When Fi and Adam bought their family home in 2007 they were lucky enough to be able to afford to put in a new kitchen. But that was it. There was £2,000 left to cover everything else including carpets, curtains, paint and wallpapering etc. And yet they have created a comfortable and welcoming home. Fi’s tips are:-
1. Make time for little touches that make a big difference…
Even before you enter the house you get a sense of the effort that has gone into creating something special. Jubilee bunting hangs across the porch, the picket fence is freshly painted, clever low maintenance shingle and logs create an attractive front garden space, and simple pots of flowers add an uplifting pop of colour.
2. Be brave enough to have a go. You can do more than you think yourself…
Fi had never done any wallpapering before, but she wanted to create a new look for the tiny loo, in the space underneath the stairs and knew that they didn’t have the budget to employ someone else to do it. She just chose the wallpaper from B&Q, found some wallpapering instructions on the internet.
It only took a few hours of her time to wallpaper the walls and the big pattern looks stunning – conveniently distracting the eye from any slight imperfections in her handiwork (not that I noticed any)!
3. Recycle and upcycle as much as possible.
Fi had a lot of furniture that looked very out of date and so she came to our painted furniture workshop to see what she could do with it. I knew that she had really enjoyed the day but wondered how useful she had found it.
“It was very fun and therapeutic and I loved that it was so easy, with very little preparation needed. It was very special to do it in a home environment – so much nicer than a shop or studio – relaxing and social.
I like the concept of being able to make the most of what I have got – I have lots of old pine furniture that I don’t find attractive but is solid and good quality. Now I can transform it rather than replace it with less sturdy items. Definitely good value. A great way to change your home on a budget – and SO satisfying to do it yourself.”
And a few hours later, when I was back at home, she sent me this photograph of the finished chest of drawers she had been working on just before I arrived.
4. Make sure that major items will stand the test of time.
“We did spend money on our kitchen in 2007 when we bought the house (working with Sheen Kitchens) and I was tempted to have fashionable green glass splash-backs, but I knew that would limit me if I wanted to change the look of the room in the future. And so I went with neutral soft browns and creams that will work with anything.”
“It was an excellent decision as now, 5 years later, we are thinking about injecting a bit more colour around the rest of the room. And as the kitchen is the hub of our home with an open plan eating area and family TV space nearby we would have been quite limited if we had made a different choice.”
“We also chose to stay away from tall units so that it would be less kitcheny for this open plan area. Sometimes I regret the loss of storage but on balance it has worked well.”
5. Use favourite possessions to personalise your home rather than buying more stuff.
Adam loves his LP’s and so I used them to create a piece of art for the family room – and he was absolutely delighted.
” I just bought the frames from Tiger Tiger, for about £2 each and then we spent ages on the floor deciding and arranging. It was really fun selecting our favourite albums (Bat out of Hell takes me right back!) with colours that work together. And of course you can easily change the selection if you want to.”
6. Use colour to bring your possessions together
This is still work in progress, but colour is a great way to bring things together. The sitting room is a lovely quiet room to chill and read a book when the kids are watching the telly in the other room.
It contains an eclectic mix of things – sofas bought in the 80’s a 9o’s, a lovely red carpet and a collection of gouache paintings from Adam’s Step-Mother-in-Law, whomused to have an antique shop in Rome.
Fi has already introduced greens and reds in the cushions, lampshades and accessories but would like to take it a step further, perhaps grouping the paintings to make a focal feature and using stronger colours to create more atmosphere and a more cohesive look.
7. Buy inexpensive home accessories to change with the season
Fi has an inexpensive collection of lampshades that she has bought – these red ones came from Homebase – and she changes them to suit the season – deeper shades of red or plum in the winter months and soft greens and creams in the summer.
8. Enjoy some social making
When the kids were little Fi got together with some neighbours for a “stitch & bitch” club. They all made things and Fi knitted this amazing blanket without any fancy knitting technique – just the basic stitch – and backed it with soft & fluffy fabric.
It wasn’t a quick process. She started in 2005 and finished it in 2008, but her daughter loves it and is already planning to take it to university.
“Granny” has more skills and practice and so was enlisted to make this slightly more sophisticated version for the younger daughter – also well loved.
Fi’s approach has been to dedicate time and energy to keep costs to a minimum. She finds it very satisfying to build her skills, and create an individual result that suits her and all the family, and they appreciate what she has created.