Home makeover: ‘I’ve given my new-build a French country look’

Take a look inside Tilly's country-inspired new build flat, full of calming tones and vintage buys

The cabinets in the kitchen are from Magnet, and
although they’re slightly more modern than Tilly 
would like, she’s added lots of vintage touches to 
give the space more character. The dining chairs
were an eBay find for just £6.75

Tilly Woodland has transformed her one-bed flat by filling it with interesting finds, vintage buys and some clever country-style touches.

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Here, she tells us all about her home makeover experience…

My home makeover

Saving for our first place after graduating uni seemed never-ending, but we finally managed to get on the property ladder and bag this one-bedroom flat.

Tilly loves copperware and has various pieces dotted about the flat, including a Queen Victoria stamped watering can from her grandparents
Tilly loves copperware and has various pieces dotted about the flat, including a Queen Victoria stamped watering can from her grandparents

A big selling point was, because it’s a new-build, it didn’t need any major work, which was important to us as we didn’t have the funds to renovate or take on a fixer-upper. The kitchen and bathroom were both modern and it meant we wouldn’t have any fuss with our first home.

Welcome to my home…

A bit about me I’m Tilly Woodland and I live with my boyfriend, Reece Franklin. We’re both 24 and are biomedical researchers.

Where I live Our one-bedroom flat was built in 2019, and it’s in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. It’s near to work in Cambridge for us both, as well as to my family, plus it’s close to the beautiful Cambridgeshire countryside, with fields and fresh air just a short walk away. I post interior updates on my Instagram @tillycorinnehome.

Tilly Woodland

We moved in just before Christmas in 2019, so the very first thing in the place was a Christmas tree! Back then my taste was quite different, and I wanted chic monochrome décor. Since then my style has evolved a lot and I started adding more character with vintage pieces and country-style buys; this set it apart from other small, boxy one-bed flats.

Scaffold board shelves show off lots of Tilly’s treasures and prized pieces, most of which are from car boot sales, charity shops or antique markets. Tilly often swaps items out when she picks up something she loves more, so the display is constantly changing. The antique print is from @themuseehome
Scaffold board open shelves show off lots of Tilly’s treasures and prized pieces, most of which are from car boot sales, charity shops or antique markets. Tilly often swaps items out when she picks up something she loves more, so the display is constantly changing. The antique print is from @themuseehome

Decorating wasn’t easy, as new-builds are known for paint that chips and crumbling dry walls. I even used extra delicate painter’s tape, but it still managed to rip the paint off.

A bit more about my home…

What I wanted to change Because it’s a new-build, it was lacking personality. I wanted to add character to the place, as it felt very flat.

How I made it my own I’ve added lots of vintage and antique pieces and decorated in a grey and white colour scheme with copper accents and natural textures.

My favourite part The bedroom is so serene and tranquil, and I love the contrast of the raw wood with the light tones. I also have my dream antique pine bed, which was a bargain eBay find.

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I managed it in the end though, and what with the new paint colours, wall panelling and rustic styling, I’ve managed to create a really individual, sustainable home. People walk in and can’t believe it’s a new-build, which is something I’m really proud of.

A hanging clothes dryer keeps the floor space free. The wooden kitchen trolley is on castors so can be moved around, and provides extra worktop and storage space for fruit and bar ingredients
A hanging clothes dryer keeps the floor space free. The wooden kitchen trolley is on castors so can be moved around, and provides extra worktop and storage space for fruit and bar ingredients

Kitchen-diner

Part of one large open-plan room, the kitchen consists of units and appliances along one wall. ‘I’ve tried to keep the tones in the dining and living space sympathetic to the kitchen cabinets,’ says Tilly, ‘as it helps the room to flow better’. Light colours and rustic wood touches help create the neutral French style that Tilly loves.

High street buys are mixed in with vintage. The plates on the table are from Dunelm and the jug is IKEA, while the candlestick holders are from a local charity shop
High street buys are mixed in with vintage. The plates on the table are from Dunelm and the jug is IKEA, while the candlestick holders are from a local charity shop

Hanging the shelves above the dining table turned out to be more of a task than I had first anticipated,’ she says. ‘I tried to do them myself, but it involved drilling through a double dry wall and using some hefty wall anchors, so I had to call my dad to help out. With his expertise, they were done in an afternoon – I just supplied the tea!’

To hide the washing machine, Tilly sewed a curtain to cover it. She installed the tiled splashback herself using Farmhouse Blanco tiles from Wickes. The drying rack is from Nkuku and the small artwork is from a seller on Instagram, @themuseehome, who prints affordable antique art
To hide the washing machine, Tilly sewed a curtain to cover it. She installed the tiled splashback herself using Farmhouse Blanco tiles from Wickes. The drying rack is from Nkuku and the small artwork is from a seller on Instagram, @themuseehome, who prints affordable antique art

Living room

‘Styling the living room was probably the hardest job as it’s a weird shape,’ says Tilly. ‘For a while I thought I’d never be happy with it. Luckily, after I had replaced most of the furniture and added a few features it’s come together nicely. IKEA’s Färlöv range has always been on my bucket list and I managed to buy an armchair, which always seemed to be out of stock. I also installed some wall panelling, which was the easiest DIY project I’ve done.

Tilly angled her living room furniture inwards to help create a clearly defined space between this and the kitchen, while still being accessible. The dark grey sofa is from DFS, the armchair is IKEA and the botanical pictures are from Etsy. The wall panelling is from Wickes and is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Drop Cloth
Tilly angled her living room furniture inwards to help create a clearly defined space between this and the kitchen, while still being accessible. The dark grey sofa is from DFS, the armchair is IKEA and the botanical pictures are from Etsy. The wall panelling is from Wickes and is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Drop Cloth

At Christmas, I kept seeing pictures of homes with lovely styled-up mantelpieces and it made me really want my own, so I added a fireplace and then used stick-on vinyl to give the effect of tiles. My best idea, though, was covering the grey carpet with a rug – you can’t get more rustic than jute!’

Stick-on tiles from Amazon have been used to fill the area inside the fireplace, while a bench from eBay sits in front and provides extra seating when needed. The bookcase was free on Facebook Marketplace and is perfect for showcasing Tilly’s vintage finds
Stick-on tiles from Amazon have been used to fill the area inside the fireplace, while a bench from eBay sits in front and provides extra seating when needed. The bookcase was free on Facebook Marketplace and is perfect for showcasing Tilly’s vintage finds

Bedroom

Tilly has created a tranquil feel in the bedroom, with a large antique wooden bed taking centre stage, and light-coloured walls providing the perfect backdrop for her pared-back scheme. Wooden wall units sit neatly in the corners to display accessories, while wall carvings above the bed add more character. An ottoman provides storage and a handy place for cushions at night.

Tilly bought her bed from eBay for just £100. ‘It was so beautiful and unique. I couldn’t pass up on the chance to buy it, but I hadn’t really thought about how I would get it home,’ she says. ‘It wouldn’t fit in my car and it was an hour’s drive away. Luckily my parents agreed to help me, and we strapped it to the top of their car – we half-thought we’d lose it on the way home in the wind!’ The bedside tables are from Wayfair
Tilly bought her bed from eBay for just £100. ‘It was so beautiful and unique. I couldn’t pass up on the chance to buy it, but I hadn’t really thought about how I would get it home,’ she says. ‘It wouldn’t fit in my car and it was an hour’s drive away. Luckily my parents agreed to help me, and we strapped it to the top of their car – we half-thought we’d lose it on the way home in the wind!’ The bedside tables are from Wayfair

‘Our bed is from eBay,’ says Tilly. ‘I wanted something unique that made a statement, as I wasn’t going to be adding any features to the walls. A full four-poster bed would’ve taken up too much space as the room is quite small, but the benefit of a half-poster bed is that you get the height and grandeur, but it doesn’t take up quite as much vertical space.’

Hallway

The gorgeous green-coloured hallway makes a striking statement when you first walk into Tilly’s flat and is nothing like what you’d expect from this uber-modern building. ‘This was the first room I decorated, and I was desperate to include some wallpaper,’ says Tilly.

The wallpaper, from Wayfair, sits perfectly above wall panelling painted in Farrow & Ball’s Bancha. The floor runner was a hand-me-down from some family friends, while the lights were just £5 on Facebook Marketplace
The wallpaper, from Wayfair, sits perfectly above wall panelling painted in Farrow & Ball’s Bancha. The floor runner was a hand-me-down from some family friends, while the lights were just £5 on Facebook Marketplace

‘The hallway, being such a narrow space, seemed like the perfect place to start, so I panelled the walls halfway and hung wallpaper above them. Eventually, I’d like to redecorate this space with something brighter. Now that I’ve decorated the rest of the flat in lighter colours, it feels slightly too dark and breaks up the flow between rooms.’ The dresser, at the end of the hallway, was a bargain from Facebook Marketplace.

Bathroom

The bathroom is the one room that Tilly hasn’t done much to, but she has plans to panel the side of the bath and replace the basin and taps. ‘I’ve added some vintage pieces to the room for now,’ she says, ‘including a fantastic antique chair that I found in my grandparents’ loft. It’s got lots of charm and is my greatest treasure.

Rectangular-shaped beige tiles line the bathroom walls, with standard white fittings that were all part of the new-build décor. Tilly added the small cabinet from B&M under the sink to store cleaning products
Rectangular-shaped beige tiles line the bathroom walls, with standard white fittings that were all part of the new-build décor. Tilly added the small cabinet from B&M under the sink to store cleaning products

‘It’s difficult to make this modern bathroom feel characterful and rustic, as three walls are tiled from top to bottom, and there’s a huge built-in mirror. I’d like to add some botanical prints to the one painted wall in the room and a vintage-style sink on a dresser converted into a washstand would be amazing! That’s something I’ll have to wait for until I find the perfect piece of furniture to DIY.’

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Feature and styling Laurie Davidson. Photos Lizzie Orme. 

This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Home Style magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?