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Name: Siân, Ed, Rose, and two cats Edith and Albert
Location: East Sussex, UK
Size: 949 square feet
Type of Home: Three story house
Years Lived In: 4 years, owned
I work in the NHS as a Mental Health Practitioner, and before this I was a graphic designer, so now I channel my creativity into my home. I find having a space for this creativity, and making my home so personal to us, is incredibly important for my mental health and overall well being. When we are thinking about our mental health, the spaces we occupy can often be overlooked. It is such an important part of helping us feel settled, safe, and also forms part of our identity. If we can’t be our most true self at home, then where can we be?
We used to rent a one-bedroom flat in Brighton, U.K., and had dreams of owning our own home. I would watch the housing market, even though we were not really in a position to buy yet. Then one day I stumbled across the listing for our three-bedroom Edwardian cottage, in a quaint village in East Sussex, and instantly fell in love. Shortly afterwards it was listed as “sold,” so I decided to use it as an incentive to get our finances in order and put ourselves in a better position for a deposit, in case something else promising came on the market. Then one day, a couple of months later, I decided to randomly look on the estate agent website that had originally listed this house, and saw it back up for sale! I called them and found they had only put it back up that morning after the original sale fell through. We went to see it that evening, and put in an offer the next day. Meant to be.
The house was originally a soft pink color on the exterior front wall, and I had always had dreams of owning a pretty pink cottage. We have since painted the exterior a beautiful, soft lilac blue, which I actually love more! I think what drew me to the house originally was firstly the space, which felt large compared to our previous one-bedroom flat. We bought our home at the start of 2018, and spent the next six months essentially just camping in our home as we began the renovations. At times we did not have heating, electricity, or warm running water. It was interesting, to say the least. What we have ended up with is a lovingly put-together family home. We have quintessential English cottage vibes on the outside, with the interior largely inspired by retro ’60s design, lots of cheerful colors, and hand-painted murals.
My Style: My interior style is informed by ’60s and ’70s design, with a love of bold colors and the occasional cheerful mural.
Which time periods/decades inspired your home’s design the most? I have been a passionate retro collector (particularly items from the ’60s and ’70s) for the past 15 years. So the design choices for our home were always going to be informed by my love of these eras. This passion started as an art student, when I found a love of mid-century chair design (quite specific I know), and then this branched out into other items and styles. With limited space in my student homes, I appreciated the open feeling of much of the furniture from this era, lots of atomic spindly legs lifting furniture off the floor and making spaces feel more open, sleek room dividers or useful modular furniture. My mum also started collecting retro items at the same time, so it became a shared passion.
Favorite Element: One of my favorite aspects of my home might be as simple as the 1960s peachy-orange daisy wallpaper I have hanging behind my dining table. I found the wallpaper about 10 years prior, in a flea market in Brighton. There was only one roll, but I knew I had to have it. I kept it for years and years, until I finally found a place to hang it. The simple daisy design always reminds me of fried eggs, so I thought it worked perfectly in the dining area! We have dual aspect windows in this space, so we are lucky that it catches the sun for a large portion of the day. I think the mix of the orange wallpaper and warm tones of the Ercol dining table really create a glow in this space. When we eventually move, I’d be tempted to try and steam the wallpaper off the wall!
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge for us was the small budget for our renovation, and the fact I got pregnant about three months after buying our home, meaning I was either out-of-action or very, very tired for much of the renovation! The low budget meant we have done a lot of the work ourselves, and it has taken us much longer than we would have liked. We overcame the challenge through sheer perseverance, continuing to buy much of our furniture secondhand, and looking for ways to get the look we wanted on a budget (see: IKEA kitchen with custom-made work top, and hand-painted murals instead of expensive wallpaper).
Proudest DIY: I think the DIY project I am most proud of is our large crane mural on our bathroom wall. I had left the space white for so long, whilst I tried to decide what to do with the wall. One day during one of the Covid lockdowns, I had a brainwave, got together all the sample paint pots I had accumulated over the years, along with a large tin of Farrow & Ball “Babouche” yellow. I then sketched out the cranes, and just went for it. Zero planning! They still bring me joy over a year later, and really demonstrate the power of paint!
Biggest Indulgence: Aside from some core renovation work, I think our biggest expense was probably the new kitchen. We couldn’t save any of the old kitchen unfortunately, due to damp issues, which needed resolving first. I also really couldn’t bring myself to like the pine-heavy cottage kitchen that was here before. Even though this was our biggest expense, we still did it on a budget. We went to IKEA for our cabinets, and then asked Plykea to make our yellow Formica topped plywood kitchen work top. It fills our kitchen with sunshine, even on a grey day.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I think the most unique thing about our home are my hand-painted murals. In our downstairs cloakroom, I created a full geometric mural inspired by brutalist design. It took so long to complete! It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it brings me joy and is certainly unique to our home.
Where are your favorite places to buy or find vintage home decor? For me, I am always after a bargain, so prefer to buy from charity shops and car boot sales! Not much beats the feeling of potential, when you arrive at a car boot sale on a sunny morning, and have no idea what treasures lie in wait! For anyone local to Sussex, the Brighton Marina Car Boot sale is great for vintage treasures.
Ten years ago we could find mid-century and retro items relatively cheaply at flea markets, charity shops, and car boot sales. My biggest bargain might be the 1960s starburst rug that I bought for £5 at a car boot sale, or the 1950s sofa my mum once found for me for £5 in near-perfect condition! It isn’t impossible now to find a bargain, but it’s definitely much harder, since mid-century modern has become more in style.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Do the boring prep work, and wash your paint brushes!
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
This piece is part of Throwback Month, where we’re revisiting vintage styles, homes, and all kinds of groovy, retro home ideas. Boogie on over here to read more!