An eye for a bargain, says Heather Dixon, has helped one couple create a stylish home on a budget.
Clare and Stephen Lennon relied on bargain hunting, secondhand furniture and a good imagination to transform their three-bedroom house, near Drax, on a budget of around £8,000.
“By the time we bought the house, which cost £114,000 seven years ago, we had very little left to spend on the interior,” says Clare. “We loved the property because it is spacious and very good value for money, but it was tired and needed updating, so we had to be imaginative in the way we did it.”
They began by taking up all the old carpets and replacing them with laminate and tiled floors. All the ceilings, which were covered with rough plaster, were re-skimmed and the old-fashioned wallpaper, complete with matching borders, was stripped off ready for painting.
The kitchen was full of dark wood country-style units, which Clare felt were oppressive and out of keeping with the style and age of the house. The walls were also covered with ceramic wall tiles decorated with pictures of baskets of fruit.
“It would have suited a country cottage, but not a Seventies house in a cul-de-sac,” says Clare, who runs Goods and Chattels gift shop in Howden. “We didn’t want to change the units for the sake of it, so we decided to live with them until we had saved up for the kitchen we really wanted. We had always liked the idea of having a dark grey or black kitchen because it looks stylish and streamlined, but it took several years to find what we wanted at a price we could afford.”
They finally spotted their dream kitchen for half its usual price in a B&Q sale, and decamped into the spare room with a microwave while they took out the old units and installed the new.
“They totally transformed the kitchen,” says Clare. “The house doesn’t have a lot of storage space so we included floor to ceiling larder units to hold all our pots and pans. We kept them at one end of the kitchen and just had floor units around the window end to keep the room as light and open as possible. Stephen does most of the cooking so the kitchen was designed with him in mind. He is 6ft 3ins tall so he can reach all the high cupboards, whereas I tend to use the low ones.”
They deliberately left one wall, where there used to be a door, without cupboards in case they decided to open up the doorway again in the future. Instead they hung a painting by Clare to bring a splash of colour into the kitchen.
“After that, the house evolved quite quickly,” says Clare. “We haven’t had to spend a fortune, especially on larger pieces of furniture, because friends and family have given us sofas and chairs they no longer wanted and which we really liked. The dining table was a present and we have bought smaller furniture from sale rooms.”
Both Clare and Stephen wanted the house to be light and welcoming, so they based the colour scheme of the sitting room on Clare’s favourite Tamara Delenpicka print hanging over the fireplace.
“You need a clear starting point and I love the strong colours in this picture,” says Clare, who used Dulux Mystic Mauve on the walls to offset the darker furniture, then picked out the colours in the curtains which were bought in a sale.
She didn’t like the mahogany coloured fireplace but couldn’t afford to replace it, so she painted it black and cream to match the rug and cupboards. When they couldn’t find a coffee table they liked they bought a secondhand pine table from a junk shop, which Clare painted black with a Union Jack design on top.
“With a bit of imagination you can create the look you want without having to buy everything new,” she says. “We would have loved to have a new bathroom but didn’t have the funds, so we painted the floor and bought some really brightly coloured accessories to give it a facelift.”
When Clare gets chance, she likes to browse around antique shops or charity shops to see what bargains she can find. “It’s easy to pick up bedside tables or chairs for under £10,” she says. “I also collect random pieces of crockery just because I like the colour, like the white dishes and plates decorated with poppies. You can pick up vintage crockery really cheaply if you’re prepared to look around.”
She will often source things for her own gift shop which she duplicates for the home, especially cake stands, pretty glass perfume bottles and jewellery boxes. She uses mirrors to reflect light around darker areas, uses throws and handmade cushions to brighten up old armchairs and accent colours or wallpaper in the bedrooms to create the feminine look she would secretly like for the whole house.
“The house has evolved to reflect both our tastes,” says Clare, “but my dream home would be full of painted furniture, beautiful wallpapers and loads of pretty accessories. My shop reflects everything I like and some of it inevitably finds its way into our home, but Stephen prefers a more modern style. It’s a case of reaching a compromise.”
• Goods and Chattels Gift Shop, Howden, www.clarelennon.co.uk