‘it finally feels like our home’
Agi’s dated terrace is now a bright and vibrant family home
Although incorrectly advertised by the estate agents as a “well-presented property” (it couldn’t have been further from the truth), we were still charmed,’ says Agi. ‘And despite a builder friend advising us to walk away, we were so excited, or, if we’re honest, desperate, to buy our first house that we went for it anyway.
It was generous in size, particularly compared to others we’d viewed within our budget, and we could see endless potential for it to become a happy family home. We weren’t ignorant to the fact that it’d take a long time – not to mention a lot of work and money – to whip it into shape and make it work for us, but we gladly accepted the challenge.
When we moved in, the house had an impractical layout and looked rather unloved. As a Victorian property, it should have been bursting with character, but instead it appeared lifeless, bland and boxy. The renovation began almost immediately with the master bedroom. We set to work uncovering the original floorboards and opening up the fireplace to reinstate the room’s period features, as well as painting over the muddy brown walls with white paint. The bathroom was next on the list, and was a much bigger job than we’d anticipated. It’s in an extension built by the previous owners but it was in a bad way with paint flaking off the tiles (we assume they were painted in regular emulsion rather than specialist paint) and a less-than-ideal positioning of the suite. Bart took on the task himself, which meant that while we were saving money, it wasn’t a quick makeover. He knocked through the flat ceiling so the room felt more airy, ripped out the original suite and switched it
for a bargain set we found on ebay. He also plastered and painted the walls and redid the tiling, too. In fact, I vividly remember Bart installing the bath every single evening so that we could shower, then disconnecting it again afterwards – for days on end – so that he could continue with the tiling or grouting the following afternoon.
‘I love that we’ve managed to create spaces that work for each member of the family’
Money was tight after the bathroom update, so it was another two years before we could begin the biggest job: reconfiguring the downstairs layout. Originally, the house had two separate modestly sized reception rooms and a long, narrow corridor which ran down the side, connecting the two rooms to the kitchen at the end. This layout felt far too closed off for me, and I craved an open
space full of light that would allow for easier movement between rooms. Once we had the money saved up, we had local builders knock down a few of the downstairs walls and replace them with steel beams. We chose to keep the living room chimney breast in situ to help zone the two areas and allow us to create alternate moods in each space. It also gave us a great excuse to treat ourselves to a wood burner. I’ll never forget walking in for the first time after the support posts and scaffolding had been removed. The feeling of space was overwhelming. We definitely made the right decision.
The kitchen – our most recent big project – was only finished three years ago. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said this renovation has been a slow burner! Just
‘FIND A SINGLE ITEM YOU ADORE – PERHAPS A PIECE OF FURNITURE OR ARTWORK – AND BUILD YOUR SCHEME AROUND IT’
like the other rooms, it was completed by Bart, who chipped away at it on evenings after work and on weekends. He replaced the brown, outdated units and wall tiles with cream units from Ikea and stylish grey metro tiles. It took a fair few months to complete and it was a nightmare trying to function without a kitchen – especially with a toddler and a baby – but it meant that we were able to afford the scheme we wanted.
Finding our vibe
Our home has had many looks over the years. At one point, the dining room had a French farmhouse style with distressed furniture and toile de Jouy wallpaper, while we played it safe in other rooms by keeping the walls white and the scheme pared back. But as our tastes have evolved, so has our choice of
‘THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING I FEEL I COULD CHANGE OR DO BETTER, BUT IT’S IMPORTANT TO LEARN TO LET GO OF IMPERFECTIONS’
‘FOR YEARS I WAS QUITE CONSERVATIVE WITH COLOUR, BUT COLOUR MAKES THIS SPACE SO FUN’
decor. I found that, for me, colourful, fun interiors were a form of therapy. Being surrounded by cheery tones and happy spaces brightens my mood no end, and helps me to relax. Our decor has also become much more reflective of our personalities – it’s playful, welcoming and never too serious or structured.
While we’re happy with our home as it stands, it’ll never be fully finished. I’m always stumbling upon new ideas and inspiration on Instagram and in interiors magazines, and trying to figure out how to incorporate them into our schemes. I also share photos of our home projects on Instagram (@agi_at_59). The renovation has been a serious lesson in patience. I’ve learnt that projects often take much longer than anticipated, and often cost more too. But you always get there in the end. My biggest regrets are not installing the freestanding roll-top bath I had my eye on eight years ago, and choosing two sinks instead of extra storage, but I’ve come to realise that the key to being happy with your home is letting go of any flaws you think it has, and just accepting it for the cheery, fun, imperfect place that it is.’
Seamless flow ‘When we knocked through, we kept the chimney breast in place to divide the two areas, and treated ourselves to an ex-display wood burner to keep the living area feeling cosy’
quick change ‘White walls make it really easy to switch up the scheme’
double duty ‘Our bedroom is the only place we could squeeze a desk in, so it doubles as my office’
Geo design ‘When we moved in, this room had dark walls and cheap laminate flooring. We restored the original floorboards and made a feature of geometric print wallpaper on one wall’
desk job ‘i found this desk for £30 in a charity shop and painted the drawers pink to soften the look’
storage on a shoe string ‘the old wooden crate was a street-side find and now hides our big ugly printer!’
Thrift shop finds ‘You can get such great bargains in charity shops – we found Leon’s Ikea bedside table for just £15’
Low-cost creative ‘these painted mountains were so easy and cheap to do’
fresh feel ‘We chose white for longevity, on the premise that if we tire of the scheme, we can simply change the accessories’