Written by Natalie Osborn

How designer Sian Zeng transformed a new-build flat in London

How Sian Zeng, founder of SianZeng.com, approached decorating a new-build flat in leafy south-east London.

To say that wallpaper designer Sian Zeng was ready to decorate her first home is a bit of an understatement. ‘I couldn’t wait to be free of all the frustrating restrictions and compromises that come with renting in central London,’ she explains. ‘I had always dreamt of putting my creative stamp on my own space – to design it exactly the way I wanted, for exactly the way that I live.’

Wasting no time, together with husband Sebastian, a quantitive researcher, Sian managed to unearth the perfect place in just one month; a two-bedroom apartment in leafy south-east London, boasting floor-to-ceiling windows and a huge wrap-around balcony with views onto a park. The apartment cost £485,000 in 2016 and by late 2018, post-transformation, it was worth £540,000.

Wallpaper designer Sian Zeng lives in a light-filled leafy flat in Kidbrooke, south east London

Sian has brought the outdoors into her leafy, light-filled home. Photo: Malcolm Menzies

Wallpaper and plants

‘We assumed it would take a while to find somewhere, as so many great properties were getting snapped up before we could even view them. However, luck was on our side and someone had pulled out of an existing contract on our gorgeous new-build apartment, so we jumped straight in,’ she remembers. ‘I was so excited that I had everything planned out before we even moved in, including which of my wallpapers would go in each room!’

It wasn’t just the wallpapers that Sian had decided on; she hatched a master decorating plan for every area of their new home. Houseplants are used as much as furniture as accessories in Sian’s home, where she has been careful to find different sizes and shapes to build a cohesive, interesting scheme.

Wallpaper designer Sian Zeng's balcony is filled with leafy plants

Sian and her husband fell in love with the floor-to-ceiling windows and wrap-around balcony. Photo: Malcolm Menzies

An outdoors-indoors feel

‘Taking inspiration from our huge terrace, I wanted to bring nature indoors and have an outside-meets-inside feel with lots of greenery. The only slight hitch being that I was a notorious plant killer, so I knuckled down and read everything I could find on the internet about keeping houseplants alive, and then crossed my fingers and hoped for the best,’ she confesses.

Starting in the kitchen-living-dining area, Sian began unfolding her carefully-laid plans. ‘Because the space is quite large and open with the huge windows, I wanted to keep the overall look bright and airy,’ she explains.

‘When guests walk through the door, I want them to feel like they’ve entered an oasis of calm, leaving behind the bustle of the city. I settled on a muted monochrome colour palette as the base with highlights of pink to complement all of the green leaves, using my Winter Snowdrift grey wallpaper as a backdrop against blush pink dining chairs and sofa.’

Open-plan living room diner with cloud wallpaper by Sian Zeng and blush pink sofa

Sian’s Seasons Winter Snowdrift wallpaper is the perfect neutral canvas to complement her array of plants and the soft blush sofa. Photo: Malcolm Menzies

Airy and fresh

Thrilled with the wooden flooring in the kitchen, Sian decided to continue the same design through the apartment and ripped out the existing bedroom carpets. ‘Wood gives such a clean, natural feel that works so well with the soft colour palette I’ve used in each room,’ she says.

In the dining area, Scandi-style furniture enhances the airy, fresh feeling of Sian’s home. ‘Most of our furniture is from Made.com; I first discovered the brand when we borrowed some of its pieces for a wallpaper photoshoot and I haven’t looked back since.’

Sian Zeng at home in her new-build flat in south east London

Sian wanted to keep the overall look of the kitchen-living-dining area, bright and airy. Photo: Malcolm Menzies

A dual-purpose room

Cleverly, the couple decided to enhance the functionality of the flat and create a dual-purpose guest bedroom/cinema room, giving it a completely different feel to the freshness of the main living area.

‘I immediately knew that my Cloud Forest wallpaper would work here,’ Sian says. ‘Full of drama, this surreal composition of plants floating between the clouds was the ideal backdrop to all the films we’ve watched – and, as a bonus, it also helps minimise any light reflection from the projector.’

a cinema room with sofa bed, cloud wallpaper and dark curtains

Wallpaper designer Sian Zeng also used her designs in the guest bedroom, which also functions as a cinema room. Photo: Malcolm Menzies

Storage and a study nook

The botanical theme continues into the main bedroom, where Sian chose a busy, dense floral print behind the bed. ‘I wanted to create the feeling of falling asleep in a jungle, so I complemented the wallpaper’s design with lots of colourful plants right outside on the terrace, too,’ she explains.

The floor-to-ceiling window did throw up a major issue, however, as it didn’t leave much space for storage. ‘We only have one built-in wardrobe between the two of us, so I found a bed with lots of storage underneath, and I used two large chest of drawers as bedside tables.

I even managed to squeeze in a desk nook by using custom-made shelves between the door and the wardrobe, which has been invaluable as I work from home and means all my paperwork isn’t cluttering up the living space.’

bedroom with bold floral wallpaper, blush pink bedding and blue/grey throw

Lush and bold, the main bedroom features another of Sian’s beautiful wallpaper designs and continues the blush pink accents of the living area. Photo: Malcolm Menzies

Lush and green

Two years after moving in, wallpaper designer Sian Zeng has brought her master plan to life and it’s even better than she hoped. ‘I love how lush and green our flat is all through the year, both inside and out,’ she smiles.

‘And I’m pleased to report that I am no longer a plant killer – not one leaf has been harmed in the making of our new home, which is something of a miracle in itself!’

modern bathroom with mirror cabinet and pink marble splashback

Open shelving in the bathroom gives the space a curated feel, featuring ceramic pieces from Sian’s friend Timea Sido. Photo: Malcolm Menzies

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