Having outgrown their rental apartment, Linda and Gavin were more than ready to buy their own home – but weren’t so confident about how to decorate it. They started their search on the outskirts of Limerick, where Gavin grew up.
‘We had been renting for some time and were keen to get onto the property ladder. We wanted to be in an area that we knew and that had good schools, with easy access to the city centre,’ says Linda.
A simple free-standing central island, found in IKEA, is a budget-friendly way to boost storage in the kitchen, featuring plenty of shelving as well as space for casual seating with industrial-look bar stools from Homebase. Linda has also fitted a modern ceiling light from Made.com above the island to make it a focal point
In 2014, the couple found a house that was the perfect size and in the ideal location, but was also in need of updating, an exciting yet intimidating prospect for the first-time homeowners.
Linda’s kitchen is truly the hub of the home, thanks to her chalkboard wall, finished in blackboard paint from Aldi. It has transformed a plain, unused wall into a special area for the family to leave messages, drawings and reminders of important dates. ‘I did this for the children. They derive hours of pleasure from it!’
‘As we’d lived in rental accommodation for so long, we had never really done much decorating and weren’t really sure of our style,’ explains Linda. ‘We knew we needed to do something creative to the house to give it a more on-trend and colourful interior.’
We are Linda Duffy, a blogger at Make Do and DIY, my husband Gavin, an analytical chemist, and children Emilia, seven years old, four-year-old Max and two-year-old Cora.
Our home is a four-bedroom semi-detached house on the outskirts of Limerick.
I learnt not to be afraid of colour, but to embrace and experiment with it.
My advice is to pick out what’s going into the room first, particularly large pieces of furniture, such as sofas, then work the rest of the space around that.
The first room in the house that Linda decorated, the master bedroom, is decked out in muted grey, pink and cream tones. It’s furnished with plenty of luxuriously strokeable textiles, including cushions made in fabric from Style Library and soft throws from TK Maxx layered on the bed for maximum cosiness
The first room they decided to decorate was the master bedroom, which provided them with a space to try out a few initial ideas before unleashing their new-found decorating confidence on the rest of the house.
‘We played it safe in here with muted tones, introducing colours with accessories and artwork. This gave us a good insight into our style, which we built on as we did more work to the house. We have definitely brought in more colour as we’ve grown more confident.’
Undeterred by being unable to find the perfect carpet for the stairs, Linda happened across three runners in Dunnes Stores that she loved and has cleverly stapled them together to create her own runner that fits the staircase, and her hallway scheme, perfectly
Keen to tackle the kitchen, the couple decided to give it a lift by painting the dated tan cabinets a bright white using Dulux Satinwood. They then changed all the handles and replaced them with ones found on eBay, and covered the dark speckled worktops in white vinyl from Woodie’s.
Using shelves to display artwork makes it easy to add to and update prints and photos
Linda was also determined to replace the rather dated floor tiles, which were a combination of terracotta and cream. ‘I hated the tiles and knew it would be costly to replace them, but it was high on my list of priorities and has made such a difference. The plain tiles make the space feel less cluttered and much lighter,’ she says.
By layering a couple of round jute rugs, Linda has added texture and interest to the wooden floor in the living room; an economical idea for filling floor space as an alternative to a large rug or carpet. She’s opted for simple, classic furniture to make it easy to change the room with accessories, including a grey IKEA sofa dressed with colourful cushions from TK Maxx, and floating shelves from IKEA featuring a selection of photos and prints that can be swapped around to refresh the look
‘I also wanted a central island that would offer me some extra storage and much-needed workspace. I found the perfect free-standing one in IKEA, which I teamed with industrial-style bar stools and sourced lights from Made.com.’ The dining area to one side of the kitchen is fitted with IKEA shelves and furnished with a table from a charity shop and a set of Eames chairs.
Linda’s decorating confidence shines through in the living room, where she’s used gold tape found in B&Q to create a geometric statement wall. It showcases a vintage mid-century sideboard Linda found in a charity shop, along with leafy hanging plants and white, gold and silver accessories
‘They’re very practical. They can easily be scrubbed if anything gets dropped on them!’ enthuses Linda. Organising family life has been made more fun – and a lot easier – with the addition of a blackboard wall. ‘This is a very important wall, as all our dates and notes are put on here. It’s so handy to have.’
One of Linda’s favourite pieces is this vintage cabinet in the living room, which was a gift from a friend. She’s made the most of it by creating a pretty vignette of glassware, decanters and bottles on a metallic tray, then has given this depth with a round mirror and foliage
Elsewhere, a narrow wall space that might otherwise be overlooked has been made a feature of, with an attractive display of mix-and-match plates, all found by Linda in various charity shops.
Wanting the downstairs to feel more open-plan, the couple decided to open up the space between the dining area and the living room.
Getting more confident with colour, Linda created a nautical stencilled wall in the family bathroom using a mix of green and blue paints. A simple cabinet from Woodie’s provides practical under-sink storage, and unusual dark-blue grouting ties in the tiles with the palette of the rest of the room
‘The sitting room felt a bit pokey, but by opening up the doorway between the two rooms, we have more of a flow between them and more natural light in the sitting room.’ Linda furnished this room with an eclectic blend of old and new. ‘The sofas are from IKEA, I found the sideboard and armchair in a charity shop, and the glass cabinet was given to me by a friend.
A tucked-away nook is the ideal place for essential storage, and hanging a coat rack and fitting a chest of drawers from IKEA cleverly utilises this tricky space under the stairs. The feature wall painted in black chalk paint provides a spot for Linda to display her collection of mirrors
‘I updated the fireplace with a chalk paint and created some visual interest with a feature wall using gold strips of sticky back plastic.’
Upstairs, Linda has introduced more colour to create inspiring rooms for her children. ‘You can be really creative with children’s rooms and go a bit mad, using lots of colour by painting murals and using wall stickers.
Linda created a dreamy, star-lit bedroom for her son Max, with a mural inspired by his passion for all things space. A fluffy yellow throw from Harry Corry and mustard cushion from Primark make it a comfy place to hang out and sleep
My son loves space, so this inspired me to follow this theme in his room. My daughter’s room is lighter, with decorative shelving from Flying Tiger, pretty bunting and a den-style bed that’s perfect for sleepovers,’ says Linda.
Keeping daughter Emilia’s room neutral ensures it can be easily changed as she grows, with details such as wall stickers from a craft shop and a name sign made by Linda’s mother. The bunk beds from IKEA provide an extra bed for sleepovers with friends without taking up valuable floor space
When it came to the main bathroom, Linda decided to use a stencilled scalloped paint effect on one wall. Introducing blues and greens for continuity, she used a blue grout between the white tiles and painted the radiator a deep green.
Linda has put together a calm yet creative space for Emilia. This corner is kitted out with colourful bunting, fun artwork, animal-themed accessories and bright shelving from Tiger, along with a boho wicker chair from Linda’s mother-in-law and a useful bargain-find cabinet from Aldi
A gallery wall of creative artwork done by the children adds another fun element to this room. There are creative ideas everywhere you look in Linda’s home. It’s a wonderful example of how, with a bit of inspired thinking, you can create a stylish abode even on a tight budget.
The statement piece of the compact en suite is a painted cabinet Linda found in Home Store + More. ‘I really wanted a sink cabinet but they were all too expensive so I came up with this solution, teaming the old with the new. I bought a basin and fitted it to the top of the old cabinet, which I painted in Off-Black by Farrow + Ball.’
‘I’m really pleased with how the house has come together, how my style has evolved and what I have learnt from tackling the jobs myself. I’m much more confident with colour now… and a dab hand with power tools!’ laughs Linda.
This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?