With a passion for colour, Emily Dawe set about transforming her dull magnolia rental into a happy home. Here, she shares her home makeover story…
This is my first home with my now-husband Cameron. We searched all over London to find the perfect place that suited our needs for commuting and somewhere that felt like home. Our landlord was overwhelmed by offers of potential renters, so we were bowled over that we were the lucky ones chosen!
Once we moved in, I had a chat with the landlord about what I did for a living, as at the time I was working at Woman’s Weekly as the home editor.
Welcome to my home
A bit about me I’m Emily Dawe, a craft designer, author and creative workshop tutor (@editbyemily). I live with my Kiwi husband, Cameron, a web developer. We have a baby on the way, due in January.
Where I live Our home is a top-floor flat of a converted Victorian terrace house in Brixton, London.
I explained that I styled homes all the time and asked if she would be okay with me painting and decorating, within reason. I did a happy dance after that call, as I set about making Pinterest boards for each room.
Thankfully my husband likes colour too, so we had a lot of fun picking out paint shades and learning to wallpaper for the first time.
Just three months after moving in I was made redundant. It didn’t come as a shock, but suddenly my home needed to now become a workspace too. I had to rethink the spare room as not just a hobby room, but as my office.
So, I invested in a proper desk and really thought about storage to make the best use of the small space.
A bit more about my home
What I wanted to change Being a rental, I knew I couldn’t do much. I was just super keen to start making the place feel like home.
How I made it my own I made some bold choices when it came to painting. Luckily the landlord trusted me! I was even allowed to wallpaper too.
My favourite part is My green bedroom. Waking up surrounded by such a beautiful colour makes me feel energised every day.
We have a baby due in January, so the function for the spare room will have to change dramatically. I’m so excited to plan the nursery! I also have plans of splitting the living room with some cleverly positioned furniture so I can continue to work in there instead.
This isn’t our forever home, but we’re really enjoying making the place feel homely and special. I don’t believe in putting things off until we can buy – who knows when we’ll be able to afford that – so, for now, we’ll continue to feather this nest.
‘Most people’s reaction when they step into this room is ‘wow’, as the vivid blue of the chimney breast really does pop.
I’d been saving this paint for a while before we even moved in together, so I was excited when we got the thumbs up to paint from the landlord.
‘Colour doesn’t scare me, but as soon as I started applying the first coat of Little Greene’s Ultra Blue, I knew I couldn’t do the entire room in it. I kept the original colour on the other three walls, but I’d like to paint these white as the magnolia is a bit too warm alongside the blue.
We have a large tree just outside the window that blocks a lot of natural light, so keeping the floor and walls neutral helps brighten the room.’
‘There wasn’t too much we could do to this room. I loved the grey metro tiles and everything else was pretty neutral. I swapped the existing knobs for these vintage ones, put a shelf up above the sink and made sure everything on the countertop was either practical or beautiful.
‘I’d love to redo this kitchen to make it more modern. The dream would be black Shaker-style with brass handles. I’ll have to save that for when we eventually buy!’
‘The bedroom was the first room I wanted to revamp. When we moved in it was painted in a pale khaki green colour, which made the room look dull. We did a proper job of it, filling in holes and cracks, sanding it and making it all sound for a good-quality finish.
‘I chose Fortune Green by Dulux; it’s such a rich, tranquil colour. Green is said to have calming properties and supposedly helps with fertility!’
The bedding is kept quite neutral, with throws and cushions from HomeSense and IKEA to add comfort and texture.
A beautiful handmade macramé hangs above the bed, made by Emily’s friend Brooke (@brookellen_).
Emily loved the fixtures that came with the flat, as well as the tongue and groove panelling, which doubles up as a mini shelf. She painted the walls a soft blue, added a chair for storage, a statement mirror and a dark wooden cabinet, which makes a lovely alternative to typical bathroom furniture.
‘The bathroom is the lightest, brightest room in the flat, so I often shoot the step-by-steps for my blog in here. I’ve also been known to style my flatlays for Instagram on top of the toilet!’ laughs Emily.
The spare room is now Emily’s office/craft room. ‘It was so incredible to finally have a room of my own, rather than a corner of my bedroom. I chose this stunning bird wallpaper from Little Greene called Great Ormond St. It was a real splurge for us, but I justified it as it’s such a small room.’
As well as teaching workshops, Emily creates craft content for Paperchase, Hobbycraft, Dunelm and her own blog, emilydawe.com. She owns a lot of craft materials, all of which need to be organised and stored away neatly.
‘With a baby on the way, I’ll need to rethink things soon, as I’m not sure we’ll be able to fit in a cot. Unless the baby is happy snuggled up under my desk!’
What I learned…
If you’re renting and you know you won’t be living there for very long, try not to spend too much money on decorating. Yes, that might mean you have to live with magnolia for three years, but think of the time and money you’ll save. Make accessories your priority instead; things you can take to your next property.
Think about how a colour is going to be used in a room. I was so keen to use the Ultra Blue that I just dived straight in and started painting. I should have realised that it wouldn’t work with the magnolia and a whole room in this colour would be too intense. I think about eight coats went on all together… it took weeks!
This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in HomeStyle magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?