After years spent renting, the owner of this once soulless home seized the chance to transform it
‘I’ve always believed that if you like your immediate surroundings, it makes you a happier person,’ says the owner. ‘Having rented for many years, I always tried to put my own stamp on my home, but I couldn’t wait to buy, as there are limits to what you can do with a rental property.
When I met my partner, he was living rent-free in a bungalow on a golf course where he worked. Giving up my rented flat and moving in with him meant we could save as much as possible for a deposit. Although he had owned a property before, I was a first-time buyer and had my heart set on a Victorian, Edwardian or Thirties home with lots of character. However, the couple were shocked when everything they viewed seemed absolutely tiny – even properties at the top of their budget.
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‘It was with low expectations that we decided to view a Fifties ex-council house in Bedford,’ says the owner. ‘But as soon as we walked in there was an immediate sense of space, despite the busy floral wallpaper. I knew we could inject character ourselves, so I was prepared to compromise.’ It was a fraught time though, as the couple’s mortgage lender down-valued the house by £10,000. Luckily, the owners dropped the price by £5,000, but it meant there was £5,000 less in the pot to spend on the renovation work.
As soon as the couple got the keys, they went gung-ho into the renovations. ‘Over the past three years there hasn’t been a single wall or floor surface that hasn’t been changed,’ the owner says. ‘We were keen to make a mark in every room to keep the momentum going, and were onto the next room before we’d finished the previous one. Since our budget was pretty tight, we couldn’t afford to replace the kitchen and bathroom, but we’ve managed to transform both rooms without starting from scratch or overspending.’
Apart from the plumbing and hiring a carpenter for the built-in wardrobes and stairs, the couple did everything themselves. ‘Luckily there weren’t too many disasters apart from an unreliable tiler who let us down at the start of the project and a light grey wall paint up the stairs which I hated and re-painted darker after a few days,’ says the owner. ‘I’m glad I changed it, as I love the colour now.’
This Fifties ex-council house in Bedford felt very spacious inside, despite being decorated in bright colours such as blue and yellow and bold floral wallpapers. The owner could see past the dated decor, and knew she could transform the space.
‘It’s hard to pinpoint my style,’ she says. ‘It’s definitely rooted in design classics. You can’t go wrong with iconic chesterfield chairs and Anglepoise-style lamps – but I like to mix old and new, as well as add quirky twists to create a sense of fun. I also like thinking back to the past and how certain places made me feel. Trying to capture a feeling rather than a look is sometimes more interesting.’
‘We got a carpenter to make the pelmets, and covered them ourselves by re-cycling the Laura Ashley Gosford Plum curtains from our previous home. We decided against curtains in this house but I didn’t want to waste the lovely fabric’ says the owner. ‘Purple flowers link the indoor and outdoor spaces too.’ To stop small frames getting lost on a big wall, mount them against a feature panel.
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The kitchen felt dark and cramped, as it was rammed with wall cupboards. ‘We’ve replaced them with shelves and turned the utility room into a breakfast area by removing a door, which makes it look much bigger and inviting,’ the owner says.
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‘By adding new flooring and wall tiles, painting the cupboards and installing new appliances, it feels like a new kitchen,’ she adds.’ I also hated the cream metro tiles we originally put up in the kitchen, and swapped them for white ones after putting up with them for two years.’
‘The starting point was the Ikea bed from our previous home,’ says the owner. ‘Keeping things monochrome makes it a lovely calm space’. The owner updated this cloud shelf using stick-on letters.
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Buy now: Cloud shelf, £35, Urban Outfitters
A Moroccan wall behind the bed is the star of the show in the guest bedroom. Try a feature wall of big prints, florals or even bright stripes behind your bed to create a stunning focal point.
Get the look
Buy now: Rasch Moroccan Baroque Tile Wallpaper, £14.99 per roll, I love wallpaper
The couple haven’t spent much in the bathroom either. ‘The loo and basin were in good condition so we just replaced the weird-shaped plastic bath and bought a new shower, wall tiles and laminate flooring,’ says the owner.
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After years of devouring Pinterest, Instagram and magazines, the owner has loved putting her ideas into practice. ‘This house has allowed me to express my creativity like never before,’ she says. ‘Overall, I like the fact that each room in the house feels different and has its own character but the place still feels cohesive thanks to a limited palette throughout. There are so many fantastic styles to borrow from these days, and there are bits of it all in this house.’