Couple turn nicotine-stained semi into dream house in incredible transformation

Julie and her husband bought the property last year (Image: Julie Stockton-King)

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A couple has revealed the amazing transformation they've made to their dated, nicotine-stained home while the rest of the UK has been in lockdown.

Julie Stockton-King, a 34-year-old midwife, and her husband Steven, moved into their property in March this year and have been hard at work turning their semi into the home of their dreams.

Amazingly, Julie "wasn't keen" on going to view the house in Urmston, Greater Manchester, but she soon realised just how much potential it had.

And to boot, Julie and Steven found a handful of hidden gems hidden inside that only added to the house's charm.

The mum-of-two told the Manchester Evening News : "Initially, I didn’t even want to come and see this property.

"There was another house that we were supposed to be buying and it all fell through so I was really devastated."

The house was dated and nicotine-stained when the couple purchased it
(Image: Julie Stockton-King)

But, one Saturday while Julie was working, husband Steven, who works in hospitality, attended a viewing by himself and was pleasantly surprised.

"I said 'Just go to it and if you like it and I'll go to a second viewing' – I was convinced that he wouldn't like it," Julie recalled.

But when Steven returned, he told Julie how much he'd loved the house, and the next week, the couple went together to take a look.

"We came to see it and the man answered the door with a roll-up in his hand," Julie laughed.

"He was a really nice older bloke. He smoked indoors – but it was his home at the end of the day.

"All the paper and paint was tinged from the smoke – it was all a yellowy kind of colour. It was really dated and needed a lot of TLC."

There was a list as long as Julie's arm of things that could have put her off, but even so, she thought there was something special about the property and before they knew it, the couple had decided to put in an offer.

Julie said: "We bought this house in June 2019 and moved in March 2020 – literally a few days before the first lockdown started."

Julie and Steven sold their first house in April 2019 and moved in with Steven's parents while they started the renovation process.

Julie and Steven paid for an extension on the back of the property

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But, as news of the first lockdown swept across Greater Manchester back in March, they felt more of a rush to move in to their new Trafford home and get settled.

Julie said: "When we moved in nothing was finished. We had no work tops, no hob, a small temporary sink, a couch, and a bed for our son.

"The first few weeks we were still painting and putting things up."

But once work began, the couple uncovered some much sought-after fixtures, fittings and furniture that had been hidden away for years.

"They’d covered up a lot of original features," said Julie.

"In one of the bedrooms they’d put massive wardrobes and when we pulled them out – there was an original fireplace that had just been boxed over.

The kitchen was small and cramped beforehand…
(Image: Julie Stockton-King)

"I was so excited when we found that."

And there were even more surprises to be found upstairs.

Julie continued: "We were going to get rid of the upstairs doors but then I had a closer look.

"They looked like mid-60s style doors. They just had a piece of MDF-style wood over the top of them and glass handles."

But when Steven removed part of the wood, he revealed the original Victorian doors.

Julie said: "They were covered in loads of paint so we sent them off and got them stripped and they look great now."

They also found a 'beautiful' solid wood dining table and chairs in the loft which they gifted to Steven's mum as it wouldn't match the look were trying to achieve in the kitchen and dining area.

…Now the kitchen is spacious and modern
(Image: Julie Stockton-King)

Julie also found a heavy wooden chest in the property, which she now plans to upcycle and turn into a stand for the sink in their main bathroom.

The couple has found it exciting to have the chance to put their own stamp on the property.

And they weren't thrown in a the deep end, having already had some previous renovation experience with their first house which they bought in 2011 and sold last year.

Speaking of her first home, Julie said: "So, with that house, we literally opened a window and it fell out.

Once Julie and Steven stripped the house back to basics they discovered it had a lot of hidden gems
(Image: Julie Stockton-King)

"It was our first property. We were young, we were just getting married, and then we had our little boy. It was all about making it liveable."

But this time round, Julie and Steven have taken a different approach.

Instead of quick fixes and putting up with features that they don't like, they are practising the art of patience to make their home perfect.

"The things that we learnt from last time, we’ve carried forward," Julie said.

"This time, what we’ve done is we’ve taken our time so if we can’t do it we have to wait for it.

"Rather than rushing and just slapping on some paint and making do, we just want to wait and do it properly.

The house is now unrecognisable with Julie and Steven's design touches
(Image: Julie Stockton-King)

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"I feel like we haven’t compromised on much on this house and we’ve done everything exactly how we wanted to do it and so I want to carry that on so it’s all of the same sort of standard."

Julie continued: "I think people think you have to have loads of money to do a renovation.

"We had some money to start with because of our old house that we sold. When we bought that house it was a complete mess so we did that up.

"House prices went up so we did have some equity from our old house in order to do things like the extension on this house.

"But as for the rest of it, it's going to be a month by month kind of thing using our savings or what we have spare each month."

The couple decided to not go over the top with lavish gifts for Christmas and birthdays – and instead put all the money into the house.

Julie added: "And the same with family – for the last couple of years, our families have been putting money towards the house and light fittings for example instead of gifts."

While they hired workmen to add an extension to the back of their house, they managed to save money by taking on a large chunk of the renovation work themselves.

"The majority of the work my husband has done," said Julie, who was heavily pregnant with their second child during the renovation.

"The house needed a full rewire so my husband and his dad did virtually all of that.

Julie opted for patterns and beautiful artwork for the interior
(Image: Julie Stockton-King)

"You have to get an electrician to come in and connect it all up and make sure it’s all been done properly but that saved us a lot of money."

Steven and his dad also decorated, laid down the new flooring in places and tackled the loft which later became their bedroom.

Julie said: "The loft was all brown and had loads of old furniture in it. They [previous owners] had put stud walls at either side where the eaves are so Steve knocked them out and opened it all up so our bedroom now is massive."

The bedroom in the loft also features an en suite and an impressive free standing bath.

Julie said: "I really wanted a free standing bath. The main bathroom is going to be more like the kids’ bathroom so that wouldn't be the best place to have it.

Bifold doors in the kitchen bring a feeling of light and space

"It was a bit of a joke at first.

"We have a small en suite that we we just built into the loft. Then I thought, we could put a bath there [in the bedroom] and our plumber friend – who was round at the time – said the same thing."

Steven wasn’t as convinced at first but then after a chat, Julie managed to change his mind.

"I think because I was heavily pregnant at the time he thought ‘Yes let’s just keep her happy.’ We were still living at his parents at the time.

"I really wanted us to have a nice grown-up space that was just for us."

Skilful Steven also put all the insulation in himself and built in stylish panelling on one of the bedroom walls.

"It’s quite simple to do. Well, I say that," Julie laughed. "It’s simple for me to watch him do!

"I just say this is what I really like and then he goes ‘Yep, okay, I can do it' or 'No I can’t.’

"His dad’s quite handy – I think that’s rubbed off on him.

"With our first house – to save money – he did quite a lot of stuff then with his dad and he’s quite handy now.

"There’s not much that he won’t turn his hand to!"

Julie also revealed that the family are lucky enough to have several friends that are tradesmen.

"We’ve got a really good friend who’s a plumber and a good friend who’s an electrician," Julie said.

"So, with the plumber, obviously it’s his job so we pay him the going rate but Steve has worked alongside him to help him with the labour."

And if their professionally skilled friends aren't doing jobs for them, they have still been able to give the couple an idea of how much things should cost.

Julie also proudly revealed that her friends and family were also on hand to help out.

She said: "My father-in-law helped out a lot with things, my mum and Steven’s mum have both been here helping to scrape the wallpaper off in the early days and some of our best friends helped out steaming the walls and painting.

"We’ve got a lot of family and friends who chip in and help out."

Unable to help out with the heavier jobs because of her pregnancy, Julie took a lead on selecting furniture and other key pieces.

She revealed that there is one shop in particular that she can't resist.

"Homesense, I absolutely love," she said.

"Honestly, that’s my favourite shop. I love that place – I could spend a small fortune there.

"What’s good about it is that you can go in one day and there’s something in there – and then the next day it’s gone. So, you probably won't have the same things as everyone else."

The wardrobes in the loft are from IKEA. The home owner said that though she would have loved bespoke wardrobes – it would have cost a fortune so instead they decided to up-cycle a less expensive set.

Dining room details

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Steven measured and fitted in the IKEA wardrobes, made a stylish border around them and added nicer handles purchased from John Lewis.

Speaking of some of her best buys for the home, Julie said: "I really love my table that was made for us.

"I researched it quite a lot because I knew what I wanted.

"But most of these companies are online so you are taking a bit of a risk because you can’t go to a shop and take a look at it. But, I absolutely love the table and the bench.

"We got it from a place called RCC Furniture based in Sheffield. They use all reclaimed wood and we couldn’t be happier with the quality of that and for the price of it as well.

"And then we got chairs from Homesense. So the kids sit on the bench and we sit on the nice chairs."

And another highlight for Julie is kitchen tap which produces boiled water as well as the standard hot and cold.

"It’s got a safety button so kids can’t just turn it on," Julie said.

"But it’s so much easier – especially with a baby. Sometimes you want to make a drink quickly while you’ve got a minute – it’s easy and I love that.

While she's in love with her new bedroom, the interior design enthusiast said that the kitchen/dining area is her favourite space in the house.

Steven and his dad did a lot of the renovation work themselves while Julie was pregnant
(Image: Julie Stockton-King)

"When we were looking, what we really wanted was a property that had the potential of a family room where one of us could be making tea, my little boy could be doing his homework and the TV or music could be on," Julie said.

"We might all be doing our own things but we’re all together in that space.

"And I feel like that was the main thing that we really wanted and we’ve got that.

"I come down in the morning sometimes and do a little workout while it’s still dark, my son will sit at the table and do his homework, we have our meals in here, we chill out in here and watch the TV – it’s such a functional family room."

Julie had a wish list in mind of the 'dream' things she really wanted but wasn't sure if she'd be able to achieve in the new house.

But for the kitchen/dining room area, she ticked several things off her list – including bi-folding doors opening into the back garden.

But like with many renovation projects it's not all smooth sailing.

One of the most challenging parts of the renovation stemmed from problems with the roof.

Julie said: "We had a massive problem with the roof on the extension and it delayed everything by ages. We couldn’t do anything inside until that was sorted because the house wasn’t water tight.

"With the main roof of the house. We knew when we bought it that it needed a little bit of repair. But then when the roofers looked at it – all of them said we needed a completely new roof.

"That was a massive blow to the budget that we weren’t really prepared for.

A freestanding bath looks beautiful in the couple's bedroom
(Image: Julie Stockton-King)

"Also, when we pulled back the fitted wardrobes in one of the bedrooms it was hiding a massive leak.

"And then another little roof issue involved the bay window.

"A couple of months ago when we had a big storm the water was pouring through that. We were thinking 'What’s that noise?' and then went in the living room and it was literally like somebody had put a tap on.

"So roofs have been the absolute bane of our lives but they seem to be sorted for now."

Despite the ups and downs, Julie decided to share her renovation on her Instagram page @rainbowrenovation.

Julie said: "Through that account I’ve met – online and in real life – some really good people that I’ve connected with and we share ideas."

One of her Instagram friends set up a collective – that Julie is apart of – called Black Homes UK. It started off as a group chat on the social media platform but now has its own dedicated page @blackhomesuk where all are welcome.

The page aims to make the online home and interior design community – a more diverse space and showcases the renovation projects of black and mixed race families like Julie's.

Speaking on the collective, Julie said: "It started off as a place to chat, then as this year’s events unfolded – it’s been a really nice place to connect with other people in lockdown and share your renovation ideas.

"I’ve got loads of hints and tips from those people in that collective – it's really good. And it's not just for black people, everyone is welcome."

The family's renovation is ongoing. Next on Julie and Steven's list is the hall, the main bathroom and the lounge.

But despite the challenges – and all the work that still has to be done – Julie's caught the renovation bug and revealed that she'd do it all again.

"I’d do another renovation if we could afford to stay in our current property while we’re doing the new one up or if we could rent somewhere else," she said.

"I think the nice thing about doing the property up yourself is the pride when rooms are complete.

"Looking round and thinking yeah this is exactly what we wanted, what we planned and we put the hard work and effort in to making our plans become a reality."

You can keep up to date with Julie and Steven's stunning home renovation by following @rainbowrenovation and keep up to date with the Black Homes UK collective by following @blackhomesuk