Making our house a home

Making our house a home

As time goes by, and we add the finishing touches to our home, I am astonished even myself, at the transformation that has taken place in our Living Room.

We moved into our beautiful Victorian home back in December. We did very little leading to Christmas, deciding to hit the house in January to renovate it to its current state.

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On the surface the property did not look bad. But after deciding to strip it back we uncovered many layers of paint and wallpaper (seven layers in some places!), and walls in bad repair.

Crazy green in the living room  Our unrecognisable building site of a living room

We had the whole house replastered, including many ceilings and decided the house needed a new lease of life, to be appreciated and adored the way it should be.

What I love most about the Living Room is the bay window which looks out onto shrubbery and a beautiful magnolia tree. However, on moving in, we found the windows were original sash, rotting all over with a secondary PVC glazing screwed over the top. This meant you could not open the windows, nor see out of them, having accumulated decades of dirt and dust.

image (42) copy  Black Manure Smelling Plaster under the living room window

The biggest part of our renovation budget was spent on the new sash windows, but my gosh, the difference they make. So much so that strangers now approach us to say: “You live in the Victorian red brick house don’t you? I love your windows.” Money well spent then!

Once the plastering was complete we applied a mist coat of paint (you can’t paint directly onto plaster as the paint will come off). The misting provides a barrier and is cheap emulsion mixed with water, we did 1/3 water and 2/3 paint – that worked for us.

For the walls, we chose Johnstones paint, which is what most tradesman use and goes on really nicely. We had the paint mixed in Farrow & Ball – Cornforth White.

After two coats of that, along with the white on the ceiling, we were ready to get rid of the shabby carpet. The carpet was much like the shower mats you would find, with a long shabby towelling effect. Not something you would expect to see in a living room all over.

Having removed the carpet, the chipboard underneath and the hundreds of nails in the floor, we uncovered a wooden beamed floor in need of much TLC. We found an excellent French Polisher who sanded them back and what a difference it made!

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Once the floor was sanded and varnished, we were able to finish off painting the skirting boards and door frames and finally ‘move in’. This is when you make your house a home; my favourite bit.

Before reaching this stage, if you are having a room plastered it’s worth thinking about lighting. What lights do you have and where do you plan to hang them? We had to think about this before plastering the walls and have the floorboards lifted in the bedroom above and electrics chased down the walls either side of the fireplace. This allowed us to hang our wall chandeliers exactly where we wanted.

Electrics in, wallpaper off, all set to plaster   image (37) copy 

This brings me onto my favourite touches. This room is very airy and bright with tinted grey on the walls. With heavy furniture pieces you want to create a balance so muted walls and floors will compliment the decadent decor of the room.

Our gorgeous wall chandeliers are from a flea market in Paris. We had them in our previous property and I refused to part with them. We purchased a new central chandelier for this property from the same flea market a couple of years later for around £80 (just check out the going prices on ebay!). The chandelier was not in working order, but my husband soon worked his magic, and with a little rewiring, we managed to get it working.

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Sitting under the window is a beautiful old French radio and record player built in an intricately carved walnut chest. This caught my eye in a vintage shop in St Ives, Cornwall and was a steal at £100. Initially I had plans to Annie Sloan it, but after some consideration, I realised it would be a crime to cover the authentic walnut carpentry. It needs some rewiring too but I’ve already got Edith Piaf records ready and waiting to play as we unwind in the living room after dinner parties.

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Our two Ambassador armchairs have also been left untouched. I saw them in a vintage market in Les Alpes when visiting Fe’s grandmother. I fell in love, haggled a bargain (£120 for the pair) and got my father-in-law to bring them over on his next trip to the UK.

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On the chairs are my beloved Jessie Chorley cushions. The first I bought when I fell in love with Fe, as it felt like a fairytale – “Chapter One…Once Upon A Time”. The second, we purchased after getting married, which reads in French: “Chapitre Deux…Le Mariage”. I am looking to order a third now – “Chapitre Trois…Le Bebe’.

On the side you will see our treasured Wedding Album. I never understand why people tuck their wedding albums away. Especially if you spent a lot on your big day. It’s something you want to be reminded of everyday and something you want to share with friends and family. It’s always lovely when people come over and ask to look at it – that’s what it’s for – regardless of whether it’s gathering dust or not. And when your photographer is Binky Nixon, who has a stunning style of photography and captures every magical moment, you will want to show your pictures off. It is a Queensberry album that was made in New Zealand from fine silk bookbinding fabrics from Japan and exceptional leather from France and Germany.

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Our taupe sofa, which is worn and much loved, is traditionally a banquette purchased from Maison du Monde in France. To say I love this shop is an understatement. It’s often my first hit as soon as I cross the border. Here you will find rustic, classic and statement interior pieces at a very reasonable price. We did have two banquettes but decided to sell one to maximise the bay window in the room.

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Above the sofa we have a mirror purchased on the cheap from QD stores. I’m never opposed to a cheap and cheerful purchase. It’s like clothes; “It’s not what you wear; it’s how you wear it”. Interiors are the same. It’s all about context, you can throw some cheap bits into a beautiful room – you’d never know this mirror cost us £29.99. It really opens up the room and reflects the light.

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Finish the room off with a vase of hydrangeas, to be admired both inside and out, and you there you have it; a sitting room that you do want to sit in. Here’s a recap – before and after…

  Crazy green in the living room   image (35) copy

If you want to follow our full story, check out my Pinterest board: and follow me @madammathieu



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