The Renovation Diaries - our plans
Botanical banner from Aimee Mac Illustration
I've wanted to renovate a house for as long as I can remember. I used to keep a box under my bed when I was a kid, full of little things I'd collect to go in 'my future home'. I'd borrow my parents' catalogues and tick off all the items I'd choose for my someday house...possibly a weird activity for a young child, but I guess I've always been attached to the idea of home and of somewhere I could make my own. I used to move my room around all the time, paint cardboard boxes pretending they were proper furniture, and watch all the DIY shows I could if ever I was home sick from school. When we were looking for our new house, we were totally open to the idea of having a big project. Ideally, though, we would find a house that we could move into right away with a functioning kitchen and bathroom. Somewhere we could live happily, but still make our mark on. We avoided anywhere that had been too modernised, as that always comes with a price tag and we didn't want to pay for someone else's work and someone else's style that we were ultimately going to change. We did consider a few places that needed a lot of work, but they just weren't right for us. We kept our minds open, but ultimately the house had to feel right.
The house we chose is a five bedroom, two bathroom, late Victorian end of terrace in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. It's a lot of house for our money, and we still can't believe how lucky we got to find such a wonderful space that was in our budget. The garden is big, and even has a room at the end of it that the previous owners used as a cinema. Considering we've been used to a small-ish three bedroom flat in London for the last seven years (for the first five years it was just a two bed until we converted the attic) it is the most wonderful change for us to have so much space indoors and out. Life feels so easy here, and we are forever grateful.
The image above shows you the layout of our house, split across three floors. It's a really exciting space to get to work with, there is a lot to do and I am up for the challenge. We are pretty keen to get moving on the renovations, especially since we don't have too much furniture yet. There's less disruption, so we can work on floors, walls etc without having to move and relocate too much stuff. I'm also just itching to get started, after spending a year on Pinterest coming up with ideas I am ready to get my hands dirty. I learnt a lot in our old flat, about doing up a kitchen and a bathroom, converting an attic and decorating. Mostly, I learnt a lot about what not to do! I made a ton of mistakes, but ultimately I honed my taste and style, and Gav and I learnt to trust each other and work together when making decisions about our home improvements. Mainly that I make the decisions and Gav falls in line. JOKES. Actually we make a pretty good team, and I've learnt that I need him to steer my crazy ship that has idea after idea and finds it so hard to be sensible, realistic or follow through with a plan. He balances me, and makes sure I can actually make some really great stuff happen. He trusts me, and I run everything by him so he can point out anything that seems wildly unsuitable or unnecessary. If we can't agree, we mull over it some more.
We've actually already started some of the work, and if you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen the progress we've made so far. But, before I jump in to any updates about the work we've actually done, I wanted to share a bit more about what our overall plan is for the house. Almost every room needs changing in some way, and the garden needs a complete overhaul. I'll go into the inspiration for each room in separate posts too, but to start with here's a plan of the work we want to do and a few inspiration photos so you get the idea of the vibe I am going for.
The overall look & feel
Getting our house to feel like one house, to flow from to room to room and feel like a creative, inspiring and relaxing place to be is top of my list. As much as I am concentrating on the features I want each room to have, how they all hang together is always on my mind. The previous owners decorated each room so differently, and modernised a few things that for me feel a little out of place. There's been a lack of love for this old house with all its wonderful features that I want to put back in. I want to nod to the Victorian era with our furniture and decorating choices, while keeping it fairly uncluttered yet eclectic and bohemian. Think lots of plants, artwork and mismatched antique furniture, warm, earthy colours, textures and materials to pull it all together.
Hallway/entry way - this is quite a narrow space, no room for a table or much at all. All it needs is a re-paint (it's currently blue), a mirror, coat hooks (an adult one and a kiddo one), new light fitting and some artwork. It's light enough for a few hanging plants too.
The Living Room - one of my favourite rooms in the house, with big windows, lots of light and a working fireplace with a wood burner. The current fireplace is modern, wrought iron and isn't that pretty at all. We plan to rip it out, and the surrounding tiles (they're too jazzy for my taste) and just keep it simple, paint the feature wall (it's currently bright blue), replace the shelves with reclaimed timber ones and add lots of plants, artwork and fibre art.
The Dining Room - we plan to use this as a playroom/music room. It has a cute little reading nook, and some lovely wooden floors, but it's really dark with almost no natural light. Eventually when we open up the kitchen this room will have a lot more light, but for now it's a cosy space that will be good for kiddos to play in. It's between the kitchen and living room which means you can easily keep an eye on them while cooking or relaxing. There will be a record player, instruments on the wall and a few comfy chairs so you can play or listen to music, or just curl up and read. The storage under the reading nook will be useful when we have a party so we can easily store away all the toys and use this room for people to dance or just hang out.
The Kitchen - this is a really big space, and includes a covered passage way to the right of the kitchen and a small utility area. It's a fairly new kitchen and perfectly serviceable, just a little grey and slick for my tastes. The previous owners also built the units towards the garden end of the kitchen (where all the natural light is) and created a little breakfast nook at the other. It's really cramped and dark, so the first task is to rip it out, and take out some of the units at the garden end of the kitchen so we can put a good sized table and chairs there instead. In a few years, we will knock through to the covered passage and create a large kitchen/diner with a separate utility room and a downstairs toilet. Potentially we will build out a little to the back too, with extra windows to let more light into the ground floor.
Stairs & Hallway - the previous owners had all the floors on the middle level of the house covered with an old, ugly pink carpet. The first thing I asked about before we put an offer in on the house was "what is under that carpet?". When the answer came back "original wood floors" I was SOLD. The plan here is to rip up all the carpets in the bedrooms, hallway and stairs, sand the floors and wax them. We may have a runner up the stairs, but I haven't decided on that yet. Rugs will go in the two main bedrooms on this floor, and possibly some runner rugs in the hallway.
The Guest Room - an important one for us to get started on, because we have lots of guests planned over the summer, and want to start hosting on Airbnb from September onwards too. We loved doing it in our old London flat, and the extra income really came in handy. This room doesn't need too much, just the wooden floors sanding, some old shelves taking out and the walls need a few layers of undercoat to cover the old lady yellow that's currently there before I can paint with a new colour. We need some furniture...a bed, clothes hanger, chair, lamp, some bedside lamps, new curtains, new bedding, a rug and possibly a sideboard of some kind. I'm also collecting books from charity shops that I think will be good for guests to dip into during their stay.
Rory's Room - similarly to the guest room the floors need sanding, the walls need priming to cover the weird satin sheen paint before I cover it with a new colour. It also needs some furniture...a new cot (we plan to have two because so many of our friends have two kids now), chest of drawers, toy storage and possibly a desk. I'll also make her a reading nook in one corner, with book shelves and some kind of seating. I'm inspired by the Montessori way of setting up kiddo rooms so they can access most things for themselves - a work space, a self care space, a reading space etc. It's such a beautiful philosophy to me.
The Second Guest Room - we want to have the option of hosting more than one guest at a time, and as many of our friends have a few kids by now it seemed sensible to have a space that is set up to accommodate another kiddo and some adults. I plan to paint this room a fairly dark colour, as it's quite a dark room anyway, and make it a really cosy bohemian snug that will have a cot and a double mattress on the floor. If we have another kiddo in the future, this will eventually be their room.
Master Bedroom - this is a really nice room already, as the attic conversion is only a few years old. It's spacious, light and airy and doesn't need much apart from some furniture, artwork on the walls and some new curtains to replace the blinds. And lots of plants, duh. I might re-paint it in the future, but it's not a priority for us this year as it's already such a nice space.
The Attic Bathroom - the previous owners didn't think too well about this space. It's a small room, which they've over filled with a large bath, way-too-large sink with a big medicine cabinet above. There's no room to move, and it's not a very pleasant room to be in as you're always bashing your head or back on something. As we plan to have Airbnb guests use the family bathroom on the second floor, we really want a nice bathroom for Gav and I to use. There's not much in here we can save, maybe the loo and the heated towel rack, so everything else will get removed and we'll install a new suite, a new floor and some better storage. I haven't decided if we'll go for just a shower or a shower/bath combo yet...
My Studio/Office - it is so lovely to have a dedicated space where I can work and be creative. There is plenty of natural light, so I plan to use this as a natural light studio to shoot portraits, and maybe some products, still life etc. I have my desk and computer in there so I can edit in peace, plus all my yarns, books and anything else I use for my work or to make things. I need some new curtains to diffuse the light, some shelves putting up and possibly some backdrops that I can change up when I shoot portraits.
In the next few weeks, I'll share more about the work we've already done, as well as some progress photos to show you how each room is shaping up. I'll also talk more about our specific plans and inspiration for each space, and of course I will share all my sources for everything. I'm embracing the imperfect so I can share the journey with you, because it's baby steps over here that's for sure. There are plenty of things I'm still not so sure about, decisions yet to be made, so I'm doing a little bit at a time and evaluating as I go. It's been a really fun process so far, and I'm excited to share more with you soon. Thanks for reading, it's been a meaty post! Don't forget you can follow me on Instagram for real-time updates on our home.