With a baby in tow and another on the way, Katie and Charlie were ready to upsize their home and invest in a property fit for a family. The problem was, they had been priced out of their preferred areas.
By a total fluke, an estate agent called them to share details of a house in south-east London that they thought would suit them down to the ground.
They were right; the house had everything the couple were after and, as it turns out, it was situated only three or so miles from where Katie grew up. Here, she shares her home makeover story…
Welcome to my home
A bit about me I’m Katie Rowe, and I live with my husband, Charlie, and our children, Ted, seven, and Sophie-May, five.
Where I live We live in a three-bedroom terrace in south-east London.
When we moved in to our home, I had a huge list of changes I wanted to make to our home’s interior. We had existing coving fixed and had new coving fitted in the dining room.
‘We splurged on the mid-century Kai Kristiansen dining table and chairs after spying them, lovingly restored, in Norfolk,’ Katie says. ‘The sideboard was bought from a mid-century fair in Cornwall, and the two other dining chairs were Gumtree bargains. Anyone would think I have a thing for mid-century…’
About my home
What I wanted to change We wanted to reconfigure the rooms to allow more light in, and to give the place a personal and affordable makeover prior to renovating it further down the line.
How I made it my own We are still planning structural changes, but for now we have made the house happy and homely with sentimental furnishings and accessories and upcycled items for added flair.
My favourite part The house holds so many memories. It’s the first family home we have owned. It’s just so special to us.
I also designed ceiling roses; a nod to the Edwardian/Victorian era of the house, but with a modern edge. We pulled down the wall between the kitchen and dining room and opened up the stairwell and the under-stairs cupboard for a feeling of space, then reinstated the hallway wall to close off the lounge for a more intimate ambience.
‘The wooden stair rail and post were made by our builder from a piece of oak. I wasn’t too sure on them at first,’ Katie confesses, ‘but they have really grown on me. Plus, visitors always seem intrigued by them’
We installed solid oak flooring downstairs, and stripped and then repainted all of the walls.
The house has been evolving ever since, and continues to do so, but we’re so glad we altered the layout when we did, as it has set the standard for family life. In 2018 we hosted Christmas for nine, and the house really came into its own.
‘The bureau was a lucky find in a vintage store,’ says Katie. ‘I have turned it into a mini bar for when we have friends and family over for a few drinks’
It reminded us what a fantastic space it is for entertaining, and everyone commented on how our home – its layout, warmth and welcome – made the day extra special. We can’t wait to share this home with our loved ones for many more celebrations to come.
‘When we first bought the house, the hallway wall had a large opening, so you came in through the front door and straight into the lounge,’ Katie recalls.
‘We used nifty hacks to tweak our high street items so they’re unique to us without the cost of bespoke furnishings,’ says Katie. ‘Our three-seater sofa bed is from the Karlstad range at IKEA. It has leather covers from Comfort Works and mid-century-style feet that I bought from Etsy. It has been completely transformed!’
‘However, the stairs themselves were closed off, and there was a redundant door leading to the dining room. We decided to rejig the layout and put the walls back in so that the living space felt more cosy. It also allowed us to have a large sofa running the length of the wall, which wouldn’t have worked before, and a huge gallery wall above.’
I’m most proud that we have created a home that is comfortable, yet considered
‘The kitchen has become a room we really love,’ says Katie. ‘We get so many compliments, even though it’s pretty much a make-shift space. We still have the original base units on one side, which are a light oak finish, and the range oven.
‘I used vinyl decals to give the kitchen tiles a refresh,’ Katie says. ‘It was quick, low-cost and has helped to soften the space, but it’s not a long-term solution
We ripped the rest of the built-in units out, and thank goodness we did, as in doing so we discovered a slow leak from the bathroom! It set work back by a couple of weeks as we had to get dehumidifiers in to dry it all out, and meant that when we moved in, we had neither a functioning kitchen nor bathroom.
How to give furnishings a new aesthetic
Save cash by sprucing up your belongings! Before donating or – worst of all – scrapping your sofa, consider pepping it up as Katie did. Cushion and seat covers can be purchased online from the likes of Bemz and Comfort Works, as can feet to give couch legs a shiny new look. If your budget won’t stretch to seat covers, shop for cushions and throws you can use to dress the settee in different easy-to-change styles.
Tired of your coffee table? Try revamping it using paint or spray paint for a fast and simple style shift. You could also cover the top of the table in sticky-back vinyl, which you can purchase at Wilko.
No need to shun appliances either, so long as they’re still functioning. Specialist appliance spray paint can be used to update fridge doors and make washing machines sparkle. And if that’s still not up to scratch, consider getting your craft on to conceal ugly appliances, perhaps behind a curtain for washing machines and dryers or even a faux cupboard, if your skills include woodwork.
I’m so excited to see how our home will evolve in the future
‘The island, or butcher’s block, in the centre of the room, helps to keep the kitchen social, and makes it feel like an extension of our living space instead of just being purely functional,’ says Katie. ‘I found it in a local vintage furniture store, and I think it’ll be with us for years to come’
The fridge was in the lounge, and we basically camped out with nine-month-old Ted upstairs amongst boxes and inches of dust. The rest of the kitchen is completely free-standing and is made up of open shelving and a Kallax unit from IKEA.’
‘Originally, the master bedroom was magnolia with a beige carpet, which made the room feel really quite drab; not ideal,’ Katie remembers.
‘We gave it a lick of fresh, bright white paint and laid solid oak floorboards, and it made our bedroom so airy and serene.
Rather than curating a ‘look’, Katie has styled her home to evoke feeling. Sentimental pieces are dotted throughout the house – such as the Graham & Green drawers in the bay window, which were a wedding gift – as are souvenirs from their travels, like the Berber rug from Morocco
Although small and subtle, my very favourite thing in the room is a rubber stamp that I keep on a side table next to the bed. It was made bespoke for our wedding stationery, and I just love that it’s still a little part of our everyday.’
My house is a well-edited mix of vintage and IKEA
‘Before its makeover, Ted and Sophie-May’s bedroom had lime green walls and flock wallpaper. It was quite the sight,’ says Katie.
‘The bedspreads in Ted and Sophie-May’s bedroom are really special and hold sentimental value as we bought them the first time we took both children to Morocco, one of our favourite places,’ says Katie
‘We repainted the walls in Light Umber by Craig & Rose, a rich, yet calming, neutral that’s perfect for a space that the children share. I wanted to keep the room fairly pared-back with minimal distractions so that sleep is prioritised, so I stuck with simple bedding made from fabric I bought in Morocco and a few art prints for décor.’
‘I had a lot of fun finding cool, inspiring prints for the wall in the children’s room,’ Katie says. ‘Among my favourites are the ‘Tout est Magique’, design from Hôtel Magique, and the contemporary sunset print from Wonder & Rah’
What I learned…
How to practise patience. We could have rushed ahead and got more done sooner, but living here as it is has really taught us how we live as a family and what we really need to get out of our home space. It has also meant we can be really considered in our design choices.
Not to get too hung up. Of course, if you’ve made a very expensive mistake then that’s upsetting, but the wonderful thing about most interior decisions is that you can easily change them without too much trouble.
Don’t buy for the sake of it. I’d much rather own less but love every single thing than own many things I feel indifferent towards.
This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Home Style magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?