Home makeover: ‘We added value to our home with a DIY overhaul’

First-time buyers Becca and Jordan modernised their dated bungalow on a budget, doing the work themselves and giving it a high-end look with chic dark décor

‘We added value to our home with a DIY overhaul’

Determined to get onto the property ladder, Becca and her partner, Jordan, decided to move back in with their respective parents and spent nearly four years saving for a deposit. In late 2019, they were in a position to begin seriously looking for their first home.

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Becca has echoed her geometric wall panel with abstract lines and curves on cushions, accessories and prints and matched the marble-effect kitchen worktop with a sleek coffee table to tie it all together
Becca has echoed her geometric wall panel with abstract lines and curves on cushions, accessories and prints and matched the marble-effect kitchen worktop with a sleek coffee table to tie it all together

‘We quickly realised space meant more to us than location and we rejected a studio in central Brighton in favour of a bungalow by the coast in nearby Peacehaven, where Jordan’s parents live,’ says Becca. ‘When we first came inside, we both had an instant feeling that this property was the one.’

A white geometric panel between the dark walls zones the open-plan space, and Becca has brightened up the black wall behind the dining area with a round brass mirror. ‘It looks better in this alcove as it reflects the kitchen, rather than the TV,’ says Becca
A white geometric panel between the dark walls zones the open-plan space, and Becca has brightened up the black wall behind the dining area with a round brass mirror. ‘It looks better in this alcove as it reflects the kitchen, rather than the TV,’ says Becca

Although the bungalow was stuck in a time warp – pink and green carpets, Artex ceilings, beige decoration and a kitchen and bathrooms that had seen better days – the couple relished taking on the renovation project. Not only was the sale price less than an equivalent property already done-up, Jordan is a carpenter and builder and could do most of the work himself.

Welcome to our home…

We are Becca Larkin, on Instagram @renovationliving, 26, an account manager for beauty brands, and my partner, Jordan Sutton, 27, who’s a carpenter.

Our home is A two-bedroom, semi- detached bungalow built in the 1980s located in Peacehaven, East Sussex.

Becca Larkin

‘As first-time buyers we needed to increase the property’s value so that we’d be able to move up the ladder later on,’ says Becca. ‘This was the biggest bungalow we’d seen and saw instantly that we could knock down the wall between the kitchen and living room and create a more social open-plan room.’

Howden’s Fairford kitchen in Charcoal provided the basis for Becca’s soft-chic scheme. ‘The colour is almost black, which we find relaxing and cosy, whereas a white kitchen would have looked too clinical and bright,’ says Becca
Howden’s Fairford kitchen in Charcoal provided the basis for Becca’s soft-chic scheme. ‘The colour is almost black, which we find relaxing and cosy, whereas a white kitchen would have looked too clinical and bright,’ says Becca

As soon as the sale went through in December 2019, the couple got to work stripping walls and ripping out carpets and the kitchen – all while still living at home. Jordan had a long list of jobs to fit in around his day job.

Becca chose metallic fixtures and fittings to lift her dramatic dark kitchen and make it feel upscale. ‘We focused on the details, choosing a brass tap, handles and plug sockets – even the radiator has brass fittings,’ Becca explains
Becca chose metallic fixtures and fittings to lift her dramatic dark kitchen and make it feel upscale. ‘We focused on the details, choosing a brass tap, handles and plug sockets – even the radiator has brass fittings,’ Becca explains

‘All the rooms needed re-wiring and we discovered we had to replace the boiler and heating system, which was a cost we weren’t expecting,’ says Becca. ‘Jordan took every job as far as he could and then he’d bring in an electrician or gas engineer he knew through work to certify the final stages.’

A bit more about our home…

My best bargain Was IKEA’s Ekbacken laminate worktop. It was really affordable, we paid £550 and I recommend it to everyone.

Shops I love are Creative Cables, my favourite independent for lighting, and the Decorating Centre Online is really handy – you type in the name of the paint, they colour-match it and send a sample pot.

My best project The floating shelf in the kitchen was made from a piece of scaffolding board painted the same colour as the living room, with ironmongery I spray-painted gold.

Becca Larkin

First, the kitchen wall needed to come down. Becca, a digital marketing expert, began playing around with social media platform, TikTok, and noted it didn’t feature many renovators. ‘I uploaded a video of Jordan knocking down the wall and we got to 1.8 million views!’ says Becca.

The breakfast bar is a focal point thanks to custom pendants from Creative Cables. ‘I put together my own look choosing the ceiling rose, cable, lamp holder and half-brass bulbs, which look lovely without lampshades,’ says Becca
The breakfast bar is a focal point thanks to custom pendants from Creative Cables. ‘I put together my own look choosing the ceiling rose, cable, lamp holder and half-brass bulbs, which look lovely without lampshades,’ says Becca

‘Now we have 123,000 followers on @renovationliving.’ Pinterest and Instagram became a source of inspiration for Becca, too. She found herself following accounts such as @lustliving and @renovating_love_lane for ideas. ‘They have a similar interiors style, which I love, mixing darks and neutrals with subtle muted tones to create a calming feeling,’ she says. ‘Luckily, Jordan thinks the same.

‘Originally, the guest bedroom walls were pinky-brown, but when it became my office, I didn’t find it very relaxing,’ says Becca. ‘We made wall panels with beading and painted in Coty 1, a nude shade by Decorating Centre Online – now the room feels more like us’
‘Originally, the guest bedroom walls were pinky-brown, but when it became my office, I didn’t find it very relaxing,’ says Becca. ‘We made wall panels with beading and painted in Coty 1, a nude shade by Decorating Centre Online – now the room feels more like us’

For us, too much bright colour would be overwhelming and not particularly relaxing.’ The inky-black kitchen and living room walls form the foundation of their scheme, kept light with crisp white decoration and a pale oak-effect floor. Bathrooms are bright, too, while their bedroom is infused with soft tones of dusky pink and green.

Becca added a brass handle from Amazon for a simple way to elevate a plain IKEA desk, while IKEA’s Ivar cabinet is unrecognisable after she worked her magic on it with dowels and candy-pink paint
Becca added a brass handle from Amazon for a simple way to elevate a plain IKEA desk, while IKEA’s Ivar cabinet is unrecognisable after
she worked her magic on it with dowels and candy-pink paint

‘Black is a powerful neutral that we separated with white panelling in the living room and with a white worktop and tiles in the kitchen,’ says Becca. ‘I like the balance, it’s not heavy and gothic, nor stark and clinical.’

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Becca added a brass handle from Amazon for a simple way to elevate a plain IKEA desk, while IKEA’s Ivar cabinet is unrecognisable after she worked her magic on it with dowels and candy-pink paint
Becca added a brass handle from Amazon for a simple way to elevate a plain IKEA desk, while IKEA’s Ivar cabinet is unrecognisable after
she worked her magic on it with dowels and candy-pink paint

By the time the pandemic sent the country into lockdown in March 2020, the couple still had a lot to do. Becca moved in with Jordan at his parents’ house so they could safely carry on renovating the bungalow together in their spare time. As the months went on, they kept an eye on their £30,000 budget, using a spreadsheet that outlined the costs to keep them on track so they didn’t break the bank.

Laying Porcelain Superstore’s glossy white metro tiles vertically, and white marble-effect tiles on the floor, makes the space feel bigger. ‘They’re well-priced and good quality, with enough detail on them so the room doesn’t look flat,’ says Becca
Laying Porcelain Superstore’s glossy white metro tiles vertically, and white marble-effect tiles on the floor, makes the space feel bigger. ‘They’re well-priced and good quality, with enough detail on them so the room doesn’t look flat,’ says Becca

‘Sometimes it was hard to stick to the budget,’ says Becca. ‘As our first home, we wanted it to be special but without overspending, so we didn’t splash out on things like a marble worktop and instead sourced a great marble- effect laminate from IKEA.’

As the rest of her bathroom scheme is white and marble, Becca added warmth with natural tones. ‘I wanted a textured vanity in a colour contrast with the white tiles and fell in love with this wood-effect style for its Scandi look,’ says Becca
As the rest of her bathroom scheme is white and marble, Becca added warmth with natural tones. ‘I wanted a textured vanity in a colour contrast with the white tiles and fell in love with this wood-effect style for its Scandi look,’ says Becca

In July 2020, the work was completed and Becca and Jordan were finally able to move in, although there’s still more they’d like to do. The bathroom is their most recent project, finished just a few months ago, and they’re considering converting the loft or the garage – or perhaps moving on and starting again.

Becca’s bedroom centrepiece is her velvet bed, which makes the room feel ultra-luxurious. ‘The dusty pink bed was inspired by @lustliving and I knew it would look lovely against the green wall,’ she says
Becca’s bedroom centrepiece is her velvet bed, which makes the room feel ultra-luxurious. ‘The dusty pink bed was inspired by @lustliving and I knew it would look lovely against the green wall,’ she says

‘We’ve both absolutely loved working on our home, it’s become a real passion and I hadn’t realised how into interiors I would get – now I care more about renovation Instagram accounts than fashion!’ enthuses Becca.

Becca has packed a lot of style into the petite en suite – black accents echo the décor throughout her home, while green floor tiles match the bedroom walls for a sense of flow between the two rooms
Becca has packed a lot of style into the petite en suite – black accents echo the décor throughout her home, while green floor tiles match the bedroom walls for a sense of flow between the two rooms

‘I’m super proud of Jordan’s work, we couldn’t have achieved any of this without him. It still blows our mind that we live together and own this house, we’ve become real homebodies.’

Photos James French. Styling Marisha Taylor.