Home renovation project: The perfect home at Christmas

Finding a property with potential played a big part in Rebecca and Lee Rutland’s search for a new home, but that also meant taking on a renovation project that required some work.

‘I can safely say that this house was an absolute wreck when we bought it,’ recalls Rebecca. ‘It was barely liveable, but we fell in love with the spacious rooms, large garden and bay windows. Luckily, I was completely naive to how much work it actually needed and how long it would all take, as if I’d known what I was getting myself into we may not have bought it, which would have been a mistake.’

Restore or replace

Built in the 1960s, the house was in a bad state of repair and the couple spent time restoring – and in some cases replacing – every single part of it, from the skirting boards to the internal doors. The biggest undertaking, however, was knocking down the wall between the dining room and kitchen to create a larger space. This meant turning the dining room window into double French doors and bricking up the old back door to create a new layout that would work much better for family life.

Modern dining room decorated for Christmas
Image Credit: Colin Poole

‘We spend a lot of time in the kitchen and wanted a warm, open place for day-to-day use and entertaining. Bricking up the old back door gave us extra cupboard space in what is quite a small kitchen, and changing the dining room window into our new doorway added much more light,’ Rebecca says.

Despite the success of the kitchen, the couple admit to being daunted by the scope of work needed for this renovation project.

‘I remember feeling very overwhelmed when we got the keys and looked around, knowing it was ours,’ explains Rebecca. ‘It’s all taken a very long time, as the work was carried out in our evenings, weekends and annual leave.’

Professionals were called in to do a handful of jobs, such as replacing the windows and boiler, as well as installing the kitchen worktop, while Rebecca and Lee took on other jobs themselves.

‘We did a lot of filling and sanding as we couldn’t afford a plasterer, and we even restored the floorboards in three of the upstairs rooms, which was quite an extensive job,’ says Rebecca.

Lessons learnt

As with every major renovation project, the couple learnt some lessons along the way.

‘We made a few mistakes, like accidentally plumbing the toilet to the hot water,’ explains Rebecca. ‘The biggest problem, however, was when we laid our own parquet flooring and started at opposite ends of the room, thinking we would save time, and when we met in the middle the tiles wouldn’t fit together! Which meant we then had to lift half the flooring back up and start over again.’

The couple also spent time trying to salvage pieces they eventually realised couldn’t be saved, including a bank-holiday weekend stripping the internal doors, only to find they were all warped and couldn’t be used.

‘Luckily, Lee has patience in abundance!’ says Rebecca.

When it came to decorating the house, Rebecca and Lee inherited a lot of their furniture, or spent time sourcing secondhand pieces.

Colourful Christmas decorations in living room
Colourfully decorated Christmas tree in living room

‘My grandfather passed away around the time that we got the keys to the house, so a lot of our furniture was his,’ says Rebecca. ‘My favourite things are the beautiful bench in the hallway, the wonky bar stools in the kitchen and the side table in the living room. It’s so lovely to have given some new memories to his pieces.’

Precious heirlooms

Rebecca’s grandfather isn’t the only family member she’s inherited items from.

‘My mum has great style but changes her mind often, so we have a lot of lamps and furniture she no longer wants!’ she admits. ‘Lee loves a carboot sale too, so we’ve picked up a few treasures along the way. Our best buy was an antique framed map of Florence for £2 – it’s where we had our honeymoon so seemed fitting to have it in our home.’

Other second-hand finds include the couple’s cast-iron radiators, fireplace surround and even the parquet flooring.

Garland and colourful paper baubles in modern hallway
Image Credit: Colin Poole

As the house evolved, so did Rebecca’s sense of interior style.

‘I think I’ve gotten braver with my decorating choices,’ she says. ‘I’d say I’m a mellow maximalist – I love colour but tend to opt for softer shades, such as pinks, although I think of pink and leopard print as neutrals. I always say, if you’re not sure which colours to go for then look in your wardrobe – if you like to wear certain colours then chances are you’ll be happy to live in them.’

Bold choices

Rebecca admires homes that use more saturated hues and bold colours, so may become braver still.

‘I’m currently working on my interior design diploma, so I’m learning about new styles all the time,’ she says.

Having finally finished decorating, the couple are thrilled with the results of their renovation project.

Colourfully decorated Christmas tree in living room
Image Credit: Colin Poole

‘It’s stylish, cosy and a great home to both relax and entertain in, especially at Christmas when we usually have everyone at ours,’ says Rebecca. ‘We can have as many as 13 people, and although we don’t have lots of space, it’s always so much fun, but hectic! The family always rally round though, and everyone brings a course with them or helps to cook.

‘I absolutely love this house now. It really is everything we could have hoped for and more.’