Half Built House

Birmingham top tips

Did the work on Claire and Matt's home inspire you? Sian runs down her top ten tips for getting the result you want.

Bathroom reveal

1. Check everything is structurally sound before putting your house back together

In Birmingham we were working on the first floor but this didn't mean we could just ignore what was going on below. It's no good installing a beautiful bathroom if the walls below it are unsafe, this could lead to cracked tiles, damaged pipework and the whole bathroom coming out again, meaning high repair costs.

Always make sure that any structural work has been checked and passed by a qualified professional before you start installing bathrooms, kitchens and replastering.

2. Always try to include storage where possible

Older houses have the advantage of more space than many new builds so don't waste this space when renovating your home.

In Birmingham I included storage under the bathroom basin and to the side of the shower, with a mirrored cabinet plus created a shelf behind the free-standing bath.

In the bedroom extra storage was designed into the window seat and in the office a huge bank of shelves was created for Matt's files and work needs.

3. Alter a dated bay window

The bedroom bay felt very much like dead space with it's five window look and radiator. I moved the radiator to the other side of the room and designed a deep window seat for Claire to relax and read.

Instead of five blind drops, we could have a more contemporary three drops with space for a decorative window sill behind the largest blind. The design of the bedroom could be co-ordinated with window seat fabric and cushions which complemented the wallpaper.

4. Inspiration can come from anywhere

The idea for a design scheme really can come from anywhere and if something catches your eye there's usually a reason.

Matt and Claire's 'like' images were a combination of romantic and modern, hotel chic and unexpected quirkiness. They didn't seem to me to be scared to experiment with design so I wanted an unusual palette of colours for their home.

I'd had recently bought a beautiful candle inside copper glassware and whilst sorting out the bathroom plumbing layout saw how a reaction of chemicals on some copper pipe had create a natural and gorgeous verdigris pigment. It was fate to later that day get an email about a new verdigris chalk paint being launched! Combined with super stylish navy blue, the scheme was both elegant and different.

5. Romance in the bathroom

To create a romantic bathroom for our newlyweds, we added a few touches designed to bring an element of relaxed glamour to the space.

A double ended bath with centrally mounted taps, two crystal wall lights for ambience and also, as Claire had mention her penchant for enjoying a chilled glass of white in the bath, a wall mounted bottle cooler and glass holder especially designed for the bathroom.

Imagine your bathing space as somewhere to relax and chill, rather than simply somewhere to wash!

6. Upcycling bedside tables

The romantic boudoir style is easy to achieve if your budget isn't in the realms of WAG Land!

I found a really cute cream ornate bedside table under some dust sheets in the house and it's elegant lines and detailed edges were perfect to re-paint using the veridgris chalk paint, buff to a smooth finish with soft wax and then lightly gild using copper paint.

We actually managed to find another one really similar at a local second hand shop for £7 and the two of them together were an unusual and unique pair when the bedroom was finished. Try looking again at unwanted furniture and recreate something entirely bespoke and individual to your taste.

7. Making the most of a home office

Most people's homes don't have space for a dedicated home office but do have rooms which need to double up as something else, in Matt's case it was his office and a second bedroom.

Make sure that you leave space for the furniture needed for both. In this case the cool sofa-bed style suited Matt's contemporary office but also converts to a double bed for guests. His white gloss desks are also on wheels so when friends stay, they can be wheeled back out of the way to create more space.

8. Painting a stripe on a wall

This was quite a bold decision, even for me, the boys thought I'd gone mad but actually liked it when the room was all dressed.

I wanted Matt's office to be vibrant and energising, it can be hard working from home on your own all day and maintaining energy and momentum. I tied in the stripe with the central band of verdigris in the storage unit and extended it around the room using a laser level and masking tape - easy. Give it a go, it's only paint!

9. Unusual sourcing and touches with fabric

Try local shops for offcuts and end of lines but also trade stores which in these recession hit times often allow members of the public in too.

We only needed three metres of the fabulous navy and cream fabric for the window seat in order to create a really coordinated look for the bedroom and four metres of a navy velour fabric to make the luxurious padded headboard as a stylish finishing touch for the bed. I asked the blind company to edge plain cream blinds with simple navy ribbon for a simple French look which wouldn't compete with the decorative wallpaper - don't be afraid to come up with your own ideas!

10. Funky chunky shelving

Buying shelving for large areas can be very expensive so it could be as cost effective to get a price from a local joiner to create a bespoke bank of units to your exact design and space. In Matt's office the units needed to be 2m long and to ceiling height so three vertical studs took the weight of the long horizontal shelves. They were made nice and chunky to give both an up to date feel and also to be practical and take the weight of any stored boxes. When it comes to paint colours the world is then your oyster, I opted for clean, sharp white with the verdigris pop on the rear wall of all the boxes.