Hollie de Cruz, founder of yesmum
Hollie de Cruz is a London-based mother and digital creator. She is a renowned birth author, with her second book being published in spring 2021. Hollie is also the founder of yesmum educational resources for women and children, and shares her journey of motherhood and more, online. Join Hollie on her house renovation project, turning her Victorian semi into a family home. She can be found over on Instagram at @theyesmumnest and @theyesmummum.
Here’s our Q&A with Hollie…
Describe your home and who you share it with…
I live in South London with my partner Simon and our blended family of three boys – Oscar (10), Manolo (10) and Cosmo (2). We also have two rescue dogs, Peppin and Cora, who like to make things that little bit noisier.
Having searched for houses for almost a year and not being able to find anything that met all of our needs in the right location, we decided to look for renovation projects instead, which allowed us to get more for our money in the area we wanted to be in.
Our beautiful five-bedroom Victorian home is in Tulse Hill. We also wanted a big garden with space to build a studio for Simon and I to run our businesses from, so when we stumbled upon this 100-foot garden, we knew we’d struck gold!
A view of Hollie’s home with Alternative’s Sisal Herringbone stair runner in Hambledon with a Cotton border in Moss.
How is the renovation journey going?
The house wasn’t in bad condition and the bones of it were brilliant, but the traditional Victorian layout didn’t work for us as a family. After we exchanged we appointed an architect to help us configure the space. When we were happy with the proposed structural changes we worked with building contractors HPH London, and were bowled over by their attention to detail and their eye for design.
We completed on the house on 6 April 2020 – the day the UK went into national lockdown. Luckily, we’d extended our rental contract for six weeks. Given that that we were going to be there in less than two months, we decided to divide the work up into two stages. The first was getting the top two floors of the house in good order, so that the boys all had functioning bedrooms and we had at least one bathroom to share. The second phase would be the ground floor reconfiguration including our side return and extension.
Hollie’s staircase with Alternative’s Sisal Herringbone stair runner in Hambledon.
Now that we’re coming to the end of our renovation, I feel like I can breathe a huge sigh of relief after what has been an incredibly full-on seven months. It’s only when I look at before photos of the house, that I realise how much work we’ve actually done. There’s not a single room that hasn’t been transformed, and I’m not entirely sure how we managed to live and function alongside all of the work.
For five months, whilst we had the upstairs space to sleep in, our downstairs space was confined to one room (the front room), which housed our fridge, sink, washing machine, makeshift kitchen, sofa, TV, dog crate and goodness knows what else! It was completely bananas trying to feed and entertain three kids and two dogs in that small space, but it’s made us appreciate the luxury of spreading out so much!
A view of Hollie’s home with Alternative’s Sisal Herringbone stair runner in Hambledon on the landing and Lily Hex Hexagon tiles in the family bathroom.
Tell us about the flooring choices.
We chose a Sisal Herringbone for our staircases and landings, as we wanted something warm, relatively neutral and hard-wearing. With three kids and two dogs, we didn’t want carpet but still wanted it to bring that element of warmth and comfort into the home.
However, neutral doesn’t have to mean plain. Once we’d decided on the colour, we felt like the herringbone design added a gorgeous bit of texture.
Out of all the work we’ve had done this year, the carpets going down felt like the biggest transformation by far. We had been walking on bare, dusty floorboards for so long, that now getting to walk around the house in bare foot feels like an absolute luxury that I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of!
The herringbone design really amplifies the spaces it’s in. Our landings and stairs are quite dark and without much natural light, so the natural herringbone make it all feel bigger, too. We couldn’t be happier!
Hollie’s staircase and landing with Alternative’s Sisal Herringbone stair runner in Hambledon.
What is the border on the stairs and why green?
I wanted each room to have its own personality but with an underlying cohesive style that ran through the whole house. The first thing we painted green was the ceiling in our bedroom, and after that this colour kept creeping in and it just seemed to work in a lot of places. When I was choosing the shade for the stair border, green felt like the perfect choice to bring all of this together, and add some colour to an otherwise neutral stair runner. We are big outdoor lovers too – our house is full of plants – so any way to bring more green indoors appeals to me!
Peppin lounging on the stairs!
What colour is the paint on the stairs?
Our stairs are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Railings – one of my favourites. Again, this runs all the way through the house, from the moment you step in the front door, right to the very top. Not only is it striking against the other colours, but it also hides a multitude of sins from grubby-fingered small people running up the stairs!
Where does your design inspiration come from?
It’s a good question. I’m not massively led by trends, and just want our home to feel like a reflection of who we are as a family. I want my kids to remember their home being warm, fun and relaxing – not a show home that doesn’t reflect or welcome them. I love colour and playful designs, and I’m a big fan of the Wes Anderson aesthetic, which has definitely influenced my style choices in this house.
How do you put decorating schemes together?
Before having my children, I used to work in layout and design, so when I started thinking about the design of the house, I knew I’d lay it out in a very visual way to communicate my ideas with our contractors. I basically drew up each room to scale, and then created my design on screen – experimenting with different choices until I was happy with the look. Each room had its own design file, with everything labelled from electrics, lighting, paint colours and fittings.
Interestingly I have never used a tester pot of paint in my life. If there’s a colour I like, I try and look at lots of examples of it in use, and then basically take an (intuitive) punt on whether or not it’s going to work for us.
Do you find Instagram or Pinterest helpful?
I think social media platforms like Instagram or Pinterest can be helpful for finding more inspiration and ideas about what it is you’re after or clever ways to use your space, but I do think it’s a real double-edged sword. It’s easy to spend hours trawling through these kinds of platforms and I think we underestimate how overwhelming it can be for the creative and intuitive parts of our brain. We can become lost in other people’s style or tastes, and what might look great in someone else’s home won’t feel right in yours if it doesn’t instinctively appeal to who you are and what you love.
What do you like about Alternative Flooring?
As soon as we started our renovation project, I was actively seeking out high-quality British brands that I knew had a track record for long lasting high quality. Having lived in East Dulwich a few years back, I’d become acquainted with Lordship Flooring Company and had since heard only good things about their service. When I popped in, their Alternative Flooring collection immediately caught my eye – I loved the materials, textures, and eye-catching designs straight away, and they just felt like a great fit for our family home.
It’s important to have experienced local flooring companies to measure and install. They know that they are doing and are used to working with textured flooring.
Alternative Flooring’s Sisal Herringbone in Hambledon lifestyle image
Why is your home so important to you?
I’ve always been a total homebody and I know it’s a cliché but our home really is the heart and soul of our family. It feels like a haven from the outside world, and a place where we can all be ourselves. I think because Simon and I work from home, it felt even more important to make the space and design work completely for us. I want to smile every time I walk in our front door, and I want other people to, too, and I think we might just have achieved that!
Would I do it again? No. Am I glad we did it? Absolutely! I don’t feel it could have gone any better, and after hearing other horror stories you, we feel incredibly lucky.
Future plans for the house?
When we’ve saved up our pot again, we’ll give some much-needed love and attention to the front of the house. The plan is to get it repainted and the window frames painted, and then eventually I’d love to get the front pathway tiled. Luckily, I think I’ll have plenty of time to choose tiles this time around, so maybe I’ll get started now…
Describe your style in three words
Colourful, considered, maximalist
Interior direction for 2021.
I like to think that our home style evolves with us and the boys over time, rather than takes an obvious change in direction. I’m sure that as we really settle into our home, we’ll discover things that might need tweaking to work for us better, which is so hard to gauge when you’re doing a full renovation project. I’m sure there will always be more colour and more sprinklings of personality around the corner though, so watch this space!
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