This Gold Leaf Artist’s Home Is Full of Inventive and Colorful DIY Ideas
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Name: Lara (me), my husband Stuart, and Coco the Cocker Spaniel.
Location: Northamptonshire, UK
Size: 1000 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years, owned
I love the history of the place; it’s an old cottage on the end of a row of cottages built in the early 1800s. It used to be an ale house, like a mini pub/bar there used to be a lot of. You can still see the hooks in the stone walls where people would tie up their horses. It really needed some repair work and updating when we bought it five years ago. We had to sort out some major stuff like replacing the roof, sorting out damp walls and rotting wood, structural work as well as serious decor issues. It was in a ’70s time warp with lots of dark wood cladding and orange / yellow woodwork.
Due to all the renovating, our budget was seriously tight so we had to do as much of the work ourselves and get really creative with the decor and furniture sourcing. I’ve tried to balance high-street items with secondhand vintage furniture, some of which I’ve painted or upcycled to fit in with my style. I’ve bought a lot from eBay, Facebook, charity shops, and garage sales. The house became my creative outlet and using paint and gold leaf (I’m obsessed with the stuff!) to create features has helped make it unique without spending a lot of money. I use the old washroom (an outbuilding originally used for cooking and bathing before smaller homes had internal bathrooms) as my workshop to make the gold leaf signs I have recently started selling. I have especially loved uncovering old features like blocked up fireplaces in the living room and bedroom as well as original paneled doors. And finally, the walled garden is really lovely and a great place for entertaining and getting the outdoor cinema out when the weather is good, too.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: I think our style is eclectic, bold, colorful, and creative with Victorian and vintage touches. I love contrast of colors, textures and period—old furniture and features with modern abstract pattern. I use a lot of gold and copper leaf decoratively throughout the home and as a nature lover you will find a lot of plants, animals, and even a trees amongst the decor.
Inspiration: I get inspiration from so many places, sometimes I think I should stop looking because I always want to change things! I get inspiration from the usual places like Instagram and Pinterest, interior mags and books, but I also get inspired by nature, places I go to when on holiday or travelling, high-end stores, historic houses, restaurants, and bars.
Favorite Home Element: If I had to pick one thing it would probably be the original fireplace surround that I have gilded, it’s a real focal point for the room and is so opulent for such a small cozy room.
Biggest Challenge: Having a small budget—I’ve figured out a number of ways to achieve the looks I want on a small budget. I mix good value high-street items with one-off vintage finds, paint and upcycle secondhand furniture, and make things when I can’t afford to pay someone to make them for me. We’ve made our concrete top dining table and a concrete shelf, made garden furniture and the spare bed from wooden pallets, and made the stair spindles using industrial building materials. We have done a lot of the repairs and DIY work ourselves as we couldn’t afford to pay professionals. I‘ve made the most of what was already in the house, like the fireplaces and exposed brick walls (instead of replastering everywhere). I use paint and gold leaf to create pattern, interest, and features and for decorative finishing touches. I’ve also entered some competitions on Instagram and won some home items.
Proudest DIY: One of the biggest projects that saved us a lot of money was renewing the balustrading on the stairs and landing and bringing some natural light into the very dark area. Due to the design of the stairs and landing we would have needed to pay a company to make everything bespoke to fit and we also needed a lot of spindles. I liked black wrought iron ones but they were expensive so we found steel bars that are used to reinforce concrete in buildings. We cut them to size and spray painted them black. We bought the wooden corner posts but nothing is at right angles so everything had to be adapted to fit. It was a lot of work but we did it and are really happy with it (and with the money we saved!). The landing is in the middle of the house and had no natural light, so with a couple of helping hands we added two roof windows, which has totally transformed it.
Biggest Indulgence: I have splashed out on the occasional indulgence; lighting would be my most likely area to spend on. I love big statement ceiling lights and unusual lamps. The Anthropologie tassel light shade in the living room was one of my biggest indulgences.
What’s your best home secret or advice? It would have to be to always look on sites like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and charity shops, not just for vintage pieces but for new stuff too. Looking locally is especially good when things are big and bulky and the seller doesn’t want to ship. And if you can’t afford what you really want, get creative and try to find a way to get the look without the budget.
What to people most get wrong about using color in their home? I think there are a couple of ways you can go wrong without even realizing. You can be inspired by a look or current trend and decide to recreate that look in your home but it could be a room that it really doesn’t work for. For example an all dark opulent room can look beautiful but if it’s a high energy practical area like a kitchen, it may not work for you. Just like a really bright bedroom may not be calming for you. I do think there’s an exception to every rule though, and you should always follow what you love.
Another issue is not thinking about the bigger picture. If you only focus on one area or room at a time and don’t think about how it will look from some angles where you can see two or three different rooms, you could find the colors do not complement one another.
What are the biggest tricks/secrets to using color in decor? Go for colors that you love and be brave. Make sure you put the different colors for a scheme together before starting to decorate and if possible bring them into the room so you can see what they will look like with different light at different times of the day. You can also use mood boards as a starting point but nothing compares to getting the actual paint samples in the room. It’s amazing how different the same shade can look in different rooms. Think about the colors in the surrounding areas and rooms and make sure they will work together rather than thinking of rooms/areas in isolation.
Lastly don’t forget about your fifth wall, the ceiling. It doesn’t always have to be white and can make a huge difference to a room. It can make low ceilings look higher when painted the same color as the walls and can be a striking feature when painted a bold contrasting color, too. And remember if you don’t like it you can always paint over it.
Favorite wall paint color of all time: I could not possibly pick one; there are just too many beautiful colors and shades, so not strictly a paint color but I’d have to go with gold, my obsession.
PAINT & COLORS
- Living Room walls — Farrow & Ball “Off Black”
- Behind sofa in living room — Little Greene “Dorchester Pink Mid”
- Chaise longue in living room — Annie Sloan “Athenian Black”
- Dining Room walls and ceiling — Valspar “Bare Necessity”
- Kitchen — Little Greene “Mid Azure Green”
- Pink freestanding cupboard in kitchen — Frenchic “Dusky Blush”
- Master Bedroom: (walls and ceiling) — Lick “Red 03”
- Other main bedroom walls — Farrow & Ball “Pink Ground”
- Painted chest of drawers in main bedroom — Frenchic “Blackjack” and “Dazzle Me”
- Guest Bedroom floorboards and chest of drawers — Frenchic “Dusky Blush” and “Dazzle Me” mixed
- Guest Bedroom ceiling — Farrow & Ball “Pitch Black”
- Guest bedroom walls — Farrow & Ball “All White”
- Dressing Room walls and ceiling — Little Greene “Mid Azure Green”
- Table — Made by us
- Striped planter — Made by us
- Chairs, fireplace and large shelving unit — eBay
- Large bench — Auction House
- Mirror — Garage Sale
- Corner bench — Charity shop
- Yellow cushion & bird lamp — Homesense
- Glass bubble chandelier — Dowsing and Reynolds
- Large artwork on brick wall — Jenny Liz Rome (artist) via Society6
- Large artwork above corner seat — Rosie Emerson (artist)
- Brass disc lamp on brick wall — Spark and Bell
- Units, worktop and some appliances — IKEA
- Floor tiles — Mandarin Stone
- Fridge freezer (SMEG), pink cupboard, mirror — eBay
- Wall mural — By me
- Bed, chest of drawers, tea chest, velvet curtains — eBay
- Mattress — Cottonsafe Natural Mattress
- Bedside lamps — Charity shop, painted by me
- Vintage velvet sofa — Facebook Marketplace
- Dressing table — Charity shop
- Large mirror — Homesense
- Zebra rug — IKEA
- Gold bird lightshade — Aliexpress
- Stool — Habitat
- Gallery wall — Clockwise from top left: Juniqe; Tin Design; Colette Lavette; Juniqe; Society6; Unknown; Jemima Davey (middle – Frida)
- Rug and clothes rail — IKEA
- Metal chest given to me by a friend
- Chair — Garage sale