Living room makeover: ‘I restored the original layout for a cosy space’

Christine Leech transformed an open-plan room into a warm, snug and inviting living space by adding a wall and a working fireplace

Christine's eclectic and inviting living room

While open-plan layouts are a must for many, Christine Leech, 45, was actually keen to add a wall when she moved into her two-bedroom Georgian terrace in South London.

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‘The living room and hallway had been knocked into one, and walking straight from the street into the living room meant the space felt exposed and impersonal, not to mention draughty,’ says Christine.

A grey wall displaying Christine's prints, photos, crafts and souvenirs
Christine showcases prints, photos, crafts and souvenirs behind the sofa, making stylish use of display niches set within the stud wall

So, when it came to re-designing the room, her plan was to restore the original layout and inject some much-needed character.

A rustic mantle made from rough-sawn timber and second-hand corbels
Good idea! Rather than investing in an expensive surround, try making your own! Christine made her rustic mantle using rough-sawn timber and second-hand corbels, for just £34.

Luckily for Christine, several of the neighbouring houses still had their original ground-floor layouts and she was able to check out the dimensions before committing to the wall.

‘I also constructed a makeshift divide from dustsheets so I could live with the space for a while. But I needn’t have worried as it immediately felt right,’ she says.

Natural wooden ornaments and a blue vase full of dried yellow flowers
Natural wooden ornaments, vases and cheerful, dried yellow plants give a minimalist Scandi look

The new timber stud wall was installed by a local builder and proved fairly straightforward, although adding the unique display niches was a little more stressful.

‘Having mentioned the idea to my builder, he informed me that I’d have to decide there and then – and while I love the finished look, I think they could have been positioned a little better, if I’d had more time,’ she says.

A dark charcoal modular sofa next to a floor lamp with a blue shade
Reinstating the original hallway wall not only redefined the living space, but also eliminated draughts and privacy issues. Christine’s choice of a modular sofa helps make the most of limited space

When Christine moved into the property, installing a wood burner was at the top of her wish list. Once work was underway on the wall, it wasn’t long before she spotted her ideal stove in a local showroom.

‘The removal of an old, and frankly dangerous, gas fire, plus the stove installation was carried out by professionals,’ says Christine.

A round glass vase full of dried hydrangeas
Christine gathered hydrangeas from her garden and dried them to create an everlasting floral display

‘But I did save money by enlisting the help of my father to knock out the brickwork and reveal the original arched opening.’ Sourcing a hearth online and a DIY mantle also helped bolster funds, which were soon put towards new tactile, timber flooring.

When it came to matters of décor, Christine opted to keep things simple with a mix of relaxing and versatile greys.

‘I decided to embrace the fact that this is a north-facing room by choosing deep, chalky hues that would work well with almost any accent colour and warm, wood tones,’ she explains.

A grey Ercol rocking chair next to a log burner
The Ercol rocker was one of Christine’s eBay bargains. Newly reupholstered, it looks very cosy next to her fireplace

A true fan of bargain buys, most of Christine’s furniture was sourced in sales, local vintage emporiums or second-hand shops.

‘The lovely space-saving, modular sofa cost £550 in a closing down sale; my retro table was £20 from a junk shop; and the fabulous Ercol rocker was just £80 on eBay,’ she says.

‘I’m also forever finding things in skips or acquiring items from my parents’ house, such as the box by the sofa.’

A vintage trunk with books and an orange digital radio on top
Christine added vintage pieces, such as this trunk from her parents’ house, to inject personality into the room

As an avid crafter, Christine was also keen to personalise many of her vintage and second-hand finds. ‘I think it’s a great way to inject instant character,’ she says.

She painted a bargain-buy £40 cupboard (which now holds the television) to match the scheme, while the rocker and a footstool brought from her previous home were both re-upholstered for a fresh look in keeping with the rest of the room.

Shop Christine’s style

3 of the best dried blooms

Combining an existing blind with new homemade curtains also offered a stylish and flexible solution to controlling light levels and insulation. And now that the room is finished, Christine couldn’t be happier.
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‘It’s the perfect place to sit and relax or entertain friends – especially on cold winter evenings. And any minor loss of floor space is more than made up for by not entering the room from the street, and having a hall to store coats and shoes.’

Shopping list 

Walls in Dark Lead Colour and French Grey absolute matt emulsion, £47 per 2.5l each; cupboard in Dark Lead Colour intelligent eggshell, £32 per litre, all Little Greene. Bohemia x40 EcoDesign multi-fuel stove, from £839, Westcombes. Brazilian Black Slate hearth, from £98.95, Mrs Stone Store. Compact Cotton White Matt oak plank flooring, £52.99 per sq m, Quick-Step. Ercol rocker, £80; wooden corbels, £12 each, both eBay. Freestanding cupboard, £40, British Heart Foundation Charity Shop. Dylan floor lamp, £155; Kura small paper pendant shade, £20; for similar corner sofa, try Hyde, £895, all Habitat. Curtains in Aina linen fabric, £8 per m; for similar rug, try Vindum, from £80, both IKEA.

Christine's eclectic and inviting living room
This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?