Mum transforms drab terrace into amazing home with budget vintage finds

Mum transforms drab terrace into amazing home with budget vintage finds

01/10/2021

When Lily Sawyer and husband David first saw their house in Stratford, East London, they were wowed by the original features – but felt the place was a little drab.

After buying the three-bed for £445,000, they got to work turning it into a colourful wonderland.

Now it’s an Instagram-worthy sensation with dark shades – including black – and brightly-coloured floral wallpapers to really make the place pop.

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

In 2017, she started the @layered.home Instagram account, gaining more than 107,000 followers who love her unusual 1895-built home and how she uses budget items to create the look.

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.



‘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.’

When they moved in, they felt the house had lots of potential and then 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.

‘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.



For the furntiure, she found pieces from markets and cheap items she upcycled by covering in wallpaper.

The kitchen is from Ikea and cost them a knock-down £5k, one of the cheapest kitchens on the market, while the cool black and white floor tiles are 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.

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.

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.

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.’

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