Patience has been a virtue for Carla Elliman, who spent two years saving and planning before gradually adding colour and personality into her once bland 90s house.
Here, tells us all about her home makeover experience…
My home makeover story
When my flatmate moved out, I decided to buy my first place, even though I could only just afford it. After viewing loads of houses, I thought I’d never find anything within my price range that didn’t need lots of work.
Finally, I found this small three-bedroom house that was liveable and I made an offer the same day. When I moved in, it was basically a magnolia box, so I painted everything white, which made a huge difference.
Welcome to my home…
A bit about me I’m Carla Elliman, 28, a graphic designer @carlaelliman. I live with my partner, Fraser Edwards-Cleaves, 27, who works in sales, and our cat, Bramble.
Where I live My home is a three-bedroom 90s semi in Chester, which I bought in 2015.
What I wanted to change The house was bland but liveable, so I could wait a while before redecorating. It was all beige carpets and magnolia walls, so I wanted to add colour and personality to it.
At first, I made do with a random collection of hand-me-downs and charity shop furniture as I was skint from buying the house.
In 2018 my partner, Fraser, moved in and we set about creating a home filled with colour and personality on a very limited budget.
We wanted to add colour in a subtle, tasteful way, so we started small with accessories to get a feel for what colours worked well together.
Then we built up to upcycling furniture and adding colourful rugs before getting braver with feature walls, shapes and stripes on the walls.
A bit more about my home…
How I made it my own I’ve gradually added colour through feature walls, colour blocking and stripes, as well as upcycling furniture and adding lots of houseplants. The existing bathroom and kitchen have been given a budget makeover and we’ve replaced the flooring and lighting throughout.
My favourite part I love the living room as we saved up and bought what we really wanted in here. It’s a lovely homely, fun, colourful space and a good reflection of both our personalities.
In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t have the money to start decorating straight away. Rather than rushing into it and changing my mind a year later, I was able to plan out exactly what I wanted to do.
‘After painting the magnolia walls white, I spent the first two years living with my mum and dad’s old beige sofas, a horrible lamp and a dated TV cabinet before gradually updating everything.
As we spend most of our time in here, I didn’t want to scrimp on flooring, so we saved up for engineered oak to replace the hideous beige carpets.
‘When designing a room, I always try and pick one object as a starting point to base everything around. Here, I chose the MADE.com coffee table because I loved the modern design and gold colour.
‘It’s a great statement centrepiece for the room and we’ve ended up mimicking the geometric shapes in the rug and on the record player unit, as well as choosing gold accessories to pair with it.
‘Shopping around is really important too. I had my heart set on a chaise sofa from MADE.com but then found the exact same design on eBay. It was about six months old and half the price.’
‘The wall mural in here was a bit of a random design. I wanted something to liven up the black and white kitchen and have used the same paint colours throughout the house to give a consistent theme.
‘We love cooking – especially veggie curries – so have added a high shelf underneath the three wall cabinets for all our dry ingredients.
‘I’m a bit of a neat freak so everything’s in IKEA Kilner jars. Next, I want to replace the floor. We’ll either go for LVT flooring in a similar shade to the living room floor or stencil the existing tiles like I’ve done in the bathroom.’
‘To save money, we’ve kept the existing kitchen units and just sprayed the silver handles black. We also took a couple of doors off the wall cabinets to break things up and show off some of our colourful crockery. Ideally, I’d like to replace all the wall units with shelves but it’s a small space and we need the storage.
‘Another easy update was replacing the boring chrome panel behind the cooker with adhesive vinyl. It’s held up really well as it’s wipe clean. One day I’d love a big sociable kitchen-diner but it’s not worth extending as we won’t be staying here long-term.’
‘As our bedroom is quite small, we’ve got a double bed rather than a king-size. However, replacing the curtains with blinds has made the space feel much bigger. We’ve also hung Amazon cord lights on some IKEA shelf brackets to create space-saving bedside lighting.
‘I love our gallery feature wall, which started with three prints, then five and just grew from there. I made the ‘C’ and ‘F’ letters myself and sell them in a range of colours on my Instagram @carlaelliman. If money was no object, I’d replace the farmhouse oak-style furniture from Listers Interiors with something more modern, but it won’t be happening any time soon.’
‘The starting point for our guest bedroom was a Chinese print that Fraser picked up when he was travelling in China. We later found the two black Foo dogs in HomeSense to carry through the Eastern theme. Rather than paint the whole wall green, we opted for colour blocking, which creates an oversized headboard effect.
‘The opposite wall has been hand-painted with polka dots and I’ve upcycled a pine IKEA chest of drawers too. Now we’ve lived here a while, I’m thinking about getting rid of the bed as we rarely have people to stay.
‘A sofabed and desk would work better for us. I’m also planning on redecorating again as it’s a bit of a mishmash of styles so the polka dots will go and I might try out some panelling.’
‘Although there was nothing wrong with the bathroom suite, I hated the beige wall and floor tiles in here. At first, I painted the ceiling black to draw attention away from them and added yellow accessories, but it still wasn’t enough. Later on, I was inspired to paint the tiles after seeing pictures on Instagram.
‘I used Rust-Oleum’s Tile Transformation kit on the walls, finished off with a black grout pen from Amazon. The floor tiles were revamped with an Aztec-style stencil from Dizzy Duck Designs and sealed with a waterproof varnish. I even painted the heated towel rail and toilet seat in black too. It looks like a completely new bathroom now.’
What I learned
When painting wall murals, always paint over the masking tape in the colour the wall was originally. Then let it dry before putting your new paint colour over it. This helps to get a clean, crisp line when you peel off the tape.
Don’t be afraid to give things a go yourself. It’s amazing what you can learn online and the money you can save by not having to pay tradespeople is a bonus. We learnt to lay the wood floors upstairs by watching the fitter do the living room and we can now fit lights, hang wallpaper and lay a patio thanks to a bit of research online and advice from our trusty DIY dads.
Figure out exactly how much everything will cost for each room. List it all out and then move money for it into a separate online banking pot. This stops you going off piste and buying loads of other things without thinking them through, and gives you a money target to save towards.
Feature Karen Wilson. Photos Katie Lee.