Real home: a lick of paint turned this tired Victorian living room into a nature-inspired haven

Turns out green and black is the dream colour combination

Living room with wooden floors, white left-hand wall and green right-hand wall, black painted fireplace, round mirror, glass coffee table, grey sofa, pattern armchair and blinds in window
(Image credit: Veronica Rodriguez)

Putting a modern stamp on a Victorian property is never an easy feat, and when Veronica and Darren bought their terraced house, it clearly required completely updating. ‘It needed replastering throughout but the upstairs rooms were most urgently in need of renovation,’ says Veronica. ‘Six months later, having renovated three bedrooms and a bathroom, we were ready to start on the sitting room.’ 

The couple were on a tight budget and keen to save money wherever possible, so they were prepared to do the decorating and any other small jobs themselves. ‘But certain work needed doing that meant we had to get various tradesmen in,’ says Veronica. This included a damp-proof course, replastering and installing new radiators. ‘One of our must-haves was a woodburner to replace the old gas fire, which was basically ornamental – it gave out little heat,’ says Veronica. ‘We also replaced the shabby windows and ordered shutters online, which we fitted ourselves.’  

With the essential work done, Veronica turned her attention to the aesthetics and the couple had the rare pleasure of more or less furnishing this room from scratch. ‘Darren helped me choose the furniture but he was happy to let me take the reins when it came to the colour scheme,’ says Veronica. ‘It’s a formula that worked – he approved of all my design decisions.’ 

Read on for her top tips on creating a room that works for you, then see our living room ideas gallery for more inspo.

Living room with wooden floors, white left-hand wall and green right-hand wall, black painted fireplace, round mirror, glass coffee table, grey sofa, pattern armchair and blinds in window

Rug, TK Maxx. Shutters, Shutters Direct. Coffee table, John Lewis & Partners. Pendant light shade, Made. Flooring, Universal Flooring. Woodburner, Charnwood Stoves

(Image credit: Veronica Rodriguez)

1. Create a focal point


The owners Veronica Garcia, an interiors photographer, her husband, Darren Jones, a forensic photographer, and their cat Milo, a Scottish Fold 
The property A three-bedroom Edwardian terrace in Wimbledon, south-west London
Project cost £8,000 

‘The existing gas fire wasn’t practical enough, so we decided to remove it and have a more efficient woodburner installed. We absolutely love it and use it all the time throughout winter – it’s much cosier than central heating. Painting the chimney breast in a dark colour acts as a great backdrop, drawing your eye to the statement mirror above, while the green walls in the alcoves form a vibrant setting for our books.’  

Living room with white walls, grey fabric sofa, black geometric ceiling light and colourful statement artwork

Sofa, DFS. Wall lights, Habitat. Main artwork, Roseberys

(Image credit: Veronica Rodriguez)

2. Introduce colour

‘Colour plays a big part in my life, as well as in my work as a photographer, so I was keen to introduce vibrant elements. I mix patterns and colours to create a more homely feel. I keep the larger pieces, like the sofa, more neutral, while soft furnishings are easier to update and have fun with. The artwork over the sofa is special to me and was the starting point when it came to deciding on furnishings for the rest of the room.’

Bookcase in green alcove in living room, with oversized monstera in gold planter with legs

Walls painted in Railings and Saxon Green, Farrow & Ball. Wall mirror, West Elm. Gold planter, Garsons Garden Centre. TV unit, Swoon 

(Image credit: Veronica Rodriguez)

3. Invest in plant power

‘Plants bring a sense of wellbeing and happiness into our home. Whether they’re big statement plants or small shelf fillers, they introduce a warmth and vitality into a space. I also love them because of the vibrant splash of colour they offer – the variety of plant types you can choose from is endless, so you can buy ones specifically to coordinate with your room scheme. And knowing they’re oxygen-producing is simply an added plus.’

Green painted alcoves with wooden shelving and desk, black painted fireplace and white and green pattern armchair

Armchair, TK Maxx

(Image credit: Veronica Rodriguez)

4. Add useful shelf space

‘Shelves are the perfect solution for an alcove that would otherwise be wasted space. We wanted something sturdy that was able to support all our favourite books, and scaffolding boards were the perfect answer. Having books on display tells visitors something about us – our tastes and our sense of organisation (note the colour-coded spines!) – and brings us joy remembering holidays and past times. I’m not a minimalist, but I love order – everything has a place.’ 

Living room with black painted fireplace, statement wall art and peach alcove paint

(Image credit: Veronica Rodriguez)

5. Finish with personal touches


Window replacement P&P Glass
Woodburner installation Costertons Chimney Sweeps

‘It’s important to have personal items in a home – things you’ve found on your travels, inherited or simply bought because there’s something about them you loved. It all makes a room more homely and personal as well as being a constant reminder of happy times. They can also create talking points when you have visitors round. The wooden bird is a famous Danish design by Kristian Vedel; we got it during a holiday in Copenhagen.’

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