Half Built House

Exeter top tips

If you're keen to get a result similar to Chris and Amy, then take a look at some of the key ideas featured in the episode.

Sian, Chris and Amy

1. Dilemma of losing a bedroom for a bathroom - balancing your house

Losing a bedroom isn't always a complete no-no, so don't immediately rule it out on your refurb property. Chris' house was very unbalanced with the downstairs a light, contemporary open plan area and the upstairs an impractical combination of two decent sized rooms and three very small ones.

The original bathroom was tiny with little space even for a bath and the overall size of the property required a decent bathroom. Moreover it wasn't ever likely to sell to a big family, with a busy road outside and small garden.

In this case the house benefitted from the addition of a bathroom and en suite and losing a small bedroom.


2. Don't always lose period features like fitted cupboards

It's usually the best decision style-wise and for the value of the property to keep any period features, as long as they are in good condition and fit for purpose.

In Chris' dining room, it would have been easy to rip out the cabinets to either side of the fireplace as we were going for a modern feel to the room but I felt a mixture of old and new was more eclectic and suited the property. Repainted and sealed, they look great and left much needed storage in the room.

In the bedroom on the other hand, we did remove the built in unit as it was impractical and the space was needed for wardrobes / drawers.


3. Creating an en suite - without the loo!

En-suite's don't always have to have a loo if you can't fit one in, sometimes they can work brilliantly with just a large shower and basin. Our Exeter home had another loo downstairs so it was still a two loo house, and now has both his and hers washing areas!


4. One man's trash is another man's treasure!

Remember when you are clearing out your new property or pulling out materials that things often have a resale value. Old furniture, new carpets not to your style, even old gas fireplace surround may have a value which may enhance your budget. Try selling it before you skip it!


5. Frosted film on windows

The new bathroom created didn't have opaque windows, but rather than go to the expense (and waste) of getting rid of a perfectly good window, we used decorative window film from www.brume.co.uk to create privacy whilst maintaining an airy feel. The small cut outs allow natural light in and are a contemporary way of adding interest.


6. Avoiding the clinical gloss white look

High gloss white is a bright, versatile and popular look for kitchen door fronts but can appear very clinical in period properties. In Exeter we softened the look with solid oak worktops and oak drawer fronts, textured slate flooring and rich amber glass lights. Use natural materials in different shades and textures if you're looking to avoid that dentist's surgery feel!


7. Upcycling mismatched chairs

We simply didn't have the funds to buy brand new furniture as well as everything else, so had to get creative. A pre-loved pine table was found on-line and repainted high gloss white. The kitchen's amber and deep grey colour scheme was picked out with the addition of four fabulous, mis-matched vintage chairs from the local Steptoe's second hand emporium - the chairs were repainted in grey and upholstered with an offcut from a local fabric shop. It didn't matter that the chairs didn't match. Their individuality gave interest to the room and also picked up on the chair theme of the wallpaper - perfect.


8. Painting floorboards

If you want a high gloss floor and your original boards are in good condition then painting and varnishing is a good option.

Make sure boards are secure, clean, have no nails sticking up plus all the electrics and plumbing is done under them before you paint.

For brilliant white, similar to Chris and Amy's dining room, use a water based eggshell to avoid yellowing, then use varnish for final protection. This is also a great temporary measure if you can't quite afford new timber flooring just yet but want your home to be easy to clean and look good in the meantime.


9. Timber over the fireplace

Opening up fireplaces is a great option if your renovation project has old fashioned gas fires or no period features. It's messy work but can reveal a lovely opening for shelving or plants and candles.

If you aren't going to install a new contemporary gas fire or wood burning stove, still consider adding a mantelpiece to gave the chimney breast focus. I found a gorgeous piece of timber at Toby's Reclamation yard, delicately etched on its outside edge. When cut to make the rear side flat and bolted safely on to the wall - one totally original mantelpiece.


10. Use different but complementary tiling in bathrooms

It's terribly boring when visiting properties to see the same tiles being used everywhere and I try and persuade clients to opt for differing looks which still work harmoniously together.

For the Exeter en suite shower room we fitted mid-grey linear tiles of different sizes to the walls and floor, then in the bathroom some very deep grey jewelled mosaics around the bath and dark grey basin unit with a black gloss floor. Two different looks but ones which also sat well together.


11. The magic caulking finger

Team HBH laughed when I said I wanted to do the silicone sealant and caulking - but this job is one which has to have love and care lavished over it!Caulk trousers

Those lines of sealant in kitchens, bathrooms and on decoration jobs are the final finish and it's all about the finger! It needs to be delicate, clean and wet, so always have a bowl of water and a cloth next to you, or you'll end up with caulk covered trousers like mine...