My house: before and after

I’d love to be an interior designer. Home design is my absolute favourite hobby – I could happily walk around Dwell, Habitat and Heals for hours, and always go to Grand Designs Live and the Ideal Home Show – though I think that in terms of a career, interior design is probably up there with writing when it comes to job insecurity. So I’ve had to make do with doing up my own home to the best of my abilities.

I live in a three-bedroom house on the Essex border, which I bought after selling my tiny flat in North London. My house was horrible when I bought it. It was dark and dirty with a hideous 1980s kitchen, and zero effort had been put into any of the rooms. I went into debt doing it up, but it was worth it because I absolutely love it now.

Here’s the old kitchen. The dangling bare light bulb is testament to how little care has been put into the house. You can buy a £3 lampshade from eBay! See also: the mismatched and badly hung wall units and brackets. Just so ugly.

Kitchen - before (4)

This is the old kitchen at its best, furnished and tidied up for the estate agent photos.

Kitchen wide view

Et voila! The kitchen now, with engineered oak flooring, white gloss units, oak worktops, three pendant lights over the glass John Lewis dining table and six matching gel chairs, also from John Lewis. I replaced the floral crimson blinds with lime green blinds and the ancient tiles with white Metro brick tiles (I did the tiling myself!)

Kitchen - now.JPG

Here’s the old bathroom, complete with fetching ‘shell’ basin, dolphin picture on the bath tiles and mould around the basin pedestal:

Bathroom (before) (2).JPG

Bathroom - before (1)

Bathroom pedestal - before.JPG

And here’s the new bathroom! It’s millennial pink and rose gold. I asked my ex-husband to spray the counter top and bamboo bath mat rose gold, and also bought a rose gold shower caddy and accessories, including cotton wool holders and a toilet brush. The white Metro brick tiles make a reappearance here.

Bathroom - new.jpg

Bathroom - new (basin).jpg

I can’t show you the previous downstairs shower room, as it didn’t exist! Here’s the estate agent photo of what the room used to look like:

Living room lower

I halved this space to make a shower room, and gave it the same millennial pink and rose gold colour scheme as the upstairs bathroom.

Shower room.jpg

Shower room sink

I turned the other half into a little office for myself. It’s wonderfully light and airy, though I may have gone slightly overboard with the rose gold theme!


Here’s the old reception room, which I separated into two rooms with a wall.

Living room

And here’s the new living room, which used half the reception room’s space.

Living room (new).jpg

Here’s my old bedroom when I moved in:

Front bedroom - before.JPG

Here’s the estate agent photo of it before the renovation.

Front bedroom.jpg

Here’s the new bedroom. I had it replastered and painted (in Dulux Jasmine White, my favourite shade, which I’ve used all over the house) and had recessed halogen spotlights replace the pendant lights. I experimented with pops of bright and pastel colours, and I think it worked out well.

Front bedroom (new) (1).jpg

Front bedroom (new).jpg

Here’s the estate agent photo of the old back bedroom.

Back bedroom

I did this bedroom up in a more neutral and conventional style, as I was renting it out until recently.

Back bedroom (1).jpg

My favourite touch is a 3 x 3 grid of push-door modern white gloss wall cupboards. They provide storage while blending perfectly into the decor.

Back bedroom (3)

Back bedroom (4)

When I was earning a lot in my last role, I also renovated the garden. Here’s the old estate agent photo.


And here’s the garden now.

Garden (new).jpg

My favourite design challenge recently though has been my daughter’s little room. She wanted her My Little Pony bedroom (which she decorated herself) replaced with a Harry Potter theme. I pretended I wasn’t going to do it, and then designed the transformation and had it done while my daughter was at her dad’s for Christmas. Her face was a picture!

Here’s her dark and unappealing little room when we first moved into the house.

Middle bedroom - before

Here’s the rather more glossy furnished estate agent photo.

Lily's room

Here’s the pink and girly My Little Pony room which Lily loved at the time.

Lily MLP bedroom (1).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (2).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (3).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (4).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (5).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (6).jpg

And here’s her new Harry Potter bedroom, in a black, white and gold colour palette!

Lily's new room (1).JPG

Lily's room (2).jpg

Lily's new room (3).JPG

It’s just so much more grown up and stylish, and she loves it.

Lily new room - happy.jpg

The Memory Jar

The title of this post reminds me of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which is daft because that novel is about mental illness, while The Memory Jar is meant to generate happiness. You might even say the comparison jars with me (ba-dum-tsch)…


I’d heard of memory jars before, but this one caught my eye on my birthday when I was browsing in Paperchase, my favourite stationery store. The concept is that you write beloved memories on little bits of paper, fold them up, put them in the jar, forget about them, and then open the jar when you need cheering up and/or a refreshing blast of nostalgia.

I guess theoretically you could use any jar – there’s no need to spend £10 if you’re hard up. Perhaps you’re reading this after Brexit, in which case just a washed out jam jar and some loo roll will do (kidding, we won’t have any loo roll as 95% of it is imported from the EU!). But anyway, if you do fancy splashing out, this jar is beautifully designed and comes with a handy pad of 100 blank notes for your memories.


It’s a glass jar, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be a terrible omen if it turned out to be broken?!’ (I don’t believe in terrible omens, but it would have been a bit of a bummer on my birthday.) But no: it’s a quality item, sturdy and well-packed, printed with a great font and a rose gold lid to boot (half the items in my house are rose gold). The brand is Eve (no, not the mattress people. Well, maybe. I’ve certainly made some sweet memories on mattresses in my time!)

Weirdly, I can’t find the jar anywhere online, including on the Paperchase website – but I got it from the Westfield Stratford City store, so you could try there if you’re a Londoner, or visit the massive store in Tottenham Court Road (my personal version of Disneyland). I hope they still stock them, as the jars are so nice I actually fancy buying a couple more.

So today I wrote down my first memory. There’s a fluffy ginger cat who lives in the next road, whom we’ve imaginatively christened ‘Gingie’. He’s maddeningly elusive so is rarely in his favourite spot on top of the bin. Here he is, looking for all the world like a Bond villain’s cat.


Anyhow, my eight-year-old daughter Lily has really taken a shine to him. ‘I haven’t seen Gingie in ages!’ she often wails when we come home and there’s no sign of him en route. She, my good friend John and I all love to pet Gingie, and we’re always happy to see him – though being a cat, he doesn’t reciprocate and generally regards us with haughty disdain.

I love to see my daughter enjoying his company, as her whole face brightens when she spots his fluffy orange fur. So I decided to make seeing her stroke Gingie my first memory. Of course, it’s not the sweetest memory I have, nor the most nostalgic, but it is recent and the thought of it makes me smile, so I wrote it down on the notepad.


John met Gingie’s owner’s next-door neighbour one day. Apparently Gingie is actually called Ginger, which is very much in Pope-Catholic-bears-woods territory. So I wrote this down on the note, imagining some far distant future where I have dementia like my poor 94-year-old Nan and am all like ‘Gingie? Who’s Gingie?’

I tore off the note and put it in the jar, though I had to fold it several times to get it in.



I’m not really sure how many notes the jar will hold. I’m sceptical that it will hold all 100, though I suppose it depends how small and tightly you fold them and how they fall together in the jar. There are bound to be loads of gaps, though I suppose you could take the lid off and pack them yourself.

But all that really matters is that the jar is full of loveliness, and that when I read the note above, it transports me back to this.


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