With an eye for a bargain and a love of dark colours, Alex Richards transformed her home on the tiniest of budgets.


Here, she shares her home makeover story...

My story

After my separation, I had to find a home for myself and my son, William, that was within our budget. As soon as I walked into this house, I could instantly imagine us being really happy here.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
‘The vintage cabinet was one of the few things I brought here and was one of the first pieces I painted before moving. It’s been painted in lots of colours and will probably be re-painted in more shades before its life is over. The heron print is from Poster Store’

I didn’t do much to start with, as I wanted to get to know the house, though I did buy lots of second-hand furniture that I upcycled and painted black.

Welcome to my home...

A bit about me I’m Alex Richards and I’m a maths teacher. I live with my six-year-old son, William, and our dog, Barney. I Instagram my home at @tiny_victorian_home

Where I live Our home is a two-bedroom Victorian terrace in Chester, Cheshire. We moved here in August 2017.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'

After a year, my friend persuaded me to really go for it with the dark décor. I was nervous as I didn’t have much confidence with interior design, but I decided to try it and painted the kitchen dark grey, which I loved.

It made everything look so cosy and I really got the bug.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
Style idea! Warm up a kitchen floor with an oversized rug

I painted the stairs next and then did my bedroom, which was really dramatic as I went dark in the whole room. Every time I did a new project, I got a little bit more ambitious, eventually painting the living room ceiling black.

A bit more about my home...

What I wanted to change The décor was neutral and uninspiring, but the house was in good condition, which meant I could take my time working out what I wanted and how to add my own stamp on it.

How I made it my own I decided to embrace black, upcycling furniture and painting the walls in dark colours, with a goal of creating a cosy home. 

My favourite part I love wandering between the bedroom and the bathroom; it’s like being in a hotel. I’m so proud that I’ve created such a luxurious space on a small budget.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'

Then I moved onto the bathroom. I got professionals in to help thankfully, as when they removed the tiles all the plaster came off, so they had to take it back to the original brick.

This worked in my favour though, as I wouldn’t have thought to have bare brick in there, but now I love the look in the space. This isn’t necessarily my forever home, but I’ve learned so much doing this house and I feel confident that I could do something really amazing with my next home.


‘The original kitchen cabinets were all white, so after painting the walls, I decided to go for a dark colour, just on the low cabinets, to add interest. I had to self-isolate for two weeks due to Coronavirus, so I decided to make the most of the time and retile the kitchen.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
‘The cabinet was here when we moved in and I painted it the same colour as the walls. The open shelves are perfect for showing off my pretty chinaware,’ explains Alex

‘I’d dabbled with stencils, but the paint was starting to peel off, then a friend suggested tile stickers. These metro-style stickers came in big sheets, so it only took me a couple of hours to do, and they were cheap at £100 for the lot.

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‘I changed the sockets myself as the existing ones were buried in about thirty layers of paint.’

Living room

‘There wasn’t much in here in terms of original features, so I added the cornicing first, though it was a nightmare to attach as all the walls are wonky. I really wanted a dark living room and had been toying with it for a while, but I had a lot of dark furniture so didn’t think I could go black on the walls.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
‘I had already painted the fireplace but the mirror – from an antique shop in Liverpool – was originally an ugly dark brown; just painting it black makes it a standout piece. The fireplace is a real focal point, though the logs are just for show’

‘Then I came up with the idea of painting the ceiling – after all, it’s our biggest unused surface so it should still be something we consider when decorating. I had already painted the bathroom ceiling as it slopes and blends into the wall, though that was just a small area. But it gave me the confidence to try it in here and I think it looks great.’

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
‘I had very little furniture when we moved and couldn’t afford new sofas, so I bought these off the previous owners. They fit the room perfectly and are neutral, so it didn’t matter what colour palette I chose long-term. I’ve used accessories to add splashes of colour to my scheme and they really bring the black to life’

Master bedroom

‘The inspiration here came from a stay in a hotel my boyfriend booked for us. The room was decorated with dark paint and panelling, and I loved the look so decided to replicate it in here.

‘I had seen panelling done on TV and realised it was just gluing pieces of wood on the wall, so I took lots of photos in preparation.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
‘I don’t regret for one second the £50 I spent on a decent mirror and lights from IKEA, as the dressing table was only £5 from a charity shop’

‘I researched how to do the work, making drawings and taking measurements, so when I was ready everything was in place.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
‘The picture ledge on the panelling is just a piece of coving, though I’ve put tiny pins on the top to stop the pictures falling off’

‘I went to a builders’ merchant and cheekily asked them if they would cut the wood to the exact size and then I simply glued them onto the wall, though in a Victorian house nothing is straight so a spirit level was my friend. I finished the look by painting the whole room in Downpipe by Farrow & Ball.’


‘I initially replaced the taps and painted the bath panel and floor, but the wall tiles were cracked with mouldy grout and seals, and there was no storage. Thankfully, I decided to pay a professional to do the work, because the day they started I got a phone call to say there was a problem.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
‘I chose a Crittal-style shower screen from Victoria Plumbing, and cheap metro tiles to add to the industrial feel of the room. This bamboo bath rack adds a little bit of extra space for my bathtime essentials’

‘The tiles had come off and there was no adhesion to the plaster underneath, so the builders had no choice but to take all the plaster off and go back to the brick.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
‘I didn’t plan to have bare bricks in here, but I turned a disaster into a beautiful wall effect. Putting a basin on top of this vintage record cabinet has given me the storage this room lacked. The mirror is from IKEA’

‘I came home and could see my garden through the wall, but I also saw the sun shining in the bathroom and the bricks glowing and it looked beautiful, so I decided to keep and restore them. The vanity unit is an old record cabinet that I converted to give me some extra storage.’

William's room

‘I was really lucky that the previous owners had a little boy and the room was freshly painted, which meant William could move straight in. I liked the idea of colour blocking and showed William some pictures and he spotted an image of mountains that he loved, though he did insist on the snowy caps.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
‘This bed was mine when I was a little girl; it was originally a pine bunkbed. I dug it out of my parents’ shed, sanded it down and painted it white’

‘I used leftover paint and tester pots, so the whole project only cost me about £4. It was a bit tricky using masking tape to get the mountains to overlap – and at one point I was drying the paint sections with a hairdryer – but William loves it, so it was worth the effort.’

What I learned...

Be prepared to make decor mistakes. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, so I’ve learned to take my time with projects. Also, choosing a good-quality paint is worth it in the long run.

Take time to attempt DIY jobs. As a single woman living on my own, I had to take the decision to either pay people to do jobs or roll up my sleeves and try myself, and I discovered that most DIY projects are easier than you think.

Interiors is a lot like fashion and fashion changes. In a few years I might have a completely different style, but that’s okay as I’m constantly changing things anyway.

Home makeover: 'I went over to the dark side'
This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?