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
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.
After viewing loads of places, I quickly realised I didn’t want a house where you open the door straight into the living room.
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.
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.
In the meantime, we redecorated the rest of the house, sanded all the floors and revamped the second-hand furniture.
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.
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.
‘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.
‘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!
‘I’ve finished the scheme off with a monochrome gallery wall featuring prints from Desenio and Posterlounge.’
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.’
‘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.
‘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.’
‘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.
‘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.’
‘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.
‘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.’
‘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.
‘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.’
‘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.
‘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.