'We dressed up A BLANK Can­vas’

After Michelle, 36, moved into her new-build, she could­nõt wait to put her own stamp on the neu­tral decor

Style at Home (UK) - - New-Build -

When I met my hus­band Philip, I was liv­ing in London and he owned a house in Ash­ford, Kent,’ says Michelle. ‘He would stay at mine dur­ing the week and we’d go back to his at the week­end, but it wasn’t ideal. As I have a 12-year-old daugh­ter called Evie, and Philip’s two grown-up chil­dren, Lau­ren and Cameron, still live at home, we needed a spa­cious house that would cater for ev­ery­one’s needs. Ideally we wanted a five-bed so there would be a guest room, too.

I’ve al­ways favoured Vic­to­rian build­ings, while Philip pre­ferred mod­ern prop­er­ties. We looked at a few older houses in the coun­try­side, but in the end, he con­vinced me that a new-build was the best way to get the space we needed. I also knew it would be a great op­por­tu­nity to dec­o­rate from scratch. When we heard that Redrow Homes were building a new de­vel­op­ment in Kent, I was ea­ger to take a look. I’d vis­ited the vil­lage be­fore and it seemed like the per­fect lo­ca­tion with good schools for Evie and nice restau­rants and shops.

As noth­ing had been built yet, we vis­ited some of the com­pany’s showhomes in Brighton. We de­cided on the three-storey de­sign, which had five bed­rooms spread out over the top two floors. And be­cause we were buy­ing off-plan we were able to pick a plot with a good po­si­tion that would get plenty of sun in the gar­den.

Good tim­ing

Rather than try­ing to sell Philip’s house through an estate agent, we de­cided to take the builder’s part-ex­change deal. It meant we didn’t get the full mar­ket value, but it wasn’t stress­ful or time con­sum­ing as there was no need to worry about chains col­laps­ing or last-minute gazump­ing.

After that, ev­ery­thing seemed to fall into place. In July 2014, on the same day the first phase of prop­er­ties was re­leased, we put down our de­posit, giv­ing us the pick of the plots. We were then told our house would be ready by Fe­bru­ary 2015, but

we re­ally wanted to move in be­fore Christ­mas so we pushed for a mov­ing date and man­aged to get in by 19th December. It was all very hec­tic, but all of our friends were sur­prised by how quickly we got sorted. Our fur­ni­ture was de­liv­ered the day we moved in, and we man­aged to get the tree up and even have Christ­mas din­ner.

Start­ing from scratch

We chose the kitchen, bath­rooms, fit­ted wardrobes and floor­ing while the house was be­ing built, going for hard­wear­ing tiles in the open-plan fam­ily room and neu­tral car­pets ev­ery­where else. Nor­mally, de­vel­op­ers paint ev­ery­thing mag­no­lia, but I begged for white as I think it gives a cleaner, more con­tem­po­rary fin­ish.

For the rest of the decor, one of the first things we did was mea­sure the win­dows for white plan­ta­tion-style shut­ters to add some char­ac­ter. Then we in­stalled an ex­tra row of six wall units in the kitchen with down­lighters un­der­neath. We wanted them to match, so we got them from Sym­phony, which is the same com­pany the de­vel­op­ers used. We also fit­ted a splash­back of white metro tiles. The neu­tral back­drop means it’s easy to change ac­ces­sories when­ever we want.

House to home

After Christ­mas I went to town on the decor. I was so ea­ger to get going as I’d been mak­ing mood­boards on Pin­ter­est all the time we were wait­ing for the house to be fin­ished. Philip’s previous style was slightly more con­ser­va­tive than mine, but he was happy for me to take the lead.

We sold most of the fur­ni­ture from our previous two homes, with the ex­cep­tion of our bed and din­ing ta­ble. It was lovely to be able to start all over again and I found most of it on­line at Made – I’m a big fan of their clean lines and con­tem­po­rary feel. I’ve in­tro­duced a few retro touches, too, such

as the Orla Kiely wall­pa­per in the fam­ily room. Finally, most of our ac­ces­sories and bed­ding has come from Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Ikea and Mata­lan.

Although ev­ery­thing has come to­gether in the end, I did make a few mis­takes along the way as I was try­ing to get ev­ery­thing fin­ished quickly. For in­stance, I wish I’d cho­sen gran­ite rather than wood-ef­fect kitchen work­tops, and I rushed into buy­ing liv­ing room cur­tains from Dunelm, which had to be pro­fes­sion­ally al­tered when I de­cided I wanted eye­lets. But over­all, I love the way the house has turned out.

A change for the bet­ter

There are still a few things on my list for the fu­ture – I have my eye on a new din­ing ta­ble from Made and I want to add some pic­tures to the stair­case. But next up is Evie’s room as it won’t be long be­fore she’s a teenager, so we’re giv­ing her space a more ma­ture makeover with a mint green scheme and metal vin­tage-style bed.

We’ve quickly set­tled into vil­lage life and the house finally feels like our home. The area has a lovely com­mu­nity spirit, and there’s al­ways events and fairs going on, plus it’s only a three-minute walk to a pretty wooded na­ture re­serve.

One of my favourite spa­ces is the front liv­ing room, and I often light can­dles for a cosy night in with Philip. The fam­ily room at the back works well, too, as it’s airy and spa­cious – even when all five of us are in there. It’s also ideal for en­ter­tain­ing as it has large pa­tio doors that lead out­side. Plus, six months after mov­ing in, we had the rear gar­den lev­elled and land­scaped be­cause it sloped quite dra­mat­i­cally, so I can’t wait to make the most of it now.

Although we’ll most likely end up down­siz­ing in about 10 years time when the chil­dren have flown the nest – maybe even some­where warm by the sea with a swim­ming pool – at the moment, this place suits the whole fam­ily per­fectly.’

great idea ‘‘De­cide where to place your art­work by hold­ing up tem­plates be­fore mak­ing any holes’ white wash ‘In here, we de­cided on a calm back­drop with fresh walls and grey so­fas from Made’

show stop­per ‘As there’s no fire­place a state­ment wall and cowhide rug make a great fo­cal point’

SHAPE shifter ‘With open shelv­ing, it’s best to stack books hor­i­zon­tally at each end’

dress it up ‘I’ve added pops of pur­ple and orange to our bed­room, like the Klimt pic­ture from Ikea and Marks & spencer bed­ding’ style tip ‘Pick cur­tains in sim­i­lar neu­tral hues through­out to cre­ate con­ti­nu­ity’

retro vibe ‘our dress­ing ta­ble fits per­fectly in this small space’

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