Home makeover: ‘I became a master upcycler to finish this house!’

Hildah’s personal style shines in every corner of her Edwardian home, which is abundant with colour, vintage homewares and global art

‘We spend most our time together in the living room,’ says Hildah. ‘Olu plays the piano and I love relaxing with a book and a cup of tea.’ A rare new purchase, the comfy corner sofa was from Made. Hildah has filled the rest of the room with charity shop and preloved finds, including vintage Laura Ashley curtains, a rustic wooden box, and a Jamaica rum mirrored picture from Swan Antiques. The gallery wall behind the sofa features prints of some of her favourite artworks, including Young Woman with Peonies, 1870 by Frederic Bazille

Hildah Jiah’s passion for all things vintage began with childhood keepsakes from her native Zimbabwe. A frequent shopper at local vintage fairs, car boots, antique emporiums and charity shops, she has created a colourful, quirky interior at her Hertfordshire home.

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With an eye for unique artwork and vintage floral homewares, Hildah adores shades of pink, green and grey. ‘They are gentle and relaxing tones to live with,’ she says. ‘I am drawn to vintage collectables that have a history and a story to tell.’

‘We spend most our time together in the living room,’ says Hildah. ‘Olu plays the piano and I love relaxing with a book and a cup of tea.’ A rare new purchase, the comfy corner sofa was from Made. Hildah has filled the rest of the room with charity shop and preloved finds, including vintage Laura Ashley curtains, a rustic wooden box, and a Jamaica rum mirrored picture from Swan Antiques. The gallery wall behind the sofa features prints of some of her favourite artworks, including Young Woman with Peonies, 1870 by Frederic Bazille
‘We spend most our time together in the living room,’ says Hildah. ‘Olu plays the piano and I love relaxing with a book and a cup of tea.’ A rare new purchase, the comfy corner sofa was from Made. Hildah has filled the rest of the room with charity shop and preloved finds, including vintage Laura Ashley curtains, a rustic wooden box, and a Jamaica rum mirrored picture from Swan Antiques. The gallery wall behind the sofa features prints of some of her favourite artworks, including Young Woman with Peonies, 1870 by Frederic Bazille

Since moving from London 16 years ago, Hildah outgrew her previous house in St Albans and in 2012 began looking for a new, larger home with ample street parking.

The property she found was in need of a lot of work, both inside and out, but Hildah could look beyond this and see its potential.

Welcome to my home…

We are Hildah Jiah, a Consultant Nurse working in the NHS, and my 10-year-old daughter, Olu.

My home is a three-bedroom, end-of-terrace period property in St Albans, Hertfordshire. The property was built in the 1920s and we’ve lived here for eight years. 

Hildah Jiah

‘This house was gloomy and had belonged to an elderly couple who lived here for over 30 years,’ she says. ‘The carpets were worn out and mouldy and the windows had rusted shut.

‘The garden was completely overgrown with no fences – I didn’t even realise that the garage belonged to the house! Yet I loved that the house offered lots of space and had a real sense of character.’

Hildah did research on Pinterest for tips before upcycling the piano she found on Gumtree. She lightly sanded it, painted it in Craig & Rose’s Monogram matt emulsion, then sealed it with beeswax. She also reupholstered the piano stool seat pad with vintage fabric. It’s now a much-loved piece, and played regularly by her daughter, Olu
Hildah did research on Pinterest for tips before upcycling the piano she found on Gumtree. She lightly sanded it, painted it in Craig & Rose’s Monogram matt emulsion, then sealed it with beeswax. She also reupholstered the piano stool seat pad with vintage fabric. It’s now a much-loved piece, and played regularly by her daughter, Olu

Hildah’s first job was to tackle the dated 1970s laminate kitchen, which had an adjoining large downstairs bathroom that made the space feel crowded and dark. Hildah hired a local builder to help her reclaim kitchen space from the existing downstairs bathroom, replacing it with a smaller shower room.

To allow further light into the kitchen, she also added new windows and French doors, overlooking the courtyard garden, which has also received a makeover. ‘The kitchen took two months to complete. During this time, we lived upstairs with a temporary kitchen,’ says Hildah. ‘Living on-site was very stressful. I’m glad we could escape to my friend’s house for meals.’

‘The Coca-Cola crate was given to me by my aunt in Zimbabwe and the vintage Victorian washer board is from a local garage sale,’ says Hildah. She designed the kitchen layout herself, with IKEA units, a free-standing Gorenje fridge-freezer and Metro Bone tiles with smoke grey grout from Topps Tiles. The floorboards are original – Hildah found them under vinyl flooring
‘The Coca-Cola crate was given to me by my aunt in Zimbabwe and the vintage Victorian washer board is from a local garage sale,’ says Hildah. She designed the kitchen layout herself, with IKEA units, a free-standing Gorenje fridge-freezer and Metro Bone tiles with smoke grey grout from Topps Tiles. The floorboards are original – Hildah found them under vinyl flooring

Once the main work on the kitchen was finished, it was time for Hildah to put her upcycling skills to good use updating second-hand finds. With ample space for a dining table, she found a painted table with a distressed finish on eBay, which suited the home’s vintage feel.

A bit more about my home…

My top tip is to start off with a small project to upcycle and don’t spend a lot on paint – I always use leftover paint or sample pots. Spend time on the preparation and sanding to ensure you have a clean surface. I always paint two coats and use sandpaper once the paint is dry to get that distressed look. Use beeswax to protect the surface.

My style is Eclectic, colourful, vintage and maximalist. I buy things that I like or catch my eye regardless of their style or age. I love sharing my finds on Instagram at @vintagerockslove

Hildah Jiah

To tie in with the table’s mint green colour, Hildah upcycled chairs from a charity shop by painting them in pastel lemon, pale pink and dark green for a mix-and-match look. A country dresser, another savvy eBay bargain, is an ideal kitchen storage solution. ‘It came from a country manor house and fits the space perfectly.’

Hildah has created a welcoming dining area without breaking the bank by accessorising preloved furniture with cherished keepsakes. ‘I love the green cake tin, which I picked up from an antiques shop in Ohio, when I went to visit family,’ says Hildah. ‘The kitchen dresser came from a manor house. It was my best and biggest eBay buy – I had to arrange for it to be delivered and it nearly didn’t make it inside due to its massive size!’
Hildah has created a welcoming dining area without breaking the bank by accessorising preloved furniture with cherished keepsakes. ‘I love the green cake tin, which I picked up from an antiques shop in Ohio, when I went to visit family,’ says Hildah. ‘The kitchen dresser came from a manor house. It was my best and biggest eBay buy – I had to arrange for it to be delivered and it nearly didn’t make it inside due to its massive size!’

Hildah then converted a disused cupboard under the stairs to house the washing machine and dryer. She also found a DIY solution to disguising the gap in floor levels from the study to the kitchen, decorating the step in découpage using paper napkins and wallpaper cuttings.

‘After painting the area, I used a make-up sponge to apply Mod Podge, a découpage acrylic sealer, to fix the paper to the step,’ she explains. ‘For a shiny finish I sealed it with polyurethane varnish.’

Sentimental pieces are dotted throughout the house. ‘The iron belonged to my late grandmother in Zimbabwe.’ The cabinet, from a local antiques shop, stores glassware, crockery and linens. Hildah has finished the display with a floral painting and cute enamel kettle from My Little Vintage
Sentimental pieces are dotted throughout the house. ‘The iron belonged to my late grandmother in Zimbabwe.’ The cabinet, from a local antiques shop, stores glassware, crockery and linens. Hildah has finished the display with a floral painting and cute enamel kettle from My Little Vintage

Hildah’s aim was to restore and showcase as many of the house’s original features as possible. ‘I decided not to replaster the fireplace hearths as I love their rustic quality,’ she says.

‘When we ripped out the vinyl kitchen floor we revealed original floorboards and I had all of the internal doors stripped and exposed back to pine.’

As well as working on her laptop, Hildah also enjoys crafting at her desk. The solid oak desk was from an antiques emporium, while the green filing cabinet was a charity shop buy. A lampshade chandelier adds a fun, colourful touch, fitting for a creative workspace
As well as working on her laptop, Hildah also enjoys crafting at her desk. The solid oak desk was from an antiques emporium, while the green filing cabinet was a charity shop buy. A lampshade chandelier adds a fun, colourful touch, fitting for a creative workspace

In the living room, pale pink walls provide a background to Hildah’s favourite artwork, prints and floral curtains. A scattering of printed cushions contrast with the luxe dark green velvet sofa. The room’s finishing touch was one of Hildah’s favourite revamp projects.

‘The piano was a Gumtree find. I did my research on Pinterest to find out how to upcycle a piano before getting it tuned,’ she says. ‘Though a labour of love, it was a rewarding project and guests comment on how beautiful it looks. Olu has been learning for 18 months and has picked it up brilliantly.’

To create a homely feel, Hildah’s combined vintage furniture – the metal bed, wardrobe, tallboy and Lloyd Loom-style bedside tables – with a few high street finds, including a floral duvet cover from Joules and a bright flower print from Next
To create a homely feel, Hildah’s combined vintage furniture – the metal bed, wardrobe, tallboy and Lloyd Loom-style bedside tables – with a few high street finds, including a floral duvet cover from Joules and a bright flower print from Next

Hildah’s interiors reflect her passion for art and music, with nods to past icons including Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Miles Davis and B.B King.

‘Jimi Hendrix is my absolute favourite artist of all time,’ she says. ‘It is wonderful to see black people depicted in art and I like to display objects that reflect and celebrate my identity, history and culture as a person of colour.’

Hildah mixed modern with traditional in her bathroom with a single-ended rolltop bath from Victorian Plumbing, and Travertine tiles from Topps Tiles. An upcycled blue stool adds a splash of colour
Hildah mixed modern with traditional in her bathroom with a single-ended rolltop bath from Victorian Plumbing, and Travertine tiles from Topps Tiles. An upcycled blue stool adds a splash of colour

Happy to have put in the work to make it her own, Hildah’s appreciation for her home extends outside the front door to the local area, too.

As in the rest of the house, Hildah’s bedroom is a treasure trove of vintage finds, including retro suitcases, wooden boxes and a gallery wall of ornate mirrors
As in the rest of the house, Hildah’s bedroom is a treasure trove of vintage finds, including retro suitcases, wooden boxes and a gallery wall of ornate mirrors

‘Olu and I love living here. There is a great community spirit, lots of open green spaces, parks and cafés to enjoy,’ she reflects, ‘and I have loved renovating this house and making it feel like home.’

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