Updating a 1970s house

Liz and Dave Every have successfully turned their four bedroom detached 1970s house into a contemporary home that’s full of interesting finds

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Although a dated 1970s property might not be everyone’s idea of a perfect home, as soon as Liz and Dave Every set eyes on the house, they knew they were going to buy it before they’d stepped inside and seen any of the rooms. ‘As we approached the house, I had already made the decision that we were going to have it,’ explains Liz. ‘When I looked through the window and could see part of the garden, too, I was sold.’

Having taken on redecoration projects in the past, Liz and Dave weren’t put off by the amount of work needed to bring the interior up to date. The previous owners had introduced dado rails, lots of dark wood and beams to try to create a cottage style but Liz wanted to strip it right back. ‘For me, it was easy to see past the décor,’ she says. ‘The basic bones of the property were there and Dave and I liked the layout, so it was just a case of taking the house back to its original, simple architecture.’

Fact file

The owners: Liz Every, who is a photographer specialising in floral and garden photography, lives here with her husband Dave, a patent and trademark attorney

In 2005, the couple moved in, excited about starting work, but during the first week in their new home, they found a leaking roof, rusty boiler and a wiring system that was non-compliant with the regulations, which hampered the start of all redecoration projects. ‘We didn’t get a full survey done before we bought the house, and it caught up with us almost immediately,’ says Liz. The leaky roof was unveiled after Dave made a chance trip up into the roof space, while a visit by an electrician to price up installing some new sockets revealed the faulty electrics.

‘The whole house had to be rewired, so the floors in all the rooms had to be taken up. We had the electricians in for about a month,’ recalls Liz. ‘We were just so pleased that we hadn’t re-plastered or re-carpeted the house before we found out.’

All the work took around two months to sort out but, as the couple didn’t have a stringent budget or strict timescale, it didn’t hinder their plans. ‘Apart from those three main issues, the house was liveable when we moved in, so there was no pressure to get everything else finished quickly.’

Over the next three years, Liz and Dave transformed the house inside and out, gradually creating their perfect home. Liz’s previous job as a stylist designing room sets, and now her work as a photographer, mean she’s never stuck for ideas. ‘I’m a visual person and there are so many looks that I love that I end up mixing styles throughout the house,’ she explains. ‘Plus, we’ve owned much of our furniture for many years, so the inspiration for new décor often comes from one of the pieces that we already own.’

Rooms including the living room and the separate snug have a subtle Moroccan/Middle Eastern theme, an idea that was based on existing furniture, including the fire surround and large day bed, as well as fabrics discovered while travelling. ‘I really enjoy going to markets abroad to fi nd and bring back different fabrics to make cushions, curtains and throws for an individual look,’ says Liz. ‘Fabric I’ve bought in places such as Mali, Rajasthan and Istanbul features in the living room and snug.’

In contrast, the kitchen is a modern space with a palette of white, soft grey and black granite. ‘We fi nally tackled the kitchen a year after we moved in. It was originally a dark room with lots of dark wood, but we liked the layout and just wanted to lighten up the space without having to redesign it,’ says Liz. Keeping the same layout meant the water and gas pipes didn’t have to move, which kept down costs. The room was re-plastered, new flooring was laid and folding-sliding doors were fitted to link the room with the stunning garden.

Liz and Dave loved the look of the folding-sliding doors so much that they wanted to achieve the same design with the conservatory that leads through from the living room. ‘The old conservatory was leaking so we had it knocked down and a new one built with the same footprint, featuring the same frames as the kitchen doors. Looking back at the house from the garden, we can really see the difference it’s made to the appearance of the property – we’re so glad we had it done.’

Another area Liz and Dave were keen to change was the stairwell. The pine staircase was dated, with traditionallooking turned finials and open treads with wraparound carpet, and the couple wanted to update the space to create a more welcoming feel. ‘We decided to have the stairs blocked and filled in at the back and sides, and to add new posts,’ says Liz. ‘The job took a week, but by not repositioning or replacing the staircase we were still able to use the stairs, so there was little disruption. The new design has made such a difference, brightening up the hallway and landing – it’s hard to believe it’s the same space.’

Upstairs, inspiration for the master bedroom and the guest room came from the patterned wallpaper that Liz fell in love with. ‘It’s quite unusual for me to use patterned paper, but I saw the leafy design and started to think about how and where I could use it,’ she says. ‘We decorated the guest room with it, creating a feature wall, and liked the result so much that we used a bold pattern into our bedroom, too.’

Redecorating upstairs was a fairly straightforward task, but the balcony off the main bedroom needed work. ‘When the folding-sliding doors in the kitchen below were fitted, it moved the flat roof slightly, so new felt had to be laid to make it waterproof again,’ says Liz. ‘Luckily, it was fairly quick and simple.’

As well as transforming the interior spaces, Liz and Dave turned their attention to the front of the house. Originally, there was a traditional DIY front door in dark wood with Victorian glass that Liz felt was inappropriate for the building. They asked a local joiner to make a solid oak door with frosted glass panels either side, which Liz designed. Once this had been changed, the couple moved on to the apex structure and garage door, where inexpensive changes have given the house a smart, modern look. The woodwork of the apex and window frames is made from mahogany, so to update the appearance they painted both in a black varnish. The garage doors were originally painted pale maroon/pink and are now light grey.

The couple have also worked extremely hard at cultivating the garden. ‘A third of an acre, the garden was a big draw for me in buying the house. As with the layout inside, the basic structure outside was there, so we had something to work with,’ explains Liz. The pond and patio area were already in place, so the first thing the Everys did was to dig out the turf and rotovate the earth for their garden, which is now full of grasses and prairie-style plants. ‘We added lots of grit as the heavy clay soil here is not good for these sorts of plants,’ Liz explains.

Liz and Dave have also created a tropical fl owerbed, built raised beds for vegetables and designed an area for shrubs and trees. ‘Gardening is one of our hobbies so we spend a lot of time outside,’ says Liz. ‘It’s an ongoing project for both of us.’ As the couple continue to enjoy the home they’ve redesigned and the garden they have created, Liz is already on the lookout for more decorating ideas. ‘I’m constantly enthused by a variety of different styles,’ she says, ‘and a recent trip to Scandinavia might well be the inspiration for my next project.’

The costs

Conservatory and folding-sliding doors to dining area£23,000
Kitchen and appliances£12,000
Staircase and front door area£2,500
Kitchen flooring£300
Roof repair£200