When Bronagh and Ivan began to look for their first house on a small budget, it took going back for a second viewing on their now-home to fully see its potential. ‘We’d looked at lots of properties and actually viewed this house but dismissed it. We came back a few months later and decided there and then we could do something lovely with it,’ explains Bronagh.
It was in the perfect location close to their family, in a lovely spot on a quiet road on the outskirts of Shannon, but the house was just a shell and had been empty for years. The previous owners had installed triple glazing, insulation and solid wood doors throughout, but it still needed a considerable amount of work. That didn’t deter them though.
We are Bronagh Fleming, a 44-year-old interior design blogger at Fox Hollow Style and digital media manager, and Ivan Daly, a 41-year-old landscape artist. We live here with our dog, a Cairn Terrier called Scruffy.
Our home is a two-bedroom bungalow located near Shannon in Co. Clare, Ireland.
I’m most proud of having fun with colour, trying out DIY ideas and encouraging others to do the same.
My top tip is to check your local free pages for furniture. You will be amazed at what people are getting rid of. On the flip side, offer items you no longer need, as there will always be someone in need of them.
The next big thing we’re planning to do is the garden. We want to use the space much more, but this will be a project for weekends that we’ll do over a few months. You can’t rush a garden!
I love shopping at auctions as you can always find a bargain, including good-quality furniture and china. Just remember to set your limit and don’t be tempted to go over it.
‘We got the keys to the property just before Christmas and moved in straight away. The excitement of owning our first home and no longer paying rent made us so happy,’ smiles Bronagh.
Taking stock of what needed to be done, and what was possible with their finances, the couple camped out in one room and got to work on the house, with lots of help from Bronagh’s father. ‘We had a very tight budget, so apart from the electrics and plumbing we had to do as much of the work as we could ourselves.’
This included upgrading the heating system, installing a new bathroom, reconfiguring the kitchen and upgrading the electrics. Ivan is an artist and needed some studio space, so the couple also converted the garage into a workable room for him.
‘With the help of my brilliant father we worked really hard throughout January and most of the work was finished by February. Ivan did all the tiling and fitted the laminate flooring and insulation,’ says Bronagh.
The couple are very hands-on and will give most tasks a go – with a little help from the internet. ‘There is so much information online that even if you don’t have the knowledge you can learn enough to get by and ultimately save yourself a huge amount of money.’
Once the main building work was done, the couple were then able to concentrate on their forte – making the space as colourful as possible. ‘We began putting our stamp on the house in the cheapest way we knew, by painting it.’
Starting with the living room, the couple envisioned doing something special. ‘It’s the first room you see when you come into the house, so I wanted a bold colour, art on display and a really welcoming vibe,’ says Bronagh. The room is north facing, so the couple ended up embracing this by painting it a dark blue that totally transformed the space.
‘All of a sudden it was a fun place to be in, with the artwork and collectibles that we have accumulated over the years, all stylishly arranged. It spoke volumes about us a couple, and it’s now our favourite room,’ smiles Bronagh.
The house is furnished with an eclectic mix of pieces they have found in charity shops, local free pages and auctions, and the internet. ‘We did an IKEA trip to get some basics, such as beds, and practical wardrobes for some all-important storage. It makes for a stylish and functional combination,’ explains Bronagh.
The couple now feel that their house is an extension of themselves, and have poured a huge amount of their ideas, time and energy into making it so.
‘We have created beauty in the ordinary. People have contacted me on Instagram to say that my house is the same as theirs – the same layout, same dark narrow hallway – and we have given them so many ideas for what to do with it. This makes me really proud of our house – it’s a really special thing to hear,’ says Bronagh.
Working within a budget has certainly made this home a goldmine of creativity and the couple’s love of design shines through in every room. With a few jobs outstanding, their decorating journey isn’t quite over yet though.
‘We still have work to do, but we will finish each room slowly when we can afford bits and pieces and will definitely appreciate it when it’s all done,’ concludes Bronagh.
This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?