Living room makeover: ‘I learned new skills to save on the look I wanted’

Camellia tackled joinery and decorating to turn her tired living room into a cosy, dramatic dark-blue haven filled with unique DIY details. Take a look inside here...

By being bold with colour and painting the walls and woodwork a moody blue, lifted with splashes of warm gold and yellow, Camellia has achieved the perfect balance of drama and homeliness

Camellia and Evan Odojukan bought their Victorian terraced property knowing they’d need to completely renovate it. While every room needed an update, they decided to start with the living room, as it’s the space they spend the most time in together.

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Like the rest of the place, the room was bland and in need of an injection of colour and character. ‘The house was liveable, but tired and neglected,’ says Camellia. ‘We wanted to give it some love and personality. With two young children, I soon realised that the living room was the priority.’

The makeover story…

The previous living room had uninspiring beige walls, a dark wood floor and an empty brick fireplace with alcoves on either side. Camellia and Evan used the room frequently for family time with their children – Abigail, eight, and Elon, three – and as a relaxing retreat for them as a couple once the kids were in bed.

Camellia and Evan Odojukan's living room before the makeover
Camellia and Evan Odojukan’s living room before the makeover

But the room didn’t quite work for them as a family on either a practical or an aesthetic level. ‘It felt dull and cold, but the biggest issue was a lack of storage. All the children’s things had to go into boxes every night, and there was nowhere to display books or accessories,’ says Camellia. ‘But I knew exactly how I wanted it to work and look.’

Welcome to our home…

Who lives here? I’m Camellia Odojukan, 38, an interior designer (@mrsodojukan), and I live in a Victorian terrace in Maidstone, Kent, with my husband, Evan, an IT consultant, and our children, Abigail, eight, and Elon, three.

What was updated? Our living room, the space we spend the most time together in as a family.

Why the change? The décor was bland and neutral, and it wasn’t suitable for life with two children. We needed to add plenty of useful storage but also make it a stylish space, too.

How long did it take? It took us around three months to finish the room, as I needed to learn new DIY and woodworking skills as we went along to build the shelving.

Camellia Odojukan

Camellia started by designing alcove cupboards for toys and games, with floating display shelves above, but quotes to build the furniture were outside the couple’s budget. ‘We didn’t have time to save up, and I’m very hands-on, so I measured and worked out the cost of making the furniture myself,’ she says.

‘It was much more affordable, so, even though I’d never done anything similar before, I went for it.’ Décor-wise, she planned her scheme around dark tones, to give the room warmth, with bright highlights to lift the mood.

Although there’s an initial outlay, investing in the tools and materials to build shelving yourself, like Camellia, could be a cheaper way to get the bespoke look you want
Although there’s an initial outlay, investing in the tools and materials to build shelving yourself, like Camellia, could be a cheaper way to get the bespoke look you want

Camellia invested in woodworking tools and materials, and went online to find out how to hang the shelves and scribe the crooked walls so the furniture would fit neatly. The project took about three months and was a big undertaking for a novice, but it turned out even better than she’d hoped.

Luckily, Camellia already had the yellow velvet sofa and footstool, which provided just the colour boost her scheme needed. She’s also added a black lamp and framed prints for a chic accent
Luckily, Camellia already had the yellow velvet sofa and footstool, which provided just the colour boost her scheme needed. She’s also added a black lamp and framed prints for a chic accent

‘It was a massive challenge, and a hassle as we couldn’t really use the room until it was done, but it saved us money and I’m really proud of the results,’ she says. With her storage fitted, Camellia could start decorating. She decided on a dark, atmospheric palette.

Go for a large-scale mirror to enhance the feeling of light and space in a dark, atmospheric scheme.
Go for a large-scale mirror to enhance the feeling of light and space in a dark, atmospheric scheme.

‘I wanted a rich bluey green for the walls and woodwork. I only painted the chimney breast, fire surround and the storage at first, but the room didn’t feel right.’ She could see she needed to extend the colour to all the walls, and although Evan was a bit unsure, they both love the result.

The elegant gold curves of Camellia’s feature wall draw the eye to her picture gallery and houseplants. The colourful prints by artist Jill Walker show scenes from Barbados, where Camellia has relatives
The elegant gold curves of Camellia’s feature wall draw the eye to her picture gallery and houseplants. The colourful prints by artist Jill Walker show scenes from Barbados, where Camellia has relatives

Camellia was now ready to layer on some bright colour and contrast. ‘I’m originally from the Caribbean and a bold palette is part of my personality,’ she says. ‘I was after something vibrant to lift the deep tones.’ To go with the sofa and footstool she already had, she boosted the impact by adding a gold accent chair she spotted in Homesense.

Living room DIY ideas

Create your own bold scheme, like Camellia’s, with these simple tips

1. Paint shelving, the mantlepiece and cupboards in the same colour as the walls for a cosy vibe.

2. Give fixtures, such as mirror frames and door handles, a coat of gold paint for an easy luxe update.

3. Draw curved lines using a pencil attached to a piece of string to copy Camellia’s feature wall.

4. Colourful bowls, fixed to the wall with double-sided adhesive strips, make a bright 3D display against the blue wall.

Colourful bowls, fixed to the wall with double-sided adhesive strips, make a bright 3D display against the blue wall.

‘I still didn’t think the decorating was quite complete, though,’ she says. ‘One wall felt blank, and I wanted to bring in more details and accessories.’ Camellia found a striking gold-framed mirror to go above the fireplace. ‘I wanted a real statement piece and when I saw this, I knew it was perfect,’ she says.

By being bold with colour and painting the walls and woodwork a moody blue, lifted with splashes of warm gold and yellow, Camellia has achieved the perfect balance of drama and homeliness
By being bold with colour and painting the walls and woodwork a moody blue, lifted with splashes of warm gold and yellow, Camellia has achieved the perfect balance of drama and homeliness

Camellia then used a pencil attached to string to create interlocking arcs on the wall and painted them to echo the curves and gold finish of the mirror. She finished the scheme with leafy plants and pops of bright yellow. ‘We’re in here all the time now,’ she says, ‘and whenever friends come over, it gets compliments. I did everything myself, and that makes me appreciate it even more.

Feature Annabelle Grundy. Photos Colin Poole.

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