A Dramatic Welsh Home Proves You CAN Go Dark and Colorful in a Rental

A Dramatic Welsh Home Proves You CAN Go Dark and Colorful in a Rental

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Name: Pati Robins, my husband Colin, daughter Olivia, and two dogs, Shy and Lilly
Location: Cardiff — Wales, Great Britain
Size: 644 square feet
Years lived in: 13 years, renting

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I have lived in this rented home for 13 years along with my husband Colin, daughter Olivia, and two dogs, Shy and Lilly. I was born in Poland and moved to the U.K. when I met my husband. And when we first moved into this rental home, the whole house was painted in magnolia paint [the British equivalent of “Builder’s beige”], which also showed nicotine stains coming through the paint.

For the first six months we both slept on the floor in our sleeping bags; we had a tiny budget to try to fill the house with necessities. But, a little at a time, we have found furniture either from secondhand stores, online, or secondhand sites like free cycle. And, step by step I undertook the transformation. I might be renter and not a home owned, but the home we are living in now was transformed from drab to our idea of fab—and a home that feels like ours.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Dark eclectic, maximalist with a touch of rock glam—with the occasional dog hairs thrown in. My family and myself feel relaxed in dark colors; it’s not a look for everyone but it works for us.

Inspiration: The world around me, the ’80s, music—we have always been collectors of things and I love photography and art. We love all things quirky, and using pops of color, which seem to lift our dark walls that serve as a backdrop.

Favorite Element: Living room chandelier. It is an Abigail Ahern piece that I managed to find on eBay for £50–which was a bargain of the century! It is huge, and when we went to pick it up, my husband casually asked: “Are you going to hang it on the stairs (in the highest part)?” “No darling, it is going in our living room.” His expression was priceless and a total a Griswold family Christmas moment—minus the sap. I did have to reinforce the ceiling a little in order to hang it—but if we’re ever lucky enough to be a homeowners I will make sure the home will have taller ceilings.

Biggest Challenge: My husband is a disabled (handicapped) army veteran, so our home had to have a lot of adaptations fitted—from an outside wheelchair lift, to a stair lift, to a bed lift, and a fully adapted bathroom (that I have yet to redecorate). Adaptations of those type are not always nice to look at, but they serve their purpose—they help my husband be more mobile and independent. Since we had those fitted, my husband has hated them (as they reminded him too much of a hospital. Which may be why we have darker walls; they seem to make him more relaxed.) I’ve tried my hardest in blending his adaptations with the house so they do not become a feature. For instance, on the staircase, the stair lift used to be cream colored—which stuck out like a sore thumb—and I have repainted it black to help it blend in. And under all those layers of things in the master bedroom there is a bed lift hidden; we believe that your disability should never be something that defines you or your home—there is always a way around it to make it work without spending a ton of money.

Proudest DIY: Pergola in the garden. I drew (and I can’t draw) and built it myself from scratch this year over a period of a weekend, but before I built it I had to replace deck boards. Then I had to try and plan how to build and assemble a simple pergola by myself—ladders, clamps, and random pieces of wood that I used to support beams were a huge help. The pergola might not be perfect but it’s my first more serious build and I am really proud of it. I love DIY and I always try to make things by myself as it saves money, and most importantly fills you with a sense of pride when you achieve something. I love a good challenge and being as stubborn as I am I will sit and keep trying until I make it work.

Biggest Indulgence: Lighting! I am a sucker for pretty lights—and I always try and source them cheaper than a standard price. It takes longer and requires some patience for the item to come up on offer or sale—but I do love a good bargain (and dislike paying full price). I have a few friends who work in retail and at times they help me source a particular item, too (which I am very grateful for).

Best Advice: I believe that homes should represent people who are living there and not be decorated because something is “in” or popular—decorate for yourself. Sure, if you like something that’s popular then yes go for it. My mum taught me that life is short—so live it! Be good and have fun—I know it’s corny—but we apply it to our way of life as well as our home. It works for us.

If you want to try something like painting your walls a zesty color—just go for it—it’s only paint. If you don’t like it you can always repaint it—and if you don’t try it, you will always wonder “what if?”


Hallway — Blackboard paint Rustoleum
Living room – Valspar Black Heron
Stair wall/staircase – Valspar Black Heron
Mixed green paint- own mix
Wilko durable matte emulsion moonlight white
Kitchen Valspar charcoal sketch (I think it’s discontinued)
Master bedroom – Valspar Tempest Teapot
Teen room – Valspar Lonesome Vale

Shoe cabinet — IKEA (bought second hand)
Tiles – Sourced second hand
Yellow mirror – Thrift shop find repainted
Light fixture – Home made inspired by la voliere cage lamp from Conran Shop
Cactus – Abigail Ahern
Hangers, stag head, small mirror, art – Thrift shop
Wall clock – IKEA (discontinued)
Bear table – Wayfair
Rock on hand – Thrills of the Emporium
Neon light – Custom made by Light Up North
Greenery – Abigail Ahern
Vases – IKEA (discontinued)
Head – Thrifted

(Image credit: Pati Robins)

Coffee table, crates – Thrifted
Artwork – Thrifted, vinyl covers, lovefrankee, lush eclectic, Amy Beager
Frames – IKEA (repainted ) and thrifted
Faux donkey head – Debenhams
Rugs – all thrifted
Lamp – Kartell
Cushions – H&M, eBay, and Age of Reasonn studios
Table decor – IKEA, eBay, and secondhand
Living room reading nook chair – Secondhand find re-dyed from red to black cushions — Age of Reason Studios and eBay
Throw – Charity shop (thrift shop find)
Foot stool – Home Bargain
Rug – eBay
Star lamp – Secondhand
Art – Desenio

Dining table – Made by myself
Chairs — Thrills of the Emporium
Art – Light Up North

(Image credit: Pati Robins)

Floor tiles – Tile Mountain
Wall tiles – Metro tiles (available everywhere)
Kitchen cabinet frame — Was already in the house
Kitchen doors – Replaced using kitchen door workshop
Worktop – Laminate wood effect Wickes
Shelves – Reclaimed scaffold boards
Tap and sink – eBay
Storage jars – IKEA , eBay, TK Maxx
Chopping boards – eBay, TK Maxx
Rug – Gift
Ceiling lamp – Second hand upcycled
Bar stools — Amazon
Bar table plants and accessories – Abigail Ahern, eBay, TK Maxx

Mirror – Thrift find
Art – Gift from my mum
Bureau – Second hand painted
Rug — eBay
Ammo box – Husband’s
Bubble chandelier — Downswing and Reynolds

(Image credit: Pati Robins)


All furniture – Secondhand
Bed — IKEA LILLESAND, cut and upcycled
Headboard second hand – Upcycled
Chandelier – Gift from my mum
Bedside lamps – Sourced by a friend
Bedspread – Wayfair
Cushions – H&M home
Monkey lamp — Out There Interiors
Wallpaper – Mind the Gap
Fireplace — Thrifted
Neon flame – Custom-made by loveinc
Mirror – eBay
Bust – Secondhand upcycled

Headboard – DIY
Desk – DIY using IKEA KALLAX and old worktop cut to reduce the depth
Desk lamp – IKEA
Flamingo lamp – Lovefrankee
Art – (bw) thrift shop, (leaves) Anna Plen
Wardrobes – IKEA PAX
Leather handles — DIY project, but IKEA sells similar
Wooden artist hand – eBay
Wooden bull head – Thrift store
Rugs – Patterned one eBay secondhand, round one H&M (discontinued)
Bedding – H&M (now discontinued)
Tasseled throw — Dar Beida Moroccan living
White chair — Tulip chair secondhand
Wood stool – Smith originals

Thanks, Pati!

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*This submissions responses have been edited for length and clarity.