Our tower block transformation has set us back less than £500 over the course of a year (Picture: Mollie Quirk)Having lived in rented homes with my mum since I was three-years-old, magnolia is a colour I am well-accustomed to.
Magnolia walls and beige carpet are a staple of rentals – and eight out of the eight ones we lived in served as proof of this.
My mum and I would pin throws to the walls for non-permanent decoration and make things as homely as we could, but although our homes never lacked character, they certainly lacked colour.
Then when I was 17, after two years of living in our seaside apartment in East Sussex, everything changed. My mum and I faced homelessness when our landlord served us a Section 21 notice of eviction – the company owned multiple properties and were selling the most valuable, including our home.
This left us with nowhere to go and had detrimental effects on mine and my mum’s mental health. We were scared and worried about our situation, and I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and clinical depression, which both still linger to this day.
Before the transformation: ‘We were so excited that a beautiful flat overlooking the London skyline was now our blank canvas’ (Picture: Mollie Quirk)At the time, the rental scene was very dry. Nothing suitable came on the market and my mum and I feared we would have to go into temporary accommodation.
After months of hell, including court cases, council meetings and tears, we were one week away from moving into a hostel, before the council phoned us say we had successfully bid on a property – a home that would be ours indefinitely, with no fear of eviction and a free rein to decorate.
But a few weeks after had we moved in and transformed it to our liking, we started having disagreements with our neighbours. My mum and I couldn’t handle the constant abuse we were receiving on an almost daily basis, so we signed up to a site called Homeswapper that allows council tenants to exchange homes.
My mum and I have always had a passion for interior design and home décor (Picture: Mollie Quirk)It took four years until we were able to find the right place and swap our flat for the one we’re in now. Although we were initially wary of it being in a tower block due to the bad rep they get, its large size – it has two spacious bedrooms and a big balcony – and location in London, where I could pursue my career in journalism, meant it had a lot going for it.
Moving into our flat last year coincided with lockdown, but at least we had a brilliant new project to work on. My mum and I have always had a passion for interior design and home décor, and were so excited that a beautiful flat overlooking the London skyline was now our blank canvas.
Luckily we have exactly the same taste, even down to our matching pyjamas and sandals. We like a bit of everything, but especially boho, bright, quirky and vintage styles – all rolled into one!
We’ve used stencils to brighten up the walls, cupboards and bath panel (Picture: Mollie Quirk)We are also very thrifty and all in all, our tower block transformation has set us back less than £500 over the course of a year. As a journalist and blogger, I was very lucky to receive some PR samples, such as the living room rug, a few art prints and accessories. But apart from that, almost everything is second-hand from charity shops and up-cycled – even our sofa, which we have dyed fuchsia pink.
I’ve painted bright funky flowers on the second-hand pine table, and bees, sunflowers and hydrangeas on the dining chairs; our coffee table has been lacquered gold; and we have chalkboard walls in the living room and kitchen, brightly illustrated with quotes and flowers.
We’ve also used stencils to brighten up the walls, cupboards and bath panel; the windows above the doors have been painted with acrylic to mimic stained glass; and we’ve used tile stickers in the bathroom and kitchen to save us retiling or painting them.
We created a feature wall in our living room by cutting 200 diamond shapes out of wallpaper samples and scraps from charity shops (Picture: Mollie Quirk)Inspired by the renovation docu-series Escape to the Chateau, we created a feature wall in our living room by cutting 200 diamond shapes out of wallpaper samples and scraps from charity shops, then pasted them onto the wall. It took around two days to complete and cost just £4 for the paste, plus the very little we spent on the charity shop samples.
It was so very satisfying to see our vision become a reality and we ended up repeating this technique in the hallway and our bedrooms.
Because we weren’t able to afford a carpet straightaway and the pandemic made it difficult to book fitters, we decided to create a faux floorboard using the matte emulsion we had leftover from the living room and bits of furniture. We painted over the boring black vinyl floor tiles, deciding on a pink and yellow marble effect for the living room, and a cream and bronze floorboard look for the bedrooms and hallway.
We decided to create a faux floorboard using the matte emulsion we had leftover from the living room and bits of furniture (Picture: Mollie Quirk)Initially I had no idea what I was doing, but to our surprise it worked beautifully. I painted the floor with emulsion before using a brown acrylic paint pen and a yardstick to draw lines that mimicked wooden planks. Then I used a dry brush and roughly painted over this with a £4 bronze metallic colour from Wilko. Finally, I covered everything in three tins of quick dry tough satin varnish at a cost of £10 each.
The floors are durable, tough and can withstand so much, including moving furniture and general wear and tear. Not only that, but they look incredible – funky, unique and much nicer than a beige carpet that might have set us back £1,000.
Our home is our happy place and has been such a saviour for us during the pandemic. Having something to focus on – like sewing doily curtains or designing illustrations – helps both of us with our mental health and even my mum with her arthritis.
I repeated our flooring technique outside and painted our patio furniture in bright colours (Picture: Mollie Quirk)Just the other day I feared that there was little left to do in our flat, but as I looked out onto our grey and dreary balcony, I decided it needed a boost for spring. So I repeated our flooring technique outside and painted our patio furniture in bright colours.
Lots of people on social media love what we’ve done with our home. Whenever I post photos on Instagram or Twitter, they receive so much attention. I’m really glad my happy place can bring joy to others!
I’m hoping that when we’ve completely finished our flat, it will coincide with life getting back to normal post-lockdown so I can finish my masters and get a full-time journalism job. But I doubt I’ll ever be completely finished with decorating and re-vamping – there’s always a project to be found!
People have many assumptions about tower blocks – the main one being that they’re run down and rough. Before moving in I was wary, but after living here for over a year, I can confirm that all of my assumptions were just that.
Tower blocks can be community-led, incredibly spacious and not-all-bad.
I love my home and I wouldn’t change anything – except the décor – for the world!
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