Before and after: this interiors blogger has added stacks of character to her new build

Plus cost-cutting tips from this £30k reno

Blue U-shaped kitchen and island with white wall units, brass bar stools and white honeycomb splashback with black tiles forming the word 'eat'
(Image credit: Katie Lee)

With their first baby on the way, Elise and Michael Dodds felt it was time to leave their small rented flat in North London and buy a more affordable property further north near their families. ‘Although we’d met in London, our families only lived a mile away from each other in the North East, so it was the perfect time to move back,’ says Elise. They bought a new-build house off-plan in Whitley Bay. ‘We loved the old terraces in nearby Tynemouth but they weren’t as practical with a young family,’ she says. ‘They lacked parking and we didn’t think we’d have time for a renovation. This was just so much easier.’

The couple had daughter Elodie and, a year later, son Huxley before they started renovation work on the house. Once the children started to walk, Elise and Michael’s priorities were converting the garage into a playroom and landscaping the garden with raised beds and lots of grasses to draw the eye away from the walls and fence. Two years later, the corridor-like utility room was knocked through to create a bigger dining area with four-metre wide bi-fold doors replacing the double patio doors. ‘We’d spent all that money  on the garden but couldn’t really see it,’ says Elise. 

However, with family life taking precedence, decorating was on the back-burner. ‘We always felt like it was a temporary home, so it stayed in its white basic state for nearly five years,’ admits Elise. ‘One day I said to Michael, “I can’t live with it like this any more.” It wasn’t joyful to come home as it didn’t feel cosy or reflect our personalities.’

Having read a tip from Mad About the House author Kate Watson-Smyth about taking cues from your clothes, Elise opened her wardrobe to reveal an array of pinks, greens, yellows, blues and lots of prints. ‘It was full of colour but my house wasn’t. I was determined to add personality to our home and smash the stereotype of the new-build white box.’

The kitchen

'Before' shot showing kitchen with light grey units, butcher block island and white splashback tiles

(Image credit: Elise Dodd)

The owners Elise Dodds (@makemynewbuildpretty), who works in HR, her husband, Michael, a management consultant, and their children, Elodie and Huxley
The property A four-bedroom detached new-build property in Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear
Project cost £36,600

To make up for losing the utility room during the initial renovation, the couple installed floor-to-ceiling kitchen cabinets in the dining area to conceal a washing machine and dryer alongside additional storage. At the same time, the white gloss kitchen was given an overhaul. ‘It felt criminal to pull out something out that had only been in five years,’ says Elise. ‘So we replaced the base unit doors, added an island and changed the handles, lighting, sink, tap and worktops.’

Blue U-shaped kitchen and island with white wall units, brass bar stools and white honeycomb splashback with black tiles forming the word 'eat'

Base cabinet doors, Howdens. Stools, Dunelm. Mosaic tiles, Tile Fire. Pendant lights, Swoon. Bread bin, Labour & Wait

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

New matt navy base cabinets with gold handles have added depth to the kitchen, while the existing gloss wall cabinets have remained in place and blend into the wall. ‘We would’ve probably just painted the existing doors if they hadn’t been gloss,’ says Elise. 

Area of open-plan kitchen-diner with round oak dining table and chairs, blue pattern rug, pink velvet sofa, neon light reading 'Oh I do like to be beside the seaside' and sliding doors opened up to garden

Neon sign, Brilliant Neon. Sofa, DFS. Cushions, H&M. Habitat table, Ebay. Try Cult Furniture for similar Eames-style chairs. Rug, French Connection

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

‘The neon light was on my Pinterest board for four or five years,’ says Elise. ‘It was quite a splurge and felt like buying a piece of art. We treated ourselves when we knocked out the utility, and it meant we could hide the wires in the wall. It’ll come with us from house to house as I can’t imagine not living by the sea now.’

Corner of an open-plan room with a pink velvet beanbag chair, pink painted square on the wall filled with prints to create a gallery wall

Cushion, Nordic Nest. Chair, Icon. Prints: ‘Magnifique’, Gayle Mansfield Designs;. ‘Opening Hours’, Baltic Shop; ‘Let’s Go to the Beach’, Violet & Percy

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

‘It was only when we created this space that we could get all our prints down from the loft and make a gallery wall,’ says Elise. ‘I particularly love the picture of the Rendez-Vous Cafe on Whitley Bay seafront, which means a lot – I used to go there with my mum and dad. The opening hours picture is actually a framed tea towel.’

The garden

Outdoor living area with grey rattan sofa, concrete effect fire pit, large monochrome pattern rug, red string side table and 'The cosy club' print

Corner sofa, Aldi. Firepit, Vonhaus. ‘Cosy Club’ print, InsideThursday Etsy shop. Rug, Dunelm. Cushions, Homesense

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

‘This is a great little spot for having friends round for drinks and was a lifesaver in lockdown,’ says Elise. ‘We turned the shed around so the door leads onto the lawn to create more space.’

The living room

'Before' shot showing cream living room with grey sofa and black and white graphic pattern rug

(Image credit: Elise Dodd)

The living room was one of the last rooms to be transformed. ‘There was too much furniture, including a massive grey settee that made the room feel small. I replaced it with a neater yellow velvet design; by that time, I felt there was a thread running around the house and knew what colours would work.'

Blue living room with monochrome Scandi rug, white coffee table, yellow sofa and large 'Coastie' pink print

Walls part painted in Hague Blue, Farrow & Ball. Yellow sofa, Ikea. Cushions: I Am Fy, Homesense, Myles from Home. ‘Coastie’ print, Modo Creative. Lamp and magazine rack, Nordic Nest. Prints: I Am Fy; InsideThursday on Etsy

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

'I loved Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue,' says Elise. 'Because it’s not a massive room, I painted the bottom two-thirds and it immediately felt cosier. I’d always wanted a yellow sofa and this fits much better, stands out against the dark blue walls and ties in with other pops of yellow throughout the house. The coffee table was bought when I was living in New York.’

Living room with half blue, bright blue velvet sofa, and black shelving unit dressed with plants, vases and other ornaments

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

‘I’ve seen this Ikea unit styled in lots of different ways on Instagram and it looks different in everyone’s house,’ says Elise. ‘I’ve taken my time to fill it with things that mean a lot to me.’

Home office

Home office area with oak desk and stool, angled white desk lamp, and colour-blocked walls made up of green and yellow squares and a pink arch

Desk and lamp, Homesense. Try Neptune for a similar stool. Wall painted in Fresh Plaster, Craig & Rose

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Elise managed to fit an office onto the landing when both were working from home during lockdown. ‘I used the colours from the striped wallpaper to colour match the yellow and pink in the striped wallpaper. The photograph was from New York where I lived for two years.’ 

Elodie's room

Kid's room with rainbow feature wallpaper on one wall, pink scalloped paint effect on the other. White bed with rainbow and sun throw cushions, black and white spotty rug, Scandi open shelving and astronaut print over the bed

Rainbow wallpaper, Eleanor Bowmer. Rug, Asda. Bottom of wall painted in Confetti, Little Greene. Yellow dog, Lucy Hamilton at Home. Spacewoman print, Juniqe

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Formerly a nursery with grey stars, Eloise’s bedroom was upgraded as she got older. ‘She really wanted rainbows so when I saw this wallpaper on @eli_at_home’s Instagram account, it was perfect,’ says Elise. ‘I painted the scalloped edge by using a dinner plate to cut out a cardboard template.’ 

The bathroom

'Before' image showing bathroom with basic white suite

(Image credit: Elise Dodd)

When the couple moved in, the rooms, including the bathrooms, had basic fittings from the developer’s limited options. The family bathroom was white and soulless, so Elise set about transforming it by adding colour, though kept the layout the same.

Small bathroom with pink vertical metro wall tiles, monochrome pattern floor tiles, white suite and green, pink and yellow floral bath mat

Shower and taps, Drench. Tiles, Mandarin Stone. Shower screen, Victorian Plumbing

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Elise gave the space a new lease of life with new tiles and a shower. ‘This was going to be a fun bright kids’ bathroom, but I fell in love with these green and pink tiles so it didn’t quite end up that way!’ she says.

Elise and Michael's bedroom

'Before' shot of bedroom with white walls, grey fabric headboard, white bedding and grey and white cot

(Image credit: Elise Dodd)
Costs & contacts

Kitchen £10,000  
Garden £9,000
Bi-fold doors £6,000 
Garage conversation £4,000
Decorating and furniture £2,000
Bathroom £2,000
Shutters £2,000  
Understairs storage £1,000
Tiling £600

Building work AW Property Development North East
Garden Eden Landscapes
Joinery L.S. Joinery North East
Sliding doors Bison Doors

During lockdown, the couple started by painting their bedroom walls green. ‘It felt much warmer,’ says Elise. Before long, she was experimenting with wallpaper and adding neon lights. ‘I painted two opposite walls to begin with, but after decorating the rest of the house I came back and did the whole room,’ says Elise. ‘The rustic shelf above looks much better against the green than the previous white one, and I can change up the display.’

Bedroom with teal painted walls, grey fabric bed, busy floral bedding and Scandi-style bedside table with books on a floating shelf overhead

Walls painted in Tropical Oasis, Benjamin Moore. Bedlinen, Kip & Co. Neon sign, @mydreamneon. Purple cushion, Homesense. Long shelf, Naken. Bookshelf, Tee Books

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Now Elise is glad she took her time with the transformation and would love a new project in the next few years. ‘You have to live in the house for a while, otherwise you’ll make mistakes by buying things too quickly,’ she says. ‘I’ve loved making the best of what we’ve got and adding unique touches that reflect us as a family and where we live. As much as we love it now, we haven’t lost our passion for period properties, so it’s a case of waiting for a house we can turn into our forever home.’    

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