A Neon Manchester Flat Inspired by Nickelodeon and Memphis Design

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Name: Michael Pybus
Location: Manchester, UK
Size: 656 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Time lived in: 5 months owned

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I visited Manchester in 2019 to participate in the Manchester Art fair where I was exhibiting with Lungley Gallery, London. I hadn’t been to Manchester before, but the second I walked out the station I fell in love with the city. I had been living in London for nearly 20 years and had never considered leaving, but to my absolute surprise, I instantly connected with Manchester. I explored the city whilst I was there for the art fair. The more I saw the more I loved it. Then after a few days, I hopped on the train back to London.

I kept thinking about Manchester, and then one night two years later I couldn’t sleep and idly started looking at homes in Manchester city center. I found an apartment in a building that had just been completed. In my sleepy state I registered my interest and finally fell asleep. Within a couple of weeks I had put a deposit down and had 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 about to hit 40 and having a mid-life crisis?!).

I’d never lived in a brand new place before. I was a little apprehensive 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 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 living high up; previously I was on the ground floor looking out at a tall fence, so I’m really appreciating all the natural light and views I have here.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Bright, bold, humorous with a strong influence from postmodern design, particularly from the 1980s through to early millennium aesthetics.

Inspiration: So many! The foundation to the design was the colors and graphic aesthetic of the 8-bit computer games I played as a child like Mario Bros & Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse.

The 1997 IKEA catalog was another huge influence. That catalog came to my house back in the mid-90s and I’d never seen anything like it in my life. This was pre-internet era and I was a kid in the UK countryside, so my access to contemporary design was basically zero. It was like flicking through the pages of some alien world. I still have that catalog and managed to source many of the pieces that I really wanted back then for my home now.

TV and movie set design are also a big inspiration for me. Stuff like the houses in “Ruthless People” (1986), “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) and “Beetlejuice” (1988) and basically every set and costume piece in the movie “Toys” (1992), “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” MTV logo designs, the early ’00s UK Big Brother houses and “Nickelodeon.”

Of course Memphis Milano is a huge obsession of mine, particularly the work of its founding member Ettore Sottsass, the way he approached design blows my mind. If I could afford to, I would fill my home with his pieces.

Favorite Element: I’d say having the whole place 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 housing and sharing a bedroom (which I loathed). I’ve spent most of my adult years having to live in shared accommodation, which I also loathed. There’s very little opportunity to be able to put your own stamp on a place in those situations and even if you do, flatmates are often not as respectful of a home as you are so anything that is in communal areas often gets damaged.

However, if I had to single out a particular element, I do really love sitting on my sofa looking at my aquarium full of corals and clownfish. My style is quite plasticky, hard edged and artificial but I also do really appreciate 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 art work to store here. I’m a natural collector but I don’t want to live in a rats nest of mess 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 a whole length of the room in order to cut off a large area of ​​it to use as floor to ceiling storage. I didn’t want big heavy built in wardrobes dominating my room so using the bright patterned fabric was a great way to cheaply create storage but still keep it light and airy.

Proudest DIY: The paint job on this place. I painted the whole apartment myself which was quite a large and complicated job considering the amount of different colors and deciding which color went on what wall. I also wired in all the ceiling pendants, which I know isn’t a major job, but that was the first time I’d ever attempted something like that. It was a little daunting but thanks to YouTube it worked it out just fine.

Budget: I don’t like to pay full retail price for anything. Nearly everything bought in my home was bought with a heavy discount on sale or with a voucher offer. Most of the furniture is from IKEA, some of it bought new, but a lot of it I bought used online costing me no more than £10-20.

I really wanted a genuine large Moroccan rug for my living room, however they cost £1000s here in the UK. I did some research and found a guy who sells his handmade rugs direct from his Moroccan studio online. I ended up paying less than a quarter of what it would have cost me at retail here in the UK.

Is there something 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 elsewhere that I would have to travel to would not suit the way I work and live. I like to be able to walk into my studio and paint at any moment I choose. I’m also quite a night owl so having a studio in my home is super convenient for those nights where I want to work until dawn and then be able to instantly roll into bed once I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I would say the best thing you can do is go through everything you own and get rid of anything that you don’t feel connected to anymore or has no practical use to you. The place I previously lived in had a lot more storage than my current place, so before moving I had to intensively go through 13 years worth of stuff I had accumulated 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 wealthy at all and I think many people who grow up in economically challenging situations have a habit of amassing things and have an anxiety in getting rid of anything, for a fear that they may hit hard times and need it. I struggle with that feeling a lot. There’s a fantastic line in “Fight Club:” “The things you own end up owning you.” That’s always resonated with me and I need to embrace that lesson. I think from now on every year or so I will do a bit of an audit on what’s in my home and sell or donate what isn’t needed anymore so my home can stay organized and protected from turning into a hoarders nest of possessions that just drag me down.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? You have to live in your home, so it may as well be a reflection of your own personal needs and tastes. I think often people decorate their home more neutral than they really want to because they are worried about potential issues in the future when it comes to moving out/selling, but the reality is, unless you are doing major extensive structural changes, just about anything can easily be undone with fresh coat of paint. So you may as well live in the present and go for it. Decorate your home the way you want to live now, the future will sort itself out.

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