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We spent just £160 modernising our ugly Nineties-style bathroom

Ali Buckley from Andover, Hampshire has been renovating her 1930's home, rejuvinating the decor and appearance in her childs nursery room
Ali wanted a mural in her young son's room, so with limited budget she created one herself with chalk and tester pot paints - Russell Sach

When Ali and Paul Buckley bought their 1930s fixer-upper they were ready to roll their sleeves up and rid the property of its outdated style.

But when Ali became pregnant with their first son soon after moving in, their renovation plans slowed down. Two more babies arrived in the following years putting the couple’s home-makeover budget under pressure.

Undeterred, Ali looked for ways she could update their three-bed detached home on a shoestring using leftover paint, creative murals and budget DIY improvements.

Ali, 39, a photographer and social media manager, said: “Our house had been heavily renovated in the 1990s. There were lots of Artex ceilings and lots of original features had been removed and replaced with items fashionable in the Nineties. While we may not have brought the character back, we have breathed life back into the house and made it more of a stylish home again.”

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Telegraph Money asked interior designer and stylist Francesca Harris to give her view on Ali and Paul’s budget home makeover.

Ali and project manager Paul, 41, bought their house in Andover in 2016 and have slowly renovated the 1930s Edwardian-style property room by room, sharing their budget DIY tips on Ali’s Instagram account @shemadehome.

The bathroom

The couple’s family bathroom, originally sporting a classic 1990s look, has been given a 2020s style update without changing the suite for just £160.

Ali’s goal was to make the room eye-catching and impactful on a tight budget.

She used leftover paint from other projects and after peeling off the existing shiny glossy finish of the vanity unit covered it and all other units in DC vinyl wrap in a terrazzo pattern.

She also changed the taps and made a feature wall behind the vanity unit.

“I wanted lots of plants and freshness in the bathroom,” she added. “And I went through four different designs for the decoration before deciding on the final look.”

Ali said she settled on a dark ceiling to bring drama into the room and to inject colour she chose burnt orange to tie in with her terracotta plant pots. She painted the original orange border of wall tiles in black to give it a contemporary look and used the same colour on the window to tie the décor together.

She plans to lay the same terrazzo pattern on the floor using vinyl. “We managed this on an insanely tight budget using leftover paint and by shopping at my own home,” she added.

Francesca said: “What a difference a splash of paint has made in this bathroom. I love Ali’s bold design including painting the ceiling black. It makes a statement while creating a more cosy and intimate space.”

Francesca says using a vinyl wrap on the cabinets and counter is a great way to update the space with a bold pattern but had concerns over its durability.

“As much as vinyl can be waterproof, in a bathroom with heavy condensation it may not stand the test of time and will bubble,” she said.

“You would also need to be careful in the maintenance of the vinyl on the countertop. Using trays to hold toothbrushes, for example, may save it slightly but the vinyl itself isn’t particularly hard wearing, and if caught by accident will easily tear.”

Francesca recommends painting the cabinets as an alternative to using vinyl. “Hard wearing bathroom paints are readily available in a range of colours and are easy to apply,” she added.

The use of plants, says Francesca, elevates the space and painting just one row of tiles means that if touch-ups need to be made from time-to-time maintenance is low.

The nursery

Ali and Paul’s nursery, the bedroom for their youngest son aged two, typifies the makeover approach they have used throughout the house. Dull papered walls have been given a lift by being stripped and washed in Egyptian Cotton white, personalised with murals painted by Ali.

“I wanted a mural in the room but I didn’t have the budget to buy mural wallpaper. Instead, we created a rainbow which I drew by hand with chalk and then painted it using tester pots.

“The furniture is a combination of items that we already had, second-hand furniture or pieces from Ikea to give it a Scandi feel while also being slightly vintage,” she explained.

Ali has also created a play area with a sunbeam painted on the white wall and prints from Junique.co.uk with yellow and pink colours to brighten up the corner.

Ali washed dull papered walls in Egyptian Cotton white and personalised them with murals
Ali painted a sunbeam on the wall to brighten up the corner - Russell Sach

It features an upcycled child’s Ikea kitchen which she painted green to match the adult-sized version they have in their own home, customised with a wooden backboard and baskets.

“My little boy is still only young so I’m getting a little bit of pink in there while I still can.”

She added: “We chose the Ikea Trofast storage system in the wood finish for the room because it’s such a game changer if you have kids. They can easily access it but it looks great as well.”

Francesca said: the use of prints is an effective way to bring not just colour into the room but also a theme without going overboard.

“When they grow out of animals and want a football bedroom, you can just update the prints easily. I love the use of tester pots, and going freehand with the rainbows is a lovely idea.”

Francesca’s concern is having light walls in a children’s room.

“Inevitably crayon and finger marks will find their way on to those white walls,” she said. “However, if you use a hardwearing matt paint, you can easily scrub them off without the paint coming off.”

Soft floaty curtains add to the relaxing atmosphere of the room, she explains, but the addition of a roller blackout blind would be her functional recommendation.

The dining room

Another recent light-touch low-cost makeover can be seen in the couple’s dining room which sits in an open plan space opposite the kitchen Ali and Paul had installed 18 months ago.

“The kitchen and dining room never felt like they flowed as a space,” says Ali. “I love the things in the room, like the mid-century dining table and the artwork but the style of the room didn’t fit well with the kitchen.”

Ali remounted the existing picture shelf to sit higher, the height a picture rail would have been placed in an Edwardian home
Ali remounted the existing picture shelf to sit higher, the height a picture rail would have been placed in an Edwardian home - Russell Sach
Ali Buckley from Andover, Hampshire has been renovating her 1930's home, rejuvinating the decor in her dining Room
The kitchen island was covered with vinyl – a cheaper option than a quartz top and safer with young children - Russell Sach

They wanted to reuse what was already in the room so Ali remounted the existing picture shelf to sit higher up the wall, the height a picture rail would have been placed in an Edwardian home, and kept the old prints. A piece of MDF was added underneath and then a row of pegs.

“It looks like an original feature when in fact it’s MDF from B&Q and the pegs, which we can hang different seasonal decorations on, are from Etsy. We think it’s a nice feature for a busy family kitchen.”

The couple bought some corner shelving from Facebook Marketplace and painted it green to match their kitchen and painted the ceiling in pink to create warmth and left the walls white.

Ali used her vinyl idea to cover the kitchen island, a cheaper option than a quartz top chosen to soften the edges of the island into curves to save her boys from bumped heads and bruises.

Francesca said: “I love Ali’s decision to colour drench the ceiling while keeping the rest of the walls white to keep that airy and light feeling. Painting any area of a room, whether it’s the ceiling, a feature wall or the whole room is a cost-effective way to update a space.

By bringing that colour into other items in the room it will create a more coherent look.

Francesca suggests featuring green in areas such as dining accessories, candles or vases. “Another quick and cost-effective way to update a dining area is, if you can, to reupholster your dining chairs. All you need is some fabric you love, sharp scissors and a staple gun,” she added.

The upholstering project is next on Ali’s makeover to do list.

“I’m a serial project starter,” added Ali. “I love painting, decorating and improving the things in my home.”