Lisa and Neil Chamberlain gave away most of their worldly goods when they moved into the house they had dreamed of owning for 11 years. Not only did they give away televisions, sofas, beds and white goods, but they also gave away a conservatory and all the kitchen units so they could make a completely fresh start. ‘I had sold a small business and we were in the fortunate position of being able to create a home exactly as we had always wanted, but we didn’t want to just throw everything away,’ says Lisa. ‘The conservatory went to someone who wanted it as a playroom for his children; three old sheds went to someone with a wood burner; the kitchen went to my brother-in-law and was fitted as a Christmas present; a friend took the range cooker and the rest of the furniture went to local charities and organisations.’
Their ‘clear-out’ not only benefitted friends and neighbours, but also paved the way for the house of their dreams. Lisa and Neil had always admired the modern estate house in a wooded cul-de-sac just round the corner from where they were living. They even put in an offer when it came up for sale 11 years ago, but the sale fell through and they decided to extend their previous home instead. However, just hours before the foundations for the extension were due to be excavated, Lisa and Neil discovered that their dream home was back on the market. ‘We were just about to go on holiday and rang up from the airport to arrange a viewing,’ says Lisa. ‘We saw it two days after we got back and although it was a mess inside, we put in an offer straight away. The girls were absolutely horrified when they saw what we’d bought. We were moving from the home they had been born and raised in to live in a house with smaller bedrooms which badly needed updating and extending.’
But Lisa stood her ground, knowing that the house, with its double garage and private corner plot garden, had huge potential. ‘I knew we could turn it into a really special family home,’ she says. ‘There were times when we wondered whether we’d done the right thing, especially when the house was upside-down with building works, but I always kept the end result in mind.’ In a further twist to the tale Lisa and Neil decided to keep their old house and rent it out, even doing a temporary house ‘swap’ with the previous owners. ‘We rented our last house to them for a few months so we could move into this one,’ says Lisa. ‘We wanted to start work on it straight away.’
The first job was to strip, skim and decorate two bedrooms for Eden and Libby, then they stripped out the rest of the house while planning permission went through for a single storey extension which would more than double the size of the original kitchen and add to the length of the living room. Building work started in June 2013 and they ‘lived in chaos’ until November when the new kitchen was created by knocking down the wall into the extension, taking out stud walls that had created a utility and fitting new units with a central island. ‘It was a pain living in chaos for so long, but by living in it we were able to make changes and adjustments as we went along. At one stage we were getting by with just a sink, a microwave and a mattress on the floor – our bed had been specially made to fit the room in our last house so we decided to buy a new one for here,’ says Lisa. ‘We literally gave away everything from water butts to curtain poles and started again. It was a one-off opportunity to create the home we wanted without compromise.’
But when it came to decorating and furnishing their new home, Lisa and Neil decided to seek the help of an interior designer, Emma Gordon from Eyecandy Interior Design, who worked closely with Lisa to create a warm, welcoming home. ‘People think hiring a designer is really expensive, yet we wouldn’t think twice about hiring a builder or a painter and decorator,’ says Lisa. ‘So why not let an expert create the look you want to live with? Plus, the savings she made on the furniture offset what we paid for her expertise. And by hiring a professional we avoided making any costly mistakes, as Emma understood exactly what we wanted to achieve.’
The girls chose the décor for their rooms while Lisa and Neil wanted something more neutral for their room and downstairs. ‘We were so unsure about the finishing touches that we thought it would be a false economy to try to do it on our own.’ Lisa did have doubts when Emma suggested brown wallpaper on all four walls of the sitting room, but she is delighted with the result – layers of natural textures and calm colours which have turned the once bland living room into her favourite part of the house. She has also used large mirrors, including mirrored radiators, to reflect light around the house and added subtle colour on the stairs and landing with a striped carpet.
The house is now exactly how Lisa and Neil had planned it and they and their daughters love living there, despite Eden and Libby’s initial reservations. ‘Eden and Libby couldn’t understand why we would want to leave our last home, which we all liked, and move into a house which needed so much doing to it,’ says Lisa. ‘Now they love it and wonder why they ever had doubts.’
Originally posted 2016-05-19 13:22:24.