The learning CURVE
A newly built house provided a completely blank canvas for one couple’s first foray into DIY and decorating
While many students make do with a bedsit, house share or room in a purpose-built block, JT Collings and his partner Max Alderson have found a house and made it their own. ‘Max was looking for a new place to rent and I was living with my mum,’ says JT. ‘So when he came across this two-bedroom house on a new development last February, we decided to move in together.’
Taking advantage of the Government’s Rent to Buy scheme, they were able to afford the below-market rent and after five years will have the option to buy the property, move out or extend the tenancy agreement. ‘The price was right and it was a blank canvas that we were able to decorate from scratch,’ explains JT.
As the floors were bare, the first job was adding carpet to the bedrooms, engineered wood in the living room and ceramic tiles in the kitchen and bathroom. They also painted the stairs and risers a shade of grey. ‘We were advised to wait a year to let the property settle, but we couldn’t hold out that long and started painting after six months,’ says JT, who’s the driving force behind the decor and describes his style as industrial-meets-Scandi. ‘I like clean lines and blocks of colour with plants to add contrast.’
Although the scheme is mostly neutral with the odd grey feature wall, there’s a much bolder look in the bathroom. ‘I originally wanted black slate tiles but achieved a similar effect for less money by painting the walls black,’ he explains. ‘I don’t usually go for such dark colours but since it’s not a main room I even painted it on the ceiling!’
Despite having little DIY experience, JT dived headfirst into painting, upcycling and customising. Wood cladding cut to size at a local timber merchants
became a focal point in the living room, which lacked a chimney breast. ‘I saw the idea on a US property show called Fixer Upper and thought the timber would make the room feel cosy and welcoming,’ says JT. ‘At first we had an electric woodburner, but replaced it with a more efficient bioethanol fire, which has a real flame and costs next-to-nothing to run. Things are always evolving though – I’m thinking of whitewashing the wood now.’
In the kitchen the developer had installed modern cabinets. JT and Max painted the walls a dark blue/grey for contrast, laid grey ceramic floor tiles and customised an Ikea breakfast bar by adding a reclaimed wood top. ‘It’s quite a small room but everyone gravitates towards the French doors overlooking the garden,’ JT explains.
With two equal-sized rooms upstairs, the first is the bedroom and the second has been transformed into a dual-purpose office and walk-in dressing room. A corner desk has been made from Ikea Kallax cube units with a bespoke timber top, while opposite are Ikea Pax wardrobes, Billy bookcases for shoe storage and an upcycled vintage chest of drawers. ‘I love finding furniture in charity shops as it’s such good value I’m not scared to experiment by painting it,’ says JT.
Their next plan is to build a decked area outside including a corner seat, fire pit and herb garden. ‘It’ll be like an extension of the kitchen and great for barbecues,’ says JT. ‘Our experience of living in a new build on a new estate has been great and the neighbours are very welcoming. We don’t know yet if we’ll eventually buy the house but a lot of the improvements we’ve made are things we can take with us if we decide not to.’
KITCHEN Walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe, which has also been used on the living room alcoves, creating continuity throughout the ground floor
BATHROOMOFFICE The little green chair The corner desk was in the bathroom is made by adding a Karen’s favourite solid wood worktop piece. ‘I bought it to an Ikea unit and from the Wealdon filing cabinet. The from a junk shop in chair is from Ebay
DISPLAY Spices are neatly arranged along an Ikea picture ledge
LIVING ROOM JT made his own bottlegreen cushions to team with the navy and grey ones from Cox & Cox and H&M. The rug and trunk were charity shop finds
HALLWAY Displayed alongside plants in a variety of planters are glass cloches and upturned jam jars in which JT has placed pictures – he got the idea from Pinterest
BATHROOM A simple monochrome scheme, with a towel ladder from East2Eden and chevron bath towel from Dunelm, is smart and modern
LANDING The industrial feel continues with an Ikea light. A large vintage-style map from Simply Dutch hangs above the stairs