking Man’s Chair’, one of Stanley’s favourite pieces of furniture.

Esther Bellepoque

The most important piece of furniture for the couple is the iconic Rampa unit by Pier & Achille Castiglione. This design was inspired by the Milanese street markets and their displays of wares. ‘It's a really great design. The front is shaped like a set of steps for displaying things, the back has a fold-down desk in it, and the sides have drawers so that you can use it for storage’ In fact, this piece of furniture is so important to him that not only has he bought and sold the piece three times (the third example is here to stay, for good), but says that he would only ever choose to buy or rent a flat with at least a double door, so that particular piece of furniture could fit through.

Most of the artworks have appeared in Stanley and Helen’s life as if by osmosis and are quite personal; something painted by a friend, or picked up at auction. A small sketch by his lecturer (Stanley studied fine art), sits near – as is fairly typical here – a piece pulled out of a bin on the side of a road in Milan. A small pastel portrait by Helen has been mounted onto a tiny metal frame and turned into a pendant light.

The Rampa unit by Pier & Achille Castiglione takes pride of place in the pine-clad living room alongside a collection of art.

Esther Bellepoque

Aside from furniture by famous designers (bought for a snip at just the right time) and a sprinkling of artworks, the flat is full of Stanley’s ingenious inventions. He has the assemblage artist’s knack for seeing the form and interest, and the potential application, of a whole host of things that any one of us would pass by – a sample, a broken piece of concrete, a funny-shaped bit of packaging.

For example a piece of packaging with holes in it, possibly used for transporting tube lights and found in a lift in Hackney, is mounted on the ceiling as a display for dried flowers. An offcut of laminate has been bent and pinned ingeniously to make a well-designed pendant light, and a broken fragment of marble is fixed to the top of one of Tom Dixon’s ‘Screw’ tables which was missing its top.

An interestingly curved concrete sample taken from a bin in Shoreditch Square forms a display next to a pink twig-and-plaster sculpture made by a friend of the couple.

Esther Bellepoque

Seeming to have outrageous luck with skips, clearances and closing-down sales, every bit of material that Stanley has brought into this flat is interesting. The angular headboard panels are panels of scorched wood from the strip out of Tom Dixon’s old headquarters. The bed frame is an aluminium pallet that was thrown out after being used as a prop in an Adidas photoshoot and ‘it works really well’, says Stanley. The curved, perforated brass screen in the kitchen – one of the coolest things in the house – was in a skip outside a strip club on Kingsland Road.

All in all, this tiny flat is a lesson in how to live abundantly, with a passion for objects and the magpie’s instinct for picking things out at auctions, in bins and off the street; and how to do that with ingenuity and joy in even the most restrictive of spaces: every piece is special, but there is not a vitrine in sight.

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