diy home renovations

Home renovation: “I used DIY paint hacks to transform my remote Scottish Victorian townhouse”

Posted by for Home and interiors

This week’s renovation sees Jay Jennings of @paintthetownpastel transform her dated period property in the Orkney Islands into a pastel paradise with plenty of imaginative DIY hacks.

When freelance media researcher Jay Jennings moved to the Orkney Islands, she had hopes of finding a property, let’s say, a teeny bit bigger than those on offer where she had been living in London.

It turned out to be the right move; the Orkney Islands well and truly delivered. “I feel incredibly lucky to live here,” Jay says of the Victorian townhouse that she and her partner Rob bought three years ago.

The couple had their sights set on a project and were able to scale up thanks to finding a ‘diamond in the rough’ that needed some work. 

“We stretched our budget because we fell head over heels for its character and history. I’d never have dreamt we’d be able to afford such a grand house, but that’s the advantage of buying a fixer-upper – and moving from London to Orkney!” says Jay. “It had been on the market for a long time and was in a pretty sorry state. I think most people were put off by the scale of the project, but it tugged at our heartstrings, as old houses do.”

Jay has a background in architecture and contemporary art theory and her interests in these subjects shine through when she talks about the direction she went in for the couple’s Scottish home. “My style is very contemporary but I love to implement that against a period backdrop – I think the contrast emphasises the best of both,” Jay explains.

While Jay’s décor could be described as contemporary, that’s a modest term for the creative and experimental vision that she’s brought to life. From a futuristic, spearmint-green corrugated headboard that she crafted from roofing sheets to gold-leaf stairs and a pastel terrazzo sink; her Instagram account, @paintthetownpastel, is like a mood board for her clearly very big imagination.

Renovation of living room DIY before picture
Paint the town pastel diy living room renovation
Paint the town pastel living room: before, and after

What was your décor inspiration when starting your renovation?

“I have a long list of inspirations that include Miami (circa The Golden Girls), ice cream parlours, the joyful minimalism of 2LG, wagashi, nice stationery, sweetshops of my childhood, Tokyo, lavender, macarons and pretty much everything coming out of Copenhagen right now.

“I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan and his style is one of my biggest inspirations overall, so if there’s an aesthetic I’m looking to create in the house it’s probably The Grand Budapest Hotel x The Royal Tenenbaums.”

Jay Jenning's DIY home renovated bedroom
Details of Jay's DIY corrugated headboard
paint the town pink bedroom renovation
Jay Jenning's renovated bedroom, Details of Jay's DIY corrugated headboard

Any DIY hacks that you’re proud of?

“I recently made a headboard out of some old shelving, a drawer, polycarbonate roofing sheets and some plug-in lights. That was a fun project because I had this idea in my head of what I wanted it to look like and tried to figure out a way to make it happen. I shared the process on Instagram Stories – it basically looked like a massive pile of junk until almost the very end. It came together eventually, though!

“In terms of tips it has to be paint, paint, paint! Never be put off by the colour of things – EVERYTHING can be painted (I even painted my sofa recently!). I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve bagged a bargain because something was a naff colour. I love to buy second hand dark wood furniture and jazz it up with paint and paper. It’s often far better quality than the modern stuff, and much cheaper. Plus, you can really put your own stamp on it and make it a piece that’s uniquely yours.

“The other DIY tip I’m known for is caulk. Caulking gives everything a seamless, professional finish and is indispensable if you’re refurbing a period property (I’ve gone through 14 tubes and counting).”

DIY office chair transformation with just paint
Office chair DIY transformed with pink paint
Jay's office chair: before, And after with a glossy pink paint

What was the hardest thing about doing your renovation?

“The sheer amount of work that was needed. The house had been untouched for years and needed a lot of TLC. The kitchen and bathrooms had to be ripped out, reams of ancient carpet taken up and three storeys of burgundy textured wallpaper stripped off the walls in the stairwell. It’s a work in progress and there are still rooms I haven’t touched. What can I say – I love a project!”

Which is your favourite room and why?

“It’s got to be the kitchen. Our budget wouldn’t stretch to a bespoke, hand-painted kitchen so I bought a standard grey one and painted it myself. Our joiner was horrified that I was painting a perfectly good new kitchen but he ended up loving it and even took pictures to show his wife. I also added solid brass hardware (bought from a wholesaler) to give the units a more luxe look – another one of my top upcycling tips.”


Jay’s favourite interiors Instagram follows:

  • The House That Colour Built

    “I’m obsessed with Jess of The House That Colour Built’s style. She has a rare talent for mixing old and new to create a look that’s totally her own. A must follow if you don’t already!”

  • Tierney Terrace location house

    “Quite possibly the coolest house on Instagram. Nikki isn’t afraid to go with the courage of her convictions and her vision is inspiring.”

  • Anna Jacobs, The Colour Doctor

Jay’s go-to homeware brands

  • Hay Design

    “Hay Design is a cult Danish brand that designs brilliant pieces that last a lifetime.”

  • Swedish Ninja

    “Another Scandinavian brand that I love, Swedish Ninja has the design wow-factor in a really joyful way.”

  • The Long Ship

    “This is my go-to local source for treasures from Orkney and beyond.”

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Images: courtesy of Jay Jennings

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.