Real home: 'My brand new home is full of character and charm'

Ruth Carroll used new-found DIY skills, simple hacks, and an eye for adding subtle colour and texture, to make her new-build warm and welcoming

Published: April 11, 2022 at 1:20 pm

'When I found out I was pregnant we decided it was time to move from the city to a more rural setting. When Dave’s dad suggested we move into a beautiful farmhouse that he was buying as an investment (and was near both our families) we jumped at the chance. What none of us realised was that the property was in such disrepair it needed demolishing. It worked in our favour though, as Nick always wanted to do a self-build, and we were excited to create the perfect family home.'

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Welcome to my home

A bit about me

I’m Ruth Carroll, a primary school teacher. I live with my partner, David Hale, an estate agent, our son, Hugo, four, and my daughter, Ruby, who’s 16.

Where I live

Our home is a four-bedroom detached self-build in Bassaleg, Newport. We moved here in November 2016. I like to share our renovation journey on Instagram @homeatfoxfield.

What I wanted to change

While the original property was beautiful on the outside, it needed so much work that it wasn’t worth saving. The decision was taken to completely demolish and rebuild.

How I made it my own

It was going to be hard to create a charming new-build so I’ve added some traditional touches, such as a log-burner and panelling to get the best of both worlds: an inviting new-build that’s full of cosy corners. 

My favourite part

I love the kitchen-diner-cum-snug. It works exactly as I hoped. It’s the hub of our home, and we spend most of our time in here when we’re together

‘I intentionally created zoned areas in this space so that we can all be in here together as a family, and it works really well. I can be organising dinner while Dave sits on a bar chair chatting; Hugo will be doing a puzzle on the dining table and Ruby will be watching TV in the living area. The knitted throw is from Primark and the fluffy cushions are from Dunelm’

'We put together a portfolio for the architect, full of pictures and ideas we’d got from holidays, hotels and places we’d visited, though we had to prioritise, because of costs. Top of my wish list was a kitchen-diner with a snug area, but we also included features to add character, such as a chimney breast and log-burner, traditional skirting boards and lots of warm wood and big windows to enjoy the amazing views.

‘The picture windows are perfect for enjoying the views, one of the major selling points for us with this place. We bought the Sofology leather chair to complement the sofas, but I love the fact that it has an antique feel that will only look better with age’

'It took a year for the build to be finished, but we visited when it was snowing and in the height of summer, which gave us a taste of what it would be like living here. On our first night in, eating fish and chips with both our families, I felt so grateful to have helped create such a beautiful home.'

Diner/snug

‘I chose to house our fridge and freezer in the bank of cabinets to create a streamlined look. The print of all the things we love, from Etsy, was a house-warming present to us all from me. The island was top of my wish list, and we configured the units so that we could sit comfortably at the worktop without bashing our knees on cupboards, and we can also slide the Danetti bar chairs underneath and out of the way when not in use’

'I love real wood and I wanted herringbone planks running throughout the ground floor, but hearing friends’ bad experiences of maintaining wood in a high-traffic area worried me, so we chose Karndean vinyl flooring instead, which is more hard-wearing, but looks just as good.

'The table was originally going to be by the garden doors, but as the walls went up, we realised it made more sense to put the sofas there instead, as an area to relax in after a meal.

'The back of the room was really dark, so the architect designed the lantern ceiling to let light flood into the space. Then I added the panelling myself as the back wall looked really bland.

'I fitted some cheap wooden pegs to hang accessories from, and then attached the shelf to create space to display prints, and then finished it off with some leftover pink paint.'

‘Our dining table, from RCC Furniture, is really solid and will last forever. I don’t mind that it’s already got scratches on it, as I want to create a relaxed family home, not a place that’s too precious to live in. The Replica dining chairs are from Lakeland Furniture.’

Kitchen

'I was tempted to go for navy units with copper accents in here, but I was worried the look could date quickly. In the end I chose these classic Shaker-style units, from Sigma 3 Kitchens, thinking we could jazz them up in the future simply by swapping handles and changing accessories.

‘We went for a quartz worktop and matching upstands, rather than tiles, and as we do all our food prep on the island, we’ve never needed to worry about food splashes. The Shaker-style cabinets are from the Masterclass Collection at Sigma 3 Kitchens and are available in lots of colours’

'We went for a design consultation and were given some different layouts, including a U-shaped kitchen, but my dream was an island that we could all sit at, and we do tend to eat most of our meals here now. I chose a bank of storage, including an eye-level double oven, which meant we could put the hob in the island, making cooking far more sociable.'

Living room

'I was worried about moving into a new-build, as myself and Dave were both used to living in period properties, and it felt like this room had no heart. We created a false chimney breast and installed a log-burner, then chose column radiators to add character.

‘We chose the modern log-burner, from Topstak, to mirror the style of the house. The white lights around the mantel are from Not On The High Street, the log basket is from Wren’s Tale, and the mirror is from Melody Maison’

'We included warm textural elements into the design, such as the wooden door frames, to complement the modern country look, and although I wanted vertical log stores either side of the fire, we worried about safety, so I had a fitted built-in unit instead, which is a more practical use of space.

'I chose pink as an accent colour and painted the side wall in Farrow & Ball’s Calamine. It’s a subtle use of colour but cosies up the room.'

‘We specifically chose neutral rugs, and the sofas from Sofology, to go with pretty much any scheme. We can’t afford to buy new furniture every time we want to update a room, so they need to have a classic look that will last. Dave treated me to the coffee table, from West Elm, which adds a touch of glamour. The scaffold boards were only £10 for a four-metre length from Wickes. I stained them, and Dave put them up with cheap brackets. The lamp is from Iconic Lights and the mirror is from Melody Maison. It’s big, but I wanted a statement piece that would balance the expanse of a plain wall’

Bathroom

‘The bathroom shelf from Dunelm was black to begin with, but I spray-painted it gold to add a touch of elegance to the smallest room. It’s these little hacks that work well in a forever home, because we’ve gone for neutral choices on the big spends, and I accessorise with the latest trends. The towels are from Signature Homewares and the prints are from I Want One Of Those’

'We compromised on space in the bathroom to allow for bigger bedrooms and chose a smaller-than-average bath, which is fine, as I’m the only one who uses it.

'I wanted tiles that would add warmth and texture, as I was worried an all-white room would feel too stark, and this design from Topps Tiles is perfect. I would have liked gold fittings, but we kept to traditional chrome because this is our forever house, and I didn’t want to fill it with short-term trends that would need updating.

'We had a concealed access hatch fitted into the bath panel in case there was a future problem with the plumbing; for the floor, we chose wood-effect vinyl.'

‘This make-up bar was made using an off-cut from the scaffold shelves downstairs, as I hate waste and try to be as sustainable as possible and using up leftovers saves us money’

Master bedroom

'This room initially felt really bare so I decided to add panelling to make it cosier. I’d seen people installing it themselves on Instagram so I decided to give it a go. I measured out what I needed, and ordered the wood from MDF Direct, which was easy as I only had to type in the measurements and the wood arrived cut to size. I was nervous about fitting it, but it was relatively straightforward, using just a bit of glue and some tacks.

‘I wanted to create a look that would suit both myself and Dave. I’d bought the elegant lamps from John Lewis & Partners before we moved in and balanced out the pink with dark side tables from Swoon. The free-standing rattan headboard is from Wayfair, and we just leant it behind a simple bed base’

'I love the rattan look that’s popular at the moment, and the freestanding headboard, from Wayfair, was another way of softening the room, bringing in more natural elements. The first night we slept in here with everything finished, Dave said he felt like he was in a hotel.'

Ruby's bedroom

'This space was designed so that the bed faces the amazing views, which left a natural spot for Ruby to have a workstation in the corner, and a bespoke makeup bench opposite her bed. We chose a FlexiSpot desk, which is electric and programmable, so she can customise the height she wants to work at.

'Ruby wanted a wall of Dalmatian spots, and was happy to paint them herself, but I wanted to futureproof the room and I was worried they might be difficult to cover if she went off the look, so I found removable stickers, and her friend bought the animal print throw for her birthday.'

Ruby has decorated her wall using fun curtain lights, which she has customised with Polaroid-style photos printed at LALALAB. The bedside tables are from ManoMano. You can get curtain lights from Urban Outfitters and a similar feather lampshade from Argos

What I learned...

  • Get the experts to do the hard work. Rather than spending time choosing and chopping the wood for the panelling myself, I sent the measurements to MDF Direct who sent the pieces precut to my exact specification, saving me time and the worry of making a mistake.
  • Thoughtful style and design choices can add an air of quality to a room, without needing to be expensive. Rather than plain, shallow skirting boards, which is a classic budget-friendly look in a new-build, we chose deep skirting from the traditional range that looks great.
  • Be prepared to change your mind and take any good advice offered from qualified professionals
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Photos by Katie Jane Watson

Authors

Lisa Moses is an interiors shoot producer, stylist and writer

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