Almost Every Single Thing in This London Apartment Is a Flea Market Find

Shoko Wanger

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.”

A French rattan chair is positioned within arm’s reach of a built-in double bookcase.
Cyndia spends most evenings on her pink ’70s Heal’s beanbag. “Once you succumb to the beanbag, you become liquid.”

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 kitchen island was custom-designed to include ample space for storage.

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.

Mustard-colored interior doors add warmth and a dose of ’70s flair.
Raised by a hairstylist mother, Cyndia—who was born in Jamaica, but moved to London at 11—got her start in the industry at 18. Since then, her work has graced the pages of Vogue, Dazed, and i-D, and appeared in campaigns for Kenzo and Calvin Klein. “I feel so lucky to work with people who inspire me daily,” she says.

“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.”

“As soon as I saw it I knew it had to be mine,” Cyndia says of the oversize mask that hangs between her windows. “I managed to get it back to my place in an Uber XL.”

💡 Do It Yourself

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.”
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”
Seasoned flea market shoppers know it pays to be an early bird. Cyndia’s suede bed frame, for example, was a lucky find at 6:45 on a pitch-black winter morning.

🛍 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.

  1. Rigo natural jute area rug by nuLOOM, $174, homedepot.com
  2. Magazine end table by Modway, $128, allmodern.com
  3. Goldfield paint by Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com
  4. Holden leather lounge chair by Urban Outfitters, $279, urbanoutfitters.com
  5. Wool and silk throw blanket by Neeru Kumar, $445, santafedrygoods.com
  6. Small planter by Willy Guhl, $630, 1stdibs.com
Mirror-topped nightstands, upholstered in the same blue-gray suede, were included in the purchase of the bed. “It’s all one piece,” Cyndia explains. “It’s such a buzz finding really unique one-off stuff like this.”
A triangular wood-framed sofa and matching armchairs anchor the apartment’s central sitting area. “I wasn’t sure about them at first,” Cyndia says. “But the more I looked, the more interesting they became to me.”