This weekend marked a whole year since we signed on the dotted line, picked up our keys and officially became home owners. It’s something I’ve dreamed off for a long time, but due to ever increasing house prices and being born in one of the most expensive areas of the country it wasn’t something I was confident would ever happen. But I squirreled away enough for a decent deposit over about five years, spent time building up my credit rating and investigated Help To Buy schemes and ISAs – and finally, Josh and I were together able to pull our resources and secure a home of our very own in June 2019.
I’m sure owning a home is a top priority for the majority of people, but for us the possibility held even more significance. Since I went to university fifteen years ago (and my family moved 2.5hrs away from where I grew up) I’ve lived in so many different houses, flats and house shares that I honestly can’t remember them all; Josh also spent his childhood moving around a fair bit and attending a boarding school, thanks to an Army dad, so together we were keen to create some stability and build something we’d want to live in for a very long time yet.
When the opportunity came up to buy a new build on a beautiful countryside estate around thirty minutes drive from where we’d been living, we jumped at the chance. The whole process was super quick (six weeks from seeing it to having the keys – read the whole story here) which didn’t leave us much time to ponder or plan, but it also forced us to make decisions without a lot of dithering. If we didn’t, we’d be living in a magnolia box with no furniture for the foreseeable future!
The last twelve months have flown by in a similar fashion, but looking back at those 365 days it took us to build a home I wanted to share some key thoughts and experiences – as much as for my own reflection as for your enjoyment… So here’s everything I learned from buying a new build house.
Choosing colours for an entire house at once is probably not a good idea.
We were fortunate enough to have a whole week between picking up the keys and moving our stuff in, which meant we had the time (and space) to paint as much as possible while being free of clutter. A few weeks before we were due to complete I ordered a load of paint samples to test, picking out the ones we loved and so creating a colour palette for the whole house that felt complementary; after swatching on the walls when we finally had the keys, we jumped over to B&Q to get all the paint we needed in one hit. Although the vast majority of colours I still adore to this day, the speed and focus I had was probably at the detriment of a couple of rooms that should have ended up looking slightly different.
Case in point: I re-painted both bathrooms from blue to sage green because it just didn’t work when I stood back and looked at the rooms in their entirety; our main bedroom took a lot of thought to make work after we settled on quite a bold pink (great in small quantities, but a whole room is quite different!), while I wish I’d opted for a fresh crisp white in my office rather than the muted calming green I thought I wanted. Before living in and using a room properly it’s hard to know what colours will work and how the space feels once you’ve added the furniture, so I made a bit of a rooky error by trying to do too much too soon. What can I say? It’s my nature to power though at a million miles an hour!
No matter how much time you think you’ll need, double it.
In my defense, I’d never bought and decorated a house before. But how I thought we’d be done by Christmas I’ll never know. We made super speedy process over the summer and the downstairs was done pretty quickly, but upstairs took an age – mainly because Josh was making all the furniture and we were doing things only during free weekends. Even now we’re not 100% finished, with little tweaks still on my list and a spare room only 75% complete. Our parents told us you never truly ‘finish’ a house, and now I know exactly what they mean.
Colour and texture are friends of a blank canvas.
Although the current trend seems to be minimal, fresh, clean decor, in a new build house that can mean losing all personality and individuality. In its original state everything is white or cream, but it made it feel overwhelmingly cold rather than modern and on-trend. By adding in a lot of colour and texture we were able to instantly make a house feel like a home, while reflecting our own tastes and choices. I may have an illogical desire for an Instagram-friendly home, but in reality I like bold colour and all our uncoordinated niknaks – so chasing a social media dream isn’t always the best way.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to make a statement.
I looked over so many Instagram and Pinterest accounts for inspo, and honestly the prices of some of the furnishings I was lusting over made me weep. £120 for a cushion or £250 for a bathroom mirror (when I needed three) was just way out of my price range, so I started to look in more affordable stores for pieces I could style or paint to look more expensive. Half my house is from The Range or Dunelm, with a few statement pieces that I know we’ll have for a long time. Some of my favourite corners of the house involve things we’ve made ourselves, or ideas I’ve found but adapted in a more affordable way; although we may replace a few things over the years, the fun is in spending as little as you can without compromising on the end result – especially when you’re trying to makeover an entire house at once. I loved popping to Homesense or B&M and coming back with the perfect addition, and they’ll always be my first point of call when I have something specific in mind; don’t let the mega influencers dropping £40 on each tumbler tempt you to get out the credit card if you can’t afford it.
It’s ok to change your mind.
Whenever I think a room is ‘done’ I find myself wanting to change things, add things or swap things about. My living room has already had two different picture shelf arrangements, three different coffee table looks and four different ways of displaying things on the windowsill. Just as I thought our kitchen was looking lovely we decided to change the cupboard handles, add a shelf and spray paint a few things black to bring it all together (more on that soon!) But that’s the joy of interiors – styles change, tastes evolve and it’s fun to switch things up.
Prioritising will pay off in the long term.
The first summer we were in the house we focused on painting, building furniture and getting as much done as possible – knowing that as soon as the weather turned it would be so much harder to power through our to-do list. We actively chose to leave the gardens until this year, which come lockdown we were incredibly grateful for! Not only did it give us something to do and a project to focus on, but the months we had to think and research (unlike the painting error we made above!) meant we were able to create a space we really love – that’s also practical too. Rather than rushing into it, we did little bits every weekend so it didn’t feel so overwhelming; it also gave the ground time to settle, the plants time to flourish and us time to see what space was wasted in its original form. The only time I think I slowed down, and it definitely paid off.
Never be afraid to just give it a go.
We’re definitely a ‘crack on and see what happens’ couple, so we’ve tried our hand at so many new things and experimented little by little until we created something we were happy with. From replacing the standard light fittings with fancy mounted ones, creating picture walls and painting two shades in one room, digging up half our garden, creating a plug socket in the wall behind the TV so we didn’t have cables hanging down, painting wooden boxes to use as shelves (in a room I haven’t shared yet!) and so much more – the beauty is that it’s your space to do with what you want. What’s the worst that can happen?
It’s been the most amazing journey, and I’ve learned so much during the process.
One year down, 24 to go on the mortgage!
If you’ve bought a house (or new build property) what did you learn during the process?
CHECK OUT SOME OF MY INTERIOR POSTS: