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?


  • Caitlin

  • March 09, 2017

This is my dream home <3 Great work turning this little hodgepodge into something beautiful!

  • Julia Williams

  • February 27, 2017

Night and day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • danielle

  • February 27, 2017

It looks sooooo charming!

  • Valerie Foster

  • February 27, 2017

Lovely! I was sold at the green auger ^_^

  • Gillian Luke

  • February 27, 2017

We did something similar with our house. Saw past the green, blue & mustard paint, the yellow kitchen cabinets & clutter. It’s now various shades of grey with a black kitchen (don t judge until you see one). A new extension opened up downstairs. Kept the stain glass windows & bedroom fireplaces. Still evolving but love it.

  • Jessica Large

  • February 25, 2017

What an amazing transformation! Well done seeing the beauty underneath the clutter. The natural wood is lovely.

  • Melanie Fontaine

  • February 25, 2017

Wow, what you’ve done with your house is beautiful! I almost can’t believe it’s the same place – it looks so very different and so inviting now! 🙂 The white paint has definitely transformed the rooms and you have definitely sold me on going for white walls in every future place I will live in! 😉

  • Mackenzie

  • February 24, 2017

So light and bright! Looks absolutely beautiful 🙂

  • Sarah Rooftops

  • February 24, 2017

It’s so beautiful! We were the only people interested in our flat at a time when the Aberdeen property market was still crazy (things were selling well over value within a couple of days of going on the market) and I’m sure it was because the other viewers couldn’t see past the hideous wallpaper or the battered carpets. Or perhaps they were better at spotting dodgy wiring than either us… Either way, I’m so glad we bought the place we did.

  • Wild & Grizzly

  • February 24, 2017

It’s so crazy what you can do when you strip a place back and start again.

  • Shrads

  • February 24, 2017

Agggh, it’s so flippin’ beautiful. I’m just amazed that you guys have managed to make it look so much bigger than it did when you bought it. I often have ideas but will either agonise over them or am just not great at getting them done. You are inspiring me though x

  • Heidi

  • February 24, 2017

Oh Sarah, I love it! What a difference. Well done!

  • Amy Elizabeth

  • February 24, 2017

Oh, your home is just beautiful! It’s really amazing what a lick of white paint will do for a place. Whilst ours in no way had as good bare bones as yours, it was similarly cluttered and kind of ugly when we looked round, with different patterned wallpaper and carpets in every room (none of which matched) but I’m so glad we took a chance on it because the rooms are huge, and now it’s so much lighter and brighter with white walls and wooden floors.

Houses in our area tend to go pretty quickly, so it had only been on the market for 3-4 months when we looked round (which is aaaggesss compared to some of the others we saw), but we almost didn’t go because the photos were so unappealing – a lesson for future, for sure! On the flipside, we saw a house which was tiny but so beautifully decorated with super expensive and stylish furniture, and it went for a ton of money and had offers out the wazoo. You’re right that sometimes people get a bit blinded!

  • Paula Solar

  • February 24, 2017

Wow it is amazing what simple things like white painting and emptying spaces can do to improve a house! The before photos give the impression of “too much” there are too many things in there, the colors are too bright or too aggresive to the eye… the feeling of being overwhelmed almost leaves you breathless, but not in the good sense. But you’re right, you need to see the potential in it. Most people only look at what they have in front of them, they can’t see beyond that… of course all those things were going to be out of there as soon as you bought the house, of course you were going to make improvements… you can change what you don’t like! or is everything glued with super extra sticky superglue (only sold to super carpenters, don’t try to find it in your local supermarket).

Pinterest helps, and Instagram too… but you have an instinct. You want proof? you solved the “I want a swing” situation, remember? Well, if everything else fails (and I don’t think it will) you might have a career as home stylist, and being successful at that. You have the eye! If I ever have a home of my own I know who I will call for help 😉

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