5 lessons this remodel will teach you for designing an apartment with character

Interior designer Anna Agapova from O&A London on how to decorate for impact, from creating intriguing open-plan spaces to introducing drama with wall finishes

Three rooms within an apartment in London
(Image credit: O&A London/Anders Gramer)

How do you approach a contemporary remodel of an apartment when you have a blank slate? The best people to ask are, of course, professional interior designers, who can combine their expertise in creating luxurious but functional spaces, while maximizing space and light.

These are the design lessons we learnt from the curation of this apartment by O&A London – if you want to ensure your apartment decor ideas are as good as they can be, take note.

'We were commissioned to develop a design concept for a three-bedroom apartment by young professional couple with two kids. The main focus was an open-plan space uniting the kitchen-dining area, study room and sitting room. We also transformed the master bedroom and kids' rooms by creating a play area and additional storage solutions,' explains interior designer Anna Agapova, who heads up O&A London with architect Oleg Klodt. 

'Currently, the family lives in Monaco which is why they wanted us to bring a Mediterranean vibe to their London apartment. The main request was to segregate space and break an open plan layout into cozy zones where the client who is in finance and his wife – a yoga teacher – could feel equally comfortable. 

'For him it was crucial to have a study space with a home library whereas for her it was important to have a comfortable kitchen as well as light and airy space for yoga practice. Ultimately, the apartment was to become a second home for the family, a comfortable place for every family member.'

Oleg Klodt and Anna Agapova
Oleg Klodt and Anna Anapova

Architect Oleg Klodt and interior designer Anna Agapova head up design studio O&A. Their 20-year partnership has achieved international recognition for the elegant, sophisticated and timeless interiors they have created for clients worldwide. They have collaborated with Holland & Sherry, Preciosa, the Odd Chair Company, Riviere Rugs, Manufacture de Tapis de Bourgogne and Poeunat.

1. Have a sharp eye for detail and line

Grey curved sofa, textured carpet

(Image credit: O&A Design Ltd/Anders Gramer)

Contemporary architecture can lack the intricate detailing that infuses a period property with character, but you can boost interest with clever additions – an element that's particularly important when you are considering apartment living room ideas.

'We chose soft blue shades for the sitting area to satisfy our client’s request for Mediterranean vibes,' says Anna. 'To highlight this aesthetic, we decorated the column with plaster mouldings.'

To add further interest, O&A chose living room furniture that was low-slung to allow light into the space and picked pieces with intriguing lines and curves that create not just visual interest but an apartment layout with a sociable feel. The sofa, ottoman and armchair are by OKHA; coffee table by Philippe Hurel; vase on a coffee table by John Calver.

2. Contrast dark finishes with light-reflecting metallics

Gold wall, dark brown shelves, black table and chair legs

(Image credit: O&A Design Ltd/Anders Gramer)

If you are looking for apartment dining room ideas, the glorious approach above makes for a fantastic inspiration, with the contrast of dark wood and metallic wall decor ideas

'Our starting point was a dark wood veneered front door in the hallway. We copied the veneer and echoed a similar theme in the corridor with the wall textures. That led us to creating a stylish moody space,' Anna explains. 'We decided to use the same dark veneer for the built-in bookshelves in the dining area which linked the two areas. For the wall between the two bookshelf units, we chose richly textured dark shiny handmade wallpaper designed in collaboration with Holland & Sherry.' 

The dining table is by Roche Bobois; dining chairs by Collinet; chandelier, bespoke bookshelf and wallpaper by O&A London. Painting by Warwick Fuller, Panter & Hall Gallery; bowl on dining table by Regina Medeiros.

3. Create interest with functional but fabulous furniture

Grey desk with curved wooden legs, black lamp

(Image credit: O&A Design Ltd/Anders Gramer)

Whether you are looking for more ways to make your apartment elegant or simply want home office ideas that are eye-catching, this space offers a simple lesson in combining materials, finishes and shapes. 

'Our approach was to create a cozy home. The quality of the original materials used in the apartment, the lack of storage and the faceless and bland original design gave us freedom to come up with thoughtful design solutions,' says Anna, who cleverly combined the desk by Giorgetti with the bookshelf by Pouenat and floor lamp by Bruno Moinard. Further texture is added with wallpaper by Vescom; glass art by Henry Dean; the bowl by Regina Medeiros; and artwork by Egeværk, Vessel Gallery.

'We even chose the artwork and the décor, and also created a sophisticated home library which we complemented with a collection of literary greats,' says Anna.

4. Maximize and streamline storage solutions

Black cupboard with open shelves, light grey cupboards

(Image credit: O&A Design Ltd/Anders Gramer)

A combination of storage ideas that address the family's needs are key to the success of any apartment. They range from floor-to-ceiling closets to shelving behind glazed doors to the eye-catching open shelving seen in the home study above.

'Originally there was only one closet in the master bedroom which was not enough for a family of four people,' says Anna. 'Thoughtfully designed solutions let us make the most of the rooms with limited space. We managed to create a few built-in closets in the kids’ room and in master bedroom.' 

5. Choose a color scheme that threads throughout

White bunkbed , blue mattress cover

(Image credit: O&A Design Ltd/Anders Gramer)

To make a small house look bigger, many interior designers will choose a whole-house color scheme, and this is true of this apartment, which has a soft, Mediterranean blue running throughout the living areas.

'These subdued blue shades were repeated in the kids' bedroom as well as in the play room,' says Anna. 

Lucy Searle
Content Director

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she also took on the editorship of the magazine. Today, Lucy works as Content Director across Homes & Gardens, Woman & Home, Ideal Home and Real Homes.