Our small family home: A full house tour

small family home full house tour before and after

The time has finally come to say goodbye to our first home, our beautiful little Victorian mid-terrace house with the yellow door. We have had so many wonderful memories here, including bringing our youngest daughter home at just 6 hours old, hosting parties, working together on DIY projects, watching both our children learn to walk and talk, and, of course, I am very grateful to have been able to call it ours. However, it is almost two years to the day that we decided to move on so, honestly? My heart has not been here for a while. It has been with the other three houses we’ve tried to buy along the way, it has been dreaming of driveways and downstairs toilets and space for dishwashers. We were completely content with our situation, but as soon as our head was turned by something different, I’m ashamed to say our patience for the little niggles mentioned above started to wear thin. Family life grew and two active children (potentially more one day?) require more than a couple with a baby who doesn’t move.

And so, to sign off our adventure in this home on the blog, I have curated a mammoth house tour for you full of all the juiciest before and after shots! We have learnt so much from the renovation – we made a lot of mistakes and compromised more than we would have liked to due to budget (we spent approx. £6500 in total for the whole house) but overall we have both really enjoyed the process. I hope you like it!

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#ourkidslivehere: A new family and interiors Instagram hashtag challenge

Interior and Family Hashtag Challenge

Do you love stylish interiors but also have kids? Do you know they can actually be compatible together?!

Sometimes it’s just a case of seeing how others do it, to inspire you to do the same. What hacks do they use? How do they make the shared room for the kids work both practically and aesthetically? Where the heck do they put all the ugly toys?!

That’s why Coral Atkinson (@coral.atkinson, founder and creator behind the beautiful Velveteen Babies) and I (@theottohouse), have decided to start a new hashtag challenge which we hope will encourage people to share, and be inspired by, stylish and creatively decorated homes which have our family lives at the centre. Our homes may not always look straight out of a magazine but they do have life to the fullest enjoying every inch of them. You will be able to find all this inspiration under the hashtag #ourkidslivehere and you can add your own pictures to the feed too by popping the hashtag in the caption underneath your picture. We would love you to feel free to include your kids in these pictures if you like, but without them is totally fine too (we don’t want anyone ‘styling’ their kids into a shot just for Instagram!) We will share our favourites on our Instagram stories and, at the end of each month, our favourite picture will win an amazing prize from an incredible independent interiors based brand! So, be sure to follow both our accounts so you don’t miss out on the news including which fabulous prizes we have coming up!

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Top 20 Toddler and Cotbed Duvet Bedlinen Sets

Stylish toddler and cot bed duvet cover sets

Recently a friend asked me for recommendations on where to find reasonably priced but tasteful toddler or cot bed sized bedlinen. It’s a question I’ve been asked before, and from my own experience looking for bedlinen for our girls, I knew it would be a challenge to answer! I opened up the question on my Instagram stories and was absolutely overwhelmed with responses from you all agreeing that there really isn’t much out there under £30… many people even made their own duvet covers as they couldn’t find anything which tickled their fancy.

If you take away one thing from this blog post though, I would suggest you find your bedlinen set(s) at the same time as choosing your duvet. Toddler or cot bed sizes vary greatly from one store to another and I feel it is harder to find nice bedding that will fit in with your style or scheme, than it is to find a duvet insert of that size, so to increase the amount of choice you have, choose the bedlinen set first.

So I went on a very long trawl across the internet and found twenty sets that I really like. I’ve split them into a budget category and an investment category. I hope it helps!

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Behind the scenes of a national interiors magazine home photoshoot (the tips, the secrets, the things I found surprising)

photoshoot for interior magazine

Last year our home was photographed for a national interiors magazine. It was a something I’ve dreamt about since a teenager (indeed, I even photographed my bedroom and sent the photos to The Times Weekend Style Magazine with that goal in mind when I was 14,) and I count myself very blessed to have had the opportunity to tick it off my bucket list so to speak. It was one of the most fun, interesting, revealing and nerve-wracking days I’ve ever had.

Let me tell you about how it all works – the tips, the secrets, the things I found surprising.

Firstly it all came about through Instagram. Like so many people these days, a journalist saw pictures of our home on my account and messaged me to see if I was interested in being in a magazine. I googled the person like crazy I was so convinced it was a hoax, but once I had done enough research to convince myself – and the husband – that this person wasn’t going to come to the house and just pilfer our belongings (haha, as if there’s anything to pilfer) we organised a date and I set to work tidying, cleaning, rearranging and rearranging again. Oh, and again.

Suddenly all the imperfections your eye becomes oblivious to overtime, now stand out like a kid in uniform on a mufti day. ‘That skirting board isn’t quite flush to the floor, this walls a bit bare, isn’t it? That sofa is looking really tired and I’ve never really liked those cushions, why haven’t I updated them? Where are we going to put the plastic toys? Why have we got so many dvds again? Are you sure they haven’t made a mistake? They’re just gonna arrive, take one look, and walk straight back out the door.’ Over and over, repeat, repeat.

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How to buy furniture at auction like a pro

Following on from my blog post last week about what to expect when buying furniture at auctions, here are some very important tips you should know before embarking on your bargain shopping spree at your local auction house…

Measure up! I have a little notebook I take around with me everywhere with all the important dimensions of our home in.  You never know what you’re gonna find on that day, so although you might go in thinking, I need a desk that is ‘xyz’, you may get there and find a gorgeous mirror and end up wondering what the heck is the distance between ‘abc’ instead.  I asked, Catherine Hockley, director of our local auction house, Andrew Smith & Son, to share some tips on finding something that is the right fit for you: “Our salerooms are very large and so some items look small in them – always bring a tape measure, or borrow one from us, and make sure that the item you are bidding on will fit through your door or up your stairs.”

She also goes on to say, “Check the condition well before you buy, for wobbly legs or sticking drawers etc.  Most things can be easily mended, but make sure it is within your capabilities or you will end up paying for restoration.”

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11 steps to buying furniture at a real-life auction

How to buy furniture at auction like a pro

After my popular post last week about how we’ve furnished our home on a budget, I’ve had so many questions about all the auction bargains we’ve collected over the years that I thought it necessary to write up a little guide so that you can start buying amazingly priced, but beautiful, good-quality furniture for your homes too.  In a poll created on my Instagram stories, 87% of you shared you have never bought anything at auction which shows it is a massively underused tool amongst our generation.  Despite the gracious words of my husband… “as long as they don’t all start coming to our one and bidding against us for the good stuff”, I’ve decided to utilise that old cliché of ‘sharing is caring’… so here are the basic steps for how it works logistically which I hope will give you the confidence to explore this option further…

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How to furnish your home on a low or non-existent budget

How to furnish your home on a low budget - girls kids bedroom

Does anyone else love those kinda interior articles where they pick an expensive ‘investment piece’ and then source a budget option that is often very similar?  I love it when magazines and bloggers try to make their content accessible to people like us who have a realistic budget and can’t blow the families’ winter shoes and coat budget on a new lamp.

Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated though, because even the ‘budget option’ makes my debit card quiver with anxiety, which, all things considered, is a bit unfair on the author really.  Everything is relative and they can’t please everyone.  I’m sure spending £179 on a coffee table IS a budget option for someone, and, in a similar vein, when I suggest spending £40 on a coffee table as a bargain, others may disagree with me too.

With that in mind though, I’d love to let you know about some of our own resources for spending less money as well as sharing a few of our mistakes so you can learn from them…

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Our New Front Door: Before and After

I can honestly say it’s the best £1000 we’ve ever spent.  We’ve never had a huge budget for doing up this house, but to spend 1/6 of that on getting rid of the old UPVC door and transforming our homes curb appeal was definitely the best decision we ever made.  I absolutely hated our old door, and I hate to admit I’m this shallow, but it genuinely made me feel embarrassed about the house.  We’d worked so hard on transforming the interiors, but 95% of people only ever saw that horrible plastic white thing more akin to a static caravan home than a Victorian cottage in the beautiful South Downs National Park.  I remember our first Christmas in the village, taking Darcey for a little walk in the pram to get some fresh air and coming home to Matt exclaiming ‘I swear we have the only UPVC door in the WHOLE village, everyone has beautiful Christmas wreaths on their beautiful Farrow and Ball doors and ours is just BLEURGH!!!’  (You may come to realise I’m never one to understate my feelings…)

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Our Girls’ Shared Bedroom Makeover

It was definitely at the point where we had to strip the wall in the girls room right back to the original wood when I thought we were never going to achieve our three week deadline.  It was also the moment where I sent an urgent plea out to good friends requesting help with the decorating.  Quick!!! Darcey has to sleep in this room in 8 days!!!  PLEASE help.  Emotive? Guilty.  Using a baby to get you free labour? Guilty.  Desperate?  Hell to the YES.

Due to previous damage and decay we had to strip this wall right back and our plasterers boarded it up for us and re-plastered.  It was an unexpected and unwelcome job but it had to be done and at least it gave us a bag full of wood perfect for kinder on the fire?! (Essential to clasp onto any positives you can whilst going through a renovation I think!)

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The best way to get smarter storage in your small house

Before we bought ‘The Otto House’ we rented a large, detached three-bedroom house with an enormous studio in the garden.  Like many here in the South of England we had to downsize to get on the property ladder so storage has always been a bit of an ongoing challenge.  I am a curtain-maker by trade and not only used the old garden studio for making curtains but also for hoarding HEAPS of fabric, wallpaper, paint, magazines, books and anything else remotely crafty.  It was like a creative paradise to me and something which I am sure I will never have again, but I am so very grateful for the two glorious years I spent stitching away in there whilst the sun streamed through the double doors.  (And the winters spent in a coat, hat and gloves bent shivering over my sewing machine, but, you know, that sounded less poetic!)

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