It is natural to want to put our own stamp on a new home and, once the keys are in our hand, think about stripping out this and knocking out that. But, as Lucy Gilmore has found, a little patience can prove a worthwhile investment.
Lucy, a lawyer, and her husband, Hayden, a business analyst, moved to Harrogate from rural Northumberland two-and-a-half years ago, to be closer to family. They now have three children, Leonardo, four, two-year-old Autumn and River, one, as well as three cats, Billy, Bonnie and Hope. “It’s chaos, but I survive on chaos,” Lucy says.
The house they chose, a three-storey, six-bedroom Edwardian semi built in 1907 close to the town centre, was a contrast to their former detached home overlooking fields filled with sheep.
But she and Hayden loved the Harrogate house’s high ceilings and large hallways, leading to, on the ground floor, a living room, dining kitchen, playroom, downstairs toilet and utility.
“It’s a slim semi-detached property but it’s tall and goes back quite a bit. We were grateful not to have to compromise on space, moving from a detached country home to a town centre property,” Lucy says.
The Harrogate location was also key. “I grew up in Leeds and had some friends here when I was younger,” she says. “Two of my friends and I said, when we are older, we will live in Harrogate and push our babies round in their prams. It didn’t quite work out like that, but it was always the end dream.”
Of course, they wanted to make the house into a home to suit their needs and tastes. Lucy says: “When we first moved in, we thought about ripping out all the fireplaces because, although we liked the period features, they were quite different from what we were used to and they can feel quite overwhelming and take over, especially as the kitchen is not huge and you lose a whole wall to the fireplace. But I am so glad we didn’t. We lived with it for a while and thought about what we would like to do to adapt it but maintain the originality.”
The work needed to make their home their own was mainly cosmetic and electrical, but still a challenge. They changed the outdoor space to make it more suitable for both grown-ups and children to enjoy, introducing decking, astroturf, a play area and a pergola with seating and string lights.
Inside, there was rewiring in the form of new sockets and plugs in more convenient places and some new light fittings. In the living room, they had alcoves built by a joiner they found on Instagram (they also found their decorator on Instagram, using the Harrogate hashtag) and took out the original fireplaces in the living room and the bedroom to replace the tiles, which had to be slotted in from the top, before reinstating the surrounds and rebuilding the hearths.
“The kitchen is probably the biggest thing, which is why it has taken so long,” Lucy adds. “By the time we have got the kids to bed and ourselves sorted and tidied up from the day, we have literally got about half an hour before our bedtime, so it’s a slow process with limited time. We have been doing it since November and are just about ready to paint.
“When we moved in, the kitchen was very modern for the feel of the house. We wanted to make it more in keeping with the house and the long-term plan was to extend and have bi-fold doors to the outside but, obviously, that’s a massive project and a massive expense.”
So, rather than change the whole kitchen, they ripped out some units, adapted the cupboard doors for new shaker-style ones, bought new handles, and built a fake chimney breast for the cooker hood and tiled the fireplace.
The island with granite top was found on Facebook Marketplace and picked up from a house close by. “It was an absolute bargain,” says Lucy. There are plans to turn a storage cupboard into a pantry and then tackle the utility.
The hallway has an original stained-glass window above the door and the floor tiles are from Tiles Direct. Gallery walls of pictures, many with inspirational quotes or lyrics, have become a feature of the house and of its Instagram account @edwardiansemi started by Lucy in April 2019, to chronicle the makeover and now with more than 28,000 followers.
“Because we were following lots of Instagram interiors accounts, I thought why not set up one?” she says. “You get loads of ideas from other like-minded individuals and people in the Instagram interiors community are very helpful and friendly and supportive. If you think, I’d like to have a go at what they’re doing, you can message them and say, ‘how did you do that, or where did you get that from?’ and everyone is so accommodating.
The fireplace and wooden panelling in the nursery are painted in a dark blue, Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball, offset by a tobacco chair from eBay. Lucy says: “It’s a boy’s nursery and we wanted something quite smart that we wouldn’t have to redecorate to change it into an office or for another purpose. Having had three kids and done nurseries before, they run their course.”
Most of the house is painted in a soothing palette of greys and off whites. “We spend most of our time in the playroom which is total madness with a bright yellow fireplace, a blue sofa and kids’ colourful toys everywhere, so it is really nice when the kids go to bed to be able to go into a different room that is neutral and calming and relaxed.”
Relocating to Harrogate has worked out rather well, indoors and out. “It’s such a beautiful town and we are so lucky to have it all on our doorstep,” Lucy says.
“We can’t wait to have friends round. We don’t get to go out much, having young children, so it will be great when we can have friends come and sit in the garden and in the house. We can’t wait to entertain again.”
*See more pictures on Instagram @edwardiansemi
Cox & Cox is at www.coxandcox.co.uk
Tiles Direct is at www.tiles-direct.com
Furniture 123 is at www.furniture123.co.uk