Before and after: A former squat transformed into a sophisticated living room

With its cosy grey scheme, this living room is completely unrecognisable

Living room makeover: grey living room with big bay window, white plantation shutters, white fireplaces and grey corner sofa
(Image credit: Chris Snook © Future)

When PR director Stuart and his partner Matt, a solicitor, moved into their Victorian terrace, the living room was just one of many rooms that needed a complete renovation. The house was derelict, having been neglected for years – but the couple knew they could turn the run-down room into a comfortable, stylish space.

'We'd lived in flats and dreamed of owning a house,' says Matt. ‘We wanted something we could redo and acquiring a wreck to renovate in a developing neighbourhood was the most cost-effective option.' 

Despite being in such a bad state, the living room had potential – and with a kitchen extension on the cards too, the couple set about creating a cosy space where they could wind down in the evenings. Read on to find out how they did it.

The before

Living room makeover: before pictures showing graffiti on the wall above a run-down fireplace, and a bay window being built into a back-to-brick room

(Image credit: Chris Snook © Future)

The house was a complete wreck and had become an infamous squat over the past seven years. 'While we were working on the property, two passers-by told us they’d lived in it and had had a great time!’ says Stuart.

Many of the windows were broken and doors were boarded up. 'The floor was uneven and had odd green and yellow stripes on it, and the walls were covered in graffiti,' says Matt. 'Sadly, the Victorian fireplaces and coving were unsalvageable. It was a complete mess.'

The process

Living room makeover: close up of two grey armchairs with plum and purple cushions

(Image credit: Chris Snook © Future)

The living room makeover was part of a larger undertaking, including extending the kitchen and converting the loft. Not long after work began, it was clear that the existing internal structure was worse than first thought, leaving little alternative but to gut the interior and start with a fresh canvas.

The room was reduced to a shell and much of the interior was created from scratch, including a new floor from Posh Flooring. The walls were taken back to brick and replastered. The couple installed new fireplaces and hearths from Fireplaces Are Us, along with windows and radiators. 'We fitted alcove cabinets with strip lighting and did the painting and coving ourselves,’ says Stuart.

The after

Living room makeover: grey living room with big bay window, white plantation shutters, white fireplaces and grey corner sofa

(Image credit: Chris Snook © Future)

When it came to choosing the colour scheme, Stuart and Matt didn’t have to think twice. They achieved the cosy, smoking lounge-style scheme by using contrasting shades of grey on the walls and floors, and in the furnishing. ‘Foremost, we wanted something that wouldn’t date – and the colour scheme reflects that,’ says Matt.

Now the hard work is complete, Stuart and Matt have a cosy room with a sophisticated scheme, which acts as a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of their kitchen extension, where they socialise with friends.

Plantation shutters from California Shutters at the front project offer privacy, and a large mirror from Dwell reflects light around the room. The corner sofa, which they had made for them by Sofa Workshop just before moving into this house, is great for cosy evenings in front of the fire, as are the contrasting armchairs from Made.

Overall, the couple love the finished look. 'It's homely but contemporary, and in keeping with the Victorian original,' Stuart says. 'All the effort, time invested and expense have been worth it.'

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.