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We Want to Live Here: Claire ‘The Green Eyed Girl’s’ bright and beautiful Birmingham home (part 1)

Have we got a treat for you. The very talented Claire of The Green-Eyed Girl has very kindly agreed to share her home tour with us. Welcome to house envy. (And it’s SO GOOD and she’s been so generous sharing her tips, that this is part one of two.)

I almost forget what I did for inspiration before Instagram. It has led me down many a happy path and introduced me to some truly serendipitous finds. One of those was Claire’s account @thegreeneyedgirl_ where she chronicles her house renovation and travels in one beautifully curated feed. She also has a wonderful blog of the same name and happens to be a thoroughly lovely person. Winning all ’round, really. I really want to move into her gorgeous home, but as I think she might have some objections to make, I’ll make do with being thrilled she’s agreed to allow us to feature it.

What attracted you to your house the first time you saw it?

I love period properties and knew that’s what I wanted to buy, although my husband Will wasn’t so sure. I was also looking for a home in an area that had bars and restaurants to walk to. I saw the house on Right Move and it caught my eye immediately: it was in the right the area, had high ceilings, big windows, great sized rooms, and – best of all – it was a project. Will agreed to view it, and we fell in love straightaway. It was an old family home and whilst it had once been done to a high standard, it hadn’t been touched in about 20 years. We had to completely re-plumb, re-wire and re-plaster the whole building.

Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do?

There were a number of structural and spacial ideas that I knew I would implement as soon as I saw the house (for example, we moved a number of walls, knocked down an old extension and built a new one and knocked two bathrooms next to each other in to one).

How would you describe your style?

Ever-evolving: I don’t think it will ever stand still! I like so many different styles, and the tricky bit is bringing them all together. I’ve realised that as long as I love something, I will find a way to make it work with the other stuff.

What one decor decision has made the biggest difference to your home?

First and foremost, changing the kitchen. When we moved in it was originally three rooms – a kitchen, dining and a separate extension. We knocked the extension down, and created one big open room with a kitchen island, dining table and seating area overlooking the garden. We put in an orangery lantern which lets so much light in – I just love it. It is my favourite room in the house and where we spend all the time. I love it when people visit for the first time as they are always taken aback by it.

Is it hard keeping your (white!) kitchen looking this immaculate?

The kitchen was my favourite part of the house to design and the transformation was huge. What was there was dark, dingy and falling apart. It had a lowered ceiling with office style lighting, a exposed brick pillar (and not the kind of stylish thing you see these days), a stained chipboard arch and dark cabinets.

The antidote was to go all white! I believe in spaces being really lived in, not for ‘show’ so we really took our time to research materials to get the look, but also be durable. The paint we used on the cupboards are Little Greene’s Flat Oil Eggshell in Tusk. It is an off-white that allows for a certain amount of grubbiness, and the paint itself is oil based which means it is wipe clean. A lot of posh paints are water-based which is no good whatsoever in a kitchen! I have wiped off beetroot, red wine, tomato sauce and more with absolute ease

The other saving grace is the worktop which is Silestone and is as hard as hell. I can chop directly on to it, spill all sorts over it (including turmeric), and it just deals with it. I must admit I am a messy cook and pretty clumsy and the white kitchen is holding up remarkably well. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again.

I knew I wanted a painted kitchen. Will had hoped for a modern high gloss affair, but I managed to put my foot down and he is so pleased (now!) I did as it really suits the house. I had my heart set on a 1909 kitchen (half pencil and scalloped), but it was way out of our budget so we managed to find a local cabinet maker to make it for us bespoke for half the price. With the extra wiggle room in the budget I managed to squeeze in a pantry cupboard, window seat and oak-lined drawers.

I spent a lot of time looking at the layout of the kitchen and designed it around being sociable. This meant the less popular choice of putting the hob in the island so I can chat as I cook – and I am so glad I did. I also really thought about the practical elements. Things like ensuring the bin is next to the dishwasher and sink (and hidden in a cupboard), the pan drawer is underneath the hob, and the plates live on a shelf above the dishwasher – they all make navigating the kitchen on a daily basis a breeze.

I wanted the oak shelves to add some warmth as the rest is white/grey and I love styling them – it has become a bit of a hobby! Whilst I like them to look pretty, they are in fact really practical and store all our daily dinner and glassware.

And you have a utility room – I genuinely envy you that.

The utility was already there but a bit of a shed to be honest. A new roof and makeover later and it is such a useful space! I had wanted a Belfast sink in the main kitchen, however the compromise for the painted kitchen was Will got to choose a sink and he wanted stainless steel. So, I managed to convince him to let me have the Belfast in the utility and paired that with an oak worktop, cheap subway tiles and cheap B&Q cupboards. A recent lick of Down Pipe on the walls and those gorgeous Fired Earth tiles (found on eBay half the shop price!) has really elevated the aesthetics of the space!

How did you curate the dining area?

The gallery wall was inspired by a Pinterest image. I kept seeing the David Ehranstrahle city maps. I searched for ages to find them, during the search I found a great image of black and white prints with a mix of black and oak frames and used that as my inspiration. The dining table was a find in Bali and we had it shipped back! It took three months to arrive and seven men to carry from the lorry to the room. Will has told me it can never move again! The wishbone chairs are in fact replicas – I found them on Cult Furniture and Swivel for similar prices. I would have loved the originals, but could never justify spending that much on dining chairs.

Anything other decisions you’re particularly pleased with?

Last year, we replaced the porch (we think it was a seventies addition and had no character at all). It took a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the joiner to get the right design, but it was worth the effort. Pinterest came to our rescue as we were able to find something that was exactly what wanted – and they were able to copy it. It’s made SUCH an improvement to the look of the house. (You can see the before and after here.)  It makes me smile every time I come home.

Of course, I couldn’t help myself and had to ‘design’ the interior too! The Fired Earth tiles were just too gorgeous not to have: they make such a subtle and elegant first impression. I also knew I wanted some storage and wanted something with natural wood to warm the space up – I went for the Roland chest from Swoon Editions and I love it. We are ‘supposed’ to put our daily shoes in here, but obviously they still get kicked off in the hallway and create a trip hazard…

My top tips for decorating a porch would be:

  1. Don’t neglect this area – not only is it the first impression other people get of your home, it is the first and last thing you see of your own home each and every day. Creating it into a space you love will help speed that feeling of love across your whole home.
  2. Go bold with your floor tiles – porch’s tend to be small areas so you can have some fun with pattern and colour.
  3. Accessorise – just because it is a functional thoroughfare doesn’t mean you can’t add a bit of ‘jewellery’ to it! I styled ours up in my usual way; books, plants and some straw hats – nostalgia of those long sunny days

And onwards to the living room: was this another big makeover?

Of course this was another big makeover! We ripped up carpet, laid parquet, replaced the door leading outside as it was a stainless steel sliding monstrosity, added the built-in shelving, replaced parts of the fireplace (the surround is original, but we changed the tiles and hearth which were vile) and had just repainted it for the third time as I could never quite get it right. In the end I took advantage of the Farrow and Ball Colour Consultancy service and they came to the rescue. I had a inkling that as the room received such little natural light we would have to go dark and the lovely consultant agreed and helped find the perfect warm grey shade that worked beautifully with the other items in the room – namely the blue sofa and flooring. I was scared to do it at first but she put me at ease and assured me that no light colour was ever going to sing the way I wanted it to in there. I can’t tell you how much I LOVE it! We only really use this room in the winter so when the fire is lit and the lights are low it is the cosiest place to be.

The light was a gift from my boss – you can find it here

I still need to do a little finalising in this room – There is space for two armchairs down the other end of the room, I would like a different coffee table and perhaps a console table behind the sofa but…budget. Maybe one day!

Talk me through the velvet sofa. It’s so gorgeous, but it’s a contrast to your usual aesthetic – was that deliberate?

The sofa is the Oscar in Prussian Blue velvet from Sofa.com and it is the dreamiest thing in the whole house. I just fell in love with it and put off buying it for about two years and then decided, what the heck, if I love it I should just have it and I have never regretted it for a moment.

And is it right that you pretty much booked a holiday to get that rug?

The rug was brought back from the trip to Marrakech where we got engaged – I wrote a guide on the blog about buying a Beni Ourain out there. It is so easy to do I recommend it to anyone who wants one! (Or is it just me who would think nothing of jumping on a plane just to get a deal on a rug?!)

Stay tuned for more of Claire’s gorgeous home later this week. In the meantime, read her blog at The Green Eyed Girl and follow her on Instagram @thegreeneyedgirl_

All photos courtesy of Claire Wainwright


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