We don't do anything by halves here. One of the main things my husband and I have in common is that we have big ideas, and aren't daunted by a task just because it seems a little grand. We're both natural problem solvers and perfectionists, with Kieron being an engineer and me being a designer. If we're going to make an effort and create something, we'll always do that thing to the best of our ability to make it special and truly ours.
Kieron has a knack for seeing the bigger picture, be it a garden space, living space, or workspace. He has a natural understanding of the way things work, the way things fit together, and the way that spaces and materials are used, or could be used. I'm more detail orientated, and as you might imagine, my talents lie in pulling together colours, textures, and materials to make a space look gorgeous and serve the purpose it's meant for. Where possible, we both like to re-purpose things, create things ourselves, or find the most cost-effective way of doing something. We make a great team!!
This ambitious project started with our garden re-design, and the dismantling of the old asbestos garage that was located where the studio is now. Our house is a red-brick cottage built in the coal mining era, and the asbestos garage was obviously a later edition but still a child of it's time. The garden was steeply banked at the back and was impossible to mow or do anything with really. It had become an overgrown mess of weeds, so Kieron had the idea of creating two flat tiers with chunky reclaimed sleeper walls and a slope at one end so we could still get the mower onto the tiers. The area we live in in North Wales is hilly and it's almost like the hill side had been dug out to build the house. There are already steps up to the main lawn area, so adding more tiers worked well and made the garden more manageable and look more grand! See the slideshow below.
Because of the height we have with the tiered garden and the fact that the garden wraps entirely round the back and opposite side of the house, Kieron knew that we had the scope to build a slightly larger and taller garage than had previously been there and it wouldn't shade the garden at all from the sun. At the time he was planning this I hadn't yet started my graphic design business, but we knew that Kieron needed space to work on his van and DIY projects, and I needed a creative space with the many artistic endeavours I've loved and tried my hand at over the years.
We really were thinking long-term here and thinking that the two spare bedrooms we currently have inside the house would hopefully be children's rooms in the future as well as being handy for friends and family staying over. We knew that we couldn't see our selves moving from the area any time soon as we love it so much, so it made sense to be more ambitious with the build. We had the space and scope to do it, so building upwards was the perfect answer. I'm so glad Kieron had the foresight and saw the bigger and more long-term picture here, because the space in the loft above the garage became the most amazing studio for my business.
The garden work started in the summer of 2016 and during this time the foundations were also laid for the new garage building along with some of the lower walls so that soil could be filled in behind them. It wasn't until the following summer that the builder could start to get to work with the structure. Kieron had thought about doing the brickwork himself, we had some old Ruabon red bricks that match the house, but they're in a different measurement to the new block work that had already been put it, and with it needing to be a solid and well-made structure he thankfully decided to get a professional on the job.
We went with newer smooth face red bricks which are a similar in colour to Ruabon reds so the building looks in keeping with the house. After the brick work were the 'room in roof' trusses, I'm proud to say that I helped Kieron and his Dad to lift those bad boys on and get them secured in place, it wasn't an easy job with the size of them.
We used reclaimed slate and decorative ridge tiles on the roof again to tie it in with the house, and the huge second story window and waney edge cladding to the top was all Kieron's idea, and make the building look like more than just a garage. The house is a beautiful building with attention to detail and small decorative touches that you don't often see in new build houses, so we wanted the garage/studio to have that same impact and tie in with everything.
Kieron decided to make the most of the interior space, and the height of the garden at the back of the building and build outdoor steps with a small deck and rail at the top. He made these mostly out of pallet wood we had lying around apart from the structural posts and step risers. I love the way they turned out and they look great against the waney edge cladding. Notice all those handy spare bits of wood in their new sheltered home under the steps!
After all the exterior work, joinery, and electrics were installed it was time for me to finally put my ideas for the space into practice. By summer 2018 we were ready to put the finishing touches to the inside of the loft studio. I'd been Pinteresting and mood boarding for months (years...) and couldn't believe it was finally time to make the ideas into a reality. I had taken my business full time in February 2018 and was more clear on the space that I needed and the colours I wanted to use.
We knew the room would be light and airy because of all the windows and I decided to keep the walls mostly white with one pink feature wall at the end. I knew that I could add colour and texture with furniture, plants, and objects, and the room needed to feel serene and calming. It had also been plastered with a curve rather than a straight angle where the roof meets the walls, so whatever colour was going on the roof needed to go all the way down the side walls too. White is perfect because it's easy to touch up and makes the space feel even more light.
I needed a way to hang a macrame planter I'd made and a hanging pot I'd found at a garden centre, and this inexpensive coat stand from Dunelm Mill did the trick and is also handy for it's original purpose too!
We had a kitchen area fitted because it's a separate building to the house, and drinks are obviously a must throughout the day, as well as being handy for washing out paint brushes and washing hands. The garage workshop downstairs has a 'messy' sink too for washing out household paint brushes and cleaning mucky stuff, so it didn't cost all that much to get the water extended to upstairs too.
We found a second-hand kitchen on Facebook Marketplace with a built in under-counter fridge because I couldn't afford to put new custom units in. I was resigned to the fact that the laminate cabinets would have to just look as they looked, but then Kieron had the idea of stripping the laminate off by melting the glue with a heat gun so they would be back to bare mdf. I could then prime and paint them in a soft grey and add shiny gold handles. I'm amazed at how well this all worked with the addition of a solid birch worktop from Ikea it looks like a completely new kitchen!
I knew right from the beginning I wanted a yellow sofa, yellow is such a sun shiney colour, and it always makes me happy, so yellow accents were a must. The sofa I found was actually a lot cheaper than what I thought I'd have to pay, and it also folds down to become a queen size bed which makes the room multi-purpose. The sofa-bed was from made.com and the material is the most gorgeous mustard yellow colour and is so soft.
The slightly more mid-century furniture really suited the vibe I wanted to go for. With our house being very traditionally furnished to suit a cottage feel, I thought it would be fun to go for a more modern but retro feel in this room. It's allowed me to really go to town and create a unique space which wouldn't work if it was another room in the house. The fact that it's a completely separate, new building means it has a feel all of it's own.
The coffee table pictured was made using an off-cut from the kitchen worktop, I bought brass hairpin legs from Ebay and they very easily screwed onto the underside of the wood. I sanded the edges and finished the wood with a coat of danish oil which protects and seals it with a soft natural slight-sheen.
My sister had bought me the marble finish suitcase record player for Christmas, so a dedicated record cabinet was a must. I found one that was a nice size and height on Facebook Marketplace (seriously, if you've not been on it yet you can find some brilliant bargains!), it came painted (coincidentally) in the same soft grey I'd painted the kitchen units, but I decided I wanted a bit more colour in the room.
We made a trip to B&Q and I picked a colour swatch on a whim and had it mixed there and then, not entirely sure how it would look in the room. It's the only peachy coral item but it really adds a lovely tone, I'm glad I went for a bright rather than another muted or grey tone. I made my own sea shell stencil and cut out every shell by hand so I could spray paint the pattern in gold. It was time-consuming but I love the way the gold catches the light and adds a unique touch to the cabinet.
My desk is made of two white Ikea Alex drawer units with the same solid birch worktop that's used in the kitchen area, the kitchen worktops were a little longer than the desk worktops and came in solid wood. This was a perfect and cost-effective solution for creating a large desk, and although I know the drawer units won't last forever, the wood worktop can be sanded and re-finished and is likely to last a lifetime.
As you can see through the window there is lovely greenery right across the road which is so nice and calming to look at while I'm working. I initially found a beautiful deep green office chair with a gold base at made.com but it wasn't in my budget and wasn't adjustable. I found this lovely grey chair at Argos, it's nice and wide and comfortable and feels really sturdy. The silver base bugged me at the beginning and I was going to spray paint it gold, but I don't notice it any more.
You can't buy curtains for apex windows, they need to be custom made. This again wasn't something I could afford, so I found sheer tie top curtain panels at Dunelm Mill and hung two on a curtain pole for the middle section, and altered two panels to fit the angle of the window at the sides. It involved unpicking all the ties, cutting the material at the correct angle, refinishing the edges and sewing all the ties back on. I've never done such an ambitious sewing project, but was so pleased when they fitted so well! I used an elastic curtain wire attached to eyelets in the wall at the top and bottom of the angled section, then the curtains could be tied tightly onto the elastic wire so they don't slip down. I also tied the very top tie onto the end of the curtain pole to anchor it. It's meant there are 4 separate curtain panels on the window, but you can't tell when they're tied back, and I love the cute little bows all the way along the sides.
The pale pink chair pictured is from also Dunelm Mill, the legs were dark wood so naturally I spray painted them gold! If you can see in the picture below there are handy hatches in the lower walls for extra storage space in the eaves. We had big dreams of custom built hidden or pull-out drawers and shelves, but in reality these little hatches do the trick perfectly.
Kieron made a bookshelf for me out of pallet and spare wood we already had, it works in the space because I white washed the wood to give it a grey tone, and it's probably my favourite thing in the room because it's entirely hand-made.
There were times along the way during this build where we wondered what the hell we were doing and why we had been so ambitious. There were times when money was tight and it didn't look like we'd be able to get much further. There were set-backs, struggles, compromises, and some very luminous day-glow yellow paint that went straight in the bin. Now it's finished though, we realise just how worthwhile all the time and effort was.
We're fully aware that we are fortunate to have the space to do this, and the means to save enough money (and credit cards when the going gets tough), but we really do make a great team and I'm so proud of what we achieved together.
Photography by Sophie Carefull Photography
Slideshow by us :)