'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
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.
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’