Home makeover: 'I injected personality into my new-build'
Elaine Verdon felt her home lacked character, so she decided to do what she does best: give it the mother of all makeovers
Keen to get on the property ladder, Elaine Verdon and her sister decided to team up, pool their resources and invest in a property together.
Having grown up beside the sea, the sisters set out to find a home where lapping waves would be just a short walk away.
The search brought them to a house in an area just north of Dublin, close to their childhood home. But the lure of the coast wasn’t the only appealing aspect. ‘A lot of people we’d grown up with were moving here, so it felt young and buzzy,’ Elaine says.
‘In fact, two of our best friends ended up buying the house next door, so it was quite the party street for a time!’
Not only did the house they’d found tick the location and social life boxes, it also and had plenty of space for them to live comfortably together, so was an opportunity not to be missed.
And after their offer was accepted in 2008, they moved in.
Welcome to my home...We are Elaine Verdon, interior designer and stylist at Leo + Cici, my husband, Simon, a salesman and drummer, our son, Arthur, who’s two, and our dog, Daisy.
Our home is a three-bedroom new-build in Dublin, Ireland. It was built in 2007, and I moved in 12 years ago.
But despite the house’s many merits, the interior left a lot to be desired. ‘It was a new-build, so it lacked all the lovely features you get with a period property,’ Elaine says.
‘It was essentially a bland, empty box. Bar the kitchen and bathrooms, which were already in situ, the house was void of all décor. We were quite particular about having it feel homey straight away, so we did all the decorating before moving in.’
Elaine took on the task of giving the property a vibrant makeover, with the intention of injecting some personality into it to make up for its lack of character.
And, to begin with, she succeeded. What she hadn’t bargained for, however, was the huge repair work needed on the foundations.
‘Around two months after moving into the property we found out that the building had a defective mineral – pyrite – in the foundations, which hadn’t been detected by the quarry when they made the materials,’ Elaine remembers.
‘This meant that our foundations were likely to expand, crack or crumble over time.
‘We had to wait almost five years and go through a mass litigation case to have it repaired, by which time my sister had emigrated to New York for work and my now-husband Simon had moved in.
We both had to relocate for six weeks while repair work took place. It was a nuisance, but really important to have it fixed.’
A bit more about my home...My top tip is Don’t be too proud to hire professionals if it’ll save you time, stress, and result in a higher quality finish. Be sure to get three quotes before committing to tradespeople, though.
For style inspiration I mainly look to peers, magazines and the fashion world for interior ideas, but I’m generally inspired by everything.
After a lot of stress, struggle and false starts, Elaine finally started to settle into her home.
Once the repairs were finished, the redecorating could begin and Elaine could explore her personal interior style – something she’s been experimenting with ever since.
‘My home has had a number of interior schemes over the years,’ she says.
‘I like to play around with colour and texture and, when inspiration strikes, I act, so the décor constantly evolving.’
One look around Elaine’s home and her love of colour and commitment to clever interior styling immediately becomes clear.
She isn’t afraid of getting creative and doesn’t shy away from bold colours or patterns.
The house may have lacked character when Elaine bought it 12 years ago, but it’s full of personal touches now.
Colourful walls and accessories throughout add vibrancy and whimsy, while the use of darker hues, such as black, dark grey and forest green, give a grown-up, sophisticated touch.
The original kitchen and bathrooms are still in place, meaning extra care and thought has gone into the surrounding décor to draw attention away from the features, such as the tiles in the bathroom, that Elaine hasn’t yet been able to change.
She’s also used a couple of clever and daring paint techniques to further amplify her home’s character. The painted staircase creates a stand-out feature in the hallway, which lacks the history that comes with period properties.
Modern radiators have been given the same colour treatment as the walls behind so that they don’t steal unwanted focus and ceilings void of cornicing have been given cool colour updates.
‘My motto is: be bold and go for it,’ says Elaine. ‘It’s my home, so if I like it, that’s all that matters.’
Elaine’s continuing experiments with interiors have not only helped her create a beautiful home for her family, they’ve also inspired her to start an interior design and styling business, Leo + Cici, which she established in 2016.
But that doesn’t mean she’s finished tweaking the style of the home she lives in. ‘I’d love to give the bathrooms a new look,’ she says.
‘The two en-suites and the family bathroom all need a total overhaul, but I reckon I need to win the lottery first. All in all, though, I’m so proud of my home. It’s the cosy family abode I wanted, and we all feel so happy and settled here, which is what matters most.’