Real home: a dark and moody Victorian house makeover

Nicola Broughton is famous on Instagram as the Girl with the Green Sofa. We delve into the rest of her vibrant home to find out her styling secrets

A wide shot of the dark navy living room with green velvet sofa, shelving, framed art prints and a brown leather butterfly chair in the bay window
(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Since she snapped up her Victorian terrace in Ilkley, Instagrammer Nicola Broughton – otherwise known as the Girl with the Green Sofa – has transformed it into a luxurious and individual home for her and her family on a budget. It’s Nicola’s clever way with DIY that brings this house to life – to her a daunting task like panelling a wall is as easy as nipping to B&Q and spending an afternoon in overalls.

A home this colourful and unique can only be packed with tips, and with Nicola’s DIY know-how and effortless style, we were keen to hear how she does it for ourselves.

Find out how she did it then browse more real home transformations. Find out how to renovate a house from top to toe, too.

A living room with brown leather sofa, black and white rug, black Victorian-style fireplace and wallpapered brick-pattern feature wall

Leather sofa, Distinctive Chesterfields. Clock and mirror, Laura Ashley. Planter, The Little Botanical. Skull and ceiling light, Rockett St George. Wallpaper, Wallpaper Direct

(Image credit: Katie Lee)
Project notes

The owners: Nicola Broughton, an investment director, her husband Sam, who runs a computer programming and games business, and their sons Jack, nine, and Alfie, six
The property: A six-bedroom Victorian terrace in Ilkley, Leeds
Project cost: £40,600

'The living room was the start of my Instagram journey,' Nicola says. 'I’d seen how other people were decorating with dark colours and decided our living room was too light – I wanted it to be cosy. One lunchtime, the rollers came out and I painted the walls.

'Our old Chesterfield sofa gave up the ghost when the kids bounced on it one time too many. I managed to persuade Sam that it was a good idea to buy a green velvet one. 

'Most of the furniture is salvaged, and we kept the original fireplace, too. There’s a BoConcept chair in the window – it’s Jack’s football-watching chair and Alfie likes to curl up in it to watch his iPad or read.

'Looking around the walls gives you a sense of how I collect and style items. There’s a punching-in rack from a salvage yard, vintage letters, and art found through Instagram. I’ll also shop on Ebay, at vintage fairs, and buy from independent artists.'

The family sit around the dining table. The room has dark navy walls and there is a turquoise chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The grey table is covered with a light pink tablecloth

Chairs, Ebay and Wayfair. Rug, Covet. Chandelier, Graham & Green. Mirror, Refound Objects. Walls painted in Rivington Blue by Abigail Ahern. Shelves, Ikea. Wall clock, Bramwell Brown

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

'We knocked the dining room through into the kitchen early on and I painted everything in light colours. I thought we’d move on at some point so tried to create the house someone else would want. But then I realised we wouldn’t actually need a bigger property, and decided to decorate for me.

A close-up of a fireplace in the dining room, framed with bold pink and green patterned wallpaper, velvet pink armchair and neon 'Drinks' sign

Pink armchair, Wallpaper, Lucy Tiffney. Neon ‘Drinks’ sign, Rockett St George

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

'The walls are Rivington Blue by Abigail Ahern. I wanted to try her first paint colours when she brought them out because I like her aesthetic. I chose Lucy Tiffney wallpaper for the fireplace wall. I love the pattern and texture. It was the perfect colour for that room, and I bought the picture frames and light fitting to complement it.'

Green panelled walls in a master bedroom with a metal bed, yellow and pink throws, and patterned cushions

Walls painted in Deep Sea Green, Valspar. Bed, Feather & Black. Bedlinen, throws and cushions, Christy Home, MIZZknits, Etsy and Wildrice Design. Side table, Cuckooland. Table lamp, Love Frankie. Lampshades, Wild Lampshade Designs. Ceiling light, Inscape Designs. Arrow wall art, Covet

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

'I really wanted to use emerald green somewhere in the house and our bedroom was looking a bit shabby, so I thought, “Now or never.” I tackled the panelling myself,
which was a completely new skill – I do all my own decorating. It’s a warm colour, and I contrasted it with pinks and yellows that sit quite nicely against it.' 

A guest bedroom with floral paint effect patterned wallpaper, metal bed, and a framed photograph above

Chair, Thomas Lloyd. Bedlinen, Piglet in Bed. Cushions, Age of Reason Studio. Curtains, Ikea. Ceiling light, Next. Wall art, Desenio. Wallpaper, Feathr. For a similar bed, try Feather & Black

(Image credit: Katie Lee)
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'The bedroom is somewhere we can completely switch off. We don’t have a TV in here, but I do have a chair. Sometimes, if we have playdates and there are 10 nine-year-olds downstairs, this is the room I come to for peace and quiet. It’s our escape room – a sanctuary.'

'The wallpaper in this bedroom is by Feathr. They started out by basing their work on art because it’s their belief that there’s not enough beautiful, unique wallpaper out there. It’s also a lovely flower print. 

'I buy from a lot of smaller businesses. Quite a lot of them find me, but historically, they’ve been around as long as I have on Instagram, before it got so crowded. Someone posted about this wallpaper so I posted about it as well and that’s how they got in touch with me.

'We decided to remodel the top floor to get a bit more room out of the property. We knocked into the eaves in Jack’s room to make a cupboard, and did the same to Alfie’s room to open it up – there’s a sofa in that space now. We went from five to six bedrooms just by knocking into the eaves.

‘We sat down and planned Alfie's room together. I pulled together a moodboard and we decided on a travel theme. I asked Rebel Walls to create their World Map mural in a bespoke size that would fit into the eaves. The idea was to evoke travel through that and the air balloons. Now, he knows all his continents and a lot about countries.’

A child's bedroom with map wall mural, red and white bed covers and a yellow armchair

Blinds, Velux Blinds. Mural, Rebel Walls. Hot air balloons, Pavillion Broadway. Bed, Ikea. Bed covers, Loaf. Cushions, Loaf and Ferm Living. Sofa, Carpet, Carpetright. ‘Night night Alfie’ sign, TKMaxx

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

'We talked about vintage sports as a theme for Jack's room. I wanted to create something that would grow with him. We decided on this Brooklyn wall mural, based on an old factory wall with flaking paints and all sorts of textures. His bedding is a footballer’s body, so when he’s under the covers with his head on the pillow, he looks like a footballer heading a ball!'

Child's room with industrial style wall mural, wooden bed, footballer bed covers and antique sports equipment used as decoration

Wall painted in Off Black by Farrow & Ball. Mural, Rebel Walls. Carpet, Carpetright. Rug, Ebay. Bed, Argos. Bedlinen, Snurk at John Lewis. Shelving unit, Ikea. Stool, Alpine Lifestyle Store

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

'I scoured different places and found antique boxing gloves, an old tennis racket and a baseball glove. We painted the room black. Two of the walls are actually chalkboard paint. He does his maths homework on it, and when he’s in bed and one of us is doing bedtime, he might be unsure about a concept so we’ll sketch it out. When his mates come round, they draw silly faces and names all over it.'


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Ellen Finch
Former deputy editor

Formerly deputy editor of Real Homes magazine, Ellen has been lucky enough to spend most of her working life speaking to real people and writing about real homes, from extended Victorian terraces to modest apartments. She's recently bought her own home and has a special interest in sustainable living and clever storage.