Home makeover: ‘I discovered my love for maximalism!’

Take a look inside Lily and David's unapologetically characterful eclectic home, making the most of stunning period features

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Having exhausted all her attempts to add character to her pared-back, 1960s ex-council townhouse, Lily Sawyer eventually surrendered to the fact that her current family home couldn’t provide the interior goods she had long lusted after: charming period features.

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‘I had MDF doors made to conceal the shelving behind in the alcoves and added faux panelling for subtle character,’ says Lily. The paint and the feature wallpaper on the chimney breast are both Graham & Brown
‘I had MDF doors made to conceal the shelving behind in the alcoves and added faux panelling for subtle character,’ says Lily. The paint and the feature wallpaper on the chimney breast are both Graham & Brown

She decided to sell up in the winter of 2013, with her sights set on a spacious family home in the same area of London, complete with easy access to the local school, a studio for her photography business and those all-important original features.

But with such a particular list of requirements, the house search wasn’t all that straight-forward.

Welcome to our home…

We are Lily Sawyer, 46, an artist, designer, educator and photographer; David, 43; our children Calla, 13, Isaac, 12, and Beth, 11; and Lily’s mother Lilia, 82.

Our home is a five-bedroom Victorian terrace in London, built around 1896. We’ve lived here since January 2014.

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‘We put our house on the market and it sold within weeks,’ Lily says. ‘But every time we found a property that we liked we were pipped to the post by people with cash or bigger budgets. We were getting desperate.’

The front room is a snug-meets-studio. By day, it’s where Lily takes photographs and in the evenings it’s where the family cosies up by the log burner. The mustard and deep green scheme gives the space a warm feeling
The front room is a snug-meets-studio. By day, it’s where Lily takes photographs and in the evenings it’s where the family cosies up by the log burner. The mustard and deep green scheme gives the space a warm feeling

Meanwhile, a friend of Lily’s was also moving into a new home and had plans to rent out her current property, which just so happened to be overflowing with Victorian charm and located within Lily’s desired area.

The mix of colour, pattern and texture makes a feature out of every part of the room
The mix of colour, pattern and texture makes a feature out of every part of the room

‘It wasn’t quite as large and spacious as I wanted, but it ticked every other box in terms of location and period features,’ Lily recalls.

‘Somehow, I persuaded her to sell the house to me – even though she had only been looking for a tenant – and, within a matter of weeks, we were in.’

‘Previously, the kitchen had cream melamine cupboards and a black mottled worktop. I hated it,’ Lily recalls. ‘We renovated in 2017 and opted for IKEA cabinetry with high-gloss doors as the room is so dark, and easy-care laminate worktops. We hung decorative floral paper along one wall for a fun finish.’
‘Previously, the kitchen had cream melamine cupboards and a black mottled worktop. I hated it,’ Lily recalls. ‘We renovated in 2017 and opted for IKEA cabinetry with high-gloss doors as the room is so dark, and easy-care laminate worktops. We hung decorative floral paper along one wall
for a fun finish.’

Although Lily and her family, who couldn’t believe their luck, had finally landed their ideal home, the interior wasn’t quite to Lily’s taste. The problem was, she had no idea what exactly her taste was back then.

A bit more about our home… 

My top tip is Do your research before pursuing an idea and don’t be afraid to let others inspire you.

For style inspiration When time permits, I have a good old scroll on Instagram and Pinterest. What really influences me are real home designs by normal people, such as myself, and interiors that look like they’ve evolved over time.

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‘I knew nothing about interior design and so I felt really lost and overwhelmed,’ she says.

‘I had this beautiful blank canvas in front of me, but I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t think to scroll Instagram for inspiration and I had no clue about current design trends.’

Fortunately for Lily and her family, the kitchen had been extended into the side return before they purchased the property, allowing them enough space for a dining table. Now, this area, among the foliage and exposed brick, is where the family gathers to share their meals
Fortunately for Lily and her family, the kitchen had been extended into the side return before they purchased the property, allowing them enough space for a dining table. Now, this area, among the foliage and exposed brick, is where the family gathers to share their meals

The property was pared-back, but liveable, with pale walls, wooden flooring and tired, worn-down carpets on the stairs and first floor.

Its highlights were the many original features that remained, including the 135-year-old oven, a number of fireplaces peppered throughout the building, corbels and coving, plus the exposed brick wall in the kitchen where the room had been extended into the side return.

Beth’s bedroom has both a youthful and a grown-up air about it. Deep blue walls and trim perfectly frame the foliage paper, creating fun focal points on both ceiling and walls, while pastel pink and ochre accessories pepper the scheme with playfulness
Beth’s bedroom has both a youthful and a grown-up air about it. Deep blue walls and trim perfectly frame the foliage paper, creating fun focal points on both ceiling and walls, while pastel pink and ochre accessories pepper the scheme with playfulness

Initially, Lily opted to fully embrace the property’s Victorian roots and hung William Morris wallpaper.

But over the next few months, as she and her family began to settle in, she realised that the rigidity of centring all the interior schemes on a single era wasn’t giving her the look that she wanted.

‘I want people to feel excited when they walk into my house, so I painted the hallway dark grey and, more recently, papered the lower half of the wall in Linwood’s Bamboo Garden,’ says Lily. ‘I also painted the inside of the front door pink using Frenchic Paint.’
‘I want people to feel excited when they walk into my house, so I painted the hallway dark grey and, more recently, papered the lower half of the wall in Linwood’s Bamboo Garden,’ says Lily. ‘I also painted the inside of the front door pink using Frenchic Paint.’

‘I discovered Pinterest toward the end of 2014 and decided to experiment with a few interior ideas I’d come across,’ she remembers. ‘I got completely hooked!’

‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes' says Lily
‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes’ says Lily

Having found her interior-design groove, Lily had big ideas for her home’s new identity, but budget, or rather the lack of it, slowed her progress.

Fortunately, when she discovered her love of interior design, she also unearthed a talent for upcycling and DIY.

Lily has utilised outside space to create an additional room to relax in. Layers upon layers of texture help to make this makeshift scheme incredibly cosy, even on autumnal days
Lily has utilised outside space to create an additional room to relax in. Layers upon layers of texture help to make this makeshift scheme incredibly cosy, even on autumnal days

‘I’m a recycler at heart,’ Lily says. ‘If I can make something without much effort and additional cost, I will.’

Her skill and enthusiasm for reviving second-hand and unloved items not only allowed her to achieve her dream schemes over time, but also saved her a lot in outgoings along the way.

Rich-toned florals and black walls give Lily’s powder room a glam, trendy appearance
Rich-toned florals and black walls give Lily’s powder room a glam, trendy appearance

In the six years since Lily and her family moved in, their home has seen many updates, paint jobs and tweaks. As Lily has explored her personal style (which she now describes as being cosy, eclectic and maximalist, with pops of colour) the property’s interior has evolved, too and although it dabbled in more muted décor for a time, it’s now unapologetically loud and proud.

Dark grey and green paint hues grace walls and ceilings throughout, while vibrant, patterned papers pep up walls and furnishings, and not an inch – neither doors nor wood trim – remains untouched.

Lily chose Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue for the bathroom walls and used floral paper leftover from the kitchen. The shelves were made from reclaimed wood and the brackets were vintage buys from eBay
Lily chose Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue for the bathroom walls and used floral paper leftover from the kitchen. The shelves were made from reclaimed wood and the brackets were vintage buys from eBay

‘I think I can finally say that I’ve found my style but I’m also becoming braver at running with my ideas,’ says Lily.

‘I like to play with a mix of different eras, patterns, colours and textures, and I make decisions based on what I love, as opposed to what I think will look nice together.’

‘I wanted our bedroom to feel like a cosy cave with an air of vintage decadence,’ Lily says. ‘I painted it in a dark blue-grey hue, and papered behind the bed with Tropical Green Plant paper from Murals Wallpaper.’
‘I wanted our bedroom to feel like a cosy cave with an air of vintage decadence,’ Lily says. ‘I painted it in a dark blue-grey hue, and papered behind the bed with Tropical Green Plant paper from Murals Wallpaper.’

When she moved in, Lily could likely never have imagined the impact a little redecorating would have on her life. In 2014, she applied for series three of the Great Interior Design Challenge as a bit of fun and made it to the final 16.

Then, in 2017, she created her interiors Instagram account, @layered.home, which has since blossomed into a side business that allows her to share her interiors know-how with the world.

‘I painted the mural using Frenchic paint,’ says Lily. ‘This room gets lots of sunlight, so I wanted it to have a nostalgic holiday feel with florals and blush pink tones.’
‘I painted the mural using Frenchic paint,’ says Lily. ‘This room gets lots of sunlight, so I wanted it to have a nostalgic holiday feel with florals and blush pink tones.’

But nothing beats the feeling of home. ‘We’re so fortunate to have a beautiful, happy space that truly feels like our home,’ Lily says.

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‘It doesn’t matter what other people think of it or how many mistakes we’ve made along the way. It’s all part of our journey and story as a family.’

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