Home makeover: ‘I didn’t tell my husband I bought it’

Take a look inside Lesley's incredible three-bedroom Victorian semi in Glasgow

‘We managed to get the black Natuzzi sofa half price as it was a

Although outdated and needing work, Lesley Blair saw boundless potential in this project property, even if her other half didn’t. Here, she shares her home makeover story…

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My story…

I first saw this property on Rightmove at a time when my husband Colin and I weren’t actually looking to move house. Although I had only stumbled upon it online during a routine scroll, there was just something about it that piqued my interest.

Lesley’s pared-back white and grey palette in the living room allows her to get creative with artwork and accessories
Lesley’s pared-back white and grey palette in the living room allows her to get creative with artwork and accessories

I arranged a viewing and, reluctantly, Colin accompanied me to check it out. It was an old property and quite clearly hadn’t been updated in a very long time. Colin dismissed it, saying it needed too much work, and we left – him thinking it was a no-go.

I, on the other hand, am never one to turn down a challenge. I had a good feeling about the property so, unbeknown to Colin, I put in an offer on a whim, and it was accepted!

‘I love a white wall, it’s like a blank canvas where you can build colour and interest,’ Lesley says. ‘I admire people who paint their homes in bright, fun colours, but I like to introduce vibrancy by way of art. Then, when I get bored, I can easily give the space a refresh’
‘I love a white wall, it’s like a blank canvas where you can build colour and interest,’ Lesley says. ‘I admire people who paint their homes in bright, fun colours, but I like to introduce vibrancy by way of art. Then, when I get bored, I can easily give the space a refresh’

I then had a very difficult telephone conversation with Colin explaining that I had, in fact, bought the house. There was silence on his end of the line for an uncomfortable minute, before he said, ‘you’re unbelievable’, and I knew that he was – finally – on board.

Welcome to my home…

A bit about me I’m Lesley Blair, 50 (@lesley_at_home). I live here with my husband Colin, 53, and our dogs Diesel and Lucy.

Where I live My home is a three-bedroom Victorian semi in Glasgow, built in 1902. I’ve lived here for five years.

Lesley Blair

The house hadn’t been touched since the 1970s so it needed a lot of love.

The central heating system and electrics needed upgrading, and all of the single-glazed windows needed replacing too. That was just the beginning – doors, facings, skirtings and just about everything else needed work.

‘The second sitting room is where we enjoy time
‘The second sitting room is where we enjoy time with friends and family’, says Lesley. ‘It’s where we escape to with a glass of wine or a dram to listen to music’

On the day we moved in we began removing wallpaper and old carpets. Our new Smeg cooker and fridge-freezer wouldn’t fit into the kitchen among all of the fitted units, so I called family around to remove the whole thing. Colin returned from work that day to find that we had no kitchen at all.

‘The hall and landing had woodchip wallpaper that took around 10 days to remove,’ recalls Lesley.
‘The hall and landing had woodchip wallpaper that took around 10 days to remove,’ recalls Lesley. ‘We replastered and painted, then I added lots of wall decor in the landing using low-cost frames from IKEA. This gallery wall gets a lot of love on my Instagram page @lesley_at_home’

We had a joiner, electrician and a plasterer here for the best part of a year working to get the house finished.

A bit more about my home… 

What I wanted to change Every room needed work, but my priorities were upgrading the central heating system and electrics, as well as replacing the original single-glazed windows.

How I made it my own Art plays a huge part in making a house feel like home to me, so I’ve hung pieces I’m drawn to throughout the house to personalise the space.

My favourite part It’s close to the city and the countryside, plus it’s comfortable, homely and excellent for entertaining. It’s everything I dreamt of!

Lesley Blair

In different circumstances, we might have tackled the renovation a room at a time, but there was so much to do that we thought it better to take on as much of it as we could so it could be completed as soon as possible.

‘The dining table is from Laura Ashley,’ says Lesley.
‘The dining table is from Laura Ashley,’ says Lesley. ‘We bought it over 15 years ago and couldn’t part with it, so we brought it here with us when we moved’

I won’t lie, juggling long hours at work while managing an entire house renovation was horrendous. But the satisfaction and pride of having achieved everything we have on a limited budget and within a very narrow time frame was worth the struggle.

Living room

‘Originally, the dining area in here had an arch, which we squared off to increase the height. We removed the back boiler from inside the wall cavity (the grey wall is actually a false wall) and the water tank, which is now the alcove to the left of the fireplace.

Glass shelving in the living room provides a feeling of space and allows the eye to be drawn to the accessories rather than the shelves
Glass shelving in the living room provides a feeling of space and allows the eye to be drawn to the accessories rather than the shelves

‘We had the room replastered and repainted white, for a fresh feel, and grey on the faux chimney breast, which made the space so much brighter. This room is where we spend most of our time – dining, watching TV and just hanging out together – so comfort was key.’

Kitchen

‘After ripping out the entire kitchen on the day that we moved in, we ended up being without a kitchen for 14 months.

‘I didn’t want to compromise on quality but, equally, we needed to make our new home liveable relatively quickly and on a fairly tight budget.

The original, behind-the-times kitchen was hastily removed the day the couple moved in to allow room for their appliances. In its place, they fitted simple, unfussy units and low-cost tiles to, once again, allow artwork to take centre stage
The original, behind-the-times kitchen was hastily removed the day the couple moved in to allow room for their appliances. In its place, they fitted simple, unfussy units and low-cost tiles to, once again, allow artwork to take centre stage

‘I’m used to managing budgets for work projects, so I’m quite well-practised at operating within my means, which most certainly helped. The kitchen, untouched since the ’70s, had an Artex ceiling and was damp with a horrible odour.

‘I love to cook, so the Smeg oven, which I bought prior to moving in, is my favourite feature in the kitchen,’ says Lesley
‘I love to cook, so the Smeg oven, which I bought prior to moving in, is my favourite feature in the kitchen,’ says Lesley

‘When we eventually got around to renovating, I chose simple white units teamed with grey metro kitchen tiles that were a bargain buy at £12 per sq m at Homebase. It was such a happy moment when, finally, my Smeg oven was fitted.’

Master bedroom

‘I had to remove the fireplace and reposition the radiator in the master bedroom, which left a huge hole in the wall and was a nightmare to do. But doing the less technical jobs ourselves saved us a lot of money in the end, even if it did ruin my nails. The wall had to be bonded and then plastered again, and it was painted white.

‘I bought the drawers from Gumtree for £30 and I love how they look against the grey wall,’ says Lesley
‘I bought the drawers from Gumtree for £30 and I love how they look against the grey wall,’ says Lesley

‘One day, I decided that my artwork would look better against a dark wall so, on a whim, I painted it in Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe. The flooring is solid oak and is the same as the rest of the house. I had it all fitted at the same time so there aren’t any joins.’

Second bedroom

‘Just like in the master bedroom, we removed the fireplace and had to bond and replaster the walls. We repositioned the radiator to under the window and painted the walls in Farrow & Ball’s Manor House Gray, which is an exact match to the Feather & Black bed frame.

‘The bed frame is from Feather & Black and I bought the bedside cabinets from a local charity shop before painting them the same shade as the wall,’ Lesley says
‘The bed frame is from Feather & Black and I bought the bedside cabinets from a local charity shop before painting them the same shade as the wall,’ Lesley says

‘This room receives a lot of natural sunlight and is very bright, so I fitted blackout Roman blinds to allow overnight visitors a little extra sleep in the mornings.’

Bathroom

‘The bathroom was really spacious, which I loved, but I didn’t like being met with the loo as soon as I opened the door, so
I had it repositioned and placed in a corner. We removed the original tiles only to discover another layer of tiles, which we subsequently removed.

‘I bought the bath and toilet online following a lot of research,’ Lesley says. ‘Both were heavily discounted, so the search paid off’
‘I bought the bath and toilet online following a lot of research,’ Lesley says. ‘Both were heavily discounted, so the search paid off’
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‘We replastered and painted the walls white, just like the rest of the house. I couldn’t resist the black Porcelanosa terrazzo tiles for the floor and bath edge. They cost me half my budget and took four months to arrive, but they were worth waiting for.’

Lesley chose white Porcelanosa tiles, which were in the sale, for around the bath and sink, giving a fresh, clean feel for the bathroom
Lesley chose white Porcelanosa tiles, which were in the sale, for around the bath and sink, giving a fresh, clean feel for the bathroom

What I learned… 

If you can, go and live somewhere else during a home renovation. It’s not practical and is very stressful living on a building site. Ideally, live somewhere close by to the renovation, so you can easily call in and check on the progress of the project. 

If budget allows, hire a project manager. Ultimately, it will save you time and money. 

Accept that these things take time and patience, but are almost always worth it in the end. Also, make sure you do your research to find the best bargains – your purse will thank you in the end. 

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