By filling it with warmth and charm, Kirsty Sneddon has transformed a neglected Victorian villa in West Sussex.
After moving from London to a Victorian villa in Worthing, West Sussex, Kirsty Sneddon soon began to realise that the whole house needed a complete overhaul. She knew there was quite a job ahead of her, but she was up to the challenge. ‘I had renovated places before, but this was my biggest project to date by far,’ she confesses. ‘It forced me to go back to basics and tackle each room in turn, starting from scratch.’
Her first winter in the property highlighted the priorities. ‘It was the coldest few months of my entire life. It really was a shock to the system,’ she grimaces, recounting how the central heating system consisted of an old boiler, hot water tanks in the loft and inefficient radiators. ‘All of the windows were single-glazed, there were huge gaps in the floorboards and there was no insulation in the loft at all – it was freezing.’ As a matter of urgency, Kirsty tackled the plumbing first, replacing the boiler, fitting fibreglass insulation and boarding up the roof. The ugly, modern white radiators were replaced with large, vintage-style black ones, and shutters were put up at the windows to help keep in warmth. It was a huge task in such a large house and took about five months in total.
While this phase of renovation was happening, Kirsty did her best to deal with the aesthetics, too. ‘Every wall had been painted in 1980s-style pastel shades. The previous owners had been generous with peach, yellow, mint and sky-blue, which left me uninspired and detached,’ she remembers. ‘There was also a mural in the bathroom that wasn’t to my taste, and the kitchen was looking past its best.’
Wanting to create a blissful space where she could escape from the building works going on around her, Kirsty started the internal decorating in her bedroom. ‘It had always been my dream to have a layout with a dressing area and bathroom, where I could pad about and take my time getting ready in the mornings.’ A fake stud wall was installed to create a walk-in wardrobe and the old en suite was refreshed with a modern corner shower. The tatty original boards were covered by new wooden flooring, and vibrant paper hung on the walls.
For two years Kirsty worked on the house in her spare time but, try as she might, she couldn’t maintain the pace – not helped by the fact that any external changes needed council approval. ‘It was going so slowly that in the end I had to get people in to help get the job finished.’ This meant all the ceilings could be plastered and the walls stripped back and painted, while Kirsty directed her attention to sourcing the finishing details, like the light fittings, door handles, paint colours and tiles. She let her imagination run wild, picking vibrant wallpapers for her living and dining spaces and painting the breakfast room in a deep cherry red.
‘I’ve always been drawn to strong colours,’ she says. ‘I stay in a lot of boutique hotels in New York or London for work and I’ve picked up so many ideas from them for my home over the years.’ Her creative flourishes – such as the stunning rainbow staircase, painting the skirting board the same shade as the walls, or introducing 1970s furniture into a period property – all dovetail together beautifully to create cohesive, well-thought out schemes.
With a limited budget for such a big renovation, Kirsty salvaged all the original features she could. ‘The bespoke wooden kitchen units were already in place when I moved in,’ she explains. ‘I simply refreshed them with a lick of paint and changed the handles, then replaced the splashback with tiles from eBay.’ The online trading site turned out to be a fruitful source of money-saving secondhand furniture, too. ‘I brought a fair few favourite pieces down with me from London,’ Kirsty recalls, ‘but with such a large house I needed many more items, like a dining table and additional storage. I spent hours shopping online for the perfect armchair.’
After four long years, the villa was finally finished. Now all the bathrooms have been updated, every space has been redecorated and there is efficient modern plumbing and electrics throughout.
‘I sometimes wish I’d had the money to do all the works at once,’ Kirsty reflects. ‘Instead, I lived on a building site while I saved for the next stage of the renovation, which did make me fall out of love with the place at times. But in the end I’m glad as it gave me a give-it-a-go attitude to the overall design, rather than planning everything out exactly from the start. And now it’s done and dusted, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.’
Photography: James French