An open-plan living-room/diner

With limited funds, Tamsin Weston and Jack White opened up their ground-floor space, filling it with flea-market and eBay finds, and colourful accessories to create an eclectic and interesting living area that is full of light

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‘Our home’s two small reception rooms were very dark inside and the original metal-framed windows had become rusty and needed replacing.

‘We bought the property at auction in 2006, planning to completely revamp it, starting with the downstairs.

‘Although it was structurally sound, it had not been decorated for decades, with polystyrene ceiling tiles and so on – the whole space was in need of a new lease of life.’

Fact file

  • The owners: Tamsin Weston, an interior stylist and journalist, and her partner Jack White, a musician
  • The property: A two-bedroom, end-of-terrace cottage
  • The location: Middlesex
  • What they spent: £2,743, excluding building costs

What we did

‘When I first saw the property, I could see its potential and had clear ideas about what I wanted to do with the downstairs. I felt the two reception rooms would work better as one big, open-plan space. This would also allow in more light from the south-facing garden and kitchen area. So we bought it having already budgeted to knock through and combine the space.

‘We’d visited the house several times with our proposed builder before the auction, so Jack and I could determine exactly what condition the house was in and how much the changes I had in mind were likely to cost as part of the total purchase budget. We didn’t move in until all this structural work was done, so it didn’t matter about the mess created.

‘The builder started work by removing the structural wall between the rooms and putting in an RSJ to support the floor above. He then replastered all the walls and ceilings. We’d decided to remove the chimney breast in the back reception room, too, as once the wall was down it would be very close to the one from the front room and would eat into the space.

‘The existing front window was rusty and needed replacing. Moving in at last, we had a wooden sash installed that was more in keeping with the period of the house. We then replaced the front door with a basic unfinished wood door from a DIY store, which we then undercoated and painted. The glass for it all came from a local glazier and was fitted by our builder. As the front door opens directly into the living room, it helps to bring natural light into the front of the house.

In the back reception room, there had originally been a window overlooking the garden and our builder suggested taking this out and installing French doors. He then made these for us from windows we found at a flea market. The extra light that this brings into the back has made a huge difference. We also replaced the radiators with traditional-style column designs bought from specialist Stelrad.

‘I chose to sand down the floorboards, as they were in good condition, and paint them white. We painted the re-plastered walls white, too, then used a colour mix of an already pale blue and the white for just the remaining chimney breast, as a feature. It hadn’t been our intention to keep everything white, but we decided to stick with it because we love the light and airy feel of the new enlarged space.

‘After all the work was done, we didn’t really have much money left to furnish it – we spent months sitting on garden chairs in the evenings with our dinner on our laps, in fact. However, I like to mix styles and I especially love the Postwar era, so we were able to pick up pieces from flea markets, car-boot sales and on eBay, which work really well with our IKEA sofa and dining table. A friend also donated her Nan’s glass unit, which is perfect for displaying my collection of coloured 1950s glasses. And the wall lights came from my cousin’s flat in Berlin – she knew I’d been coveting them for years and found she didn’t need them when she moved to a new place.

‘We’re really pleased with the way the room has come together. Knocking down the wall has created a light space that has a lovely, airy feel. We can open the new doors to the garden in summer or have a cosy open fire in winter.

‘The white wooden floor is a highly practical option; it is easily mopped and the colour helps to reflect light around the room. This is also a great space for entertaining – we push the furniture out of the way and never have to worry about spilling drinks on a carpet.’

Costs

Fixtures and fittings£1,305
Furniture and accessories£1,361
Walls and floor£77
TOTAL£2,743