‘I grew up just two doors down’
Lauren turned a challenging doer-upper into a chic family home and became neighbours with her sister at the same time
I’ve lived in this area most of my life and I grew up with my parents and sister, Lisa, in one of these houses,’ says Lauren. ‘Lisa still lives there with her husband and family, so when I discovered the house two doors down was on the market, I was so excited. I’d always wanted to move back here with my husband Kevin. I knew it could be an amazing home for us and I just had to have it.
Kevin never actually viewed the house – he knew it was my dream home, so he was happy to go along with it, but he had quite a shock on moving-in day, when he saw how much work was needed. The house was tired, old-fashioned and in a sad state. It had been extended at the back, but just on one side, adding a dining room off the sitting room. The kitchen was small and very basic, and the bathroom had awful yellow and black tiled walls. Upstairs, the bedrooms were dull and dated. There was a huge amount to do, but I set a budget, and a target of a year to get everything finished.
Joining things up
I knew from day one that we’d extend the kitchen outwards to join up with the dining room and make a big, open-plan area across the back of the house. We all love spending time together as a family, so space for adults and children to congregate and chill was top of my wish list. I chose an orangery-style glass roof, so there’s masses of light, plus doors out to the patio. At the same time, we moved the door to the garden into the kitchen, so you now have a clear sightline from the hall right through to the back garden. The work wasn’t too disruptive, as we could still use the old kitchen. Knocking through was the final stage and that
was really exciting. It was great seeing my fabulous new space for the first time.
Blessing in disguise
I planned the kitchen layout myself and chose everything from a local company. I wanted deep pan drawers, a boilingwater tap and two ovens for entertaining. I thought I’d got a fantastic deal, but it was actually too good to be true – at the last minute, I found out that the worktops had been underpriced. I had to choose an alternative quickly, and ended up choosing different cupboards as well, but I’m so glad I did. The cappuccino colour scheme I’d originally gone for would have looked really dreary. Instead, I’ve now got off-white cabinets and gorgeous, sparkly, pale grey worktops, so it feels so light.
Lots of DIY
Although the kitchen extension was the biggest project, an upstairs shower was also one of my must haves, as the only bathroom is downstairs. We fitted a neat little shower room into the eaves in our daughter Amelia’s bedroom, where
you ‘Decorate in shades of grey, taupe and cream and can’t go wrong, as Limited colours help create a sense of flow’
‘USE OFFCUTS OF TIMBER TO MAKE SHELVES AS WE HAVE IN OUR KITCHEN – THEY COST NEXT TO NOTHING AND ADD A RELAXED COUNTRY FEEL’
there was just a wasted space before. A plumber installed it, but Kevin and my brother-in-law Andy tackled the tiling and everything else. To save money, we tried to do as much of the renovation work as we could ourselves. Kevin and I painted and wallpapered, and he laid laminate floors and built the wood-panelled feature wall in the sitting room, with Andy’s help. I get lots of inspiration online, and I spotted that idea on Pinterest when I was looking for a way to disguise the fireplace. It looks really smart, yet the wood only cost around £200.
Even so, we still went over the original budget, and my timescale of a year turned into eighteen months. I hadn’t anticipated that we’d need to re-wire the house, and we had to get a modern boiler and new windows and doors, too. Those were essentials, but there’s not much to see for the expense.
We brought some furniture from our old home, but I’ve replaced a lot since moving here. The sitting room sofas were a big investment, but they’re really comfy and the putty-coloured, linen-type fabric is right up my street. Neutrals are always my go-to palette. I’m not really one for strong colour, but I love all shades of grey, taupe and cream and I tend to stick to those. I think it helps create a sense of flow from one room to the next.
Style-wise, I’m definitely traditional, and I like symmetry, clean, simple lines, and strong statement items. I’m happy to mix things up, because I want an individual look, and if something catches my eye,
I’ll get it. There are a few vintage pieces and some painted charity-shop finds alongside my high-street buys. My favourite shops are Homesense and Sainsbury’s Home for their fabulous accessories, and I source a lot online, which is convenient as I work full time. I’m quite a bargain-hunter, so I search the internet for the best prices, or wait for the sales. My hall wallpaper was a half-price deal from Laura Ashley, and I usually pick up a few new Christmas decorations in January when they’re reduced, and squirrel them away until December.
I absolutely love Christmas and I put festive touches in every room – even the bathroom! We have a tree in the dining room and another in the sitting room and I like having a few fun bits and pieces around as well as the more elegant decorations. We always celebrate with my sister Lisa and all our children and grandchildren, and everyone loves coming here. It’s a real family home.’
‘Fit a neat little shower room into the eaves of a bedroom – it’s only wasted space otherwise’