This is the first in our series of guest features - How A Pro Would - where we ask industry professionals to tell us how they’d plan, design, or create in their profession. 

Hannah Clark runs Little Edwardian Semi on Instagram. She loves getting creative with home styling and DIY in her home in Manchester, UK. Her personal style has evolved over the years, but is always based around statement interiors that combine bold colours with classic period features. Her work in the housing profession also gives her insight and experience into the more practical aspects of modernising a home. 

Modernising a home that’s a little dated needn’t be stressful, and is far more practical than reinventing your décor from scratch. We asked Hannah for her tips, tricks and favourite ideas on how to make big changes, while helping your budget go further.

To DIY Or Not To DIY

A great starting point when modernising your home is to work out what you can realistically do yourself versus what you need to give to tradespeople. This will depend on your level of skill, although I would encourage anyone to give DIY a go, even if you’ve never done it before. Time is another important factor. I’m a parent of two young boys and juggling renovations and family life can be tricky, so be realistic with how long something may take you. 

DIY does have the potential to save you money. And you could choose to tackle some of the more straightforward jobs yourself, like repairing or repainting walls, then employ a professional to do more specialist work like re-plastering or plumbing. If you use tradespeople, it’s a great idea to get local recommendations and always ask for quotes from at least three different people too!

Start With The Structure

I would always recommend prioritising tackling any damp or structural repairs first. Damp and mould can cause serious problems to both the structure of a house, and the people who live in it. Key things to inspect are the quality of your brick pointing, any loose tiles on your roof and making sure your gutters don’t overflow when it rains. You’d be surprised how much of an issue leaves can cause, so if you live in a leafy area you will probably need to get your gutters cleaned out at least once a year.

Kerb Appeal Is Key

Kerb appeal is important, and you want the exterior of your property to look neat, attractive and well kept. Simple things like weeding your front garden, re-painting your front door or hiring a pressure washer to blast away any dirt on paving can make a huge impact. 

You also want the woodwork on the exterior of your home to be in good condition and to keep on top of any cyclical painting. We made the decision to replace the rotten wood fascias and soffits on our Edwardian house with black uPVC. Replacing original features with more modern materials can be controversial, however we managed to retain the original fascia design using laser-cut mat black acrylic. As a result, we have kept the period appearance of our home intact and will have much lower ongoing maintenance requirements, saving us money in the long run.

Do always check if there are any planning restrictions before you carry out any external work on your property. For example, if you live in a conservation area or in a listed building, this will restrict the type of work you can do.

Keep In The Warmth

With rising fuel prices and growing household energy bills, it’s more important than ever to make sure you modernise your home so that it is as energy efficient as possible. Here are some ideas to help reduce your energy bills:

  • Make sure you have an efficient heating system. Replace an old boiler, service it annually, regularly bleed your radiators and look at installing a magnetic boiler filter to prevent sludge build up in your pipes. 
  • Install double glazing and apply caulk around the interior and exterior of your windows. This is an affordable way of sealing any unwanted air leaks. 
  • Get some pretty curtains with thermal interlining.
  • Use draught excluders next to any ill-fitting doors.
  • Fill any gaps between floorboards or under skirting boards with filler strips or a dust and resin filling. 
  • Replace any bulbs with LED bulbs which use 70-80% less energy than standard ones.
  • If blocking up an unused chimney, you must ensure you provide ventilation so install an air brick too as this will help to avoid dampness.

When we were renovating our bathroom we had to go back to brick and take down all the old lath and plaster, which was very messy! However, it also gave us an opportunity to install insulation behind the plasterboard. This made a massive difference to the temperature of the room and enabled us to replace the radiator with a heated towel rail over the bath, which also gave us more space in this small room.

Bring Your Personality Into Your Home

When modernising your home, I’d encourage you to go with what you love. That could be neutral tones, monochrome design, pastel colours or dark and dramatic colours. I’m someone who loves to wear bold colours, so I’m naturally attracted to these in my interior choices as well. 

It can be helpful to have a cohesive paint palette which will tie your home together. I have decided to use a mix of blue and green tones in my home, and then combine this with monochrome patterned wallpaper, rugs and prints. I also find that pops of pink work especially well with green tones, and pops of yellow with blue tones.

Whatever colour palette you choose, here are some ideas which can be applied to modernising any home:

  • Pull up old carpets and replace with new, or a more affordable option can be to get existing ones professionally cleaned. If you have exposed wooden flooring, a large, patterned rug can provide a focal point as well as helping to make a room cosier.
  • Sand, stain or paint wooden floorboards to make them a feature. You can hire floor sanding machines locally, just be prepared for some hard graft and a lot of dust!
  • Install a stylish stair runner on your staircase to create the wow factor to your entrance hallway. Synthetic carpets are more affordable than real wool and getting them whipped at the edges rather than adding taping, can also save on cost.
  • Consider going with a bold colour on your staircase. I painted ours black and I absolutely love the result.
  • When re-painting, always check for lead paint, particularly if you live in an older house. Lead paint must be removed carefully and safely using chemical paint stripper. 
  • Restore original features like fireplace surrounds. You can find these more cheaply on sites such as eBay, gumtree, Facebook Marketplace or at a local salvage yard.
  • Hang striking curtains or venetian blinds. Good quality wooden blinds can be a more affordable option than wooden shutters. 
  • Update light switches and sockets, for example replacing plastic covers with metal ones.
  • Clean tiling grout in your bathroom or consider colouring it in with a grout pen.
  • Re-tile your bathroom or kitchen with a bold, modern patterned tile. 
  • Add a wallpaper feature wall in a bedroom or home office.
  • If you have alcoves in your living or dining room, look at installing alcove shelves. These can be used to display books, prints, plants or other objects that give your room a homely feel. If you paint them in a dark colour, you will also find it makes your objects really stand out!


Upcycling can be a fantastic way to save money and create something unique for your home at the same time. If you have furniture which is outdated and no longer fits your style, look at modernising it through upcycling. I updated our home office desk by painting the drawers and legs black, I added a wood-effect vinyl on top (which only cost £8), and some luxe brass handles finished this piece off beautifully.

Upcycling your kitchen is another way you can really modernise a key space in your home at significantly less cost than replacing:

  • If the units are in good condition, repaint them in a bold on-trend colour.
  • If the doors are badly worn but the carcasses are ok, replace the doors and add some modern handles.
  • If replacing the whole kitchen, consider buying a second hand or ex-display kitchen which can be purchased for a fraction of the price of new. You can then upcycle and make it unique to your style.
  • Declutter cupboards and tidy away things from worktop surfaces to make the space appear instantly more spacious.

Finally, if you’re about to embark on a full renovation project, make sure you create a room which can be your little haven while the other rooms are tackled over time. It’s usually a good idea to leave your hallway and stairs until last, especially if you are going to have tradespeople regularly coming through the house. Good luck!

Want to see more from Hannah? Check her out on social. Find more inspiration for your new interiors here, and shop our latest collection here.

Josh Millar