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.
‘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.’
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.’
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.’
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.
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.’
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.’
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.
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.’
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.’
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.’