Home makeover: ‘My home is second-hand glam’

Upcycling hand-me-downs allowed Saoirse Findlay to decorate her new-build house in one-of-a-kind style

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'

When Saoirse Findlay moved into their home, it couldn’t be further from the kind of place that her and her partner Jordan were looking for.

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Slowly but surely, she began to replace the bland, vanilla schemes with a spectrum of colours and filled rooms with sentimental furnishings. Here, she recalls her home makeover experience…

Welcome to my home

A bit about me I’m Saoirse Findlay. I live with my partner, Jordan, and our son, Ezra, who’s three.                             

Where I live Our home is a three-bedroom property in Cork, Ireland, and was built in 2006. We have lived in this house for two years.

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'

My story…

Jordan and I first started our search for a home in 2017. We mostly had our eye on executor sales; properties whose owner had passed away and left it to a family member to sell, that were below budget and needed a lot of work.

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'
‘My best upcycle to date has to be the trunk coffee table,’ Saoirse muses. ‘It was my mother’s old school trunk and, when we were cleaning out my grandmother’s house after she passed away, someone threw it on the skip! At the time, I had no idea what I would do with it, but I knew it was too special to throw out. Once we bought the house I cleaned it up and sanded down the wood and rust, then added hairpin legs to create a cool and kooky coffee table. I love that it has a place in our home now’

We didn’t mind a project – the chance to make a home our own – but somewhere complete, that needed no work whatsoever, was ideal. So, when we came across this house, fully finished, we went for it, even though it was at the top of our budget.

Follow your gut and not current trends

After a short bidding war, we won, and we couldn’t believe our luck. We had gone slightly over our maximum budget, but we didn’t mind as this place needed no structural work, only a few superficial tweaks to the décor.

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'
‘The mid-century sideboard is my favourite piece of furniture, and we get asked about it all the time,’ says Saoirse. ‘We inherited it from Jordan’s late grandfather, who was a woodwork teacher and made the piece himself. It truly is one of a kind and is so sentimental to us’

Built in 2006, it has a modern and practical layout, but a few unusual finishes that I haven’t seen before, including tiles on the living room floor; not something you often come across in Cork.

About my home

What I wanted to change I wanted to get rid of the many magnolia rooms and, further down the line, knock down the wall between the kitchen and living room, which we’re still yet to do.

How I made it my own Slowly but surely, we’ve replaced the bland, vanilla schemes with a spectrum of colours and filled rooms with sentimental furnishings.

My favourite part I love how cosy our home is. It’s really   warm and welcoming; we’ve managed to make it into a happy little family haven.

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'

It was also magnolia as far as the eye could see; every wall was a variation of cream. It felt pretty bland and lacked character, but it was a blank canvas and we could see that it had a lot of potential.

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'
‘The entryway table, which I inherited from my grandmother, really inspired the look of the hallway and landing,’ Saoirse shares. ‘I thought about painting it, but it’s just so beautiful as it is. The shelves cost €12 at a flea market; they’re from an old church’

Having spent our entire budget on the house, we couldn’t afford to update everything at once so, slowly, we’ve made small, yet effective changes.

Don’t worry what your loved ones will think; do what you want with your home

Since moving in we’ve gone through a lot of paint, but it’s amazing the difference a change in wall colour can have on the ambience of a room.

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'
‘All of the kitchen furniture is from IKEA, except for the dining chairs,’ says Saoirse. ‘They belonged to my grandparents and I upcycled them to add a little more colour to our kitchen’

The majority of our furniture is hand-me-downs from our late grandparents. I shuddered the first time I saw some of the pieces my mum was trying to pawn off on me; it was not how I imagined furnishing my house. But, I soon discovered the addictive art of upcycling and had great fun making the items pretty and functional again. Now, our one-of-a-kind pieces and revamped belongings are what makes our home unique, and one of the reasons I love it so much.

Kitchen

‘The kitchen was in great shape when we moved in,’ says Saoirse. ‘However, our plan is to knock through to the living room eventually so, for now, we have made only the tiniest of tweaks, though all have made a huge improvement.

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'
Eventually, Saoirse and Jordan plan to knock through the wall between the kitchen and living room for an open-plan space. So, for the time being they’ve focused on making their kitchen beautiful on a budget with quick fixes such as tile decals, coloured furnishings and cute accessories

We used low-cost tile decals to update the splashback, which took very little time and looks great, and we also replaced all of the handles on the cupboard doors. They’re all such small and achievable tasks, but they’ve completely altered the look – and feel – of our kitchen. We really want to paint the walls another colour, but that’s a job for another day.’

Master bedroom

‘Much like the rest of the house, the master bedroom was magnolia in colour before I took my paintbrush to it,’ says Saoirse.

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'
‘To further personalise the space, I spray-painted the bed knobs gold and changed the handles on our IKEA bedside tables,’ Saoirse shares. ‘I’ve learnt that small tweaks like these can have a big impact on a room and tend to be fairly low-cost’

‘I’m always drawn to dark colours as I think they make a room feel so cosy, which was particularly important in the bedroom, so we chose a beautiful deep blue-green hue for two of the walls. I carried the paint onto the adjoining wall at an angle to create an illusion of more space and I think it really works. I’m so proud of how this room has come together; it really is me down to a T.’

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'
The pairing of light and dark with old and new in the master bedroom makes Saoirse’s room feel snug, but not gloomy. It’s characterful, yet still entirely practical and functional

Expert tips 

How to create a reading corner

Style a nook that’s strictly for reading and relaxing…

First, choose your spot. You’ll want a space that’s quiet and, if possible, away from distractions, such as dishes that need washing. Somewhere that you can escape reality in. Maybe it’s the corner of a bedroom, like in Ezra’s room, or perhaps it’s in a conservatory or lesser-used dining room.

Next, consider your comfiest reading position and choose a chair to accommodate your many reading sessions to come. You could choose an armchair or sofa, a hammock, swing chair or floor cushions. 

Finally, add the finishing touches. This might include shelves to stash books, a light source for late-night reading, somewhere to prop your coffee mug and decorative touches too, such as artwork or even a decorative canopy, like Ezra’s.

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'

Nursery

‘Jordan and I really wanted Ezra’s bedroom to be a blank canvas,’ Saoirse shares. ‘I didn’t want to commit to just one colour; I wanted to be able to use lots of colours and have the flexibility to chop and change furnishings as we like, and as Ezra grows and his preferences change.

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'
‘The bedside cabinet was a cast-off from my mum, as was the chest of drawers,’ says Saoirse. ‘It was literally rotting in her shed and I thought, ‘cheers, mum, for giving me this’. It cleaned up well, though. I’ve learnt that a quick paint job can hide a multitude of sins’

‘So, we painted the magnolia walls white, and I used triangle decals to pep up one plain wall. Elsewhere, I hung bunting and artwork to brighten his bedroom, and have displayed his favourite books to add a little extra colour.’

Home makeover: 'My home is second-hand glam'
Saoirse chose a scheme that’s completely interchangeable in Ezra’s bedroom. By opting for a white base, she can change the accessories and furnishings to create an entirely new look

What I learned…

Paint is a surprisingly powerful tool. It has the ability to transform the entire look and feel of a space. I can’t believe the difference a lick of paint has made to some of the rooms in our house.

You can learn practically any skill on YouTube. This came in particularly helpful for tackling DIY jobs; we saved so much money by doing them ourselves.

Patience is crucial. Home renovations aren’t completed overnight. In fact, we’ll be chipping away at ours for years to come. The trick is learning to enjoy the journey.

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