‘I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life’

Laura Milligan transformed her dated end-of-terrace house into a much-loved home through a mix of colour, fabrics and patterns

Within ten minutes of viewing the house, we both knew this would be our first home together.

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
‘I knew the colours, style and designs needed to bring this house back to life’ says Laura

We got that excited ‘this is the one’ feeling and weren’t put off by the state of the place – it was just about liveable. We were realistic about our budget and knew we wouldn’t find a property in top condition. It also had a second bedroom; space for my much-needed home office. The sale moved fast and three months later we moved in.

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However, because we needed to save, it was another two years before we started any major work. The advantage of living here first meant we knew exactly what we needed and wanted. Luckily, Dominic worked as a builder before becoming a teacher, so he has vast experience in renovations and was great at strategic planning and the logistic side of things.

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
Style idea: combine varied sizes and shapes when creating shelf displays

I focus more on the decoration and small details, so we really are the perfect team and were very hands-on with most of the work. The process was fairly straightforward, although we did definitely underestimate the time needed for the bathroom and kitchen makeovers.

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
Steal Laura’s look: make a professional wallpapered feature by hanging the central panel first and working outwards

We needed to reroute the pipes under the bathroom floor and reroute a gas pipe in the kitchen and both jobs took longer than expected. When it came to the décor, I think visually, and knew from the offset how I wanted each room to look. This was my very first interior styling project, and I was excited to use my favourite textile designs in my own home.

It really was our dream to buy a house and recreate it from scratch. We have gained such a huge amount of experience and expertise by doing so much of the work and making this house our own. While it may be too small to be our forever home, it is our very much-loved home right now.

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
‘We spent a lot of time researching and sourcing things online to try to keep the costs down’ says Laura

Owner profile 

A bit about me I’m Laura Milligan, owner and textile designer at Laura Felicity Design. I live here with my husband, Dominic, a PE teacher, and our dog, Bailey.

Where I live Our home is a 1980s two-bedroom house in Henlow, Bedfordshire. We’ve lived here since July 2016.

What I wanted to change The dated décor made the house look unloved and unattractive. Nothing had been replaced or improved since it was first built.

How I made it my own A new kitchen and bathroom were the big changes needed, along with new décor and fresh colour choices.

My favourite part Our bedroom, with the combination of dark walls and co-ordinating wallpaper, lampshades and headboard, is my favourite room.

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'

Sitting room

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
‘We love colour. White walls are not always the obvious option’ says Laura

‘Like the rest of the house, the original Artex ceiling had to be replastered by a professional. The previous owners had created a makeshift fireplace, with an electric fire in a purpose-made hole in the wall. I felt this wall should be the main feature and by pure chance, when walking Bailey one day, I literally stumbled across a discarded wrought-iron fireplace that was the perfect size for the small chimney area. The aim was to strip and repaint it but we actually loved its raw state.

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
‘I love DIY home crafts and made these glass domes, changing them seasonally to create a fresh, new display’

A wallpapered feature in duck egg tones around the fireplace really makes it stand out. I felt the opposite wall, with the sofa, also needed some character and so I painted it a more vibrant shade than the other walls. Dulux’s Mint Macaroon did the job nicely.’

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
Laura painted the wall behind her sofa in Dulux’s Mint Macaroon

Steal Laura’s style

Jazz up your walls with a nod to the geometric trend, just like Laura

Home office

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
‘This perfect desk from Wayfair takes up a fair bit of space, but it’s so practical for storage and as a workspace. I created a shelf, which displays items to inspire me while I work’ says Laura

Laura converted the small guest bedroom, with garish yellow walls, into a stylish home office. It was a labour of love, as she wallpapered and painted the room and then installed the shelving. ‘The office is where I run my business, Laura Felicity Design. For the first couple of years I used an oversized desk and chair inherited from Dominic’s parents and the space was used as a dumping ground.

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
Laura painted the shelving unit, originally her mum’s, in Paris Grey chalk paint from Annie Sloan

Over this period, I was able to figure out exactly what I needed to make this a functioning and inspiring place to work. I didn’t want to crowd it with different storage units and felt that shelving was my best option for files, books and fabric samples. We also kept the room bright and light; my Nest Egg wallpaper and fabric, in mustard and light pink, was the obvious choice.’

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
Removing the airing cupboard has created new space, perfect for the set of framed artwork from BlingPrints, collated by Laura

Kitchen

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
‘We’ve made a big difference with small changes,’ says Laura. ‘The copper handles and lighting, including the spotlight fitting from John Lewis, add character and break up the grey’

Dominic and a couple of friends ripped out the old kitchen, including the fixtures and fittings. The couple saved around £4,000 by sourcing items individually rather than going through one company. While they employed a professional fitter to help Dominic do the job, they did a lot of research before any work started.

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
Choosing a common colour through the house is the perfect way to create flow from room to room

‘We did a lot of homework for the kitchen units,’ says Laura. ‘We went to B&Q for the basic cupboards and the Kitchen Door Workshop for the neutral grey cupboard and drawer fronts. We didn’t change the layout but going for taller cabinets, simple lines and colours has created the illusion of more space.’

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
The dresser originally belonged to Laura’s mum. She updated it using Slate Grey satin furniture paint from Wilko

Bedroom

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
‘This was a difficult room as we have an awkward wall on the left side of our bedroom,’ Laura explains. ‘Using my Dotty Bird wallpaper has softened up the angle and using it for the headboard and blind makes it more of a feature’

Laura and Dominic inherited a dull, plain bedroom, which required new carpet and a wardrobe. Its bare state made the perfect blank canvas for the couple. ‘I could literally see how the room should look and was excited to decorate and make it a relaxing, romantic haven for us both.

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
‘I was able to use my pattern and colour expertise to design a home we both love’ says Laura

‘I was drawn to using the navy and blush combination for our bedroom scheme and once the wallpaper was up and the walls were painted, I knew the design needed something more. I then introduced the headboard, roller blind and reversible lampshades.’

Laura’s top tips 

We spent a lot of time researching and sourcing things online to try to keep the costs down. In the kitchen, the units came from one place, the appliances from another, and the handles from elsewhere. We ordered the worktops online. 

I think the mass of plants really brings something different to our home; they give it an almost jungle feel and brighten up the place. Plants do take some looking after though. We water them a few at a time in the sink. 

Although we have renovated a house before, as this was a larger-scale project, we learned a lot about the planning application process. It seemed a bit daunting at the beginning, but we got there in the end!

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'

Bathroom

Real life home: 'I mixed colour, fabric and patterns to bring my dated home back to life'
‘When we discovered this patterned flooring, we knew it was the perfect way to continue the style and tones from the rest of the house’

‘The bathroom was long and narrow, with no storage space, and only one of us could go in at a time,’ explains Laura. ‘Dominic had the idea to change the layout to create more space and maximise storage.’ Along with removing the old peach bathroom suite, the couple ripped out the airing cupboard, which blocked the room’s entrance.

‘By switching the bath and basin around, we have created more floor space. We opted for an all-white suite but wanted a touch of colour to come through and fell in love with the decorative Konkrete matt ceramic tiles that work so well with this vanity unit, all from B&Q.’

Expert advice 

How to tackle some basic DIY

  • Be well prepared before tackling your home decorating to-do list. Make a professional wallpapered feature by hanging the central panel first and working outwards. This allows a perfectly centred pattern across the wall. Be sure to mark measurements in the middle of your wall and find the centre of the first panel of wallpaper, allowing a perfect centre line for your wallpaper hanging.

 

  • Preparing walls and ceilings for painting takes time but achieves neat paintwork. Walls must be clean, sanding down bumps and filling holes. A quality masking tape along wall boundaries, such as  skirting boards and the ceiling,   gets a clean finish on the wall edges. Always remove tape when the paint is semi-dry to avoid cracking paint.

 

  • When creating a gallery wall, first mark out your wall size on the floor and try different compositions and spacing between the frames. Take photos of layouts and note the measurements. This reveals what works best before a nail hits the wall.

 

  • Always take window handles into consideration when installing roller blinds. If you can see the roll at the top of the blind when it’s wound down, make sure your fixtures are installed 1-2 inches away from the windowpane. When you wind down the blind, the bottom will not hit the top of the handles. The same applies to reverse roll and Roman blinds.

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