Mother reveals how she took her Victorian house from drab to stunning

Mother-of-three transforms her ‘beige’ £450,000 Victorian house into a stunning eclectic abode on a budget by upcycling Argos furniture, raiding vintage markets and buying wallpaper on eBay

  • Lily Sawyer, a mother-of-three, refurbished her house in Stratford, East London which she bought for £445K
  • She and husband got bored of its plain features so decided to give it a radical makeover on a strict budget
  • Shared their impressive, colourful house makeover on Instagram and now boasts 107,000 followers 

A mother-of-three has transformed her drab Victorian terrace into a colourful wonderland on a budget using brave dark paint colours, patterned wallpaper and £5 vintage finds.

Lily Sawyer’s dreary three-bedroom pad in Stratford, east London, was a sea of beige and white when she first moved in after buying it for £445,000 in 2014 with her husband David, a financial director.

But then Lily set to work to make her home an Instagram-worthy sensation by picking luscious dark shades – including black – and brightly-coloured floral wallpapers to really make the place pop.

Now having grown a strong following thanks to her eclectic taste, Lily revealed her colourful interior ideas need not cost an arm and a leg, and shared how she decorated her refurbished home with bargain items. 

Lily Sawyer, a mother-of-three, revealed how she refurbished her home in Stratford, east London, on a budget with colourful and vintage finds costing as little as £5

When Lily and her husband David bought the house for £445,000 in 2014, it was very plain, painted in shades of white and beige (pictured)

Lily and her husband David, a financial director, bought their home for £445,000 in 2014 and were initially wowed by its original features.

However the jury was out on the boring beige colour scheme, which the pair thought made the house look really dull.

They extended the home to add two additional bedrooms and a shower room and the terrace is now home to the couple, Lily’s mother and their children, Calla, 15, Isaac, 14, and Beth, 11.

Lily was originally an artist who also taught fine art but gave that up as a full-time career when she had children.

She has since worked as a photographer – but when Covid struck last year she was left rethinking her budgets and decided to throw more of her time into her passion for interiors.

Before the refurbishment, the kitchen was functional, but lacked personality, with beige and grey countertops, white walls and white doors

After the refurbishment, Lily replaced the beige countertops with blue-green ones and decorated the kitchen with foliage and a floral wallpaper

One of the bedrooms before, with white walls and carpeted floors in beige. The couple bought the house for its features but were not fans of the muted colours

Pictured: One of the bedrooms now, with statement floral wallpaper on a black backdrop and powder pick stools and lots of vegetation 

After starting an Instagram account – layered.home – in summer 2017, her eclectic colour choices and unusual furniture finds have garnered her more than 107,000 followers who love her unusual 1895-built home.

She now runs layered.home full time, which helps brands make the most of Instagram.

And amazingly Lily’s unusual style doesn’t cost the earth, with much of it done on a budget.

The 47-year-old said: ‘Anyone can recreate this look, even if they don’t have loads of money.

Lily did not shy away from bold colours, picking a floral wallpaper for her bathroom with a navy backdrop and black furnishings 

The bathroom pictured at the time the couple bought their house, with a regular tiled wall, bathtub and a beige and brown mosaic

The corner of the bathroom now, with a retro pink door and beautiful floral wallpaper and white and black tiled floor. Lily said she liked to clash colours with black and white 

‘If you look at Beth’s bedroom, that is an Argos chest of drawers covered with wallpaper from eBay that cost me £17.

‘It’s just a bit of creativity, that’s all. And trying out different things.

‘Being north-east-facing, the house gets very little light all year round. The dark colours make it really interesting and give depth to the space.’

She describes her look as ‘maximalist, eclectic, and dark’ and says she loves nothing more than a deep colour on the walls, matched with bright wallpaper and soft complementary furnishings.

After extending the house in 2015, Lily set about creating her ideal colour palette.

‘When we moved in the house was actually in really good condition, it was just very plain,’ she explained.

The living-room and lounge area at the time Lily and David bought the house, with wooden floors and white walls. Lily went for something much more colourful during her refurbishment 

The lounge now, with comfortable and colourful armchairs, a gallery wall on a green backdrop and and forest green furnishings 

Lily picked unusual ornaments for her living room, like these green and purple lanterns and an assortment of paintings 

Lily posing in her living-room next to a velvet armchair and tropical lamp. She scoured markets and vintage stores in order to furnish her home 

A stunning garden shed at the back of Lily and David’s house, painted in navy and furnished with comfortable cushions and throws 

‘It was a blank canvas. It had an ugly fire in the front room, but it did have original features which was one of the things we really loved about it.

‘It had original fires in some rooms and it also had an oven that was built in north London in 1896.’

In her daughter Beth’s room she used Osborne and Little’s ‘Vernazza’ wallpaper on the ceiling and Craig and Rose blue paint on the walls, but added bargain furniture scoured from markets and cheap items she upcycled by covering in wallpaper.

The Sawyer family’s green kitchen may look high-end, but amazingly it came from Ikea, and cost them a knocked-down £5,000, one of the cheapest kitchens on the market.

The kitchen, with a green tropical wallpaper, is overflowed with plants of all types, which match the forest green countertops. The white and black floor brings some light in   

A look at the entrance way’s grey gallery wall and foliage, with light garlands suspended from the ceiling and a runner rug in grey and white 

A look at the dining room area before. The kitchen came with an oven dating back to the time it was built in the late 19th century (left)

Lily kept the apparent brick walls but added retro chairs, suspended plants and little knick knacks to add personality to the dining-room

While the furniture in Lily’s room looked like priced antiques, most of it comes from second-hand shops and even Ikea

It used to be boring white, with white walls and floor tiles and black grout, but although Lily’s cool black and white floor tiles look real, they’re actually a £350 vinyl job by Beija Flor.

‘It’s Ikea, so we didn’t have a lot of colour choice – I didn’t want to go all black or all white and they had a few mid range colour choices, but I’ve always loved blues and greens so it was the obvious choice for me,’ Lily said.

Lily’s hallway is painted in Dulux’s Noble Grey while the pieces for the walls are mainly from charity shops for £7 and under. 

Her eldest daughter Calla’s room is Braze Blue by paint company Craig & Rose while the wallpaper on the cupboard is by Claire Elsworth Design. However while the paint and paper is more expensive, the main chair in the room was £5 from a market.

Lily used Dulex painted and wallpaper in order to bring her drab Victorian house back to life (pictured, the kitchen now)

The living-room’s fireplace, surrounded by armchairs. She matched the furniture with the shades of the wallpaper 

And Lily went all out with her living room, with a deep green wall colour and in-your-face floral wallpaper from Graham & Brown.

‘You have to rein in the colour palette sometimes,’ Lily said. ‘Choose three or four colours from your wallpaper and use those for accessories.’

A pop of bright colour is used in the family shower room, with Lily painting the door bright pink and covering the previously ugly brown tiles with waterproof floor stickers from MoonWallStickers for £60.

Meanwhile the designer’s bedroom uses clever wallpaper to give the impression of panelling at a knock down price while a pricey-looking chandelier in a downstairs living room was £150 from BHS but looks like it’s worth ten times that.

One of the bedrooms before, at the time Lily and David bought their house, with white walls and carpeted floor. All rooms now have wooden floors

One of the room now, with wooden floor and deep green walls, and a study area with a retro desk. The ceiling is covered with a white wallpaper with geometric patterns 

Lily daughter’s Beth’s room now. The white walls were painted dark blue and the carpeted floor was replaced by wood. The fireplace was filed with fairy lights

Lily’s daughter’s bedroom, with its statement wallpaper on the ceiling and deep blue walls, with vintage furnishings in light wood

Lily also has sofas for under £500 from Dunelm in mustard hues to compliment the greens and greys.

The house is finished off with an outdoor cabin the family built and furnished for under £2,000.

Her children painted it black and Lily then used a mural on the inside.

She says that her look can be achieved for pennies.

‘A lot of it we do ourselves, or I upcycle, I’m not the sort of person who wants to spend a lot of money on my house. You have to be sensible,’ Lily said.

The house’s second bathroom, with deep green walls pair with floor wallpaper of matching tones, a wooden cupboard and a white shower curtain

And on her out-there colour choices, she advised interior design fans not to shy away from dark colours, even in small, enclosed spaces.

She also painted several murals herself, including one on her mum’s bedroom wall.

She said: ‘Try a paint colour on a small area of one wall and go on from there. I’m an artist so I know a bit about colour theory but I go for harmonious colours, not too clashy.

‘Pick colours that are closer to each other on the colour wheel. I like my colours to harmonise and my clashes to be black and white.

‘The house is really dark, so the dark colours make it really interesting and less dull. It was all very light and magnolia and it was just dull all year round. Now it’s a space we really love.’

Lily youngest daughter Calla’s bedroom was decorated with floral wallpaper on the dog matching the cushions and blue-green walls  

One of the rooms before, with a black fireplace and beige walls. It was clear to Lily she would have to bring some style to the house

Lily and David’s room, which was painted blue, with wooden floors. Lily admitted the house looked dark, but said she would find it dull if it were all beige and white 

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