Home makeover: 'I’ve personalised my rented cottage with upcycled finds'

Taking on an unloved farm cottage, Danecia Scheepers has found clever ways to update her rented home

Published: June 30, 2021 at 10:00 am
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When Danecia Scheepers and her husband, Ray, realised they wanted to put down roots in the countryside, rather than a town or city, they began their property search.

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‘We’re used to space, views and light and we worked out that somewhere rural would be right for us. I was actually brought up near the Kruger National Park, South Africa, so to be surrounded by fields and farms here suits us down to the ground.’

A big believer in recycling as much as possible for budget-friendly furnishings, Danecia’s cosy, double-aspect living room is full of her projects, from the DIY coffee table on casters, to the footstool reupholstered with a coffee sack
A big believer in recycling as much as possible for budget-friendly furnishings, Danecia’s cosy, double-aspect living room is full of her projects, from the DIY coffee table on casters, to the footstool reupholstered with a coffee sack

The couple met while both working in London, and rented a flat in Kensington, but once they’d had their son, Raydan, an amalgamation of both their names, they knew they wanted to move out of the capital to a more rural location. ‘We thought about Essex and Kent as possible places to move to, and we drove around at the weekends looking at potential towns and villages.’

Danecia brings back foraged materials from walks to use for her furniture upcycles and DIYs. Her pebble table reminds her of family days out at the beach
Danecia brings back foraged materials from walks to use for her furniture upcycles and DIYs. Her pebble table reminds her of family days out at the beach

Having family in Sevenoaks whom they wanted to be near, the couple concentrated on the area fanning out from Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

Welcome to our home...

We are Danecia Scheepers, a home stylist @upliftyourhome, her husband, Ray, an operations director, their son, Raydan, six, and cat, Tootsie.

Our home is A three-bedroom, semi-detached Victorian cottage in Kent.

‘We wanted to be in the countryside, but with a village nearby for all the amenities. The Kent Weald is an area of outstanding natural beauty, which really appealed to us.’

Danecia hasn’t let an inch of space go to waste. She’s injected this corner with character and colour, adding quirky handmade shelving and trailing greenery
Danecia hasn’t let an inch of space go to waste. She’s injected this corner with character and colour, adding quirky handmade shelving and trailing greenery

Chancing on the quaint village of Lamberhurst, with its half-timbered houses, pub, school, and thriving community, the couple were sold, and searched the countryside around it. ‘There really wasn’t much for sale, but as we were making such a big move, we really wanted to rent first anyway, before committing ourselves.’

A coat of paint could be all you need to transform the feel of a house. Danecia painted over the existing dark walls with light hues for an instant bright boost
A coat of paint could be all you need to transform the feel of a house. Danecia painted over the existing dark walls with light hues for an instant bright boost

Finding a farm cottage in need of some love and attention, Danecia and Ray took it on, and four years later, are still there in the fully renovated property.

A bit more about our home...

My top tip is to save money for key pieces by reusing and recycling as much as you can.

I’m inspired by The second-hand furniture I find – I love to paint and reupholster it. Occasionally I build things myself, too.

‘The views are incredible and it’s very much what we had in mind for Raydan’s childhood, being able to just walk out of the back door and be in the fields, getting muddy on the riverbank and seeing the horses in the nearby stables.’

Danecia wrapped string around the flexes of her exposed bulb pendants above the island to mix rustic and industrial styles
Danecia wrapped string around the flexes of her exposed bulb pendants above the island to mix rustic and industrial styles

When they moved in, talented stylist Danecia knew she had to set to work. ‘Most of the walls were bottle green or pumpkin colour. It all felt very dark and closed in. But I was convinced I could make a big difference.’

Find a styling trademark and use it throughout for continuity. Danecia has added rope details to many pieces in her home, including around the legs of a bench in the dining room
Find a styling trademark and use it throughout for continuity. Danecia has added rope details to many pieces in her home, including around the legs of a bench in the dining room

So, Danecia painted the whole house from top to bottom, bringing in neutral, soft colours, and changing the furniture and fittings with her mixture of finds from charity shops, house sales and the pieces she has made herself.

One of Danecia’s money-saving tricks is using a room divider, won for £15 on eBay, as a headboard. The grey wall, in Farrow & Ball’s Downpipe, allows the bargain buy’s geometric detailing to pop
One of Danecia’s money-saving tricks is using a room divider, won for £15 on eBay, as a headboard. The grey wall, in Farrow & Ball’s Downpipe, allows the bargain buy’s geometric detailing to pop

‘I love reusing and recycling pieces of furniture and changing them into new pieces. I paint, reupholster, make soft furnishings and sometimes build things myself, with the help of Ray, who gets persuaded into dragging back all sorts of things from the beach, the woods, or some far-flung sale.’

Danecia’s philosophy with clients is the same as she uses in her own home. ‘I’m not going to start encouraging people to buy expensive things they don’t need. Yes, invest in a few special pieces, but look around you and see what you can reuse first.’

Danecia has created a luxury spa look on a budget in her bathroom, painting the roll-top bath in Farrow & Ball’s Mole’s Breath and adding lots of lush greenery so it feels like an exotic retreat
Danecia has created a luxury spa look on a budget in her bathroom, painting the roll-top bath in Farrow & Ball’s Mole’s Breath and adding lots of lush greenery so it feels like an exotic retreat

Because the couple are on a long-term lease before they find the right place to buy, Danecia is also careful with what she buys for her own house. ‘If you are renting, you need to think seriously about what you will be able to take with you when you move on. Don’t be tempted by something with enormous proportions like a dresser or a table for ten unless you have somewhere to store them, as they may not fit in the house you eventually buy.’

Danecia recommends reasonably-sized tables, chairs, and storage units as good buys, along with rugs, plain curtains, fun bedding and cushions. ‘They are things that make a real difference to a house, but can be easily packed up and moved.’

Danecia has incorporated her love of the countryside into her schemes with plants, botanical prints and textured textiles in natural fabrics. She’s styled the guest bed with butterfly cushions and a tactile throw to make it super cosy
Danecia has incorporated her love of the countryside into her schemes with plants, botanical prints and textured textiles in natural fabrics. She’s styled the guest bed with butterfly cushions and a tactile throw to make it super cosy

Sticking with her own advice, Danecia has gone for simple tab-top, white curtains in every room, rather than made-to-measure blinds, shutters or anything patterned. ‘White goes with everything, and you can just pull them off the poles, wrap them up and put them up elsewhere.’

Add a desk to a spare bedroom so it’s a useful space even when guests aren’t staying. Danecia’s is a second-hand find, painted and updated with new knobs from B&Q
Add a desk to a spare bedroom so it’s a useful space even when guests aren’t staying. Danecia’s is a second-hand find, painted and updated with new knobs from B&Q

Over the four years, Danecia has updated each room in turn, incorporating her own ideas and adding pops of colour in cushions, murals and fresh flowers. ‘Because we’ve got nature on our doorstep, I love bringing fresh flowers and greenery into the house. There are plants everywhere.’

By pairing soft greys and neutrals with bright accents, Danecia has ensured Raydan’s room feels fresh and fun without being too childish, making it a space he can grow into
By pairing soft greys and neutrals with bright accents, Danecia has ensured Raydan’s room feels fresh and fun without being too childish, making it a space he can grow into

Having spotted the lovely old wooden floor in the dining area, Danecia just polished it up to make it more of a feature. ‘Obviously as we are renting there are things we can’t change, like the kitchen units and the bathroom sanitaryware. But, luckily, both of these were in good order and the basic cream kitchen is what we would have probably chosen for the room anyway.’

A tractor wall decal injects colour and nods to the family’s country lifestyle, and Danecia has added cute box shelves for Raydan’s favourite toys
A tractor wall decal injects colour and nods to the family’s country lifestyle, and Danecia has added cute box shelves for Raydan’s favourite toys

Danecia has transformed the kitchen space with a simple idea, which didn’t cost her a fortune. ‘I bought a butcher’s block from Ikea for £250 and placed it in the middle of the kitchen. It’s an incredibly cheap alternative to an island, and it fulfils the same purpose. We added some tongue and groove to the sides to tie it in with the units, and there is enough space at the front to fit in two chairs and use it like a breakfast bar. It’s become the focal point of the kitchen. We love it here.’

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Feature GAP Interiors/Stephanie Smith. Photos GAP Interiors/Colin Poole. 

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