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Name: Michael Pybus
Location: Manchester, United Kingdom
Size: 656 Square feet
Type of accommodation: Apartment
The time lived in: 5 months, owned
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I visited Manchester in 2019 to participate in the Manchester Art fair, where I exhibited with Lungley Gallery, London. I hadn’t been to Manchester before but the second I stepped out of the station I fell in love with the city. I had lived in London for almost 20 years and had never considered leaving, but to my utter surprise I instantly connected to Manchester. I explored the city while I was there for the art fair. The more I saw, the more I loved it. So after a few days I jumped on the train back to London.
I kept thinking about Manchester and then one night two years later I couldn’t sleep and started looking at properties in Manchester city centre. I found an apartment in a building that had just been completed. In my sleepy state I expressed my interest and eventually fell asleep. Within a few weeks I had put down a deposit and signed all the paperwork to move early in the new year. I was ready for a new environment and new energy (or maybe I was just turning 40 and having a midlife crisis?!).
I had never lived in a completely new place before. I was a bit worried that it would be soulless, especially as I had just spent over a decade living in a former shoe factory in Hackney Wick, but it turned out that this new place was the perfect smooth blank canvas for me to work with. I have loved every minute of turning what was a very bland white box into what I have now. It’s also great to live high up; earlier i was on the ground floor looking out on a tall fence so i really appreciate all the natural light and the view i have here.
Apartment therapy study:
My style: Bright, bold, humorous with a strong influence from postmodern design, especially from the 1980s to the early millennium aesthetic.
Inspiration: So many! The basis for the design was the colors and graphic aesthetics of the 8-bit computer games I played as a child, such as Mario Bros & Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse.
The 1997 IKEA catalog was another big influence. That catalog came home to me back in the mid 90s and I had never seen anything like it in my life. This was before the internet era and I was a child in the countryside in the UK, so my access to modern design was pretty much nil. It was like flipping through the pages of a foreign world. I still have that catalog and managed to find many of the pieces that I really wanted then for my home now.
TV and film scenography is also a big inspiration for me. Things like the houses in “Ruthless People” (1986), “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) and “Beetlejuice” (1988) and virtually every set and costume in the movie “Toys” (1992), “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” MTV- logo design, the early 00’s British Big Brother houses and “Nickelodeon.”
Of course, Memphis Milano is a big obsession of mine, especially the work of its founding member Ettore Sottsass, the way he approached design blows my mind. If I could afford it, I would fill my home with his pieces.
Favorite item: I would say having it all to myself. I wanted to create a home that I would love and enjoy every aspect of no matter where I was or what I was doing.
I grew up in cramped quarters and shared a bedroom (which I loathed). I have spent most of my adult years having to live in a shared flat, which I also hated. There are very few opportunities to put your own stamp on a place in these situations, and even if you do, flatmates are often not as respectful of a home as you are, so anything in common areas often becomes damaged.
But if I had to highlight one particular element, I really love sitting on my couch and looking at my aquarium full of corals and clownfish. My style is quite plastic, hard-edged and artificial, but I also have a great appreciation for nature and natural forms, which is what drew me to setting up and growing a mini coral reef.
Biggest challenge: I need a lot of storage as I not only live here but also have my art studio and archive of artwork to store here. I’m a natural collector, but I don’t want to live in a rat’s nest of clutter and boxes, so my biggest challenge with this place was finding ways to store everything neatly without having it all on display.
In the bedroom, I hung vintage IKEA fabric across the room to cut off a large area of it to use as floor to ceiling storage. I didn’t want big heavy fitted wardrobes dominating my room so using the light patterned fabric was a great way to create storage on the cheap but still keep it light and airy.
proudest DIY: The painting work in this place. I painted the whole apartment myself, which was quite a big and complicated job considering the amount of different colors and deciding which color should go on which wall. I also connected all the ceiling pendants, which I know isn’t a huge job, but it was the first time I’d ever tried anything like that. It was a bit scary, but thanks to YouTube it worked out just fine.
Budget: I don’t like paying full retail price for anything. Almost everything purchased in my home was purchased at a deep discount on sale or with a coupon offer. Most of the furniture is from IKEA, some of it was bought new, but I bought a lot of it used online and cost me no more than DKK 10-20.
I would really like a real large Moroccan rug for my living room but it costs £1000 here in the UK. I did some research and found a guy who sells his handmade rugs directly from his Moroccan studio online. I ended up paying less than a quarter of what it would have cost me retail here in the UK.
Is there anything unique about your home or the way you use it? I’m an artist so I turned my second bedroom into an art studio so I can work from home. Having a separate studio somewhere else that I would have to travel to would not fit the way I work and live. I like being able to go into my studio and paint whenever I choose. I’m also a bit of a night owl, so having a studio in my home is super handy for those nights when I want to work until dawn and then immediately roll into bed when I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.
Please describe any useful, inspiring, brilliant or just plain useful tips for maximizing and/or organizing small spaces you have: I’d say the best thing to do is go through everything you own and get rid of anything that you don’t feel connected to anymore or have no practical use for you. The place I previously lived in had a lot more storage than my current place, so before I moved, I had to intensively go through 13 years of stuff I had collected there and choose what was important and what could go. I sold so much on eBay and gave the rest away, I don’t miss any of it.
I didn’t grow up rich at all, and I think a lot of people who grow up in financially challenging situations have a habit of hoarding things and have an anxiety about getting rid of something, for fear that they may fall on hard times and need it. I struggle a lot with that feeling. There’s a great line in “Fight Club:” “The things you own end up owning you.” That has always resonated with me and I have to embrace that lesson. I think from now on every year or so I will do a bit of an audit of what is in my home and sell or donate what is no longer needed so my home can stay organized and protected from becoming a hoarding nest of possessions that just drag me down.
Finally, what is your absolute best home secret or interior design tip? You have to live in your home, so it might as well be a reflection of your own personal needs and tastes. I think people often decorate their homes more neutrally than they really want because they are worried about potential problems in the future when it comes to moving out/selling, but the reality is unless you are doing major extensive structural changes , almost everything. can easily be undone with a new coat of paint. So you might as well live in the moment and go for it. Decorate your home as you want to live now, the future will take care of itself.