Home makeover: ‘I’ve given my home a high-end feel with high street buys’

Alimah has created a luxe look for less in her East London home... take a look inside

'I’ve given my home a high-end feel with high street buys'

After renting in Stratford, Alimah and her husband, Abi, were looking to buy their first home. She was desperate to work her decorating magic on her own place.

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‘I’ve always had an interest in interiors. As a child, I’d watch episodes of the TV show, Changing Rooms,’ she says, ‘so couldn’t wait to transform each and every room.’

Order swatches so you can pair colours together to see what works. Alimah ordered fabric samples from Designer Sofas 4U before choosing. ‘I was nervous about buying a sofa online as you really want to try it and see how it feels,’ she says. ‘They sent me fabric swatches to choose the materials, so I knew it would work’
Order swatches so you can pair colours together to see what works. Alimah ordered fabric samples from Designer Sofas 4U before choosing. ‘I was nervous about buying a sofa online as you really want to try it and see how it feels,’ she says. ‘They sent me fabric swatches to choose the materials, so I knew it would work’

The couple had been renting for a year after they got married. ‘We were saving as much as possible so we could buy the most spacious house we could afford but still be in the capital,’ she says.

Good idea! Buy accessories in pairs to bring symmetry to your home, as Alimah has with matching lamps, cushions and armchairs
Good idea! Buy accessories in pairs to bring symmetry to your home, as Alimah has with matching lamps, cushions and armchairs

In 2017 they started house hunting, looking in an area of East London with good transport links to the City and close to their friends. ‘We needed to live near a tube as I work in the City. And you can actually see the District line from our house.’

Collect accessories and finish rooms over time, as Alimah has. Her advice is to not feel pressured into finishing everything at once: ‘Don’t rush your paint colours. It’s much better to wait until you have a sense of your style’
Collect accessories and finish rooms over time, as Alimah has. Her advice is to not feel pressured into finishing everything at once: ‘Don’t rush your paint colours. It’s much better to wait until you have a sense of your style’

On the couple’s wish list was an upstairs bathroom – not quite as easy to find as it might seem, as Alimah explains. ‘That sounds like a normal request, doesn’t it? But in this area, many houses have downstairs bathrooms, which is so impractical. The house we rented for a year was like that and was a nightmare during pregnancy.’

Welcome to our home…

We are Alimah Sitta, 32, who works in financial crime compliance, Abi, 40, an accountant, and our children, Amaal, three, and Adam, who is three months old.

Our home is A 1950s, three-bedroom terraced house in East London.

Alimah Sitta

They looked at nine properties before finding this three-bedroom house with a large garden. ‘I started a house-hunting spreadsheet so we could make a fair comparison of all the properties.

Gold detailing adds opulence to a scheme – even if it’s a budget-friendly DIY update, like Alimah’s shelving unit from IKEA, which she sprayed gold and styled with gold accessories
Gold detailing adds opulence to a scheme – even if it’s a budget-friendly DIY update, like Alimah’s shelving unit from IKEA, which she sprayed gold and styled with gold accessories

Out of all the houses we looked at, this one had the most space,’ Alimah explains. ‘There was potential to extend into the loft and put a home office in the garden. And we loved that it had a separate living room and dining room.’

Alimah has incorporated the country cottage-style wooden beams by painting them grey. Matching alcove cabinets creates symmetry – a design trick she’s used throughout her home
Alimah has incorporated the country cottage-style wooden beams by painting them grey. Matching alcove cabinets creates symmetry – a design trick she’s used throughout her home

The couple completed on the house a week before Alimah gave birth to her first child, Amaal, and then moved in six weeks later in May 2018. Previously, the property had been a rental, and had been allowed to fall into disrepair. ‘It wasn’t very pleasant inside, with dated décor. It felt very unloved,’ says Alimah.

Good idea! Buy accessories in pairs to bring symmetry to your home, as Alimah has with matching lamps, cushions and armchairs
Good idea! Buy accessories in pairs to bring symmetry to your home, as Alimah has with matching lamps, cushions and armchairs

In the communal areas, the walls were covered in thick, embossed wallpaper, which took chunks of plaster off when stripped back. It had tatty carpet throughout, and the faux beams were painted black.

In the guest room, Alimah made panelling by gluing wooden cladding to the wall. ‘This is my favourite room in the house as it’s clutter-free, so it’s where I chill out,’ she says
In the guest room, Alimah made panelling by gluing wooden cladding to the wall. ‘This is my favourite room in the house as it’s clutter-free, so it’s where I chill out,’ she says

‘There were 1980s brown timber windows that were so draughty that we could hear the clatter from the train tracks from inside,’ she explains. ‘We suspected the house had been botched by cowboy builders because we discovered random holes in the walls and the wrong plugs fitted in the kitchen. We didn’t realise how badly it was put together.’

A bit more about our home…

My top tip is Don’t limit your style! I love trying different ideas and sharing them on Instagram at @fourcornersinteriors.

Shops I love are H&M Home, Homesense, IKEA, Next and Dunelm.

I bought this house because It had original features and bags of potential.

DGMBSTT101

The sheer number of things that needed doing came as a shock to this young family. ‘When we moved in, we discovered there was no running hot water. We called on an emergency plumber to rectify this,’ says Alimah. ‘We suddenly had a long list of things to do and finding builders that were reliable was challenging to say the least. But you live and learn!’

Cut around a wallpaper design to create a unique decal, as Alimah has in their office. ‘I did this as part of an Instagram challenge where you give a room a makeover and share the progress over eight weeks,’ she says. The abstract artwork is by Alimah’s friend Zerbabel Caumba, on Instagram @zcaumba_art
Cut around a wallpaper design to create a unique decal, as Alimah has in their office. ‘I did this as part of an Instagram challenge where you give a room a makeover and share the progress over eight weeks,’ she says. The abstract artwork is by Alimah’s friend Zerbabel Caumba

Once the plumbing was sorted, they tackled the damaged front door. ‘It was bent out of shape so that the only way to open it was to kick it!’ Then, Alimah focused her attention on creating a nursery. ‘I tried to do as much as I could before we moved in, like ordering the cot. I was crafting a lot when I was pregnant; I made the large paper flowers for the wall.’

Alimah went bold with a black feature wall and sleek furniture in the garden office. ‘My husband briefed me on what he needed and left the design up to me,’ she says. ‘Black was perfect for disguising the imperfections of the walls, which are not 100 per cent straight’
Alimah went bold with a black feature wall and sleek furniture in the garden office. ‘My husband briefed me on what he needed and left the design up to me,’ she says. ‘Black was perfect for disguising the imperfections of the walls, which are not 100 per cent straight’

The couple ticked off the upstairs rooms from their to-do list, working their way down the property. The family loved having a separate dining room and living space. ‘Before installing the home office in the garden, my husband would work from the dining table. It was a great family room, but the living room was turning into a dumping ground.’

The kitchen is on their renovation to-do list. ‘I’m going to play with the layout and swap some wall cabinets for open shelving. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I want a breakfast bar,’ says Alimah. ‘I’ll keep the beams but paint them’
The kitchen is on their renovation to-do list. ‘I’m going to play with the layout and swap some wall cabinets for open shelving. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I want a breakfast bar,’ says Alimah. ‘I’ll keep the beams but paint them’

Alimah gave the living area a makeover, inspired by the grandeur of modern hotel foyers, creating a grown-up space. ‘I love bringing symmetry to my room schemes with furniture and accessories.’

‘We suddenly had a long list of things to do and finding builders that were reliable was challenging. But you live and learn!’ says Alimah
‘We suddenly had a long list of things to do and finding builders that were reliable was challenging. But you live and learn!’ says Alimah

Once Alimah has settled on a style, they plan to renovate the kitchen. In the meantime, Alimah has given it a little glow up, covering over the worktops with self-adhesive vinyl. She painted the tiles white and sprayed the handles black. Then the old flooring was covered over with vinyl.

Alimah has slowly transformed her bedroom into a chic sanctuary. ‘I replaced the old headboard with a button-back velvet one from eBay,’ explains Alimah. ‘It helped create the calm environment that we needed as new parents’
Alimah has slowly transformed her bedroom into a chic sanctuary. ‘I replaced the old headboard with a button-back velvet one from eBay,’ explains Alimah. ‘It helped create the calm environment that we needed as new parents’

As with all house renovations, there have been a few bumps along the way. Their garden office was not finished to standard by unreliable builders, so new contractors had to be brought in to fix it before Alimah painted and decorated herself. Another builder left their front garden filled with renovation rubble.

A mirrored bedside table from eBay helps bounce light around the room and reflects the textures of the carpet and curtains. The artwork is a custom piece that Alimah commissioned on Instagram, @smokeycloudsandinkstains
A mirrored bedside table from eBay helps bounce light around the room and reflects the textures of the carpet and curtains. The artwork is a custom piece that Alimah commissioned on Instagram, @smokeycloudsandinkstains

They had to hire a van and make many trips to the tip to get rid of the mess. But it is the sofas that Alimah finds the most amusing of their faux pas: ‘As a surprise, my husband ordered a sofa, two armchairs, footstool and four-seater sofa,’ she says.

Making the most of the space, Alimah selected a white and grey palette for an airy feel, and chose a streamlined suite. ‘It was all very disjointed with too much stuff in a small space,’ she says. ‘I designed our new-look bathroom to have a luxury finish’
Making the most of the space, Alimah selected a white and grey palette for an airy feel, and chose a streamlined suite. ‘It was all very disjointed with too much stuff in a small space,’ she says. ‘I designed our new-look bathroom to have a luxury finish’

‘As a new mum, he was kindly trying to take some stress off me, but I didn’t like the furniture. As it was too late to cancel his order, I ended up selling them on and bought the ones that I wanted instead. I think he has learned to leave the interiors to me now!’

The downstairs toilet is filled with Alimah’s DIYs. She made a sponge stencil to create a repeat pattern for the green walls, and made a basin shelf out of a chopping board
The downstairs toilet is filled with Alimah’s DIYs. She made a sponge stencil to create a repeat pattern for the green walls, and made a basin shelf out of a chopping board

Looking back on the transformation of her home, Alimah feels a real sense of achievement. ‘At the beginning, as a new mum, I couldn’t do too much. But over the past year, I’ve been more hands-on with my home, tackling big DIY jobs.’

Jumbo paper flowers and a canopy create a fairytale feel in Amaal’s room. After the arrival of Adam, Alimah plans to update it to suit them both. ‘It’s going to be decorated with two big murals for each of them,’ she says
Jumbo paper flowers and a canopy create a fairytale feel in Amaal’s room. After the arrival of Adam, Alimah plans to update it to suit them both. ‘It’s going to be decorated with two big murals for each of them,’ she says

Working on her DIYs most weekends and around childcare, Alimah has transformed her house into the cosy family home you can see today.

Alimah loves crafting, especially for her children’s rooms. She made the faux floral wreath for a whimsical touch. ‘I customised the jars with pink and gold paint to house cotton buds and hair bands, too,’ she says
Alimah loves crafting, especially for her children’s rooms. She made the faux floral wreath for a whimsical touch. ‘I customised the jars with pink and gold paint to house cotton buds and hair bands, too,’ she says

‘I’m really proud of what we have done in such a short time frame, especially with two young children,’ she says. ‘When we move to our ‘forever home,’ I’ll be so ready to take on another renovation project.’

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Feature Maxine Brady. Photos David Giles. 

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