Beam Irwin's DIY pastel home renovation
Home and interiors

Home renovation: easy DIY ideas for updating a kitchen without ripping it all out

Interior stylist Beam Irwin has given her home a gelato-inspired makeover using creative methods to cut down on renovation costs and time. Keep reading to find out her brilliant DIY hacks. 

While it’s fascinating to watch a home undergo a complete renovation, there’s something exciting about discovering the nifty tricks that can transform a space without big structural changes, too.

Beam Irwin is a Manchester-based interior stylist who, after buying a property with her husband in 2019, has experimented with DIY to give their place a new look while keeping many of the existing fixtures in place. 

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Home renovation journey: “How I made my cottagecore renovation dreams come true”

Creative methods like covering kitchen worktops in stick-down vinyl or painting over floor tiles have meant that not only is Beam’s home a work of art, it’s also allowed the project to be as economical and sustainable as possible.

“One of the things I really liked about this house when we first saw it is that it felt like a blank canvas,” Beam explains to Stylist.co.uk. “I wanted for us to be able to put our personality into this house, but I also liked that there wasn’t any major construction work to do.”

Beam and her partner saw over 30 homes before settling on a three-bed semi-detached house built in the 1950s, which had enough space for friends and family to stay, as well as being near open, green space.

Two years after moving in, Beam’s home has its own Instagram account, @aplacetogether, to showcase design features such as ombre-painted walls, a botanical mural and seasonal decorations. Here, she tells us how she did it.

What inspired your interior design choices?

“Decorating this home was about finding the right balance between my own and my husband’s interior tastes. I love a feminine, pastel aesthetic and my previous apartment (I like to call it the bachelorette pad), felt very cottagecore, which isn’t really my partner’s thing. So, I tried to tone it down a notch by choosing furnishings that felt contemporary in style, while keeping my signature gelato colour palette for a sense of fun.

“At first we experimented with a mid-century modern style and invested in a Swoon Editions sideboard, which is now our TV stand. I really liked its solid shape and clean lines, which actually inspired the geometric design I painted onto the kitchen floor.

“Eventually, though, my feminine style came through as we continued to buy new pieces for our home. That’s right, in the end, I managed to sneak a bit of cottagecore in there!”

What DIY hack are you most proud of?

“I’m really proud that we were able to give our kitchen a complete makeover for just £400.

“Like much of the house, the kitchen had good bones but the aesthetic was a bit drab and gloomy. When we moved in it had a black tiled backsplash and black granite countertop, with burnt orange laminated countertops. While our financial allocation for this area was modest, I was able to change the tiles, countertop, cupboards and even the tiled floor into a modern, bright and airy space. 

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“Instead of ripping out the tiles and cupboards, I researched a paint that could simply go over them. I liked Annie Sloan paint because of its matte finish, and I used this for the backsplash and laminate cupboards in a pretty periwinkle shade.

“I also painted over the floor tiles using Ronseal floor paint. I worked with the original colour, choosing a paler shade to draw a geometric design over the top. My top tip would be to recoat these surfaces with a sealant or protective wax to make the paint stronger for such a busy area. I didn’t think about how much the kitchen floor would be used and pretty soon my design started to peel off, so I had to restart.

Beam Irwin's finish kitchen was transformed by clever DIY hacks
Beam Irwin's finish kitchen was transformed by clever DIY hacks

“I also covered the granite countertop with a white adhesive vinyl, which has a subtle wood texture. I used a hair dryer on a warm setting to stretch the material into difficult corners, then I applied a silicone sealant around the sink and hob to keep moisture from getting in. This part of the kitchen update has lasted really well and is such an inexpensive way to get a completely new look. To finish it off, I added a hint of gold with new pulls and knobs from Ikea.”

Which part of your renovation was the biggest challenge?

Updating the stairs has been by far the most challenging part of all my DIY projects. The stairs were covered in a very old crusty carpet. After removing it, I discovered that underneath were endless layers of paint and varnish, so then I had to strip that all off with strong chemicals.

“After this stage, there were rusty nails that left big, ugly holes that I had to patch up. Painting the steps with floor paint and installing the runner was the easier part. It probably took me four weeks to complete this project just because I had to keep taking breaks from the back pain!”

Old staircase in need of renovation
Staircase renovation with new carpet, paint and split wall design
Updating the stars was the most challenging part of Beam's DIY project, Beam's colourfully transformed stairway and hallway

Can you pick a favourite room?

“The sitting room is my favourite room, partly because of the journey it has been on. When we moved in it felt like a neutral box; very bland and uninspiring. Now, though, the colours and décor that we’ve used has turned it into a joyful and relaxing space. It has become our little sanctuary, especially during lockdown when we were forced to stay indoors.

“I really think that the way it is decorated has helped keep us in good spirits throughout the pandemic, plus it’s spacious enough to do activities like DIY, yoga or simply watching TV together. The open-plan layout means there are plenty of spaces to hang out in, whether that’s sitting at the table or lounging on the sofa. Plus, the kitchen is close by so we’re always grabbing snacks.”

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Beam’s favourite interiors follows:

  • Anna Stark

    “Anna Stark is a designer based in Oxford and I love that her account is an explosion of colours and textures in the most tasteful way. She uses backgrounds of electric blue and the happiest yellow shades to capture her interesting collection of chinoiserie, which she fills to the brim with flowers.”

  • Grace of My Best Laid Plans

    “Grace uses subtle blushes and soft wood grains to give her home a warm and inviting feel. She’s a property developer and I had thought that her account couldn’t get any prettier, but she’s currently working on a new project and I’ve loved seeing more of her calming signature style.”

  • Kellie Waterhouse

    “Every room in Kellie’s home seems to be decorated with wallpaper covered in the most luscious of patterns, which offer her tons of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. She accents her home with the most interesting vintage pieces, which she styles with effortless elegance.”

Beam’s go-to homeware brands:

  • Homesense

    “Homesense is great because of its reasonable prices and I often find one-of-a-kinds. There is always something interesting to find when browsing their stores.”

  • Jysk

    “I love the Scandi brand Jysk. For me, its products are modern yet timeless without looking bland.”

  • Country Baskets

    “Country Baskets is where I get the faux flowers and foliage that is dotted around my house. I love getting flowers in bulk as I also get to use it for my styling projects, so having a supplier like this with realistic-looking blooms is a must for me!”

Images: Beam Irwin

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