House decoration on a budget sounds pretty tricky. So, I thought I’d share with you my first ever house. There’s something very poignant about your first step on the property ladder. My purchase was a 4 bedroom terraced house in the Hanover area of Brighton. Bought in 2007 it was the height of the property boom pre the credit crunch. I remember how nuts it was looking for a property- the roads were stacked high with ‘For sale’ signs that summer and house hunting was a full time job- luckily for me I was freelance as houses were selling before the agents had even printed out the particulars. And so it was with this house. I made an offer of the asking price within 48 hours of it being on the books. It was the most stressful time, I did all the wrong things- led by my heart I paid more than I could afford. But that was the hay days of self-cert mortgages so I took the risk and luckily for me, with the continued property boom in Brighton, it paid off.
So after spending out on buying the house it left me little to do it up (house decoration and interior design on a shoestring budget isn’t easy). Luckily, I found what i needed through online auctions and the infamous Brighton Car Boot sales. I began by whiting out the entire house which has been painted in a plethora of 90’s style paint effects in a Tuscan paint palette. I couldn’t live with it but didn’t want to rush decisions- so painted the whole house out in fresh bright white. It didn’t stay this way for long as I find pure brilliant white impossible to live with- its too harsh and too cold. Instead I chose a palette of off whites, warmer tones in the basement and at the back of the house and fresher whites at the front. I then had a total riot with the accessories, indulging my love of bright colours and clashing patterns.
One of the first things I had to change was the colour of the house. When I bought it, it was painted terracotta with green windows. I hated it! The trend in Hanover is for brightly painted exteriors, so I chose a soft pink with fresh white woodwork and a subtle grey door. The houses were built around 1900- 1910 as cottages for the railway workers building Brighton station. They were very very basic, all concrete grey- the bright painted exteriors are a much more recent update. The construction is an unusual Bungaroosh method, whereby a mixture of pebbles and mortar is poured within shuttering. It means hanging shelves is a nightmare as drilling a hole in the wall is like Russian roulette.
One of the most expensive rooms to redesign is the kitchen. I couldn’t justify ripping out the existing kitchen- it was a good quality beech wood kitchen but the units, worktop and doors all in the same wood was killing me off. So brown and so bland. I got around it with a weekend makeover. I used Zinsser undercoat and primer which is a magic product for house decoration. It can go directly onto any surface, wood, glass, laminate etc without any sanding or prep. It dries quickly, then your ready to go with your top coat of choice. I chose Whisper by Little Greene.
I then used my collection of wallpaper samples to create a quirky patchwork pattern inside each of the shaker door panels. If you don’t have wallpaper you could use any collection of papers from wrapping papers to origami papers. I then sealed it with three coats of matt clear water based varnish. Finally I updated the handles with vintage style cut glass knobs from Bombay Duck. Finally i picked up 6 Ercol chairs for £40 from Brighton carboot sale. They needed re-gluing in places and with a lick of Zinsser I soon had them updated.
In the living room the same budget rules of house decoration applied. The pink velvet sofa was bought off Ebay for £300. The sofa bed was also second hand and my talented mother in law made a loose cover of the futon in my collection of vintage fabrics and much loved stripes from The Stripes Company. Putting up picture rails to make a gallery wall is a neat idea as you can curate a collection of pictures that can be added to and rearranged over time. Especially good if you have dodgy walls! These collection of pictures I got from a house clearence guy- they are a collection of paint-by-numbers paintings circa 1950’s. I totally love the subtle colours.
Among the carboot booty and vintage flea market finds there are a few high street gems. The collection of vases and faux flowers are from Debenhams and the tall lamp was a bargain from Homesense.
This sunny south facing bedroom is painted in Turkish Blue by Fired Earth. Its a stunningly rich colour with plenty of warmth. I had the headboard made by The Dormy House, covered in fabric by The Stripes Company. Adding brighty coloured lampshades is an instant way to add an accent of colour to any scheme. I got these in the sale in John Lewis.
This simple bedroom scheme has a feature wallpaper by Cole and Son, although I notice it’s been discontinued. Farrow and Ball do a similar design called Lotus. The walls are a lovely colour for a bedroom, Gentle by Crown Paints. The side tables are cheap as chips Ikea and the lamps were from Bhs. They do the best affordable lighting on the high street so always worth checking out before you splash out on less cost efficient house decoration.
I totally love this yellow wall colour. It reminds me of sherbert dib dabs and happiness. Its called Quince by Fired Earth. The union jack cushions are from Baileys Home. Check it out they do lovely homewares. The amazing crochet blankets were an Ebay find as was the antique french chandelier. Peg rails are a great idea in guest rooms, rather than a bulky wardrobe.
This sunny south facing room is painted in Sail white by Crown. Its just got a touch of warm grey in it so works well if you want a fresh crisp look. The collection of vintage flower prints and paintings were collected from second hand shops and carboot shops. I totally love picking a theme and then hunting them out. Alone they may look old fashioned but when grouped togther, look really fun. The curtain fabric is from Mulberry Home, another end of roll bargain on Ebay. Rather than overloading on vintage I love to add something contemporary. The bright yellow floor lamps from Habitat do that.
The hallway and stairs goes over three floors. I totally love this Woods wallpaper by Cole and Son. I used it going throughout the three floors so it really accentuates the height of the house. The woodwork and doors is in Hammock by Little Greene which works really well. I love it as its very adaptable and looks great when you use it to pick out period features. The coat hook is another of my most favourite things. Its the Hang it all, designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1953 and it still rocks the world of house decoration and interior design today.
The small groundfloor shower room and WC was a hard room to design. With no window, positioned in the centre of the house it needed so serious colour and design flare to give it the ooomph. So I chose magenta pink metro tiles and a mirrored chinoiserie Songbird wallpaper from Anna French. The candy coloured rubber floor tiles are from Dalsouple. To stop your walls looking like a tile show room I think its nice to think of other finishes. This T&G wall panelling is suitable for a bathroom and painted in eggshell so its really durable which is essential in a small space.
Metro tiles are uber fashionable right now but look great with a vintage style bathroom as they sit well with period style fixtures. The bathroom was in the house when I bought it but the tiles were very out of date. However if you can live with the suite its so much easier and cheaper to just replace the tiles as you are leaving the plumbing in tact. I’m particularly proud of the bath panel, its an old door.
I really loved making this house a home and collecting the fabrics, pictures and objects that made it feel mine. If you are deisgning on a budget, there is no doubt that the vintage slightly rustic look can hugely play to your favour, but it also delivers a very homely and individual home. I’d love to know your thoughts and how you make a house a home
Special thankyou to the hugely talented Rachael Smith who took these photographs. Check out her website for some drool-worthy house decoration and interiors.