Back in 2014, Zillah Leigh, 38, a healthcare worker, her husband, Craig, 51, and their two sons, Coby, 17, and Tyler, 15, were living in a three-bedroom Victorian terrace house that was in constant needed of renovation.
‘We weren’t looking to move but my husband drove past this housing development in an area we both loved. He persuaded me to look at the show home just to get an idea of the space,’ she explains.
The couple loved the roomy layout and the sunny positioning of the house, but the biggest selling point was that this house needed no building work. ‘Although I loved our old home, it needed lots of costly work doing to it. We had already had one leak that had ruined the kitchen and the bathroom. When we did the maths, it made sense to change old for new.’
With two young children, they were ready to swap builder’s dust and all the stress for a house that was ready to move into. Their old house went on the market, and within months the family had the keys to their new home in their hand.
Zillah and Craig bought their new-build house off-plan, which meant they had some say in the overall look of their home. ‘Carpets were not included in the house price.
But, as we were one of the first families to buy a house from this development, we used it as bargaining tool with the builders. My husband negotiated free flooring throughout the house, which saved us thousands of pounds,’ says Zillah.
One thing their builder wouldn’t budge on was the wall colour, and every room in their new house was painted brilliant white.
‘This house was finished to a high standard and looked picture-perfect. Although it would have been nice to add colour to some of the rooms, having white walls gave me a great starting point. I couldn’t wait to start stamping our personality onto our new home.’
Working within a tight budget, Zillah had just £1,000 to decorate her main bedroom. ‘We moved in with our old divan bed and that was about it,’ she explains. ‘Our old bedroom had built-in furniture, which we couldn’t take with us to this house. We were starting from scratch in here.’
As the couple wanted to spoil their boys with new-look bedrooms, most of their interior decorating budget was set aside for furniture for them. This meant Zillah had to be clever with her purchases in her bedroom. Luckily, Craig worked in a furniture shop and he could use his staff discount to bag a bargain or two.
Originally, Zillah wanted light-coloured furniture in her bedroom. ‘Days after moving in, my husband sent me a photo of the latest furniture range that had landed on the shop floor. It was a walnut bedroom set,’ she explains.
‘I was a bit taken aback by the dark colour as it was a complete change in direction design-wise for us. I wanted our bedroom to look comfy and cosy and the wooden furniture added warmth to our room. I just loved that it all matched.’ As an added bonus, this set could be delivered in two days, which was a deal-breaker for Zillah. ‘I’m very impatient and tend to want things immediately!’
Once they had furnished the room with the basics, Zillah put the rest of the decorating on hold while they focused their attention on the rest of the house. ‘We took a break for 18 months to save up to pay for other things in our home.’ Craig found the textured wallpaper for a feature wall behind the bed.
‘He popped into a small, independent interiors shop and bought six rolls of this wallpaper because he loved it,’ Zillah explains. ‘When I went to work, he put it up as a surprise for me. As it’s made of a heavyweight material, he had to pin it into place at the corners. The 3D effect is so unusual, and it gets many compliments from friends and family. I love how it complements the wooden bedroom furniture, too.’
Once the room was decorated, Zillah started to play around with the styling in her room. ‘It’s fun to shop around for bargains to really make our budget stretch,’ she says. ‘I love TK Maxx and Homesense. And you can’t beat a charity shop for finding a gem.’
She admits she has made a few mistakes along the way. ‘I can’t tell you how many times I changed that light fitting until I was happy. Eventually, we found this sparkly chandelier in Dunelm and it works so well with the metallics in the room.’
With a passion for colour, Zillah loves nothing better than to swap the accessories in her bedroom. ‘I’ve got a stash of cushion covers and throws. I swap out the vase and use seasonal flowers on a weekly basis. This week it’s yellow, and next week it might go pink or purple,’ she says. ‘My room is always changing, and it makes me fall in love with my bedroom every day.’
Feature and styling Maxine Brady. Photos Katie Lee.