A 800-Square-Foot Colorful UK Home Has a Must-See DIY “Belle Bookcase”

A 800-Square-Foot Colorful UK Home Has a Must-See DIY “Belle Bookcase”

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Name: Charlotte Violet, Dave Sharpe (my fiancé), Mog the Calico cat, and Mango the Black cat!
Location: Brighton — East Sussex, UK
Type of Home: Townhouse
Size: 800 square feet, not including garden
Years lived in: 2 ½ years, owned

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My fiancé, Dave, and I were desperate to live in the city of Brighton and had already been living here for some time in rented accommodation and I had even lived in a housing co-op! We wanted to live in the city center and it was tough finding somewhere, as prices in the city are really expensive. This house needed a bit of work but we were happy to take that on, so we snapped it up! Our neighborhood is really colorful—all the houses are painted bright colors and it’s such a cheery place to live. We live by the sea surrounded by color so it’s our absolute dream location!

It’s really about the type of lifestyle we wanted, too. Lots of days at the beach swimming and surfing, watching the sunset, and sleepy days walking around the city drinking coffee. It’s a dreamy place to be but it’s been a real journey to get our house to reflect the city that we live in and that lifestyle. People often say to me “your house is SO Brighton,” which is exactly what I was going for! We live in a really progressive and liberal place, too, and we are really feel at home here. I have to be honest, one of things I love the most is that we can paint the exterior of our house however we like and that was a huge selling point for me! Our house is bright yellow but there are ‘”Adventure Time” and “Patchwork Elephant” [colorful and patterned] houses near us and even the space cat house—or as the locals call him “David Meowie!”

I saw heaps of potential in our house—but we’ve worked really hard to get the most out of it. It’s been a journey! We love chilling out in our home, watching films on the outdoor projector, lazing in the hammock and hanging chairs, cozying up by the indoor and outdoor fireplace/firepit, and most recently showering in our new outdoor shower in our tropical style garden! There’s always a cat to hang out with, too!

Charlotte studies radical politics and moral philosophy and Dave works in the charity sector. You can see more of their colorful house on the Happy Bohemian Home Instagram, @happybohohome on TikTok, and blog.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Happy, tropical, and bohemian!

Inspiration: My inspiration has definitely come from my travels over the world. I spent a lot of time in Asia and Australia with my fiancé, Dave, from Bali to Cambodia to the Australian rainforest; I love happy and tropical spaces—we both do!  I’m also really inspired by city living—I love the process of making something work in a smaller space, too, so I find that really inspiring. I like taking ideas that might traditionally only be considered for larger homes and making it work in a city house.

Favorite Element: I love the colorful exterior of our house and also the tropical garden with huge firepit, hammocks, and outdoor shower. I love being outdoors so it’s my happy place! I love our dining room, which has only happened over the last couple of months. Our dining room has always been the least used room in the house but we decided to renovate it this summer, even building a ladder bookcase to house all my books ( and some plants, too). I also painted a colorful mural with Spanish moss and air plants and it’s such a wonderfully cheery room now.

Biggest Challenge: Overall our biggest challenge is usually budget and space; this is a running theme and I think it’s quite common with city living. When it comes to budget we both look in to how we can do it ourselves and do lots of research to make sure we get the outcome we want. I think lack of space isn’t actually as limiting as we think it is; it usually requires just a bit of extra planning to make it work.

Proudest DIY: I think I have to say our library ladder bookcase and that’s because it has a really lovely story behind it. Since I was a little girl I’ve always wanted what I call a “Belle Bookcase.” It’s been such a huge dream of mine but we never imagined we would have one in our current home. I think it’s because traditionally ladder bookcases are across a large wall or a whole room. We had a corner in our dining room that we were never happy with and when we started to renovate our dining room a few months ago I really got thinking about how much I wanted to do with the space—I wanted to have a space that could house lots of books (I have so many for my studies), our vinyl and vinyl player, and also our floor cushions. I also wanted a really green space with lots of plants!

A few years back a much loved bookshop in our city closed down—it was a magical little bookshop with piles of books everywhere and it was really sad to see it shut down. One day I was searching through Facebook Marketplace and I saw an old library ladder for sale. It just so happens a barber shop had taken over the lovely bookshop that closed down and they had left one of their library ladders behind. The manager at the barber’s told me that he really wanted to keep it but with Covid they had to make extra space in the shop for customers and staff to stay safe. He was gutted to let it go but wanted it to find a good home. So we ended up with a little piece of history from our city and a new ladder bookcase and my fiancé found a new barber (really he’s the best barber he’s ever had, too!).

I looked it up after and I even found pictures of our library ladder in its old home in the bookshop! We sourced the wood for this project and built it all from scratch to fit the space, including cutting all the shelves to size and making some wood brackets. We put a lot of work in to it being really secure—especially the top shelf as the ladder needed to be fixed against it and safe for us to climb up! The project turned out so well, it’s really practical and also looks like a little garden library with all the plants! But I just adore it as it has such a lovely story behind it.

I also made a macramé swing for my garden myself and I’m pretty proud of that, too!

Biggest Indulgence: If I’m totally honest it’s probably all the plants—both indoors and outdoors—that I’ve adopted over the years! It’s totally worth it I think; I love all the greenery as it’s a real mood boost! Also things like our very large outdoor firepit or the oak sleepers were quite indulgent purchases. But I’m a big believer in saving money where you can and saving up for what you really want where you can!

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I often get told that our home looks so tropical so I think that makes it quite unique—people often don’t believe me when they see our garden that I live in the UK!

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? The wall decals I used on two sets of my stairs were inexpensive but have had such a big impact! The other thing would be a hammock we bought back from Thailand when we were traveling together. I instinctively bought it even though I had no use for it at the time because myself and my fiancé loved it; we hadn’t even talked about living together at that point so I think it’s really lovely that it’s a feature in our home now!

What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? For renters, contact paper and wall decals are a great idea! I also can’t recommend plants enough (especially large ones as they change the look of a space so much!)  and shopping in vintage stores and flea markets for really unique home décor pieces and furniture. I also think it’s really important to know that if you are painting a room or a feature wall that if you don’t like it you can just paint over it and not to be scared of trying things out.



  • Master bedroom — Bauwerk Colour “Rosehip”
  • House exterior — Bauwerk Colour “Raffia”
  • Stair Decals — Etsy



Thanks Charlotte!

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