We only viewed this property to completely rule out new-builds,’ says the owner of this four-bed in Bristol. ‘My partner and I were moving back to Bristol, where we’d grown up, from east London, where we’d been living in a small flat for seven years, and I was adamant I wanted a home with character, so a brand new property was out of the question.’
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Work commitments meant the couple could only visit the area for a day at a time, so they would cram in as many viewings as possible. They arrived at this development – one of at least half a dozen viewings scheduled – determined not to like any of the properties, but were instantly won over.
‘The houses were built with modern living in mind, so there were none of the higgledy-piggledy layouts found in older properties,’ says the owner. ‘They were much more energy efficient and I liked having the comfort of the various warranties.’ Unexpectedly smitten with the prospect of life in a modern property, they bought one.
When the couple bought this four-bedroom new-build property in Bristol everything was plain and clinically white. The developers recommended the couple resist decorating for the first six months to give the house time to dry and settle.
‘At first, the thought of living in a white box for so long filled me with dread,’ says the owner. ”It had no personality, so I had to figure out how to give it character in lieu of the period features I had wanted.’
‘But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it gave us time to acclimatise, become familiar with the rooms and how we intended to use them, and experiment with paint chips and wallpaper samples – of which I collected tons! Now it’s colourful and eclectic with little hints of retro. It’s completely unrecognisable!’
Although ecstatic with their new home, the owners didn’t settle in right away. ‘We’d gone from a two-bedroom flat the size of our new main bedroom to a four-bedroom house with four reception rooms, three bathrooms (including the downstairs loo) and a garden, so it took us a while to adjust to the increase in space,’ the owner says.
‘In fact, for the first few months we avoided sitting in the living room in favour of the den we had created in one of the spare rooms, which was similar in size to our former living room in London.’
This home is bursting with bargains bought from high street stores and independent brands, and items salvaged from friends and family members that were on the brink of being discarded, but there have been a few splurges, too. The owner also dabbles in a little upcycling when inspiration strikes.
‘There are a couple of pieces I’m really proud of,’ she says. ‘I’ve taken several pieces of furniture that I’ve owned for years and given them a colourful new look for this house by painting them in a fresh hue and spraying the handles a different shade.’
With no budget to install the period features such as fireplaces and cornicing that she’d spent so long daydreaming about, the owner made it her mission to add character in other, more creative ways. ‘My go-to for inspiration is Instagram, however the only new-build accounts I could find at the time all had the same minimalist, monochrome look, whereas I prefer bold and colourful interiors, the owner says.
Worried that the bright shades and eye-catching prints she loved would look out of place in a new-build, the owner started out by painting all the walls in inoffensive cream and beige hues. ‘But I realised almost immediately that although they work for some, those colours didn’t suit or represent us, and the walls ended up being repainted within a matter of weeks,’ she says.
The developer chose the units in the kitchen, but they matched up with what the couple wanted, and they added an island unit to create a focal point.
Get the look
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Elsewhere, the couple wanted the main bedroom to feel cosy but its large dimensions meant it felt quite sparse and cold, so they painted the ceiling in a dark teal to close the space a little and make it more snug.
The owner also created some typography prints using Powerpoint, Google Images and watercolour paper. ‘Before I gave these sorts of experiments a go, I assumed they’d be really tricky, but both upcycling and designing prints turned out to be so easy – I fully encourage others to give them a bash! It saves money and you end up with a one-of-a-kind item,’ she says.
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The owner’s top style tip is not to decorate for anybody else. ‘Only you have to love it, and if you keep that in mind you’ll have the confidence to go for slightly bolder choices, if that’s what you’re into,’ she says. In the spare bedroom, the owner has recreated the mountain murals she’d seen on Instagram, using Frog tape to mark out the shapes before painting them.
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‘I’m a real believer that if you fill a room with things you love, it’s pretty much guaranteed to result in a scheme that suits you down to the ground, so that was our mantra when decorating the house,’ says the owner. ‘We went for lots of vibrant colours and wallpapers with jazzy prints that make us happy, but all the time we were conscious of practicalities, such as the time of day we might be using the room and the impact our chosen decor would have on the space.’
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This year, the couple completed their most exciting decor project – decorating a nursery for their first baby. ‘I’ve loved the process of revamping my home and giving it a new, vibrant identity,’ says the owner. ‘I’m delighted with both how it looks and how it functions for our new family.’