When house-hunting, Diandra and Samuel Gardner struck gold with the first property they viewed.
‘We booked in seven house viewings in one day and this house was the one we saw first thing. As soon as I walked in, I got good vibes from the space, and I loved the period features,’ explains Diandra.
‘This house set the bar high and as a consequence none of the other houses we saw that day were in the same league. We put an offer in as soon as we could because we were frightened about losing our potential dream home.’
After renting in London for two years, the couple were ready to take that first step on the property ladder.
‘As a child, I remember enjoying family day trips to Southend. I’d always wanted to move closer to the coast and yet we’re still only an hour from London by train. It was the perfect location for us both and the houses prices were reasonable, too.’
Buying the house had eaten up the last of their savings, so when it came to decorating their new home there was very little money leftover.
‘We’d got married the previous summer and all our cash had gone on the wedding,’ Diandra explains. ‘We moved in with a couple of suitcases of clothes, a guitar and a mattress. That was it. We were starting from scratch!’
Her in-laws helped clean the house from top to bottom, so it was ready to move in. ‘Our plan was to call in the help of family and friends to decorate and furnish the house, but then lockdown happened and suddenly our plans changed! It was just the two of us left to renovate the house. Luckily, we both love a challenge.’
Welcome to our home…
We are Diandra Gardner (on Instagram @homeandaway_dg), 28, a scientific research consultant, and my husband Samuel, 29, a music tour manager.
Our home is a 1930s, three-bedroom, semi-detached property in Southend-On-Sea.
Overall, the house was in great condition, with a fairly new kitchen, but the décor was a little underwhelming to say the least.
‘All the walls were painted magnolia or cream, and there was an ugly brown carpet laid throughout the house. There was the odd feature wall painted in baby blue, which felt cold and unwelcoming.’
Not able to wait any longer, within weeks of moving in Diandra and Samuel had ripped up all the carpet and had new, grey carpets put down.
‘With hindsight, we should have waited until we painted the walls but as we were sleeping on the floor, I couldn’t wait any longer.’
With lockdown giving them more spare time to work on the house, the couple could take on the main DIY tasks themselves.
‘With Samuel’s music tours cancelled, he had time on his hands for the bulk of the DIY. To save money, he fitted the carpets himself and laid the wooden flooring in the living spaces,’ explains Diandra.
It took the couple three weeks to paint the house from top-to-bottom.
‘We might have been quicker, but I kept changing my mind on the colours for the room. I quickly found that B&Q became my second home as I popped by there so often.’
In the end, Diandra decided to choose the same colours for her home that she picked out for her wedding day.
‘We had spent ages choosing our wedding theme, which was green, black and white with bits of silver. These colours had been used on the invitations, flowers and menus on our big day. And Samuel even wore a khaki tux jacket. As we love this colour combination, it made sense to use this palette throughout our home.’
A bit more about our home…
My best bargain was my grey sofa, which I picked up for £10.
I learned that If something goes wrong you can always fix it if you don’t like it – you can repaint walls, move shelving and rehang art. There are always ways to change things if you don’t like how it turned out.
Over the next few months, the house started to take shape. ‘As we were not going out as much, we could save money to spend on bigger furniture items,’ she says.
‘And I love a bargain, so I spent hours shopping around online looking for bigger pieces at prices we could afford. We just had to be patient with delivery times, but slowly we got there.’
They have big plans for this house, including extending across the back of the house by installing a larger new kitchen.
‘With every room that is decorated, I’m getting a little braver when it comes to choosing colours and patterns,’ she says.
‘This house has taught me to be more confident in my design choices, and after renovating it on our own we’re certainly not afraid to give things a try to create a home we love.’
Feature Maxine Brady. Photos David Giles.