A run-down terrace transformed

With a tight budget but plenty of ideas, Rebecca Fishenden transformed her run-down terrace into a smart, modern home by opening up the living room and redecorating with a contemporary but classic monchrome theme.

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Fed up with renting flats, Rebecca Fishenden decided it was time to become a homeowner – and she had a good idea of what she wanted. ‘A traditional terraced house was my dream buy, but I really wanted something that had an open-plan space downstairs,’ she says.

However, Rebecca’s tight budget was limiting her options. When she found a terraced property in the traditional style that she was after, it was in a terrible state of disrepair. But despite its dated and dilapidated condition, there was one major point that sold the property to her.

Fact file

  • The owner: Rebecca Fishenden, a journalist
  • The property: A two-bedroom terraced house built in the early 1900s
  • The location: Sydenham, south London
  • What she spent: Rebecca bought the property for £165,000 in May 2003 and has spent around £15,000 renovating it. The house was revalued last year at £225,000

Storage in renovated terrace house


Chipped and broken blue floor tiles were ripped up during the kitchen refit, and self-levelling cement was used to provide an even surface for new slate flooring from Tile Magic

Bathroom in renovated terrace home

Interior design

When it came to the interior decoration of her new home, Rebecca decided on a simple palette of black and, mostly, white. ‘I read magazines for inspiration and always liked the idea of a white home. It’s also quite a dark house for part of the day, so I felt it would maximise the light,’ she explains.

She started with the old pine floorboards downstairs, which she sanded down and then painted a shade of off-white. ‘I would have loved to buy a natural floor covering, such as sisal, but it was so expensive that I chose to paint it all instead,’ she says. ‘It’s hardwearing and easy to keep clean.’

The walls were then similarly painted and Rebecca added mostly white furniture, too. Some items, such as the sofas in the lounge, were bought from high-street stores to keep down the cost. Others were bought second-hand or inherited, and painted to match the scheme. She did, though, introduce a black patterned wallpaper and accessories in the main bedroom to tie in with the black-and-white theme in the bathroom. ‘Living in a white house isn’t nearly as high-maintenance as you’d imagine,’ she says, ‘and it’s a welcome relief from all the dust and rubble that I’d been living with.’

Finally, Rebecca turned her attention to the exterior and removed the uPVC porch and matching front door, which she disliked because they were not in keeping with the style of the house. She found a period front door at a local reclamation yard, which added traditional style to the house’s frontage.

Dresser in renovated terrace house

The chest of drawers was painted the same as the wardrobe and fitted with the same matching knobs for its drawers

The garden

Another project that proved to be hard work was saving the back garden from ruin. The space had been used as a dumping ground for unwanted household appliances and so it was a major job just to remove all the detritus. In all, Rebecca and Jim filled three skips with rubbish that had been left by previous inhabitants.

‘There was only one way to clear the back garden and that was through the house – via my newly painted white living room,’ recalls Rebecca ruefully. Fortunately, muddy wellies and the sacks of rubble didn’t take their toll too much, and the dirt was easily cleaned up. ‘Although with hindsight, I should have tackled the back garden before decorating inside.’

Bamboo screens were used to hide the fence panels and, once the area had been levelled, new paving was laid and large plant pots were placed to break up the space and add some colour, with maples and buxus shrubs.

After six years of hard work, Rebecca now has the home she always wanted. ‘At times, I thought we’d never make it – and I never thought it would take so long, but it’s been well worth the wait,’ she says. She’s already looking into converting the loft.


Paint and varnishes£400
Rewiring and lighting£500
Heating system£5,000
Insulating loft£200
Tool and skip hire£1,000
Bathroom suite£500
Bathroom fixtures£300
Bathroom tiling£150
Bathroom flooring£400
Bedroom wallpaper£75
Kitchen fittings and appliances£2,500
Kitchen sink and taps£300
Kitchen flooring£500
Front door£700
Back garden£500
Front garden£700