Home makeover: ‘This house was a fresh start for our family’

Sharon and David Hyatt-Mailes swapped the upheaval of big renovation projects for a Victorian home they could enjoy making their own

‘It was always my dream to have a Smeg fridge in a cool colour in my kitchen! It’s the first thing everyone notices in our open plan space,’ she says. The metal ironwork bar stools are an Amazon find and the hanging pan rack came from eBay. ‘We sanded back the worktop to revive the wooden surface and we make sure we oil it frequently to keep it in top condition’

After completing a huge renovation project on their previous home, Sharon and David Hyatt-Mailes wanted to move into a house that needed very little building work to give their family a much-needed break.

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To start with Sharon only painted the alcoves in Gramophone matt emulsion by Crown, but as she has grown in confidence, she decided to paint the rest of walls for a warm look. Above the DFS sofa hangs an architectural drawing of an Italian building. The metal wire side tables were a bargain buy from Aldi. The Union Jack chair was an eBay find. ‘I picked up the chest of drawers as part of a collection of furniture for just £120,’ Sharon says. At the windows, shutters from California Shutters filter in the daylight
To start with Sharon only painted the alcoves in Gramophone matt emulsion by Crown, but as she has grown in confidence, she decided to paint the rest of walls for a warm look. Above the DFS sofa hangs an architectural drawing of an Italian building. The metal wire side tables were a bargain buy from Aldi. The Union Jack chair was an eBay find. ‘I picked up the chest of drawers as part of a collection of furniture for just £120,’ Sharon says. At the windows, shutters from California Shutters filter in the daylight

‘We virtually demolished, rebuilt and extended our last house. We lived in a caravan on-site for six months, which took a toll on our family life,’ says Sharon.

‘Over the past 20 years we’ve renovated five properties and they were big projects. This time around, we decided we’d buy a more manageable place.’

Taking pride of place in the living room is the unusual marble fire surround. ‘The fire basket was from our old home,’ explains Sharon. ‘It was in our garden for about eight years just sitting there waiting for the moment when we could use it again’
Taking pride of place in the living room is the unusual marble fire surround. ‘The fire basket was from our old home,’ explains Sharon.
‘It was in our garden for about eight years just sitting there waiting for the moment when we could use it again’

Welcome to our home

We are Sharon Hyatt-Mailes, 51, illustrator at thehouseportrait.co.uk and Instagrammer (@overatno_43), my husband David, 53, a taxi driver, and our children India, 23, and Zak, 19, and our dogs, Coco and Honey.

Our home is A four-bedroomed semi-detached Victorian villa dating back to 1892.

The location of their new home was important to the family, says Sharon. ‘We lived a semi-rural life before this and we wanted to move closer to a town. We wanted to be able to walk to the shops, live nearer to family and have a better quality of life with more to do.’

The dining table is one of Sharon’s many upcycling projects, which she painted in black Rust-Oleum paint. She then turned her attention to the chairs. ‘I used leftover paint from my front door for some of the dining chairs because I wanted to bring more of the lilac colour into my home.’ Above the fireplace hangs an oversized clock from Dunelm
The dining table is one of Sharon’s many upcycling projects, which she painted in black Rust-Oleum paint. She then turned her attention to the chairs. ‘I used leftover paint from my front door for some of the dining chairs because I wanted to bring more of the lilac colour into my home.’ Above the fireplace hangs an oversized clock from Dunelm

With all of this in mind, the couple started house hunting in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

‘We loved the old town. It’s very quaint with cobbled streets, lots of period properties and local food markets. I wanted to move closer to my sister too, who lives up the road.’

The little pantry provides much-needed storage space in the kitchen. ‘It used to have everything just thrown in there, until we put in the little cupboards, re-did the shelving and changed the light fitting,’ Sharon says. ‘The wooden worktop was covered by ugly vinyl plastic, which we peeled off.’ The little curtain hides the washing machine
The little pantry provides much-needed storage space in the kitchen. ‘It used to have everything just thrown in there, until we put in the little cupboards, re-did the shelving and changed the light fitting,’ Sharon says. ‘The wooden worktop was covered by ugly vinyl plastic, which we peeled off.’ The little curtain hides the washing machine

It was their dream to buy a Victorian house. ‘We’ve always loved the character of older properties,’ she says. ‘This house, in particular, felt very welcoming and the proportions of the rooms were ideal. But sadly, it was above our price bracket.’

A bit more about our home

My top tip You can find lots of bargain pieces of furniture in junk yards that are ideal for upcycling. 

I’m most proud of All the DIY work we did in our living room. We installed the dado and picture rails, added the panelling under the window and put down new flooring. Lots of very hard work went into this room.

Instead of over stretching themselves, the couple waited for the price to slowly drop before making an offer. Within months they had sold up and moved in.

Good idea! Fake a home library with book wallpaper. You could even prop up a ladder to complete the look!
Good idea! Fake a home library with book wallpaper. You could even prop up a ladder to complete the look!

The fact that this house needed very little building work was appealing to Sharon and David. There was a small issue with a leaking skylight, which needed professional help to repair, but otherwise the house was structurally sound.

‘David and I have always done most of the renovation work on our previous homes ourselves,’ explains Sharon. ‘Over the years we’ve taken various courses including carpentry, joinery and interior design, which have saved us a fortune on tradespeople. We could tell straight away that this house only needed cosmetic changes to breathe life back into it.’

Sharon’s daughter, India choose the décor of the attic bedroom picking out a monochrome striped wallpaper from Wilko for the walls and matching cushions from IKEA. ‘The wooden storage box has been with us from house to house,’ says Sharon. ‘Originally, it was dark wood, but I painted it white to match India’s room design’
Sharon’s daughter, India choose the décor of the attic bedroom picking out a monochrome striped wallpaper from Wilko for the walls and matching cushions from IKEA. ‘The wooden storage box has been with us from house to house,’ says Sharon. ‘Originally, it was dark wood, but I painted it white to match India’s room design’

Over the past three years, Sharon and David have decorated every room. Some of the rooms needed a quick refresh, while others needed a little more attention. ‘We tackled the kitchen as soon as we moved in, adding extra units for storage space and we put a coat of paint on the walls,’ she explains.

They also painted the central island and the range surround black. ‘We had to shave down the mantle to be able to squeeze in the range cooker.’

Behind the dressing table, Sharon has put up a metallic pineapple wallpaper from B&Q. ‘We all store our clothes in here and it’s a lovely space to get ready in,’ she says. The black chair was a birthday gift from David to Sharon. Above the upcycled dressing table hangs an industrial light fitting found on eBay
Behind the dressing table, Sharon has put up a metallic pineapple wallpaper from B&Q. ‘We all store our clothes in here and it’s a lovely space to get ready in,’ she says. The black chair was a birthday gift from David to Sharon. Above the upcycled dressing table hangs an industrial light fitting found on eBay

At the other side of the room where the dining table sits, the couple installed a log burner. ‘We found one for next-to-nothing in a reclamation yard, which we stripped back and restored.’

The couple carefully put back all of the period details in the house. ‘We salvaged an ironwork fireplace for our master bedroom. Behind the surround, we cheated a brick effect with wallpaper,’ she says. Wooden flooring was put down throughout to cover the draughty floorboards.

Why not copy Sharon’s idea and paint your wooden front door in a fresh colour? She used Dusty Lilac eggshell by Valspar. On the wall hangs an old map of Hertfordshire by Mapiful. To finish off her hallway, Sharon has installed period-style switches that she sourced from eBay. The umbrella stand is a marketplace find
Why not copy Sharon’s idea and paint your wooden front door in a fresh colour? She used Dusty Lilac eggshell by Valspar. On the wall hangs an old map of Hertfordshire by Mapiful. To finish off her hallway, Sharon has installed period-style switches that she sourced from eBay. The umbrella stand is a marketplace find

The area that needed the most attention was the hallway. They steamed off the anaglypta wallpaper and stripped the painted woodwork.

‘The walls were crumbling in places,’ says Sharon. ‘We had to fit a dado rail that curves up three flights of stairs. It took forever to get that perfect. To finish, I painted the front door in a pretty lavender shade.’

Start your own collection of hanging hearts to give your walls some country styling
Start your own collection of hanging hearts to give your walls some country styling

When it came to decorating, Sharon has been playful with her design choices.

‘We put up a faux-book wallpaper in the garden room as we wanted to have a little bit of fun. The same goes for the Union Jack chairs and our artwork. I find lots of my furniture bargains on eBay – it’s an affordable way to add personality to my home.’

‘We salvaged an ironwork fireplace for our master bedroom. Behind the surround, we cheated a brick effect with wallpaper’
‘We salvaged an ironwork fireplace for our master bedroom. Behind the surround, we cheated a brick effect with wallpaper’
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Now that their house is finished, Sharon and David are considering downsizing. ‘We want to stay in the Hemel Hempstead area, but we also want to buy a second home by the seaside. Then we’ll have the best of both worlds – coastal living and the bustle of town life,’ Sharon says. ‘It’s going to be a tough decision and it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to his house.’

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