In Room Makeovers

Bleak to Boho: Spare Room Makeover Pt I

The spare room isn’t the obvious choice for the first renovation project to tackle in a new home.

You start with one of the spaces you’ll be really living in, right? The master bedroom, or the kitchen, or the living room?

Basically anywhere except the spare room. It’s just that – spare. A second thought. Certainly not a priority.

In this crooked little three-storey Victorian terrace it would be, by far, the least-used room.

And yet here we are – it’s the first room we started and finished. And it wasn’t a quick-coat-of-paint job. It was a three month-long renovation project. In this post I’ll introduce the room and talk about the foundations – stripping back and repairing the walls, floor, ceiling and wood work. So first things first…

Why start with the spare room?

  • It was a right mess. And I mean a mess. By far the worst room in the house and in most need of attention
  • I had no furniture. I would have to buy it all from scratch, so it made sense to redecorate before lugging a load of flat packs up two barely-human-width staircases
  • I wanted guests! My family and some of my loveliest friends are scattered around the country, from North Tyneside to South London, and now that I’m squarely in the middle of the country, I intended to lure them to me on the regular

The before photos…

What we needed to fix

  • The carpet – it was dirty and grey-ed round the edges and the fit was bad
  • The walls – cream textured wallpaper of nightmares
  • The woodwork – it had yellowed and the gloss looked dated
  • The Hole – there was large, square hole in the wall of the window bay with a piece of ply leaned against it – not ideal for insulation OR if you have a ongoing fear of a stranger secretly living in your loft
  • The loft hatch – as you can just see at the very top of the middle image, the loft hatch had no border or trim, just a raw paper edge
  • The window bay – I was obsessed with this dormer window bay and convinced it could be utterly lovely, but it was scruffy and unloved

And here’s what we did…

We started by stripping off that terrible wallpaper.

Wallpaper stripping is a horrible, thankless task. You spend your evenings and weekends coated in melted paste, your fingers are covered in steam burns, and it usually makes the space look (temporarily) worse.

That was certainly true in our case – what we revealed were patchy, uneven walls that had been poorly plastered and even more poorly filled. In one case, a hole had been filled with a lump of cement which we had to chisel out…

In other areas, the walls were thin, poorly-fitted plaster board…

But we diligently scraped and sanded, filled and sanded again.

It was painfully clear that these walls could not be painted, so we resigned ourselves to applying new lining paper to walls and, sickeningly, ceiling…

Lining paper comes in a range of thicknesses – we settled on 1200 GSM (like this stuff) which is fairly mid-grade because we needed it heavy enough to cover some funky stuff, but flexible enough to work over very-much-not-straight walls.

We got through four rolls of the stuff (80M!) between the walls and ceiling, but it was an ENORMOUS improvement to see it all back to white-ish.

But the walls were still imperfect, so we set about covering up gaps in the wallpaper with the amazing Polycell Crack-Free Paint – it’s a halfway house between paint and poly filler, and it covers a multitude of sins. We got all the way through a 5L tin on this room, and I guarantee it’ll be used in every other room in the house.

Next we tackled that awful woodwork. I chose a pure white in satin for a more modern finish than gloss. A 0.75L tin got through the whole room (just) – skirting board, various doors, bannister and window bay flooring. We also built some new woodwork to finish a few areas, which I’ll cover in a later post.

The last job was the carpet – we pulled up the old stuff ourselves and were pleasantly surprised to see the underlay and gripper boards were in good condition and wouldn’t need replacing. We did take a look at the floorboards underneath but they were beyond salvaging.

I chose a cream-beige berber carpet to hit the Boho vibe I was after, and it washed out at around £200 with installation.

So: walls, ceiling, floor and woodwork taken care of! We had a clean, bright, white shell. Here are the…not quite ‘after’, but ‘during’ unfurnished photos…

Now see how it looks furnished, styled, and with a dog and cat in it – can’t sell it better than that!

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