Home makeover: ‘We let the house guide our style’

First-time buyer Hollie Swann has opted for a laid-back look, with sanded floors and second-hand furniture to suit her Victorian home

‘Everything was planned around the terracotta floor tiles from Floors of Stone. They looked bright orange to begin with and had to be treated with linseed oil and wax to create that aged look. We’ve even got space for a farmhouse-style breakfast table and chairs, which I found on eBay’

My home makeover…

Having rented in Liverpool for several years, we were fed up with not having a garden and couldn’t wait to decorate our own place. We knew we wanted a doer-upper with classic character features.

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After viewing loads of places, I quickly realised I didn’t want a house where you open the door straight into the living room.

‘It was gloomy in here before with a brown-toned white paint on the walls, so we’ve gone for a fresh blue called Warm Pewter by Dulux with white above the picture rail. The second-hand chest from Penny Lane Emporium has been sanded back and given new handles – it now makes a great coffee table’
‘It was gloomy in here before with a brown-toned white paint on the walls, so we’ve gone for a fresh blue called Warm Pewter by Dulux with white above the picture rail. The second-hand chest from Penny Lane Emporium has been sanded back and given new handles – it now makes a great coffee table’

Eventually, we found this three-bedroom Victorian property in Aigburth, Liverpool. I got a good feeling as soon as I walked in and loved the stained-glass windows and original fireplaces in every room.

Welcome to my home…

A bit about me I’m Hollie Swann, 30, a head of operations in higher education. I live with my husband Roly, 32, a doctor, and our golden retriever, Ralph. I Instagram our home @renovating_number_16.

Where I live We live in a three-bedroom Victorian terraced house in Aigburth, Liverpool. We bought it in November 2017. 

Hollie Swan

The garden was a complete jungle and there was no kitchen to speak of – just a sink and free-standing oven – but we knew it had potential and made an offer the same day. We waited a year before tackling the kitchen as we needed time to work out the best layout.

‘Roly’s parents gave us the chest of drawers, which we sanded down as the wood was a bit orange. The tall mirror is from Maisons du Monde’
‘Roly’s parents gave us the chest of drawers, which we sanded down as the wood was a bit orange. The tall mirror is from Maisons du Monde’

In the meantime, we redecorated the rest of the house, sanded all the floors and revamped the second-hand furniture.

Planters from TK Maxx and HomeSense create a lush display, alongside dried eucalyptus saved from a Christmas garland and hung from the picture rail. ‘Next we plan to add café-style shutters on the lower half of the window,’ says Hollie
Planters from TK Maxx and HomeSense create a lush display, alongside dried eucalyptus saved from a Christmas garland and hung from the picture rail. ‘Next we plan to add café-style shutters on the lower half of the window,’ says Hollie

Upstairs we have a lovely big, light master bedroom and two spare rooms. Since we have family and friends scattered all over the country, it’s great having the space for them.

A bit more about my home…

What I wanted to change The kitchen was a mishmash of free-standing furniture with a tricky layout and I was eager to get rid of the dodgy wallpaper and old carpets. 

How I made it my own We brought back the house’s period charm by reinstalling features like coving, picture rails and ceiling roses, sanding all the floorboards and restoring the original fireplaces. We then filled the rooms with lots of second-hand furniture. 

My favourite part I love the living room, especially the windows, and there’s plenty of seating for having family and friends round.It’s a really cosy space. 

Home makeover: 'We let the house guide our style'

Now we’re finished, I’m itching to do another project so we might sell up in 2021 to get more space and a bigger garden.

Living room

‘This room had awful psychedelic wallpaper with diamanté studs on the chimney breast, so it was in dire need of a makeover. When we pulled up the carpets, the floors were in perfect nick, so they came up nicely when sanded.

We’ve also added alcove shelves and painted the walls blue.

‘The tea chest was a total bargain at £9 from Facebook Marketplace, although a little boy has scratched ‘girls smell’ onto the back!’
‘The tea chest was a total bargain at £9 from Facebook Marketplace, although a little boy has scratched ‘girls smell’ onto the back!’

‘At first, we borrowed a sofa from Roly’s sister, but when she needed it back, we rushed into buying new ones from Next. I hated them for the first year but when I took down the curtains and got new cushions from H&M Home and Cox & Cox, it made a huge difference and suddenly I liked them!

‘Unfortunately, the original hearth tiles were smashed to pieces, so we’ve laid new ones from Tons of Tiles. I found the £80 French-style seat hidden behind other items at Tunnel Furniture, then sanded and reupholstered it myself after finding a how-to guide on Pinterest’
‘Unfortunately, the original hearth tiles were smashed to pieces, so we’ve laid new ones from Tons of Tiles. I found the £80 French-style seat hidden behind other items at Tunnel Furniture, then sanded and reupholstered it myself after finding a how-to guide on Pinterest’

‘I’ve finished the scheme off with a monochrome gallery wall featuring prints from Desenio and Posterlounge.’

‘This chest of drawers was so mucky it was nearly black, but I’ve given it a good sand and added new cup handles. The bottles were all dug out of my granddad’s garden and the prints are from Desenio’
‘This chest of drawers was so mucky it was nearly black, but I’ve given it a good sand and added new cup handles. The bottles were all dug out of my granddad’s garden and the prints are from Desenio’

Kitchen

‘I’m so relieved we waited a year before replanning the kitchen. Swapping around the outside door and window has been a game changer. It’s allowed us to have an L-shaped layout with space for a breakfast table. We also moved the entrance door to allow for a downstairs toilet and dropped the ceiling by a foot to add insulation.

‘At first, I wanted a dark blue kitchen, but soon realised it wouldn’t work in a small space. I’m really glad I changed my mind as I love the white’
‘At first, I wanted a dark blue kitchen, but soon realised it wouldn’t work in a small space. I’m really glad I changed my mind as I love the white’

‘It was a real labour of love. We did everything ourselves except the plumbing, electrics and plastering, even fitting the Wren units ourselves. Getting the worktops, appliances, sink, tap and handles separately worked out much cheaper too.

‘As the kitchen was quite plain, I wanted something a bit different in terms of lighting, so we found these unusual pendants at Pathson Light on eBay. We made the shelves from a £5 scaffold board’
‘As the kitchen was quite plain, I wanted something a bit different in terms of lighting, so we found these unusual pendants at Pathson Light on eBay. We made the shelves from a £5 scaffold board’

‘At first, I wanted a dark blue kitchen, but soon realised it wouldn’t work in a small space. I’m really glad I changed my mind as I love the white and it’ll work in our favour when we come to sell.’

Dining room

‘Our dining table was a £50 bargain from Gumtree and the four chairs were £40 from a charity shop. They’ve all been painted in a Valspar version of Farrow & Ball’s Railings to tie them together.

‘I painted the inside of this antique dresser in Dusky Blush by Frenchic to give it a modern twist. The printer’s tray is great for filling with champagne corks and little knick-knacks, like old handles that I’ve removed from furniture’
‘I painted the inside of this antique dresser in Dusky Blush by Frenchic to give it a modern twist. The printer’s tray is great for filling with champagne corks and little knick-knacks, like old handles that I’ve removed from furniture’

‘It took me about six weeks to reupholster the chairs and by the end I felt like I had no skin left on my knuckles! I choose Timeless by Dulux for the walls, as it’s a fail-safe neutral shade that I’ve used before.’

Hall

‘To create the same look throughout the ground floor, we’ve stripped the floorboards in here, although we still need to finish painting the stairs. We kept the textured wallpaper on the bottom half and painted it pale grey with white above the dado rail.

‘We were so lucky to get this pew for free as it was being thrown out of a church near Roly’s parents’ house. I’ve added the Hello cushion from Next and behind there’s a print of yoga poses from I am Fy’
‘We were so lucky to get this pew for free as it was being thrown out of a church near Roly’s parents’ house. I’ve added the cushions from Next and behind there’s a print of yoga poses from I am Fy’

‘The wall hooks were a DIY job using an old bit of wood. I’m half expecting them to fall off the wall, but they’ve served us pretty well so far.’

Master bedroom

‘Our bedroom has been through two big changes since we’ve been here. When we first moved in, it had swirly textured silver wallpaper, so we stripped that and painted it dark blue. However, it always felt gloomy, so we changed it again. Creating the panelling and painting it in School House White by Farrow & Ball was our lockdown project.

‘We’ve gone for brass accents in here, such as the shelves from La Redoute and ceiling pendant from Iconic Lights. The wall lights from Amazon are supposed to be wired in, but I took the wiring out and put some remote control LED lights inside instead. The throw and front cushions are from H&M Home and the large cushions are from Secret Linen Store’
‘We’ve gone for brass accents in here, such as the shelves from La Redoute and ceiling pendant from Iconic Lights. The wall lights from Amazon are supposed to be wired in, but I took the wiring out and put some remote control LED lights inside instead.’

‘Once we got going, the panelling was really easy – you just need some beading, a mitre box and a saw. I’m so much happier with it now as it feels so light, calm and relaxing. It’s taught me to think about what will work in my house rather than just going with the latest Instagram trend.’

Spare bedroom

‘The main change in here was removing the ugly plastic fitted wardrobes. They covered the wall from floor to ceiling where the bed is now, and made the fireplace look like it didn’t have a chimney breast. Decorating involved a bit of trial and error. After painting all the walls a Valspar version of Green Smoke by Farrow & Ball, I decided it needed a picture rail.

‘We’re both really bad sleepers so it’s handy having this John Lewis & Partners bed in the spare room as we tend to move around in the night. I’ve finished the room off with some Desenio prints and rich emerald green velvet cushions from H&M Home’
‘We’re both really bad sleepers so it’s handy having this John Lewis & Partners bed in the spare room as we tend to move around in the night. I’ve finished the room off with some Desenio prints and rich emerald green velvet cushions from H&M Home’

‘It’s made a huge difference as it’s lifted the whole room. The green looks so much nicer against the white above and combined with the painted floorboards.’

Bathroom

‘As the bath, sink and toilet were all in good condition, our bathroom makeover only cost about £500. Before, it had a bright yellow lino floor, wooden panelling up the bath, old tiles dropping off the walls and wallpaper falling off the ceiling.

We stripped the room, boxed in the pipes behind the sink and replaced all the tiles.

‘To create the tile pattern, I sat on the floor with lots of hexagon mosaic tiles from Tiles Direct and played around until I had a design I liked’
‘To create the tile pattern, I sat on the floor with lots of hexagon mosaic tiles from Tiles Direct and played around until I had a design I liked’
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‘I wanted a monochrome look, as I like that Victorian vibe but with a modern twist. As the room is so tiny, you couldn’t really change the layout. However, it’s amazing what a difference changing the shower curtain and spray-painting the radiator can make.’

What I learned…

It’s definitely worth spending time seeing how you live in the space before rushing into major renovations. If we’d done the kitchen straight away, we probably would’ve replicated the galley kitchen layout that was already there and regretted it. 

Save money by opting for second hand furniture. All the furniture in the house – apart from sofas and beds – is from Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree or local second-hand furniture shops, upgraded with new handles from eBay. We’ve saved so much money that way.

When creating a gallery wall, I always Blu-Tack the inset mounts up first to see how the shapes will look together before putting holes in the wall. 

YouTube is great for teaching yourself how to do things, like tiling. We ordered 20 per cent more tiles in case we messed it up. Even if you get it wrong though, at least you’ve learnt something. 

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