This Eclectic Victorian Terrace Uses Color to Tell a Cohesive Story

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Name: Lottie Goldsmith, husband Mike Goldsmith, five children, and two cats
Location: South Bristol, United Kingdom
Size: 1650 square feet
Type of Home: A Victorian terraced house, built in 1897
Years Lived In: 2 years, owned

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“We’d been looking for a home for our family for ages,” says Lottie Goldsmith. But with five kids, the family couldn’t find many options. “In the end, we realized we couldn’t afford to buy a five-bedroomed house, and so we had to make one!” she says.

“We bought this house in late 2019 after it had been empty for two-and-a-half years,” Lottie explains. “The previous owners had lived here since the 1950s and hadn’t updated the house much at all, meaning that a lot of modernization was required. We began the renovation in February 2020 (terrible timing!) with big plans to extend the kitchen and build up into the loft to create another two bedrooms and a bathroom, while also updating the remaining three bedrooms/bathrooms. The house had no gas supply, no central heating, lead water pipes, and some spectacular swirly carpets and wallpaper!”

All the remodeling work paid off in the end, though. “Now, it feels like home,” she says. “We’ve picked colors that repeat throughout the house to give it cohesion, and it’s filled with treasures we’ve collected over the years. It feels safe, warm, and happy. The house is big enough that everyone has a space of their own, but we can also all come together around the dining table for big family meals, which is all I’ve ever really wanted.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic, arty, slightly bohemian. A mix of modern and rustic. I like to surround myself with beautiful things, objects with history, and plenty of color and texture.

Inspiration: My parents used to take us round antique shops and markets a lot when I was a child. I found it very boring at the time, but I think it lodged something in my mind and I now love finding interesting objects to bring into the home. I’m also an interiors writer so I will always love books and magazines, but I am very into Instagram too!

Favorite Element: I think it has to be the kitchen. It’s definitely the room I spend most time in, and I particularly love the warmer months when we open all the bifold doors and the room feels double the size. And I’m so happy with the choices we made with the kitchen colors, the marble worktop, and the reclaimed elements. It all came together exactly as I’d planned it in my mind (and I spent hours sketching out different layouts!). It was worth the effort.

Biggest Challenge: Covid, of course. We bought the house in November 2019, sorted the planning permission, and the builders began on site in February 2020. We were lucky in that our builders were able to continue with the build throughout lockdown as they’d removed the old roof, which left the site vulnerable (we didn’t live there while the build happened). Materials became difficult to source or very expensive, but we just about dodged most of that. It wasn’t easy choosing elements for the house remotely, but it’s mostly worked out okay. I wish we’d tried the bath out before we bought it online, though, as it’s too small!

Proudest DIY: Probably the garden. We’ve just about finished it now, but when the builders were working on the house, the garden was pretty trashed. The only two plants that lasted the course are a hydrangea and an enormous rhubarb plant. This spring, we worked hard to build flowerbeds, a back fence, reclaimed sleeper stepping stones, and we upcycled a couple of filing cabinets as planters. It’s amazing how relatively quickly the garden has come together, and it’s such a lovely place to be. The Rabarber wallpaper we have in the downstairs loo and in one of the bedrooms is also centered around a rhubarb, so when planting the garden flower beds, I chose as many plants from the wallpaper as possible so there’s a similar story that flows between inside and out.

And our dining table was a cheap FB Marketplace find (£70). It was a horrible orange varnish color when we bought it in the first lockdown in 2020, and it was our weekend project. We sanded it back, painted the legs with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, and it now looks great.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Our home is a standard Victorian terraced home. The usual ground floor layout is to have the living room at the front of the building, a dining room in the middle of the house, and the kitchen beyond. We decided to divide the dining room in two and now have a small office that leads off the living room, and a utility room that leads off the kitchen. Technically, we’ve lost a room, but what we’ve gained works so much better for our family.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? The bubble chair hanging in the kitchen is always commented on and kids gravitate to it! At first, we had to time it because our children fought over who was using it. It’s a frivolous purchase, but we’re happy to bring that side of us out.

I love our fridge, too. It might sound boring, but it’s such a brilliant design with its pantry doors, freezer drawer, and plumbed water and ice. It makes me happy every time I use it (especially when dispensing crushed ice for margaritas!).

I absolutely love the 8-foot vintage Japanese fish flag that hangs over the master bed, too. I bought it for Mike as a birthday present, and the colors work so well in our bedroom.

Plus, we have so many vintage finds and hand-me-down things from my parents’ house, which really make it feel special.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I’m a big fan of drawers in kitchens instead of cupboards. They’re so much easier. In the utility room, we have cupboards, and I’ve organized everything into crates so that there’s a place for everything. And I use a DYMO label maker to make labels so everyone knows where everything lives.

And I love the thin IKEA BILLY bookcases that we’ve used in the office. We had the standard version before, but these ones give the room more of a library feel. It’s an interesting exercise in proportions.

Does your home reflect your home country/city in any way? Good question. Bristol is a pretty eclectic place, but I think it’s more the English elements of our home that are evident in things like the kitchen island, which I designed to look like a shop cabinet. The Englishness is tied up with the traditional nature of the house, so things like the traditional stained glass, the classic white square tiles we’ve used in the kitchen, utility room, and all the bathrooms would’ve been similar to those used in houses of the time, and the antique cupboards that are dotted throughout the rooms (which are great for storage and for displaying precious things) give the house a period feel. We’ve really embraced the original features in the house, with so many of the rooms having doors that are 125 years old, the beautiful fireplace, cornicing and ceiling roses are the centerpieces of the living room.

What are your favorite places to shop for home décor that can only be found in your country? Baileys Home in Ross-on-Wye is a perennial destination for me and I have to limit visits there for financial reasons! I love going to Shepton Flea Market, which is on every month and is a great place to pick up vintage and antique bits and bobs. DeVol is a kitchen and home brand that is quintessentially English and very appealing (we have a kitchen tap from their range). FB Marketplace for oddities that are likely to be geographically specific.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Take your time. Collecting is part of the fun, and you’ll never get a homely, interesting, and lived-in feel on day one.