Stephanie Zak and Ben Johnson’s bijou Brixton flat derives its charm from a lived-in feel and lots of personal touches
Words Emily Henson
A mere five minutes’ walk from this tranquil apartment is bustling Brixton Village, one of south London’s most vibrant areas. For six years now, Stephanie Zak and Ben Johnson have called this bijou flat their home, a stylish and calm haven in the centre of town.
When Stephanie bought the flat it was an unfinished shell. Over the years she has transformed it into the cosy retreat it is today.
As a photographic shoot producer working mostly in interiors, she has picked up a few pointers along the way. It’s the perfect balance between a styled and natural look. Ben is a music producer who often works from home, so it’s important that the flat is calming and inspiring, both of which are true.
Located one flight up in a 1930s red-brick block, the flat is petite. There’s one small bedroom, an open-plan living room with a galley kitchen and a bathroom. The couple have added storage wherever possible. There are units built into the living room, a large mirrored wardrobe in the bedroom and stacks of vintage suitcases filled to the brim.
Home and travel are priorities for Stephanie and Ben, who have found a way to combine their two passions. They rent out the flat to other travellers and the extra income allows them to feed their insatiable desire to travel. Playing host has encouraged them to create order in their small home without sacrificing style.
Cherished memories are on display – photos, art and small collections. They have taken care to make it a well-functioning space so guests can find what they need. The flat contains a mix of vintage finds, refurbished furniture and accessories collected on their travels.
The Moroccan wedding blanket on their bed is from a souk in Marrakech and was a birthday gift from Ben to Stephanie. The turquoise sari repurposed as bedroom curtains is from Malaysia. Also thrown into the mix is artwork inherited from Stephanie’s Swiss grandparents and sculptures made by her sculptor mother. All in all, it makes for an enchanting home, the kind of place that compels you to stop and take it all in.
I imagine you learn to relax when you allow strangers to rent your home. You have little choice but to chill out about the fact that people are going to touch your stuff! And it shows in the laid-back way that Stephanie has styled, or rather not styled, her things.
I particularly love the shelves flanking the fireplace, where all manner of odds and ends jostle for space. It feels special but not too precious. And it feels alive, as if it’s constantly evolving, thanks to the inspiration that the couple bring back from each trip.
Photography by Debi Treolar.