After Stripping Away Layers of Paint and Carpet, These UK Homeowners Liked — and Kept — What They Found

published Jan 12, 2023

After Stripping Away Layers of Paint and Carpet, These UK Homeowners Liked — and Kept — What They Found

published Jan 12, 2023
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Name: Camilla and Andy
Location: Fiveways — Brighton, United Kingdom
Size: 1300 square feet
Type of Home: Victorian Terrace
Years Lived In: 3 years, owned

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“We bought this house from a lovely lady who had lived here for about 60 years raising her family (she sheepishly said they bought it for about £2000!),” begins Camilla, who is a visual merchandiser and stylist specializing in home styling. “Although it needed updating, you could feel the love she had for the house: it was immaculate and felt really bright and welcoming.” Her husband Andy is a research scientist for cancer, and while Camilla does say she comes up with the majority of the house ideas, “Andy has the final say or deciding vote but is pretty trusting of my ideas.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I find this question so hard to answer because I think my style is quite changeable and is a reaction to the space I’m in. My first place was an ex-council flat in East London, which suited a more mid-century style and had a totally different feel to this place.

I’m a wannabe minimalist with maximalist tendencies. I’m a bit of magpie and I can’t help myself from picking up bits on holiday and in secondhand shops but I also don’t like too much clutter, so it’s a balancing act. I like to keep things to a neutral color palette and prefer texture to pattern. Lots of low lighting is key for atmosphere for our long winter nights.

Inspiration: As we stripped away layers of paint, pulled up carpets and discovered original hidden four-panel pine doors. We started to get inspired to leave the things we had uncovered as they were. The bare plaster walls in living room walls felt cozy with a fire on and I loved seeing the history of where a door was, or where the room had once been divided. We decided to leave the newly stripped original doors and upstairs floors and stairs raw wood as I never like the finish of oils or varnishes. It also made our lives easier as it meant less decorating! It also stops the house looking too perfectly “done,” and gives it character and a sense of history.

Favorite Element: It’s probably the view from the loft. When we put an offer in we didn’t realize that if we did an extension we would have this amazing panoramic view of Brighton and the sea. It’s pretty to wake up with a cup of tea in bed on the weekend or see lightning storms over the sea at night.

Biggest Challenge: It was a top to toe refurb as the house needed rewiring, new heating system putting in, new windows, and we did a loft conversion. But stripping the layers of wallpaper in every room was a huge task. I counted 13 different textured wallpapers and plaster finishes when we moved in. I’d never done it before and what no one mentions is the wallpaper glue gunk that gets left behind that needs hours of scrubbing off or the new paint won’t stick to the walls. I thought I was getting early arthritis in my hands at one point! To do the hallway and peel the paint off the stairs and then decorate was a mammoth task that I’ve been doing gradually over two years because it couldn’t properly be finished until all the building work was done.

Proudest DIY: I’m really proud we did all the internal decorating ourselves as it got really boring and tough in parts but saved us loads of money. For a lovely object at the end, it’s probably the IKEA hack cabinet in our living room. I used overhead kitchen cabinets as I wanted to hang the unit off the floor and not have them protrude too much to give the illusion of space. We covered the doors and sides in half wooden dowels and the top in zellige tiles.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? The loft isn’t very practical for wardrobes, etc. so we made one of the bedrooms into a walk-in wardrobe. It helps keep our bedroom a bit more relaxed because we both have messy tendencies.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? Installing a log burner was a game changer that makes our summery house feel super cozy in winter. The marble in the kitchen was worth the splurge. All the taps we bought from bespoke taps are lovely to use.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Under the stairs we put in a kind of laundry nook with rails that run under the stairs to hang washing as it dries. A gingham curtain hides the underfloor heating system and our cleaning stuff. It’s an area that looks cute and makes me smile but is also practical.

Does your home reflect your home country/city in any way? Keeping it bright and airy with lots of raw wood has definitely made it feel a bit beachy and like it’s in Brighton but also reminds me of my home city, Sydney.

What are your favorite places to shop for home décor that can only be found in your country? One of the best things about moving to a new part of the country and doing up a house is exploring the area through sourcing stuff for it.

  • For salvage and to bring back some original features, Tony at Back to the Grain in Lewes was so lovely and helpful. We got our lead-painted doors stripped with him and he sourced us a door to identically match them. We also found our living room fireplace surround through him and lots of other treasures including some lovely hardware. He is great for a gossip too!
  • Matt Gibson has a warehouse full of the best variety of reclaimed fireplaces.
  • Vine Street Vintage in Brighton has a beautifully edited selection of furniture in a gorgeous spot in The Lanes. I was lucky enough to get my lucite coffee table and a chandelier from them.
  • The lovely Kim Kalinowski sources incredible vintage furniture.
  • Lewes had some great antique and independent shops including Freight, No1 Lewes, The Cliffe Antique Centre. You can easily spend a whole day pottering around this gorgeous town.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Renovate and decorate from the top to the bottom of a house. You do not want to finish a room and then have builders traipsing through it with materials.

I love houses that evolve over time. Trying to get a house “finished” all at once can date it and lead to panicked decisions that later need changing. When I moved in I had furniture I knew I didn’t love anymore but brought it along anyway as a placeholder until I found the right thing. I love vintage furniture to inject personality (also the quality is usually much better and it’s a no brainer for the environment) but sometimes you just have to wait longer to find the perfect piece at the right price.

Starting an Instagram to document the renovation really helped me connect with other people in a similar situation. Not only was it helpful for inspiration it really gave me confidence and know how to do certain things myself and helped me find some great suppliers.












Thanks Camilla and Andy!

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