Home Improvement: Making your new home lovely on the outside and the inside

Jojo's house

Jojo's house - Credit: Archant

Making a house a home starts inside. But, as designer Jojo Humes Brown points out, your exterior is as important as your interior, writes Jojo Humes Brown.

Jojo's completed sitting room

Jojo's completed sitting room - Credit: Archant

I am not a patient person.

So when we moved house less than a year ago, I was itching to make it beautiful from the moment I had the keys in my hand.

There was just one problem.

This was never going to be a simple job of a lick of paint and a roll of wallpaper. It was a major project from the get go.

Jojo's house

Jojo's house - Credit: Archant


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And for the first time ever, my decades of experience in the world of interior design would have to make way for expertise in how to make the outside match up.

Ugly duckling

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Sadly this is not going to be a feature with before and after pictures.

Jojo's sitting room - before

Jojo's sitting room - before - Credit: Archant

We haven’t reached the after yet.

But it is an opportunity to offer my top tips on how to approach what I dub an “inside out” project.

We bought our house because it offered us more space, much more land and was smack bang in the area of our dreams. Location, location, location!

But the property itself lacks kerb appeal. Perhaps that’s putting it too nicely. The truth is it’s downright ugly.

We took it on – warts and all – because it ticked all our boxes and we knew we had it in us to turn the ugly duckling into a swan.

Think things through

With any big project, it pays to take time over major decisions.

I have often been called in to pick up the pieces after clients have bowled in changing things immediately and I knew I couldn’t afford any costly mistakes.

So I reigned in my desire to get going and sat tight, planning away with graph paper and changing my mind several times on what should go where and how we would live.

How you plan to use your home takes a while to suss out in my opinion.

And this is mainly to do with how the light changes, where the best vantage points are and the natural flow of the property.

I worked out which room I wanted to sleep in from where the sunrise came up and where I wanted my office from the views of the garden.

I then worked closely with Nick Barber Architects who helped to make the house flow.

The kitchen was stuck between the bedrooms and the rest of the living space, missing out on natural light and giving the property a feeling of awkwardness.

So with a nice big sledgehammer we opened up the space creating two beautiful light shafts above.

Once we had worked out our living quarters, I set to work on decorating them – my forte!

I added colour and texture, creating cosy corners and meeting spaces, bringing to life the knick-knacks of our existence.

But while I felt happy as Larry inside my new home, I still had to avert my eyes when I left it.

Tackling the exterior

Nobody should be put off buying a home at the right price and in the right location simply because it needs a facelift.

But you have to be prepared for hard work.

And in the last few months I have been spending what seems like an inordinate amount of time concentrating on the exterior of our house.

This has involved long conversations with my architect, a great deal of magazine browsing and a mood board bursting with ideas.

But we have now submitted plans to the local council and have our fingers firmly crossed.

We hope to give the house a more balanced look – bring it into the 21st century and make the outside match the inside with plenty of black, wood and glass.

And once this is done, we will finish off the look with the help of a garden designer.

Redesigning a home on this scale is a physical and mental challenge. But I love the process.

After all, it is pushing my boundaries and helping me to try something a little bit brave.

And what is more, there is something special about putting your own stamp on a property – inside and out.

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