Sitting Room Refresh, for under £250 ...PART 1
Soooo I’ve been nagging Peter for close to five years to redecorate this room! Finally something snapped and he agreed (it may or may not have been my patience and the bottle of Calpol which flung over the already disgusting cream carpet and rendered it beyond repair, but that was definetly not intentional ;)
For those who don’t know, we rent our home. And it is our HOME - no longer a house we hang our clothes in but a space that we have made our home. We’re extremely lucky that our landlord who lives out of the country, sees this home as an investment, he is not a landlord by trade, in fact we’re the only property they own other than their residence. But he has always made us feel so at home. The day we moved in he said, ‘love this house, make it your own, I am only sorry that one day you will want to buy it and we can’t sell it.’ As we walked in cuddling an 18 month old Charlie in over dingy, decades-old green carpet up the stairs and on hallways and into the sitting room with bright marigold walls and red satin curtains that had more volume than my mum’s hair in the 80’s, I seriously doubted his position. But so grateful to find ANYTHING we could afford and in the area we wanted to be in we snatched this property up hours after it was listed.
Fast forward eight years and he’s right. We want to buy this house! We’ve brought two little girls into the world here. first steps were taken and first days of schools started here, birthdays and Christmas mornings celebrated… oh if these walls could talk. It has always had such a warm feeling, like if a house could be (and for the record I believe it can!) be happy, ours is!
The heart of the home is our sitting room. It’s a bright room with big bay windows and it’s where we spend the majority of the time! When we moved into the Marigold Mansion (following in Katie from Come Down the the Wood’s lead on house naming - she has the now beautiful home which began life as the ‘Peach Palace’) it was the first thing I told my husband HAD TO GO. Within a week it was painted grey and those red curtains were wrapped up and placed in the attic. Grey never suited it and so we went a warm beige. And for years that’s where we stayed. Until I finally got my way and agreed upon a little room reno!
I bet my husband we could do the whole room - and I mean total transformation - for less than £500. He likes to think I overshoot everything so told me £250, Rude, but challenge accepted!!
The first thing we agreed on were fresh floors. With our brood cream carpet was never going to work for us not to mention the size of the room meant we would be spending a substantial amount of money on carpet and all new underlay which it needed too. I reeeeally wanted the original floorboards out - a quick slice of the stanley knife exposed some gorgeous floorboards in great shape. Yippeee - plan was starting to form!
Decorating was next, with quotes from decorators coming in at over £600 it was quickly apparent we were going to be doing the painting ourselves.
Now the first hurdle being that, while I’ve planned this room being DONE for years I hadn’t actually decided on colours. When the new Farrow & Ball colours came out earlier this year I was absolutely smitten with all of them, but perhaps most with School House White. I popped into our Harrogate store and picked up quite a few samples. Wimborne White, School House White, Shaded White, Shadow White and used some tester pots from a previous project. School house white was the obvious choice for all - kids included. So I went out and bought a 2.5L tub of estate emulsion in School House White and 750ml of eggshell is Shaded White. I was convinced I’d be going back for more but trying to keep costs down I took a chance with the smallest amounts… and initially it paid off.
Ceilings, coving, above picture rail:
In an ideal world this would have been Farrow & Ball Wimborne White, I love it’s soft warm tones that still look fresh. However we would have needed a lot of paint for the area covered and we felt the budget was best spend elsewhere. We had quite a bit left of a giant tub of Dulux white so went for that. The ceiling is absolutely back breaking work, I tell you this not from personal experience as unfortantely due to height difficulties I was exempt, tho I did have to suffer through listening to Peter groan on about it every other second. Two coats on and the room already looked a million times better. But basically it’s like working the Mariah Carey of decorators, a whole roster of diva demands and attitude with volume that’s impressive, if not always in tune.
Walls, including picture rail:
School House White in estate emulsion is just such a lovely colour, obviously not white-white, but bright and fresh with warming grey tones. Peter was surprised that we covered (nearly) our whole sitting room (5mx6m) with one 2.5L tub. (two coats) I say nearly as we had a small section where we needed to finish and just couldn’t scrape any more out of the tub, some quick thinking and we used the rest of the little tester pot and finished it. As we’re talking budget. I get that £45 sounds expensive when you know you can buy a tub of anything from B&Q for half that. So thought it was worth noting last time we painted this room we’d done just that… and ended up having to buy two sooo maybe something in that?! Really happy with the finish, and my husband who has said for over a decade that Farrow & Ball is rubbish and all about marketing was really impressed. We’ve used it previously and he complained about how difficult it was to paint with so don’t know if there is a formula change or what but either way super happy with the colour and finish. We also covered the picture rails with it, I know wall paint isn’t ideal for this but after chatting to the helpful woman in the Harrogate F&B showroom she explained that if they were never going to be used as picture rails ie hanging large oil paintings from them with clips, it was ok to sand them down and paint with the estate emulsion. Really like it matching the walls.
My father in law popped in when we were just starting and reminded us ‘its all in the prep, it’s boring but shows in the end’ he’s so right. I sanded back skirting boards with an electric sander, washed them and REALLY vacuumed as we had ripped the carpet out by this point and there were loads of obnoxious little carpet fibers hanging around that would have left a not so nice finish. Two coats… and yes I needed to use masking tape, a 1920’s build with wonky walls there was no way to cut that in easily. When pulling the masking tape off some of the wall paint started coming off… urgh frustrating, this doesn’t normally happen, hope that’s not showing how durable the walls will be! Quick touch up and good to go.
Windows and Door:
Again used Shaded White as above… found it a bit patchy here and needed three coats. So ended up having to go and buy another tub. Probably would have been better value to get a large one. Again plenty of prep work, though the window is tricky, we found it needed painting in complete daylight to see you were fully covering the white, though tricky as the sun is glaring in and blinding you.
After the back breaking task of painting the ceiling, Peter was a broken man! This next task was def his next big challenge.
All the carpets were ripped up before we’d done the skirting so we could get the neatest finish on those and they left the grossest almost black floor. We made sure we pulled out as many nails as we could and any we couldn’t got hammered in deep.
We vacuumed up and contemplated finishing the task with a hand sander… HA! With kids out for the day at Grandmas (still in half term here!!) I went to Betty’s with the girls and he rented a floor sander from a local HSS for £65. We called around a lot of places and asked a lot of questions - I think this is really important to do. Find out how much it is and how long exactly you get it for. Ours fell over a weekend so our 48hr rental was a bit longer than that but the guys in the shop were super friendly and helpful. They were able to advise on sanding strips which you need to buy to go with it and advised Peter to get twice as many as he thought, and assured him they were ‘sale or return’ so better to just have them - we used all but one!!! They also didn’t take a deposit. Funny as the HSS in Harrogate wanted a £250 deposit, I have a bit of an issue with companies taking deposits that big, I get it protects them but so often they take ages to put it back etc and if we can get away without doing it… well happy days! This is a project to do when you can fling all the windows and doors open and have no children in the house. 5 strips of 40 grit (this is the coarse grit) then five of 120 grit to finish it off… it really did make a difference.
I come back to inspect, they look amazing… I ask him what he thought the hall floors looked like? (Because wouldn’t that be a more eye pleasing result if it were continuous out the room…) LITERALLY five minutes later he’s ripping the laminate flooring up… he sands those too while we’ve got the sander, getting as much value out of that rental as possible, we’ll have to finish the hall project later!
Finishing the floors:
By this point we’re bored. And just over it. Because we don’t have a garage or enough space downstairs we left out TV, two sofas and piano in the room while we decorated. This was fine for the most part, we covered them in drop clothes and they remained unscathed. But when it came to varnishing the floor we instantly realised how annoying it was. It probably took us 3x as long to do than if the room were empty.
I’ll start with what we chose. Ronseal Diamond Hard Clear. Right, I’ll be honest, I explained by this point we’re a little bit over it and just want it done now. If you know me you may know I often don’t forward plan projects well - right? Well when it came time to get something on the floors I obviously didn’t have anything ready, no samples had been tried and we’re pretty limited to what we could find in Harrogate - so B&Q it was and Ronseal is obviously their biggest seller. (Our options were only Ronseal or B&Q own brand tbh) We were keen to keep the floors looking as bright and fresh as they were after all that sanding but they def needed protecting. They were completely and meticuliously vacuumed and wiped down before application.
I want to tell you about putting this stuff on, basically it’s a good last job because all you need to do is just slap it on. There’s very little skill or accuracy involved which is good when you’ve got to this stage and you’ve lost your will to decorate. I used the biggest wood handled paint brush and went for it two boards at a time. I will say it gave me an almighty fright. when this first goes on it looks light purple!! And the wood goes quite dark - don’t panic! It dries much lighter and no hint of purple. ‘it does what it says on the tin’ their famous strapline eh? You think that would mean we’d read the tin… we did not. We got two coats on as fast as we could (need to leave minimum two hours between coats)\ afterwards reading we should have lightly sanded the floors and wiped before applying a THIRD coat. That wasn’t happening!!! I will go back in the coming weeks and do a third coat for the high traffic areas But for the areas we sanded, cleaned, applied and waited correct times before plonking sofas and the piano over them, I’m happy with two coats as they won’t see any traffic. Somehow some dog hairs got stuck into the floor, but they were easy to get out with a little pick with my finger nail.
With walls and floors done it was time to put it all back and get on to the fun stuff… shopping!
Be more prepared. If we were doing this again I’d be a bit more organised. Have all the paint and floor varnish chosen and bought just ready to use, while we didn’t make a mistake anywhere it does feel stressy having to sort stuff last minute and definetly limits your choices to what’s available locally. If you are planning ahead some other floor solutions reccommended to me were Loba Oil in Chalk and Treatex.
Pick your timing: Here is Eva waking up on her 7th birthday… house in a bomb site! Whoops! I get that, like most things in life, there’s no perfect timing but we could have sorted this better! For the record her room was flooded with balloons, she opened presents in our bed, had pancakes in the kitchen and then went to Grandma’s for a birthday BBQ with the cousins. She said it was the best birthday everrrr.
The project then continued through and after May half term… good because I was off and around but so were they, not their most fun school break. We got them out every day to do something, don’t worry but there was def plenty of the electronic babysitter.
Wall Colour and Picture Rail: Farrow & Ball School House White in Estate Emulsion 2.5L, £46.50 + sample pot £4.50
Above the Picture Rail, Coving and Ceiling: Dulux White, we had leftover from a previous project so didn’t count that cost.
Skirting Boards, Windows and Doors: Farrow & Ball Shaded White in Estate Eggshell 2x .75L tubs at £26.50 each
Floor Boards: Original Pine, about 100 years old, sanded and covered with 2/3 coats of Ronseal Diamond Hard Clear. £65 for a 5L tin. We have loads left and will use this in the hall too
Machine Rental for Floor Sander: £65 for 48hr rental + £15 for sanding sheets.
We borrowed my FIL hand sander, already had good paint brushes, drop clothes and other tools required.
We did all the labour ourselves so no cost involved…. but I promise you there was plenty of blood, sweat and swears (no one cried - well no adults anyway!)
Just made it!!
I’ll get Part 2 out next week with how we’ve decorated/accessorised it… spoiler alert there’s lots of repurposing and no new fancy shmancy sofa but will tell you all where I got that giant jute rug from you’ve all been asking in DMs and some fun failures like a dresser not fitting even though I def measured it!