‘our gorgeous House used to be Student digs’
Under the hand of Pip, 33, a dingy former university crash pad has graduated into a modern, character-filled home
Pip Leyland gave her old university home a first-class makeover
We’ve owned our house since 2014, but it’s been in the family since nicky and i were at art college together in bristol,’ says Pip. ‘over the years, it’s been rented by numerous friends and family members, and at one point, six of us were living here together, so it has seen quite a mix of tastes and styles. When nicky and i decided to buy it as our first home, we knew it was going to take a lot of hard work to change it from a student pad to the gorgeous home we dreamed of.
My parents had first bought the property in 2001, as a student house for myself and my sister, who had just finished university, and it was in a real state. All the original Victorian features had been ripped out or covered up. A boiler cupboard in the back bedroom completely covered the window and there was polystyrene cladding on all the ceilings. The front room had been rented out as a bedroom and the living room in the middle of the house was split into two, so we couldn’t even fit a sofa in. Also, the small box room could only be accessed via the back bedroom.
Luckily, by the time we bought it from my parents two years ago, they had already replaced the ceilings and skimmed all the walls, plus added a rear extension to create a bathroom and utility area. It meant we didn’t need to do much work, apart from putting our own stamp on the place.
Deciding on decor
Both Nicky and myself have very strong opinions on decoration and colour, so choosing a palette was a long process. We lived with various ideas for a while before committing, to make sure we were
both happy with the results. My ideas are often influenced by travel and at the moment I’m inspired by Mexico, after an amazing holiday we had there. That said, I do try to not go overboard with themes, as some styles can date very quickly.
First of all, we got builders to flip the stairs from the entrance corridor to the middle room on the other side of the house, which was actually far easier than we had imagined. They took the original staircase out in one day and we used a ladder to get upstairs while they prepped the walls. The new staircase arrived as a whole piece the next day, and was easy to install. The result was that we could extend the second-floor corridor, giving us access to the back box room. It’s now a third bedroom, which Nicky also uses as a home office.
The dated kitchen cupboard doors and worksurfaces were the next to go. Years of student parties and a lack of chopping boards had taken their toll, but we had to work within a budget. Luckily, a good friend had contacts with a Corian supplier and with Nicky working in the tile business, we managed to make the kitchen look high-end at a very reasonable price. Simple white cupboard doors completed the look and a lick of blackboard paint on the back wall added a touch of fun.
Next, we decided to turn the middle room into a dining room. We love to entertain, and both our families visit regularly, so it made sense to create a large open-plan kitchen-diner, so we could talk to our guests while cooking. Luckily, the kitchen wall had already been removed by the previous owners, so we levelled the floor, which had been a weird two-tiered wooden structure, and we added a breakfast bar to make the kitchen and
dining area feel connected. a friend gave us a couple of boxes of brick faces that were perfect to tile the inside walls of the fireplace and i sanded and waxed a piece of reclaimed wood for the surround. a tile sample finished the look.
We decided to put floorboards down, which i love, because although they look expensive, they were actually from b&q’s cheaper range, as were the fisherman lights above the dining table. nicky then put up some shelves in the alcove.
With the main socialising space finished, we then turned the downstairs bedroom into a living room. it just needed a new carpet and furnishings – the sofa was a massive saving as we chose a discontinued line from a next showroom, and i made most of the cushions myself.
Down to DIY
We decorated the house ourselves and upcycled most of the furniture using bargains found on the internet. nicky made the shelves in the bathroom out of plumber’s piping and matt black paint, after i saw a similar thing on Pinterest. i made the triangle shelves and the concrete side table in our bedroom and then, using some spray paint and vinyl palm leaves, i upcycled what was a tatty piece of furniture from ebay into the funky cocktail bar in the corner of the dining room.
after a lick of paint in the bedrooms and a new carpet laid upstairs, the hard work was done. all in all, it took us about 18 months to achieve our look, but i love knowing how much this house has changed over the years. and my friends, who have lived here in the past, can’t believe the transformation, either!’
winter warmer ‘i filled the empty fireplace with fairy lights and candles to give the room a cosy feel’
creative Upcycling ‘nicky made the dining table from old scaffold planks, which i then sanded and waxed’
wheely clever ‘i soaked the castors on my ebay drinks trolley in cola to get the rust off – it worked wonders!’
table Plan ‘I easily updated this console in the dining room by painting it a pale shade of grey’
colour confident ‘This wall paint works really well – although it’s dark, it feels cosy’
Finishing touch. ‘I painted the bed and the pots with copper spray paint for an up-to-the-minute look’
stylish storage ‘I got these wire baskets on ebay and lined them’