‘Designing my home was a life-changing move,’ says Interior Design Master’s Temi Johnson

The transformation of her colourful Hertfordshire home cemented Temi’s decision to pursue a career in interior design full time

orange living room with home owner
(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

After completely transforming her two-bed end of terrace home in Hertfordshire, and taking part in this year’s series of Interior Design Masters on BBC1, Temi Johnson is now living her dream of being an interior designer full time. She takes us behind the scenes of her house renovation.

‘When we first spotted this house, it was love at first sight and we were thrilled that it came in within our budget,’ says Temi. ‘At the time, I was living with my husband on a narrow boat while we saved for a mortgage, which is funny as when we first met I remember being distinctly unimpressed by the fact he lived on a boat and saying I wouldn’t be joining him!’

‘Fast forward a few years and I’d not only moved onto the boat, but also found that I really enjoyed living on the water. It was that time that actually led to us buying our house in this village, as we used to take the boat into the Hertfordshire countryside in the summer and always said that when we bought a house, that it would be here. In fact, in a funny turn of events, we somehow ended up living right next door to the boat yard we used to take the boat to for repairs!’

The cheery exterior

exterior of house with orange door

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘This house has good links to London, yet you feel like you’re in the middle of the countryside with the nature reserve, canals and the river all on your doorstep. It wasn’t only the location though – I knew I wanted a house with two double bedrooms, which this place has, plus we’ll probably consider a loft conversion at some point and the second bedroom is large enough that it can potentially lose some space to a staircase if needed.’

‘It wasn’t going to be easy sailing, however, as the house needed a lot of work doing to it. Every room needed modernising and redecorating – the bathroom even had the old soil pipe visible, which oddly we didn’t notice when we viewed the house. That said, the original parquet flooring was still intact and the previous owners had installed a small kitchen extension, so at least we had enough space for a nice kitchen area.’

Colourful kitchen

green kitchen with owner

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘We completely ripped out the downstairs kitchen and old shower room, turning the space into a kitchen and laundry room instead, with a downstairs loo. This was supposed to take around six weeks, but due to building issues the whole thing took nearly three months – that’s a long time to be washing-up in the bath tub!’

‘I knew I wanted a decent-size kitchen as I love to entertain and for me, food is life. Up until recently when we redecorated our bedroom, I would have said the kitchen was my favourite room as it’s the heart of the house and where we spend most of our time when we have friends or family over. It’s such a nice space to entertain in while I’m cooking.’

green kitchen with wooden table

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘The table in our dining area was left by the previous owners, and they’d made it from an old boat, which felt really fitting being we lived on one before moving in here.’

‘I don’t think I’d fully realised the state that the place was in, as pieces of furniture had been covering some holes in the walls when we’d viewed it. Safe to say, it was a bit more than the cosmetic makeover I had been hoping for! Despite that, we got stuck in, ripping up all the carpets, sanding the floorboards and painting each room.’ 

green kitchen with white worktops

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘The cabinetry is a mix of hidden storage and open shelving, with cubbyholes for plates and a built-in wine rack. I wanted to use natural stone for the worktops and went for quartz, which is nice and durable. In a forever home I would have loved to have used marble, but that was way more expensive and needs more care. Plus, with a three-year-old around, it’s probably not the best idea!’

‘I wanted a country-style kitchen, so I chose a Butler sink, while the taps and cabinetry handles are all in brass. The island houses our oven, hob and a unit for pots and pans.’ 

Bright living room

orange living room with coffee table

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘Because these houses are tiny, our aim was to use colour and furniture to make the space feel bigger and more inviting, and I think we’ve definitely achieved this, especially in the living room.’

‘I chose paint ideas for all the walls as I have an irrational dislike of wallpaper! The bright orange paint in here is an eco-friendly lime-wash from Francesca’s Paints. She hand-mixes all her paints in her studio in Clapham, and I went to visit her to choose the colour. She’s amazing!’

orange living room with grey sofa

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘Our Ercol sofa and brass coffee table came from eBay and I’ve added my favourite artworks – I absolutely love art on walls. I’m really fond of my ladies in here. The lady wearing the Fez was my mums – she had it since I was little and I had my eye on it for years. When we moved in, she finally let me have it, so that piece is special to me.’

‘Putting our stamp on the place was the best bit, and I think the majority of the items in our house are second-hand. I love antiques and vintage finds and in my opinion, you can’t beat the character and charm of something old. I like to mix in the old with a little bit of modern, so I think my style is a combination of that – traditional meets modern vintage with a shed load of colour thrown in!’

orange living room with black fireplace

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘Luckily we didn’t have to do anything to the fireplace idea – we had some black paint from our fireplace on the boat and I just gave it a little freshen up. My husband brought me the picture above the fireplace. I had my eye on it for a while and not so subtly sent him a number of links I had found on eBay!’ 

‘I think it’s really hard to be sad in a room surrounded by orange and I also find it surprisingly warming. I definitely don’t think it’s a colour for everyone and have had an array of comments from people that love it and others that have politely called it “interesting”!’

orange living room with gold shelf

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘Not only will buying secondhand furniture save you money, but it’s better for the environment and things were often made much better “back in the day”, so you won’t have to compromise on quality. I started to do a weekly car-boot story on my Instagram page @temijohnsondesign before winter came because I was there every weekend without fail. I’m obsessed!’

Calming bedroom scheme

green bedroom with wooden bed

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘Our bed is a birch bed from Ikea and I was shocked by how good the quality was. It was one of the first pieces of furniture we bought when we moved in and I still love it. The bedroom colour scheme includes walls painted in Dulux’s Bright Skies, while the door colour is a paint that was matched to Farrow & Ball’s Arsenic.’

green bedroom with painted wardrobe

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘I had the fitted wardrobe idea built to fit an alcove in the bedroom and asked for curved door inserts for interest. The handles were a pain, as I was set on them being circular – I fully admit that details like that bother me! The only problem was the wardrobe is huge so they needed to be at least 15cm. I really struggled to find any for a decent price but in the end I found a discount code for Pushka Home and was able to justify the extra expense. I have to say they are truly solid brass and amazing quality.’

Fun boy's bedroom

grey kids room with wigwam

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘The tepee in our boy's bedroom was a gift and it’s been in constant use since the age of one – he uses it as a little snug area or as a spot for hide and seek.’ 

‘Investing in a raised bed (from Ikea) allows us to store all my son’s toys underneath, as well as space for him to play. It wasn’t our first choice, but it was nearly impossible to find a raised bed with the right dimensions to fit into the alcove.'

Black and white bathroom

white tiled bathroom

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘The bathroom was a bit of a hidden surprise for us as not only hadn’t we noticed the hole in the bottom wall or the exposed soil pipe when we first looked around the house, but the room had also been modified for disability. Strangely, someone had put a plastic sheet across the wall above the bathtub and drilled a hand rail onto it, so there weren’t any tiles or anything of that nature.’

‘We didn’t change the layout, but I bought a bath and sink second-hand on eBay, and then swapped out all the plumbing so it was all fresh. I’d definitely change a couple of the details in here, mainly to do with the quality of one or two of the fittings, but I can always upgrade them later down the line.’

Sunny hallway

blue hallway with orange door

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

‘There’s a lot left to do, and so much snagging to fix which definitely gives me a twitchy eye whenever I see it, but for the budget we had I can’t complain and I’m really pleased with how the house has turned out and what we’ve achieved so far.’ 

‘My advice would be not to rush when it comes to decorating your house. It will come together and be more authentic if you take your time. If you’re planning to be in your home for a while, then take that time to find items you really love.’

Get Temi's look

Laurie Davidson

Laurie Davidson is a professional stylist, writer and content creator, who lives and breathes interiors. Having worked for some of the UK’s leading interior magazines, styled homes up and down the country and produced sets for TV shows, adverts and top brands, it’s safe to say Laurie has had a pretty exciting career. Find her on Instagram at @lifeofaninteriorstylist or over at lauriedavidson.co.uk 

With contributions from