When we bought our home, it had sat on the market for a number of years. It was in a gorgeous area, and had a surprisingly big square footage. But something was putting people off.
If, like me, you devoted a chunk of your student years to watching property shows on daytime television, you’ve probably already spotted the problem. The house was very full; full of personality, of possessions, of colour, of stuff. Combined with heavy curtains, dark paint, the stained glass windows they’d fitted and many gloomy Yorkshire days, it seemed to shrink in on itself, like a deflating black balloon. A bright, blank canvas, this was not.
But there were some wonderful features, too. An old 1950s shop cabinet and counter repurposed into a kitchen. Exposed stone work, bare wooden floors. Those windows, that view. The space! So much more than we’d ever had before!
I saw the potential the moment I layed eyes on it online. R was less certain, but I made some sort of excuse about ‘understanding what the market had to offer’ that I stole of the aforementioned property shows, and we arranged a viewing.
In person it was even more quirky than the photos suggest. There was a giant Winnie The Pooh mural on the bedroom wall, and a trail of bees flying up over all three stories to meet it. Gold and silver stars covered the entire top storey ceiling. In the downstairs shower, bright green frogs crawled up the tiles in various places.
I didn’t care. I took one look at the dark pine kitchen and saw the white Pinterest shelves of my dreams. I looked out at the hills through the living room window and felt immediately at home. We squealed like excited children when we found the upstairs bathroom shared the same view.
I made a Pinterest board while we waited to move, but there was really only one very simple plan: paint it white. I was so desperate to get it underway that within a week of moving I set to work on the kitchen – no sanding, no sugar soap, just straight on with the paint. (Two-and-a-half-years on, and it’s wearing well! In your face, DIY google results!) I painted the ceiling in breathless POTS-y bursts of activity. I roped Rory into decladding the inexplicably orange beams over breakfast one Saturday morning (except, annoyingly, the one in this photo, which had a light fitting attached..)
& gradually, it opened up. What I love about simple interiors is how they make the best features speak for themselves. The battered whitewashed wood we found under the pine cladding; the 200-year old stone above the stove. With beautiful stories like this to be found, why draw attention anywhere else?
If I get a teensy bit evangelical at times about decluttering and painting stuff white, this is why. It gives you space – to breathe, to live, to relax.
There’s still more to do, but it’s greatly improved, as you can hopefully see. These days I’m frequently approached by interior magazines asking to come and shoot it, and when I shared it on Instagram Stories last week it received a chorus of ‘omg dream house’. And it is – it totally is, just as for the people who lived here before, it was their dream brought to life.
I think these before and afters stand testament to how much you can change, and how important it is to see the potential when house hunting. If you can look beyond the stuff that others can’t, you can get a bargain house that you’ll love forever!
Tips for spotting the potential
- Look at the space. If the floor is super cluttered, look at the ceiling instead, and imagine it is the floor!
- Imagine more light. Blinds and curtains generally cut out about 25% of the light – more if there are plants, ornaments or clutter on window ledges. Ditto dark walls, furnishings and floors.
- The bare essentials. Look at what will be left behind, and nothing else. People are sometimes seduced into buying a more expensive home based on gorgeous furnishings that are all removed after sale. Likewise, a ton of people missed out on our dream house because it was hard to see past the clutter.
- Look in black and white. If the bright colours on property websites are distracting you, save the images and run them through a black and white filter instead. Look at the light and the shapes instead of the specifics.
- Pinspiration. I already knew that I loved wooden panelling, open shelving, hardwood floors and stone walls because I’d hoarded heaps of these in images on Pinterest. It made it much easier to recognise these features when I saw them – albeit in all their dark-orange-pine glory!
Does anyone share my passion for property programmes and before and afters? What would you have done if you’d bought this house?