Home makeover: ‘The colours fill my senses’

Take a look inside wallpaper designer Diane Hill's incredible colourful Hertfordshire home

Diane’s confidence with colour shines bright in the 
living room, while clusters of plants add layers of natural 
texture. Diane varnished her IKEA Lisabo coffee table 
with Ronseal dark oak interior varnish for a retro look

Bespoke wallpaper designer Diane Hill’s bright and cheerful home is a testament to her incredible imagination and artistry.

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Here, she shares the story of her home makeover…

My story…

Our house hunt started with a near misstep. We nearly talked ourselves into buying a tiny Victorian terrace, which would have been a disaster, as I was already pregnant with our daughter, Bonnie.

The large striped cushions by Anna Cox create a bold statement
The large striped cushions by Anna Cox create a bold statement

Thankfully, our heads were turned by this semi-detached house opposite a beautiful park, with three bedrooms, a loft, garage and large garden.

Welcome to my home…

A bit about me I’m Diane Hill and I’m a decorative artist at @dianehilldesign. I live with my husband, Matt, and our children, Rosie and Bonnie. 

Where I live My home is a three-bedroom semi in Cheshunt, built in the 1960s. We’ve lived here for five years.  

Diane Hill

There was a compromise, however: the property hadn’t been touched since it was built in the 1960s and needed a huge amount of work. By the time we were handed the keys, we had two months until Bonnie was due.

Pearlescent metallic paint allows the matte details of Diane’s chinoiserie design to add depth. ‘I’m a decorative artist and I hand-paint my artwork directly onto wallpaper or walls. Colour evokes so much emotion for me,’ says Diane. ‘I adore the impact a whole-room painting has.’ New doors out to the garden bathe the dining table in light and create the much-needed link to the outdoors that Diane and Matt craved
Pearlescent metallic paint allows the matte details of Diane’s chinoiserie design to add depth. ‘I’m a decorative artist and I hand-paint my artwork directly onto wallpaper or walls. Colour evokes so much emotion for me,’ says Diane. ‘I adore the impact a whole-room painting has.’ New doors out to the garden bathe the dining table in light and create the much-needed link to the outdoors that Diane and Matt craved

We stayed at our parents’ for the first few weeks as the renovations got started.

On day one, the whole house was rewired, then we upgraded all of the plumbing, as well as changing the downstairs layout to open up the living space and installing double doors out onto the garden.

The couple designed and fitted the kitchen using online tutorials and sheer determination. Open to the dining area, the reconfigured layout is perfect for family life and is a world away from the boxy rooms they inherited
The couple designed and fitted the kitchen using online tutorials and sheer determination. Open to the dining area, the reconfigured layout is perfect for family life and is a world away from the boxy rooms they inherited

We were then left with a raw shell and everything else was up to us.

We worked for two weeks during the freezing winter with no heating or running water – we had to use our neighbour’s hose just to grout the tiles and wash our brushes! Somehow, we pulled it off.

Husband Matt built the L-shaped dressing table into the alcove to make great use of the awkward space
Husband Matt built the L-shaped dressing table into the alcove to make great use of the awkward space

I went into labour as I was building furniture and Matt and his dad were installing our bedroom doors, which were actually the last big jobs we had left to do before we could decorate.

Bonnie timed it to perfection.

‘This mural took me a year to complete and it’s my favourite design in the house,’ says Diane. ‘My idea was to create the sense of a garden and dissolve the walls. I know it’s worked as I often hear Bonnie talking to the little painted birds’
‘This mural took me a year to complete and it’s my favourite design in the house,’ says Diane. ‘My idea was to create the sense of a garden and dissolve the walls. I know it’s worked as I often hear Bonnie talking to the little painted birds’

A few months after Bonnie’s arrival, I decided to set up my own company, Diane Hill Design and it’s gone from strength to strength. I was featured in Vogue within the first few months and I’ve been on the BBC too.

I’m happier than I’ve ever been and this house was the catalyst for it all.

A bit more about my home…

What I wanted to change Everything! We gutted the whole house and started again. It hadn’t been touched since it was built and needed a complete overhaul – electrics, plumbing, the works.

How I made it my own We opened up the ground floor, installing double doors out onto the garden, and I’ve introduced my own murals throughout. 

My favourite part It has to be the multi-coloured chinoiserie design I painted in Bonnie’s nursery.

Diane Hill

Living room

Vivid shades of blue pop against matte white, most dramatically on the deep teal chimney breast.

Stacking colour-blocked books in different configurations brings interest and texture to the white walls, and ties in wonderfully with Diane’s accessories
Stacking colour-blocked books in different configurations brings interest and texture to the white walls, and ties in wonderfully with Diane’s accessories

‘I fought hard to keep the original fireplace,’ says Diane. ‘It would have been so much easier to tear it down, but I was dead set on retaining as much history as possible.’

On the opposite wall, Diane’s terrazzo-style paint effect also harks back to the house’s ’60s roots.

Kitchen

At evenings and weekends, the industrious pair installed the kitchen after watching YouTube videos. They also lifted the old carpet, sanded original floorboards and stripped wallpaper.

‘We installed the kitchen and bathroom after watching YouTube videos’ says Diane
‘We installed the kitchen and bathroom after watching YouTube videos’ says Diane

‘I love the contrast between the blue metro tiles and the dusky pink walls,’ Diane explains. ‘I chose the oak worktop to echo the warmth of the original floorboards, which we worked so hard to reveal!’

Bathroom

Patterned floor tiles, kept to monochrome shades, balance the sunny yellow walls, while a selection of houseplants give the bathroom a fresh feel.

With a collection of colourful plant pots, bright yellow walls and vibrant towels, Diane continues her love of colour in the bathroom
With a collection of colourful plant pots, bright yellow walls and vibrant towels, Diane continues her love of colour in the bathroom

Continuing the yellow walls from the hallway, the bathroom uses grey grout to enhance the geometric appeal of the metro tiles.

A hanging shelf proves to be the perfect spot for potted mini cacti
A hanging shelf proves to be the perfect spot for potted mini cacti

Main bedroom

‘The mural in here draws together all of the natural textures I love: marble, concrete and plaster. The white furniture and mirrored wardrobes create the contemporary feel I was after and Matt built the L-shaped dressing table into the alcove.

Featuring shades of greys, blues, pinks and hints of gold, Diane’s mural brings all of the colours included in the bedroom together
Featuring shades of greys, blues, pinks and hints of gold, Diane’s mural brings all of the colours included in the bedroom together

‘The design behind the shelving was actually a really last-minute job, as I realised I needed something soft to tie the whole scheme together.’

Rosie’s bedroom

Painted with subtle diagonal brush strokes, the colour palette was inspired by Diane’s ’90s childhood. Daughter Rosie’s own artworks of an apple and a pear are hung proudly for all to admire.

‘Rosie is so like me when I was growing up; she’s passionately creative,’ Diane smiles.

Picture ledges allow Rosie to change up her display of artwork and trinkets as and when she likes
Picture ledges allow Rosie to change up her display of artwork and trinkets as and when she likes

‘I felt it was very important that she had her own art desk so she can experiment, learn and have fun. You never know,
I could be changing my business’s name to Hill & Daughter Design in the not-so-distant future.’

What I learned… 

Always consider lighting first. We didn’t factor in the cost and ended up getting a shock. It’s just so important for creating the right ambience; for example, under and above kitchen cupboards.

Try not to scrimp on things that are too difficult to upgrade in future, such as flooring or your bathroom suite. Function always wins over aesthetics.

Creatives can get carried away with wonderful DIY ideas that may not stand the test of time. My biggest learning curve was spray-painting our kitchen tiles in a geometric pattern. I realised that they just wouldn’t work – they kept scratching. Learn to let go of creative ideas that won’t work in a practical sense. 

Diane Hill
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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?