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.
‘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.’
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
‘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.
I bought this house because It had original features and bags of potential.
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!’
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.
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.
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.
‘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!’
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.’
Working on her DIYs most weekends and around childcare, Alimah has transformed her house into the cosy family home you can see today.
‘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.’
Feature Maxine Brady. Photos David Giles.