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Don’t worry if your hallway’s too tiny, bathroom too dark, stairs are shabby or loft is a mess. Every house has its problem areas. Retailers can give advice on smartening them up. The solutions are sometimes surprisingly simple, as you’ll see in these ‘before and after’ case studies by four international interiors bloggers.

Interviews: Isabell Spilker


Julia Ballmaier


Julia Ballmaier’s motto is: a little can go a long way! She works as an interior stylist and wrote a book about transforming your home for less than € 1,000: ‘Wohnen unter 1.000 Euro: Große Wohnideen – kleiner Preis.’

Qality of life – more light in the loft

“This apartment under the eaves was gloomy and cluttered. None of the rooms had the right overall concept. Now new, pared-down furniture and light colours on the walls make for more space and quality of life. As usual, this was a project done on a budget: the total spend was under € 1,000. To stay on budget, I had to buy some things from the flea market then re-purpose and repaint them. A positive side-effect – this revamp was really sustainable. I really rate the way the new and unique items combine, too.



Here, paring down furniture and using light colours on the walls makes for more space and quality of life


Gloomy and cluttered: the loft apartment had no coherent design concept


You can apply the same principle to any apartment. I’d advise everyone to take a good look at their home and have a deep de-clutter. Most people simply have too much stuff. We should really only hang onto our favourite items and keep it all tidy if we want to keep our homes looking lovely. The less space you have, the slimmer and sleeker the furniture should be.”


Bianca Gülpen


Bianca Gülpen lives with her family near the border between Germany and the Netherlands. She loves reinventing her home. She documents her progress in her interiors blog.

The right doors make a house a home

“I always dreamed of having white panelled doors. But in the 90s, beech was the thing – and my husband got his way. In 2011, I discovered the world of lifestyle blogs and a year later my own blog was born. It was clear that my days of living in a beech-based world were numbered! The first step was to remove all the dark wooden ceilings, or paint them white. I also replaced furniture or painted it white. What made the biggest difference was replacing our interior doors. My dream became a reality: I finally got white panelled doors. I’m a fan of Scandinavian style, and these doors are an ideal fit for that cosy Nordic flair. Lovely interior doors are what really makes a harmonious interior for me. They round out the overall picture and add the perfect finishing touch. The beech doors overpowered our rooms for many years, and I ended up actually hating them. Now our new doors fit easily into the overall atmosphere at home and I’m still pleased with them every day.”



White panelled doors sit well with these Scandinavian- style interiors


Beech was quite the thing in the 1990s, but soon started to look old and tired


Annual sales of furniture and home furnishings in Germany amount to around 31 billion Euro. In second place is France with sales of around 10 billion Euro.
Source: Eurostat, 2015


Ira Hachmann


Ira Hachmann says she wasn’t always very creative or good with her hands – but buying a flat and blogging has changed all that.

Bathroom becomes oasis of calm

“Before the renovation, the bathroom didn’t really work – it was neglected and certainly not contemporary. Our budget was € 4,000 and we wanted it to be Scandinavian style like the rest of the apartment. It was quite an ambitious project. But it was achievable if we did most of the renovations, built the furniture ourselves and were inventive with the decoration. A few things were really important: the hard-to-reach area beside the basin didn’t provide enough storage for all our toiletries or enough light to see the mirror properly. So we built our own simple bathroom cabinet, which made the best use of the dead space. The cat litter tray is hidden behind a wooden door in the eaves, which you can open for cleaning. The space has been transformed: there are clean lines, green plants and lots of light. The white tiled walls and unframed glass door on the shower make the room appear bigger. Contrasts are introduced so the white doesn’t look sterile: plants give the room life, while ceramic and metal vases make it homely.”


Making best use of a tight corner with a home-made bathroom cabinet



The space is transformed: clean lines, green plants and lots of light


The bathroom didn’t really work well before – it certainly wasn’t contemporary



Maxine Brady


Maxine Brady is an awardwinning interior stylist living and working in Brighton. She blogs about interiors, lifestyle and her home makeover projects.

Neglect the stairs at your peril

“I bought my house in Brighton in 2015 – and it needed renovating from top to bottom. The staircase was horrible: it had rickety banisters, a shabby carpet and grubby walls, plus a dark landing. I started to scrape a lot of paint off the banisters – and a great oak handrail emerged. With the help of a carpenter, I changed part of the banisters and replaced the old cupboard door under the stairs with a prettier one. Then I painted the walls and ceilings in a lighter shade and lent the banisters a vintage look with white hard wax oil. Next I tore up all the carpets, painstakingly removed the layer of adhesive from underneath, painted the stairwell and livened up the risers with small mosaic tiles. I laid new carpet on the landing and replaced the old radiators. For the finishing touches, I added an upcycled chest of drawers, great lamps, a large mirror and pictures. It’s been a long journey, but now the hallway makes a fantastic first impression when you enter the house.”



When you enter the house now, the stairs make a great first impression


The stair risers are really eye-catching, with their tiny mosaic squares



With rickety banisters, shabby carpet and grubby walls, the hallway was horrible

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