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Home makeover: ‘My home is an oasis of calm’

Take a look inside Dani's plant-filled, boho home

‘The dining area has the lovely original parquet, but the kitchen was
concrete so we had to work out how to make them complement
each other. We did consider having the same flooring throughout,
but when I saw these floor tiles in Wickes, I thought that actually
using them to zone the two areas was a good idea’

Using her love of real plants and a cool eye for display, Dani Sandels has created a hothouse of colour and serenity.

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Here, she tells us all about her makeover story…

My story

My nan and grandad used to live here years ago, so when it came on the market, I knew we should come to view it.

On a practical note, it had three bedrooms, lovely high ceilings, and architectural features that I love. It’s also near to my parents and in the middle of parkland so it’s quiet and close to the city, which meant it ticked lots of boxes.

‘My parents bought me the ‘Welcome to the mad house’ sign from a garden centre as a bit of a joke, but it’s actually found its perfect spot here’
‘My parents bought me the ‘Welcome to the mad house’ sign from a garden centre as a bit of a joke, but it’s actually found its perfect spot here’

The kitchen and dining area were separate rooms and we wanted an open-plan space.

Welcome to my home…

A bit about me I’m Dani Sandels, 34, a content creator. I live with my husband, Tom, 33, and our two children, Cooper, two, and our four-month-old daughter, Banks. We have two dogs, Beau, a Dogue de Bordeaux, and Ruby, a French bulldog.

Where I live My home is a three-bed Georgian maisonette. It’s part of a conversion of old dormitories in a renovated boarding school in Ottershaw, Surrey. We’ve lived here since June 2018 and I’ve recorded my interiors journey on my Instagram @danisdomain

Dani Sandels

We’d done an extension on our old place, so we knew taking down the wall was going to be the biggest job, and did the messy work before we moved in.

‘Rattan used to remind me of my lovely nan and grandad’s conservatory but now I use it to bring a bit of boho into our home. I was thrilled when I found this dressing table and stool in Urban Outfitters’
‘Rattan used to remind me of my lovely nan and grandad’s conservatory but now I use it to bring a bit of boho into our home. I was thrilled when I found this dressing table and stool in Urban Outfitters

We decided to redo the bathrooms so we got all the tradespeople in at the same time. Good planning meant the work was all finished in four weeks.

A bit more about my home…

What I wanted to change Being a conversion in a large building meant the bones of the place were sound, but the décor was really old-fashioned; think red carpets and gold fittings and you’re there, which is really not my style. 

How I made it my own We reconfigured the kitchen and dining space, knocking down a wall to make it open-plan. We also installed new bathrooms, then we decorated the whole space. 

My favourite part I love our bedroom. It feels happy, I think because of the colours and the warm sunlight that streams through. 

Home makeover: 'My home is an oasis of calm'

Though shortly after moving in, we had two massive leaks from both bathrooms, so we had to redecorate, which was frustrating.

‘This screen from French Connection is great for hiding the door to the downstairs loo. I love styling this unit with my plants, though they don’t stay in one place for too long’
‘This screen from French Connection is great for hiding the door to the downstairs loo. I love styling this unit with my plants, though they don’t stay in one place for too long’

Thankfully, I’m good at putting low points behind me and the priority now is getting the nursery done. I’ve seen fabulous wall murals so I may do something like that.

For now, there’s nothing we urgently need to do. I’m just going to keep watering my many houseplants and enjoy what we’ve done so far.

Kitchen

‘The original kitchen had plain white units, which wasn’t my style as I like a bolder, more fearless look. It also wasn’t in great shape, so I didn’t feel bad ripping it out to knock the wall down. We looked at Wren for kitchen inspiration and the Stealth island immediately stood out, so we ordered it before we even moved in.

‘I adore the look of these units, but I think long-term I might take the wall cabinets down as we have plenty of storage, especially in the island. I’d like to put some open shelves up, though no doubt I’ll just fill them with more plants!’
‘I adore the look of these units, but I think long-term I might take the wall cabinets down as we have plenty of storage, especially in the island. I’d like to put some open shelves up, though no doubt I’ll just fill them with more plants!’

‘Fitting the kitchen wasn’t easy as the floor is solid concrete, so it was hard to drill and install things. The granite island came from a different supplier, in two massive made-to-order pieces, so it took months to arrive.

‘We had the units and base in place so we could get the hob working, though when the builders finally fitted the island, they had to do some cutting and didn’t cover anything, so the whole room got covered in a layer of granite dust.’

Dining area

‘We wanted a place to relax in – in addition to the more formal living room – especially as we like to chat while cooking, so we put another sofa in here. We fitted a false ceiling so that we could install spotlights as there were originally only two pendant lights in here, but we kept it as shallow as we could so we didn’t lose the height of the room.

‘This is a really hard-working room, acting as a kitchen, dining room and living area, and we could virtually live in here. Luckily this area only really needed a lick of paint when we moved in, though we swapped the curtains for blinds’
‘This is a really hard-working room, acting as a kitchen, dining room and living area, and we could virtually live in here. Luckily this area only really needed a lick of paint when we moved in, though we swapped the curtains for blinds’

‘Pre-kids, we used to sit on the sofa to eat but I’m glad we made space for this French Connection dining table as now we eat together, and it can seat six when we have people round for dinner.’

‘My love of plants as décor came when I was looking for something to fill a big space. I bought a monstera like a piece of furniture and loved the way it added extra colour and texture, and I can move them around easily without taking a forever decision’
‘My love of plants as décor came when I was looking for something to fill a big space. I bought a monstera like a piece of furniture and loved the way it added extra colour and texture, and I can move them around easily without taking a forever decision’

Living room

‘This room was originally beige with wooden cabinets everywhere, so we cleared everything out, gave the walls a bit of TLC and then added a lick of white paint to brighten the space. There was also red carpet in here, though we knew there was parquet underneath, but when we pulled the carpet up, we discovered a lot of missing blocks.

‘I choose my prints for the look first and foremost, and then I’ll hunt for a spot to put them in, though I do move them around a lot. The rattan mirror is from MADE.com and the coffee table is from French Connection’
‘I choose my prints for the look first and foremost, and then I’ll hunt for a spot to put them in, though I do move them around a lot. The rattan mirror is from MADE.com and the coffee table is from French Connection’

‘It’ll be a big job to replace, so we decided to use grey laminate as an easy, cheap fix until we can restore the parquet. I initially found this room quite tricky to use as it’s so long and I considered partitioning it. We’ve made it work by zoning the space using rugs and the corner sofa from Sofology.’

‘I struggled to find something to go here so was pleased when I spotted this unit from MADE.com, my go-to place for bigger pieces of furniture. The copper contrast with the grey is gorgeous and I like the fact that it has both open storage and closed drawers, which is really useful’
‘I struggled to find something to go here so was pleased when I spotted this unit from MADE.com, my go-to place for bigger pieces of furniture. The copper contrast with the grey is gorgeous and I like the fact that it has both open storage and closed drawers, which is really useful’

Master bedroom

‘The wall colour in our bedroom is Blue Slate from Dulux. We used the same colour in our last bedroom, but because of the light it looks completely different here. We had recently renovated our last home and spent a long time choosing paint, so when we moved here we were already armed with a list of our favourite colours. No one would fit a floor over the parquet because it moves with the heat, and it was hard to find flooring that would go on top.

‘This is my favourite room. It’s a great space to style and though apparently some people think you can have too many cushions and throws, that’s not the way I look at it! The gold throw is from Anthropologie and the tiger throw and the prints are from Fy, a great one-stop shop for accessories’
‘This is my favourite room. It’s a great space to style and though apparently some people think you can have too many cushions and throws, that’s not the way I look at it! The gold throw is from Anthropologie and the tiger throw and the prints are from Fy, a great one-stop shop for accessories’

‘So, when we found the grey laminate, we decided to use it upstairs as it’s low maintenance – so also good for the kids’ rooms – and looks great. The wardrobes were already fitted but had ugly yellow tinted mirror glass and the inside needed redoing. We got it refurbed, though I was amazed at the high cost, and in hindsight we should have just bought a new wardrobe.’

Cooper’s room

‘The level of toys we have is insane. Although it’s chaos behind the cupboards, having a clear space makes me happy, so I just scoop Cooper’s stuff into good-looking storage baskets and colourful crates, and at the end of the day it only takes 10 minutes to clear the mess and have calm again.

‘I saw this house bed in Cox & Cox and thought how much fun it would be for Cooper as a place to play as well as sleep. The dogs seem to love it in here too’
‘I saw this house bed in Cox & Cox and thought how much fun it would be for Cooper as a place to play as well as sleep. The dogs seem to love it in here too’

‘This room still needs work but temporary decorations like the bunting add colour without having to commit because I’m not sure what to do in here yet. I do love the Denim Drift Dulux paint that we chose for the walls so that’s definitely staying.’

Bathroom

‘The house has got two bathrooms so when we first renovated the place, Tom suggested just having a large shower in here, but I thought it would be nice to have a toy-free space with a bath in it. Looking back, I think we rushed the decision-making process and chose everything a bit too quickly.

‘Although I like a lot of colour, grey is my go-to and the variation in colour and texture in these tiles from Wickes works really well from floor to ceiling. The bathroom furniture is from Victorian Plumbing and the mirror is from IKEA’
‘Although I like a lot of colour, grey is my go-to and the variation in colour and texture in these tiles from Wickes works really well from floor to ceiling. The bathroom furniture is from Victorian Plumbing and the mirror is from IKEA’

‘I love the floor and wall tiles that I’d spotted in Wickes, but I might have designed it differently if we had lived with the space for a while. In hindsight, we could have actually just had a shower in here, or I might have gone for something free-standing. But we had the builders booked in, so I was under a bit of pressure to choose. I was also working full-time and pregnant, so I just made quick decisions. Though saying all that, I do still love the finished result.’

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Feature and styling Lisa Moses. Photos Katie Jane Watson. 

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