Little Gem
Living Etc Magazine|December 2021
Small but beautifully formed, designer Christian Bense’s London apartment heralds a high-low approach that sparkles with original ideas and festive flourishes
Mary Wadsworth

I’m excited about Christmas this year and intend to go full-on Nigella in the kitchen,’ says interior designer Christian Bense, talking in his refurbished fourth-floor apartment with views of the south London skyline. Last Christmas he and Matt Martin, who works in leisure retail, had just moved in with a few sticks of furniture so it was hardly cheerful. ‘A large portion of my family is German, so we’ll follow the tradition of having dinner with friends on Christmas Eve,’ he says. In terms of festive flourishes, it will be low-key but stylish with candles, berries and leaves, and cocktails at every opportunity. ‘There won’t be a tree, much as I love Christmas I don’t see how I’d cram one in,’ he laughs.

LIVING ROOM Furniture has to earn its living in this home. The two armchairs were purchased because they lend themselves to future reinventions with painted frames and upholstered seats. The art over the sofa is by Christian.

Armchairs, Graham and Green. Cushions in Moss Velvet by Rose Uniacke. Sofa in Royal Fern brushed cotton, Sofa.com. Shelving unit, Moebe. Copper chair, Blu Dot. Ottoman, Arlo & Jacob. Rug, Nordic Knots

DINING ROOM Louvre doors, which when opened take up half the size of a regular door, were installed to create more space for the table.

Doors in Squid Ink, Paint & Paper Library. Demi-lune table, Scumble Goosie; painted in Blazer, Farrow & Ball

home profile

THE OWNERSInterior designer Christian Bense and Matt Martin, who works as an asset manager in leisure retail, plus their cocker spaniel, Price.

THE PROPERTY

A fourth-floor apartment in a 1950s former local authority development in south London with a living room, kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms, a shower room and a cloakroom.

The appeal of the apartment, when they bought it a year ago, was that it came with three bedrooms, so they could turn one into a dining room and still have a guest bedroom. ‘The joy of this 1950s, concrete-built apartment is that it’s solid and well-proportioned with generous-sized rooms, a long hall and windows all round,’ he says. Christian, who hails from South Africa and worked with designers Turner Pocock before starting his own practice last year, played to its strength by keeping the layout as it stood, embracing the small galley kitchen and shower room, too small for a bath.

DINING ROOM ‘Strategic use of mirrors makes a big difference in a small space,’ says Christian. He likes to ‘throw’ spaces with unexpected objects like this bamboo cabinet.

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