Updating a terraced house

Abbie and Scott Cassidy have updated their family home with a mix of contemporary and vintage finds. The three bedroom terraced house, built in 1909 has been modernised using clean lines and classic materials while period features, including fireplaces and cornicing, have been restored and retained.

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Abbie and Scott Cassidy are no strangers to refurbishment projects, having previously transformed two flats in Edinburgh. ‘Both properties needed a lot of work, and one hadn’t been updated since 1962,’ says Abbie. ‘It’s never been a problem for us, though, as we can visualise how a place could potentially look and I don’t want to pay extra for someone else’s taste.’

Abbie and Scott’s ability to spot a property’s potential was certainly useful when they viewed their current home in the city’s Corstorphine area three years ago. They now have an 18-month-old daughter, Nina, and at the time they could foresee that living in a flat with a young child and their dog Nessie, a border terrier, wouldn’t be a practical option.

The terraced house not only provided the couple with plenty of space, but the dated interior offered plenty of scope for a redesign project. ‘The décor was very 1990s, and every room was a different colour,’ recalls Abbie. ‘There were yellow walls in the hallway, a red scheme in the living room, and the bedrooms were either pink or green. The bathroom was lilac, while the kitchen was a mint-green shade.’

The couple also felt that there was no sense of flow through the house, and the kitchen design was particularly poor, with a run of units extending from the wall towards the centre of the space, as Abbie explains: ‘It was an odd design, with little pillars used to mount the top units on to the base units in the middle of the room. The way the kitchen was divided by the units made it feel smaller than it actually is, and it meant there were no views of the garden from the dining table.’

Fact file

  • The Cassidy familyThe owners: Abbie Cassidy, who runs a letterpress printing business, and husband Scott, a watch commander in the fire service, live here with their daughter Nina, 18 months
  • The property: A three-bedroom terraced house, built in 1909
  • The location: Edinburgh, Scotland
  • What they spent: The couple bought the property for £280,000 and have spent £10,500 on renovation work. The house has recently been valued at £300,000

Reworking the interior

Although the house didn’t require any major structural work, Abbie and Scott wanted to transform every inch of the interior, replacing the kaleidoscopic décor with a fresh, contemporary aesthetic. The couple had also been attracted by the period detailing throughout the house, and they wanted to combine the old with the new. ‘I love the history and the sense of provenance you get with a period house,’ says Abbie, who recently launched her company Pot Kettle Black, selling letterpress prints and cards, bespoke vintage prints and wedding stationery. ‘We really liked the original fireplaces and the plaster cornicing, as well as details such as the Edwardian door handles. I didn’t want everything to be entirely pristine and new.’

This period detail is evident even in the bathroom, which was the first room the couple tackled. ‘I couldn’t face the lilac walls,’ says Abbie, who chose a brightly patterned wallpaper to enliven the room scheme and stand out against the freshly painted tongue-and-groove wall panelling.

‘We worked through the house room-by-room as this allowed us to budget sensibly. Also, because we lived in the house during the renovation project, it was practical to do the work in stages,’ she explains.

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The living room

The next space to be transformed was the living room, and its walls were painted in a neutral shade. The timber floorboards were sanded before being stained a dark teak colour, which the couple felt was a major improvement on their previous orange tinge. Also in line for a makeover, the fireplace’s original tiled insert had been replaced by multicoloured ceramic tiles that weren’t in keeping with its style, so the couple wanted to remove these and give it a more traditional look.

‘We spent a long time trying to find the matt black brick tiles,’ says Abbie. ‘We had priced the cost of replacing both the insert and fire, but in the end we spent £60 on the tiles and it’s helped us to achieve the exact look we wanted.’ Swapping the curtains for linen roman blinds revealed the original timber panelled detailing that frames the bay window, and as a result the room feels much bigger and brighter.

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The kitchen

The kitchen took more work, as the existing units had to be stripped out. ‘As soon as we knew we had the budget for this space, we ripped out the kitchen late one evening,’ says Abbie. ‘We couldn’t wait!’ To brighten up the space, they chose white, streamlined units teamed with oak worktops, plus a splashback of white brick-effect tiles finished with dark grout. ‘We felt that the white units needed to be balanced with a wood finish or the scheme could have appeared very cold – there had to be a natural aspect,’ Abbie adds.

When it came to sourcing appliances, Abbie shopped online for anything that was to be integrated, including the washing machine and dishwasher. ‘The specification is the most important element when choosing built-in appliances, but for the freestanding range cooker I looked around the shops as I wanted to make sure I chose a solid design,’ she explains.

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The bedrooms

The couple also wanted to give the bedrooms a new look, and when selecting the palette for the master bedroom, Abbie took her cue from the original tiles in the fireplace. ‘I didn’t want the tiles to look bleached out, as they might have done had we introduced colour on to the walls,’ she says. ‘I opted for crisp white walls and chalky blue accessories to create a calming palette. I don’t like to use colour on all the walls of a room as it can make the space feel oppressive – I prefer neutral shades – but I enjoy being able to alter the look of a space just by changing the cushions.’

Just as Abbie prefers a house with period details, so she also has an eye for furniture with character. ‘While we’ve bought contemporary pieces from Ikea, such as some of our bedroom furniture, we found most of the rest on eBay or in secondhand shops,’ she says. The Lloyd Loom sofa in the couple’s bedroom was one such eBay find, which Abbie painted to turn it from neon yellow to a soft shade of blue to match the room scheme. ‘My dad, who is an artist, used to give me the task of painting pieces when I was a child, then years later, there I was, painting the sofa while eight months pregnant,’ she smiles.

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Hands-on approach

The hands-on approach is apparent throughout Abbie and Scott’s home, where many of their favourite pieces are vintage items. Scott had long wanted some leather vintage suitcases, and finally came across the ones in the couple’s bedroom just as they were about to be thrown out by their previous owner. Every piece in this house has a similar story, such as the retro-style cabinet in the living room that Abbie picked up in a secondhand shop. As it didn’t come with any legs, she sourced some secondhand from another shop.

As expected, the couple’s home has evolved since the birth of their baby daughter Nina, and the main improvement has been the addition of an en suite for the master bedroom, which was created from a former cupboard in the bedroom. ‘The space wasn’t large enough for a walk-in wardrobe as the old lead water tank was at the top of it,’ says Abbie. This was stripped out to regain the necessary height, and the bedroom wall was moved by around half a metre to make space for the WC, basin and shower. Abbie chose stone-coloured floor tiles that flow from the bedroom’s oatmeal carpet for a natural feel. ‘I’m a fan of grey and always choose a shade that has a slight brown tone as I think it’s easier to live with,’ she says.

The Cassidys’ home demonstrates how it’s possible to transform a worn-out, dated interior with savvy shopping choices and a keen eye for detail. ‘Since having our baby, we’ve really missed getting stuck in to all the jobs we did to bring the house up to date,’ admits Abbie. ‘We’ve thoroughly enjoyed creating our family home.’

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The costs

Decoration (including floor finishes)£3,000
En suite construction£2,500
Kitchen units£1,500
Kitchen appliances£1,500
En suite fixtures and fittings£1,500
Floor sanding£500
TOTAL£10,500