In the earliest days at her south London apartment, hairstylist Cyndia Harvey took minimalist living to the extreme. “When I first moved in, it was completely empty,” she says. “I had zero furniture, except a duvet and a pillow on the floor.” But time and uncluttered space were precisely what she needed to round out her vision for the ground-floor flat. “I lived in it like that for a bit before I even considered anything. I got to know the space slowly—how I moved in it, the ambience, the lighting during all times of the day. I wasn't in a hurry to do anything, really. It’s quite lovely, even bare.”
With large windows, French doors, and a leafy garden equipped with a brick barbecue, the apartment required little in the way of beautifying. But when Cyndia finally set out to fill the 1,000-square-foot space, she’d established intentions befitting its quirky past (the building once housed stables, and later, a bra factory)—and her own eclectic eye. “I knew I liked ’70s interiors, and that I didn’t want to buy anything new,” she says. (To this day, a Donald Judd–inspired kitchen island, which she had custom-made, is the only non-secondhand piece she owns.)
The self-professed flea market addict scoured the city for furniture and art, undeterred by signs of age or wear. A bed frame stood out for its faded blue suede upholstery; a pair of concrete planters by Swiss designer Willy Guhl remain a favorite, in part for their moss-covered bases. Some purchases—a white chair shaped like a giant paint splatter, for instance—were motivated by humor; others were driven by an appreciation for their backstories.
“Old furniture carries a certain wisdom,” Cyndia explains. “I love finding a piece, then learning when and where it was made, what kind of person owned it last, and scoping it out for those beautiful marks, shades, and cracks that can only happen over time.”
💡 Do It Yourself
- Wait before you decorate. Giving yourself time to get to know a new space—its size, its light, its storage capacities—can help you make better-informed purchases.
- Opt for old. Furnishing your home with vintage or antique pieces ensures a truly one-of-a-kind space—and a more Earth-friendly one, too. (For those unable to hit the markets in person, there are countless gems to be found online, too.)
- Choose furniture as you would art. “Each piece should speak to you,” Cyndia says. “It doesn’t matter so much, really, about things going together in a theme. If you buy a really beautifully made piece of furniture, it’s hard to go wrong.”
- Think beyond the statement wall. As evidenced in Cyndia’s space, a set of painted doors is just as impactful (and perhaps even more memorable).
- Put your collections on display. From brightly colored tagines to back issues of favorite magazines, showcasing what you love enriches the story of your space—and makes go-to items easily accessible when you need them.
- When in doubt, consider going custom. Bespoke furniture may be more attainable than you think—and, of course, nothing beats the benefits of a perfectly sized piece. Don’t know where to start? Ask around. “I got some good recommendations from friends,” Cyndia says. “It wasn’t a difficult process.”
🛍 Shop It Out
All products inspired by those in Cyndia's home. Architectural Digest may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.
- Rigo natural jute area rug by nuLOOM, $174, homedepot.com
- Magazine end table by Modway, $128, allmodern.com
- Goldfield paint by Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com
- Holden leather lounge chair by Urban Outfitters, $279, urbanoutfitters.com
- Wool and silk throw blanket by Neeru Kumar, $445, santafedrygoods.com
- Small planter by Willy Guhl, $630, 1stdibs.com