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Renovation Diary: How do we Create a Restful Bedroom?

And the walls come tumbling down! (Well, sort of…). But finally work begins at our intrepid real-time renovators’ home

Houzz UK Contributor. Model and journalist turned pastry chef. On a baking hiatus… More

OK, so no walls are really tumbling anywhere – rather, they’re being painstakingly removed to preserve bricks. But still, the project is finally moving. Given the five-month planning nightmare, I should write a note to my future self to never do this again, but I said that last time, then took on an even bigger project. Some people can never be told. The trouble is, when you want to create something really special, I’m not sure there’s any other way.

It’s close to decision-making time when it comes to fixtures and fittings, but, ever the procrastinator, I’m putting it off until absolutely necessary, slightly fearful that once we start spending, it may never stop. For now, though, there’s further planning to be done, with the main bedroom next up on the ideas treatment list…

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I like to start these planning pieces with some images that are all about the feels, and there’s a lot of feels to be had here. I definitely feel that I’m turning into my mother when it comes to florals. I’m not sure when I switched to the flowery side, but I can’t seem to get enough of them these days.

I’m not sure I could sleep every night in this room, but with respect to its boldness, it’s ticking my boxes. I think perhaps some different patterns would break it up nicely – for me – but I love the paper with the old wood floor and dark painted skirting boards. Lots of inspiration here.

Browse wallpapers in the Houzz Shop

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This look is closer to what we have in mind for our bedroom. I like the complementary grey on the woodwork tying in neatly with the tones in the wallpaper, although in a bid to not paint the whole house green, I’ve compromised on a dark blue with a moody floral wallpaper to give a feminine edge.

Again, I can’t resist the warm tones of the exposed wood floor – such a shame to cover a beautiful feature like this and, thankfully, something we’ve been lucky with in this house compared to our previous home.

Before Photo

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Some more major feels to be had here on day one of the project. With the builders finally on site, even the sun makes an appearance to mark the occasion.

The garage was the first thing to come down in preparation for the footings to be dug for the two-storey side extension. There was a lot of pointing and um-ing and ah-ing with the structural engineer, while I, half listening, snapped more photos for posterity and just tried to soak up the moment we’d been waiting for for months.

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Having frustratingly been denied the larger side extension, we’ve had to push it right back, resulting in the sacrifice of a larger dressing room I’d had my sights on. (You can get an idea of the size we’d planned for when I tell you it would have originally been accessed from the right-hand-side alcove of bedroom 1, the master.) Now, instead, it will be stealing space from bedroom 3 and the en suite. But it’ll still be great.

After much deliberation, we decided not to have an en suite off our bedroom, having donated the whole of the upstairs back extension to create a large, bright, main bathroom. Instead, we’ve had our hearts set on a dressing room, because our last Victorian house in Hackney with the same-size bedroom didn’t have enough wardrobe space for both of us. Hopefully this time we’ll manage to get everything in without having to spill into other rooms.

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And so to my favourite element of our new bedroom. Victorian-style fitted wardrobes will be built into the alcoves either side of the fireplace and, while the right-hand side will function as a normal wardrobe, the left-hand one will be a ‘secret’ door through to the dressing room.

These painted grey cupboards are exactly what I’m thinking of. As we’re having to bring the ceiling down to accommodate the height needed in the loft, cornicing will have to be added, so this can be brought around the front of the wardrobes instead of disappearing behind them. It’s an idea I’ve seen elsewhere and it looked great.

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Years ago, I managed an Oxfam Boutique shop in Westbourne Grove in London and this dressing room takes me right back there – I love it! It’s possibly because I’d like the contents (including the cat), but really because I like how it’s a fun, bright space and would be a great flash of colour in contrast to the planned darker, moodier bedroom.

Practically speaking, we’ll be cramming in as much hanging and drawer space as possible, with a little dressing table under the window, too – it’s a big sash window, so it’ll make for a bright little room. I’ve always done my make-up in a window, trusting daylight over the artificial light of bathroom mirrors – no one wants to get halfway through the day before realising their face is a different colour to their body.

Before Photo

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And here’s what we started with… This is the image that faced us the day we first viewed the main bedroom of our – eventual – new home.

I can’t argue that we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, but what can I say… Clearly I like a challenge, plus there’s something extremely satisfying about taking a dilapidated old house, showing it some love (and all your money) to not only restore it but ensure its survival for another 150 years.

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Fast-forward to the present day and after a number of weekends spent stripping back the numerous layers of wallpaper and carpet, this is the bedroom now, in its barely there state.

Thankfully, the floorboards are in good condition, though the windows sadly lack the original architrave – it was replaced when the sashes were substituted with uPVC – and all that’s left of the fireplace is a patched-in piece of chipboard.

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I now realise we were pretty lucky with original features in our last bedroom, pictured here.

While the ceiling rose was missing, the original fireplace, cornicing and right-hand-side alcove cupboard remained. We then built the wardrobe in to match and tiled the fireplace. We weren’t so lucky with the floorboards here and, in the end, decided to carpet, as there were lots of missing original boards.

Nose around the whole of Clare’s old house

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So given their condition, we’ll be keeping the bedroom’s beautiful old boards exposed and, instead, the floor will get the authentic rug treatment.

I love the colours in the rug in this room. This traditional, Middle Eastern style is my favourite kind and the mismatch of the pattern with the wallpaper is perfection. If I can find a moody, floral wallpaper with a few birds dotted here and there, too, I’ll be a very happy camper.

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This beautiful space has the kind of cornicing and ceiling rose I dream about. I don’t know what possesses people to remove such beautiful features from their homes, but sadly our whole house has had a thorough going over.

Thankfully, there are lots of options these days for restoring original features and, along with the fireplace, cornicing and rose, which we’ll reinstate, we’re set on cast-iron radiators under each window, too. They’re making a pretty huge dent in the budget, but the whole heating system needs upgrading, plus not only are they practical in their ability to hold heat, they’re also a beautiful feature in their own right.

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I’d been deliberating for ages about how to work the windows, given the ceiling needs to be lowered but I don’t want the room to feel tunnel-like and there still needs to be space to fit the architrave and cornicing above.

Then I stumbled across this image from a hotel in Paris, neatly providing a solution. Setting aside the brilliantly bold wallpaper, the cornicing has been brought forward, enabling the curtain rail to be hidden behind it and leaving enough room for the architrave to be added around each window.

I love the idea of these rich, heavy velvet curtains instead of the plantation shutters we had in our last home, too. To solve the issue of getting light in but still retaining privacy, I discovered some brilliant double rails, so sheer voile curtains can be hung on the back one and can also be drawn for more light during the day. This will be matched in the dressing room, too, so the front windows upstairs will all be dressed the same, while downstairs will have matching shutters in the front living room and snug windows.

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Another plus about a major renovation such as this is that you can decide where you want every socket and light to be, avoiding the need to run annoying extension leads everywhere.

So rather than buying a couple of bedside table lamps, I’m sold on the idea of having wall lights instead, as pictured in this lovely bedroom. They not only save space, we can also add dimmer switches for whatever different light we individually require.

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Last but certainly not least on the bedroom to-do list is the all-important bed. On a recent trip to Australia, we stayed in a great hotel in Melbourne with the most ridiculously comfortable bed. After several days of hideous jet-jag, it was the first night we both slept through and we vowed then to upgrade our bed to something on a par.

So a super-king it will be with a divan base and a mattress that doesn’t move when we do. This incredible mustard bed more than fits the bill on style, the colour is amazing and it clearly makes a statement. I’m just not sure I could trust us to have breakfast in bed ever again…

Before Photo

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Read more of Clare’s Renovation Diary:
A Victorian Semi Full of Potential
How do we Create a Style for the Kitchen?
How do we Create an Entrance With Impact?
How do we Create a Snug (We’ll Actually Use)?
How do we Create a Characterful Bathroom?

Check out the couple’s progress on Clare’s Instagram feed @renovation_wreck and look out for her next diary instalment on Houzz.

Tell us…
How would you tackle the bare bones of a bedroom like Clare’s? And do you have any tips for her renovation? Share your thoughts and photos in the Comments section.
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