DIY metamorphosis: feel at home in your own home and make it more 'you' for less than £6000

Pati Robins has found bargains and decorated her home herself, transforming an ordinary semi into something unique on a budget of just £6,000

DIY Makeover Living room with dark paint, sofa and chandelier
(Image credit: Brett Charles)


Pati’s house is a triumph of what can be done with a lot of design flair, hard work and very little money.

Project notes

The owners: Pati Robins, an artist and full-time carer, lives here with her husband, Colin, their daughter Olivia, 10, and American bulldog Shy, and bulldog Lily 

The property: A two-bedroom, semi-detached house in Cardiff, Wales, built in the 1970s  

Project cost: £6,400

It is modest semi-detached property, unremarkable amid its neighbours in the Cardiff close where she and her family live, but inside there is interest and creativity everywhere, from the gallery of prints, frames and animal heads on the walls, to the luxurious look of the master bedroom, with its sumptuous bedlinens and romantic chandelier. 

What is remarkable is that Pati has transformed the interior of her rented house entirely through her own efforts, and, thanks to her love of secondhand stores and online sites, has spent just £6,400 doing it. 

‘I enjoy finding a bargain,’ says Pati. ‘People spend more on their bathrooms than we have done on our entire house.’  

DIY makeover kitchen with white units and metro tiles

(Image credit: Brett Charles)

Pati disliked the old kitchen so much she bought new doors. ‘I could have done it cheaper by wrapping or repainting the units, but I dreamed of Shaker-style doors, so I replaced them,’ she explains. Cupboard fronts, Kitchen Door Workshop. Wood-effect worktops, Wickes. The cooker is secondhand and the Zanussi extractor from The wall tiles, from Tile Mountain, were ‘bought for free’ using Tesco Clubcard points. The lights are second-hand, upcycled by Pati; for similar, try Original BTC. The rug is from Ebay; for similar, try Wayfair

Pati has been working on the house for 11 years, after it was found by husband Colin while she was sorting out a move to the UK from her native Poland. ‘He took the first available home on the outskirts of the city as he values peace and quiet,’ she recalls. 

The property, which is social housing rather than a private rental, has been completely adapted to the needs of Colin, who is disabled, and is therefore a long-term home for the family. Because of this, Pati felt free to press ahead with the decorative changes she wanted to make. 

‘The only thing we couldn’t alter was the set-up of the kitchen,’ she says. ‘First I painted it white to cover up the nicotine stains, then it was a case of combining mine and my husband’s style. Everything grew on us over the years. We went through Scandi, then tried glam, but those styles weren’t us. Eventually we started going shade by shade darker until we felt happy and relaxed; not like guests in our own home.’

DIY Makeover living room with chandelier and leather chair

(Image credit: Brett Charles)

The Abigail Ahern chandelier in the living room is Pati’s best bargain – it’s worth £2,000 but she successfully bid £50 for it on Ebay. The leather chair was bought secondhand and then restained; for similar, try The Chesterfield Company. Mansion Wax Polish table, charity shop. Fake cactus, Wyld Home. Skin rug, Ebay. Knitted footstool, Home Bargains. Large letter C, charity shop; for similar, try Not on the High Street. For similar wood flooring, try Quick-Step  

The costs

Specially adapted toilet: £2,800
Furniture for whole house: £1,500
Kitchen unit doors: £400
Flooring, wall and floor paint:
Bathroom cladding and sink:
Soft furnishings:
Bulbs: £30

Pati tackled all the DIY work herself. Husband Colin, who used to be in the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, wasn’t physically able to help but was on hand with advice. 

‘He has some knowledge of how to do things that he passed on to me,’ she says. ‘I am self-taught. I don’t have a background in art, I actually studied politics, but I was quite into crafts when I was young and I enjoy watching tutorials and just going for it. If I mess it up, I can correct my own mistakes – I’m pretty stubborn and willing to learn. When we first moved in, I was trying to hang a curtain pole and was pretty much crying because I was frightened of the drill. Now I love my power tools.’  

Among the jobs Pati has tackled are painting and decorating, changing the cupboard doors in the kitchen, panelling walls, customising furniture, tiling, making a bed headboard for her daughter, upcycling a fireplace, and making a garden table from Ikea legs and decking. 

‘I love reusing things and saving them from landfill,’ she says. ‘We live in a throwaway society. It’s silly paying full price when you could just get your hands a little dirty and do something with a beautiful piece.’  

DIY makeover bedroom with dark headboard and yellow knit cover

(Image credit: Brett Charles)

Pati panelled the bedroom wall herself using MDF, No More Nails solvent and decorators’ caulk. Panel paint, Valspar Tempest Teapot. Dressing table paint, Valspar Mustard. Bedlinen, Ebay China. Knitted blanket, Woolly Mama. Fur throw, Ebay. For a similar chandelier, try Wayfair. Table lamp, Kartell. Rug, Ikea. Animal skulls and statues, Nickie Kelly, Ebay and Home Bargains

In the bathroom, she covered the ‘boring’ white tiles with PVC cladding. ‘My husband sometimes loses consciousness and it is much safer if he falls into it,’ she explains. 

Apart from DIY, Pati’s other great talent is sourcing bargains on sites like Ebay and Gumtree, and in sales and secondhand shops. ‘My best bargain was the Abigail Ahern chandelier in the living room – I won it on Ebay for £50 and it’s worth £2,000,’ she reveals. 

‘The chair in the living room was red vintage leather, which I restained. My husband wasn’t sure it’d work, but I like to try out new things and hope for the best.’ 

Whether it’s rented or owned, Pati believes in the importance of putting her mark on her property. ‘For me and my family to be able come in the door and feel “at home”, it’s worth putting all the effort in,’ she adds.


DIY makeover bathroom with sink, black paint and homemade shelves

(Image credit: Brett Charles)

In the bathroom, plain white tiles have been replaced with PVC panelling. Pati made the hexagonal shelves from MDF, orange backing board and Valspar paint. She bought the vanity unit from Ebay for 99p. ‘It had a bit of water damage on the back but you can’t see it,’ she says. For a similar mirror, try Cult Furniture

Child's blue bedroom with flamingo lamp

(Image credit: Brett Charles)

Pati made Olivia’s desk from a piece of kitchen worktop over an Ikea Expedit unit. Light shade, Graham & Green. Neon heart, Next. Bedlinen, H&M and Ebay. Side table, Ebay. Paint on walls, Valspar; for similar, try Dulux’s Breton Blue. For a similar flamingo legs lamp, try Out There Interiors

Kitchen breakfast bar withe metal bar stools

(Image credit: Brett Charles)

The kitchen stools were bought on Amazon and cost £90 for four; for similar, try Cult Studio. Clock, Newgate Clocks. Goatskin rug, Dar Beida Moroccan Living. Floor tiles, Tile Mountain. For similar lamps, try Anglepoise

Alison Jones
Assistant Editor

Alison is Assistant Editor on Real Homes magazine. She previously worked on national newspapers, in later years as a film critic and has also written on property, fashion and lifestyle. Having recently purchased a Victorian property in severe need of some updating, much of her time is spent solving the usual issues renovators encounter.