Khanyie Shamakumba lives in Northumberland with her partner Dan and their pet dog Molly. As first-time buyers, the couple have successfully renovated their home – a former council house – into a beautiful abode. Business and marketing manager Khanyie, 26, has documented her home transformation on her Instagram account, @lifeatwestlands.
'I live with my partner Dan, a builder, in an ex-council house in a cul-de-sac in Northumberland. We are first-time buyers and we bought this house because now it’s really quite difficult to get properties that are still structurally quite sound and spacious with high ceilings and big gardens. Initially, we looked to buy a new build but compared to older properties, it felt a bit claustrophobic. For a young person it's really hard to get on the property ladder, and while we’re not buying our forever home right now, we still wanted something where we had space and could renovate it exactly how we wanted.
The house was terrible but the price point was amazing and we knew that we could do quite a lot of the renovating ourselves. We fell in love with the layout, the space and the garden, which was huge, even compared to our neighbours.
An elderly couple had lived here for 50 years and it was their home from when they were 20 years old and married. They bought up their kids in here, and now, their kids actually live across the road from us.
It’s a very family-friendly place and not many houses come up for sale in this cul-de-sac, but they were elderly and downsizing, and their children already had their own house. We bought the property in February last year and lived with my mum for six months while renovating. By October 2019 we had moved in.
The interior style of our home is quite transitional. I like really authentic items, for example, fittings like the lights and floors, and I love the Victorian style, even though this isn’t a Victorian house. But I also love the more modern, minimalistic style. I would say there's a little bit of authenticity in each room. For example, I’ve got brass fittings all over the house but with more contemporary style décor.
I’m not one for colour either, so I was quite brave with this house because I painted my office wall green – and I almost regretted it but I think the colour does suit the space. Unlike quite a lot of people who might decorate the same across the whole house, I’ve tried to keep some elements old fashioned. I haven’t gone completely bold but I also haven’t gone completely eclectic either.
I pretty much had all the ideas for my home and was mood boarding before we even owned the property. My ideas just got bigger but it’s all been within budget; it’s just about shopping around. People are often surprised that most items in our home are from regular high street and online shops or upcycled furniture from local antiques and charity shops. Finding items with a cheaper price tag can look just as nice and you can achieve your desired style without breaking the bank.
Our renovation budget was £16,000. That might sound like a lot but it really isn’t when doing a full renovation from floor to ceiling, taking into account plumbing, electrics, building materials, furnishings and, of course, unexpected surprises along the way. All together with furniture and décor, we ended up spending close to £20,000 and I’m so proud of that achievement.
We cut a lot of the labour costs with Dan doing 95 per cent of the work. We had a friend doing the electrical rewiring at mates rates and Dan’s brother re-plumbed the whole house for free.
I think we’ve managed to make quite a nice home for ourselves without the huge price tag. In fact, we recently got the house revalued and we're really happy to have had some good news – the investment and hard work has all been worth it.
My favourite room in the house changes dependent on my mood but I can honestly say that I love every room equally. The bathroom and the kitchen is probably where I spend most of my time. I love cooking so the kitchen is my personal favourite as that's where I can entertain.
I was really brave with the bathroom because once upon a time I would have never dreamt of having a feature floor anywhere, but I just fell in love with the tiles. There's also a dark wall in the bathroom – the only dark wall in the house – and there’s a lot of plants in there too.
And in our master bedroom, I love how the natural light flows through the white voiles reflecting on the white bedding. I’ve kept this room calm and neutral with a feature panelled wall as it's where I want to relax and unwind after a busy day.
The spare bedroom is pink and it's my mum's favourite colour. I’m really close to my mum and we love our sleepovers. Even though I hate pink, I found a pink that I absolutely love and I’ve managed to keep the room quite minimal.
I'm not a fan of complete maximalist spaces where there’s colour absolutely everywhere. You know a room where you can’t rest and you don’t know where to put your eyes? I appreciate colour and I love the colour block trend but colour everywhere like a painted canvas wouldn't be my personal choice.
And I absolutely hate wallpaper – there’s only one room that’s wallpapered in my house and that’s because it had to be wallpapered. I actually used to love wallpaper until we had to scrape off three layers from every single wall and ceiling. Yes, our ceilings were wallpapered too believe it or not, and it scarred me for life. After that I said there was no chance of wallpapering in this house ever again.
We weren’t going to do the garden this summer. We were supposed to be getting married in June, so quite a lot of our focus was on the wedding and honeymoon, and then obviously lockdown happened. We found ourselves with a lot of time so we went through the whole process, starting with drawings of the garden layout.
It was quite hard to begin with because we’re not landscapers, so it was a case of looking at Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration, but again, we were on a budget. We were already planning to have at least one child in this house so we wanted a space that would be kid-friendly, and we have a lot of family ourselves, plus we wanted somewhere that could be a little haven for us.
We sourced 90 per cent of the materials for our garden from local suppliers and we made quite a lot ourselves. The fence panels were extortionate from the usual DIY shops, so once we saw what we wanted, Dan just built it. The price for turfing the surface area was huge so we invested in some grass seed, we had extra material that we used that to create plant beds, and the fence was actually used roofing battens from a timber merchant. So it was a lot of upcycling and utilising the local shops. Compared to the time and money it should have cost us, it was a fraction of the price.
I go to Ikea for bigger furnishings and I love it because you can hack their products very easily. Quite a lot of my light fittings and mirrors are from La Redoute, so they're really good for feature pieces in a room. Another one of my other favourite stores is H&M Home – so many of my accessories, jute rugs and soft furnishings are from there.
I would say my favourite bedding store, Linen Bundle, has changed my life, and that’s not an exaggeration. I’m very particular with how my bedding feels around me, and I don’t know what’s different about their bedding but it’s just amazing. Once I bought my bedding from there, I just chucked out everything else I had. I’ve bought people gifts from there too because they come to stay over and love it. I can’t believe I’m buying everyone bedding, but that’s what they want!
When it comes to taking a photo for Instagram, even if it’s just one angle of a room, there are at least 20 photos that go through the process of elimination. You try to get the perfect image to get the initial engagement I guess, and I put a lot of thought into the types of photos that I post. I sometimes archive a few, just to get a certain aesthetic to my feed, and then I’ll pop them back on later, but it’s your home, you post what you love.
During lockdown I've found Instagram as a little getaway. Dan sometimes laughs at me when I’m busy taking photos of my home but then someone on Instagram appreciates it. Being able to take photos of my home and share them with people that understand styling is really nice – I like having that community of like-minded people.
With the Black Lives Matter movement and the aim to highlight more diverse interiors accounts, I’m finding people on Instagram that I would have never even found before. It’s really inspiring, especially when it’s quite a difficult time right now.
The first photo I posted of myself was with Dan. I suppose when it comes to being a Black woman and not seeing a lot of yourself in the interiors community, there wasn’t really much that I could personally relate to, so I tried to keep a lot of my posts more interiors-based rather than becoming a bit more personal. The more the Black Lives Matter movement progressed, I was finding all these gorgeous homes by lovely Black women and men and they were posting pictures of their faces, and I was like 'oh, you are here!' It’s not something I even thought about consciously until it was pointed out that there was a reason why I was holding back.
There's a photo of myself that has just sat in drafts for ages. I actually posted it not long ago and I was like, 'why did I even feel like that?' You’re not as a represented on a platform that you want to be part of and you do wonder what the reaction and acceptance will be. It depends on the kind of community you build for yourself but I definitely think the interiors community is one of the best communities I’ve seen and they are so supportive in many ways.'
Follow Khanyie on Instagram @lifeatwestlands
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