Annette Poole used her creative skills to turn a dull Victorian terrace in into a chic home.
When Annette Poole made the decision to move from Battle in East Sussex to nearby Hastings, she kept an open mind while house hunting and viewed a variety of different properties, from new builds to period conversions. ‘What I really focused on was finding a refurbishment project rather than a complete renovation,’ she explains. ‘I wanted a house with potential to create a home that was welcoming, but individual.’ The ideal opportunity presented itself in the form of a pretty, Victorian end of terrace, which Annette fell in love with but wasn’t able to put in an offer for it at that point. ‘By the time I was in a position to proceed, the property had been taken off the market,’ she recalls. ‘I was very disappointed, but I was determined not to lose it and discovered that the vendors were going to rent it out but might still be prepared to sell – which is when I stepped in and secured the sale.’
Annette and her two children moved into the house in 2012, with a long-term plan to refurbish the interiors gradually to help spread the cost. ‘All the rooms had a shabby-chic theme and were in need of updating,’ she says, ‘but they were in a liveable condition, so I was able to take my time and save up between each revamp.’
Over the months, Annette concentrated on refurbishing the first floor, discovering to her great joy that the original Victorian floorboards, which had been hidden under the carpet, were in good condition – a fantastic find for a vintage enthusiast with an instinctive knack for using colour. ‘In some of the rooms I’ve painted these in the same shade as the walls,’ she explains. ‘This works particularly well in the master bedroom and en suite, as it gives a sense of flow. I used strong tones in certain areas, but, thanks to the high ceilings, the house can take it, and it makes the rooms look on-trend down pipe, as is the staircase, which brings out the two tones in the stair runner. ‘It was one of the few jobs I didn’t do myself,’ she says. ‘I had to get a decorator to put up scaffolding in order to reach the very high ceiling. ’Annette has added drama to the space with her junk-shop picks and antique finds. ‘I bought the ornate mirror for a bargain price of £100, but it’s the hall light fitting that’s the real star,’ she says. ‘I believe a light can transform a space, but it has to look right.’
By far, the hardest job to tackle was the kitchen, a decent-sized space dominated by a central island, which made it appear smaller than it really was. ‘As soon as it was removed, the room felt so much bigger,’ Annette remembers. ‘With the unit gone, I was able to plan a new layout, which involved raising the height of the window and moving a radiator to free up a wall, where I was able to fit cupboards and a sink.’
The kitchen project wasn’t without its challenges, however: frustratingly, Annette was unable to fit the bespoke worktops on time, because they were initially made to an incorrect size. ‘The replacement wasn’t delivered for two months, which meant that we were unable to use the kitchen over the Christmas period,’ she remembers. ‘And because we didn’t have any water, we had to use paper plates, which was less hassle than heaving dirty pots and pans up to the bath.’
Inspiration for Annette’s colour scheme came from her furniture, which encompasses a variety of styles, from industrial to contemporary. ‘I essentially love traditional interiors, but it’s fun to mix and match,’ she reveals. ‘A friend gave me a set of five, rusty-looking, old metal gym lockers, which I thought would be a great addition to the kitchen – and as luck would have it, they fitted perfectly into the recess where the fireplace once was. I now use them for my larder. My farmhouse cosy. On the landing, I sanded down the timber floor to expose the grain, then added a rug to break up the space. The panelling and doors are painted in Farrow & Ball down pipe, and the chandelier from Hastings’ Antiques Centre provides a focal point. Once this area was finished, I started on my daughter’s bedroom, which was covered in unattractive circus clown wallpaper. I stripped this off and replaced it with a vintage bird design, which isn’t overpowering and suits a period room.’
In the guest bedroom, Annette ran up her own floor-length curtains in a blue shade of linen, which contrast beautifully with walls painted in Farrow & Ball Sudbury yellow, as well as the bespoke headboard and the golden peacock fabric, which was used to make the matching cushions, lampshade and blind.
With only one small family bathroom and separate WC, Annette decided to sacrifice a bedroom to make a luxurious master en suite. ‘A friend created a doorway from the bedroom to what was going to be the bathroom,’ she recalls, ‘and I did all the wood panelling, tiling and decorating myself, which kept the cost down.’ The scheme is neutral to inspire a calm environment, but Annette hasn’t disregarded colour totally – cushions with a large floral design and a green striped throw make a bold statement alongside the floor lamp with its solid wooden base.
Annette hadn’t planned on doing much work in the hallway, but that all changed when parts of the ceiling fell down suddenly. ‘This had to be dealt with immediately, so I decided to completely replace it,’ she says. ‘I wanted a dramatic entrance, so I used a bold statement colour.’ Like the landing, the hallway is painted in gorgeous table was very orange, so I sanded it down to give it more of a bleached, pared-back look. I then painted the legs blue to match the blinds, which I made myself.
The elegant kitchen units may look expensive, but they’re actually from Ikea with a clever twist: the doors were made by Holland of Rye, a reproduction furniture company and painted in Farrow & Ball light blue to match the tongue-and-groove panelling. ‘I enjoy upcycling old furniture to produce a unique look,’ Annette says, ‘and I try to buy nice things without spending a lot of money. I’ve filled the kitchen with beautiful items I discovered in antique shops around Hastings.’
Annette often comes across fantastic bargains while trawling these outlets – the old, wooden shutters which adorn many of her windows are a case in point. ‘I love their peeling paint,’ she says, ‘as it gives them a sense of character and history. My greatest finds were definitely the crystal lights, salvaged from a hotel when it was being demolished. I don’t know if they’re antique, but they really do look the part.’
Once she’d finished inside her house, Annette set her sights on the overgrown garden, built on a slope. Cleverly, she used sleepers to make terraces and then added plenty of plants. ‘I’ve tried to introduce seasonal colour,’ she says, ‘so that the space has all-year-round visual interest.’ A dilapidated Victorian greenhouse at the bottom of the garden was also restored using bricks from a wall that had fallen down.
With her refurbishment complete, Annette is absolutely delighted with the result. ‘My children have left home now, but they love coming back here – the house feels so warm and welcoming,’ she smiles. ‘They enjoy discovering any new quirky purchases I’ve made. I’m sure there’s more I could do to the house, but I’m happy to take a break from it all, leaving me time to concentrate on weeding the garden.’
Photography: David Merewether