This Couple Wasn’t Afraid to Take on a House That Hadn’t Been Renovated for Decades

published Jan 17, 2024

This Couple Wasn’t Afraid to Take on a House That Hadn’t Been Renovated for Decades

published Jan 17, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Square feet
Sq ft

When it came to house hunting, a “period property” that was also a “bit of a project” was at the very top of the wish list for couple Rowan and Tim Giles. “In 2012 we were living in St Albans and wanted to move back to Manchester — the city where we first met,” begins Rowan, who says they only viewed two houses, one of which was a “huge Edwardian villa that had been converted into bedsits.” Although the villa needed a little too much work for what the couple was looking for, they weren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty.

House tour cover

Can't-Miss House Tours Straight to Your Inbox

Keep up with our latest house tours each weekday with our House Tour of the Day newsletter

The couple found this property, which hadn’t been updated in many years, and saw the potential of the space immediately. “A few people had looked round, armed with tape measures, but they were put off by the amount of work needed. The house hadn’t been renovated for decades,” Rowan describes of this house they viewed in spring 2012.

Credit: Rowan Atkins

“It was heated with gas fires (even in the bedrooms), the attic roof was leaking, some of the windows were cracked, and lots of the original sash frames had rotted. The sky-blue Formica kitchen was from the fifties and the bathroom had loads of traditional features like a pedestal washbasin and traditional high-level toilet,” Rowan continues to describe.

But Rowan and Tim explain that it has “great Victorian bones and we wanted to bring it to life again as a family home,” she writes. “Lots of friends and relatives thought we were crazy for buying it!” Rowan admits.

Credit: Rowan Atkins

“When we bought the house in 2012, the first thing we did was to decorate the front living room; pulling out the old gas fire, getting rid of the blue carpet and curtains, painting it white, and filling it with vintage finds and prints. We wanted one nice room to live in while all the renovation work was going on,” Rowan begins. In 2014, they added a family bathroom to the first floor and got rid of a wall, as well as decorated the kids’ bedrooms.

In 2018, the kitchen extension started. “This involved creating a downstairs loo, utility room, and much bigger kitchen-dining space, plus a patio and steps that connect it with the garden,” Rowan explains. “In 2020, during Covid, we had the garden landscaped, which was a big piece of work, as it wraps around the front, side, and back of the house.”

In 2021 they decorated the middle room, which Rowan explains doubles as both an office and playroom. And then from 2021 to 2022 they renovated the bedroom, “which involved moving the wall of our en suite back to make it smaller and our bedroom bigger and then adding built-in wardrobes.”

In 2022, they painted the porch, the hallway, and the first floor landing and then in 2023 they “refreshed our family bathroom, which had been decorated on a shoe-string [budget] nearly 10 years before. This glow-up involved a proper fresh floor (we had only painted the floorboards previously), new wall tiles to replace the skirting boards, a new shower, and toilet seat. We also had the cast iron bath re-enameled.”



  • Right across the house all our walls are white and the woodwork — skirting boards and door frames — have been painted in Farrow & Ball “Off-Black.” Our stairs are also painted in the same off-black shade. In our bedroom, the built-in wardrobes were painted in Farrow & Ball “French Gray,” which is a beautiful muted green shade.


  • Floor tiles — Bert and May Loredo tiles (no longer available)
  • Large wall mirror and bench are both vintage — Old Mill Antiques in Manchester
  • Holophane ceiling light — Pooky
  • Prints are mix of vintage — Art gallery shops such as Royal Academy and Design Museum in Copenhagen
  • Coat shelf and hooks — Made by Tim from an old cupboard in the house


  • Green sofa — eBay
  • Harlequin Acropora Cushion, Positano / Haze Cushions — John Lewis
  • Rug and wall lamp — (no longer available)
  • Bayou table lamp — Pooky
  • Empire lampshade in “deep sea” “chambray” linen — Pooky
  • Small Jonesy Sofa in Midnight Clever Deep Velvet — Loaf
  • Grayson Perry silk scarf — Tate Modern (which I had framed)
  • Rose Wylie print — Royal Academy
  • Chair is old IKEA upholstered in Ticking Stripe Alpha — Tin Smiths in Raspberry by Wes Roche Upholstery
  • Ottoman is secondhand — eBay



  • Kitchen Carcasses — IKEA
  • Door fronts — Reform ‘Basis’ fronts in painted conifer (NCS 8010 – B90G) (some also in white) with handles in natural oak
  • Habitat JOE Solid oak low stools with leather upholstered seat (no longer available)
  • Prints — Mostly vintage
  • TV map — Dorothy
  • Shelves — Canada
  • Large terracotta hanging planters — Crocus
  • Other planters — Anthropologie, Chloe Robinson Designs and found some in the basement when we moved in!
  • Table — Made by Tim from old floorboards
  • Chairs are secondhand — Mayfly Vintage
  • Berlin Two-Seater Sofa in Honey Easy Velvet and Dark Oak Plinth with Tapered Leg — Swoon
  • Striped Velvet Cushion Red/Pink — Folk
  • Wooden lamp with yellow shade on shelf is vintage – From Pear Mill Vintage Emporium
  • Floor tiles are from CTC — Maps dark Grey (can’t find the link)


  • Built-in wardrobes — Made by Red Leaf Furniture
  • Porlock Bed King with headboard in Easy Velvet Fern — Swoon
  • Verne Bedside tables — Swoon
  • Mirror — Tim’s grandmother’s and is very old!
  • Tate Modern Hockey poster — Tate Modern
  • Blinds — Made using Alice Palmer fabric
  • Window seat cushion and scatter cushions upholstered in Zouk Plain Durable Velvet Brushed Cotton Effect Upholstery Fabric Olympic Blue Colour — Yorkshire Fabric Shop
  • Matilda Goad & Co. red scalloped cushion on window seat — Anthropologie, no longer available
  • Pumpkin Opal Wall Light — Pooky
  • Ceiling light is larger pumpkin in opaline glass — Pooky
  • Throw — Iris and Olive Store on Trouva
  • Blue cushions on bed — Heal’s Velvet Cushion Slate Blue




  • Curtains — IKEA
  • Built in bench made — @glenhornecarpentry
  • Bunkbeds and shelves made — my husband
  • Prints — @martabadblay
  • Desk and chair — Dunelm (can’t find the links) 

Thanks, Rowan!

This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.