When Aislinn Higgins and her husband Seamus purchased a Victorian-style home in Lurgan, they knew that it was going to need a little bit of TLC, but what they didn’t know was that they were going to fall in love with the art of DIY as they uncovered each little corner of their home and brought it back to life.
We spoke to Aislinn, also known as @dreamdiy.ie on Instagram, and asked her some questions about her home - especially her beautiful hallway, featuring tiles from none other than TileMarket!
Tell us a bit about your house; the era, size, city or countryside, and what kind of state is it in?
"An old house that had lived its life long ago and so was very quiet and wise and a little mysterious” - L.M. Montgomery, Emily's Quest.
That’s how I felt about our house when I first viewed it; I instantly wondered who had lived there before and what tales it had to tell. Every time we do up a room or take down a wall, we find something about its past. Over the years, I have slowly uncovered its past. Our house was a former manse built in 1876 by Lord and Lady Lurgan for Hill Street Church, Lurgan, Co Armagh. It remained a manse until the 1960’s when a family called the Gilmores, who were members of the church, bought it. They then sold it to the local bookmakers, the Frenches, who in turn sold it to Seamus and I.
The house is a red brick Victorian-style home in the middle of an acre site in Lurgan Town. We are fortunate to have lovely mature gardens, which we have spent many years clearing and landscaping. I adore gardening and love spending my free time planting bulbs and raking leaves.
When we first bought it needed a bit of TLC. We needed to fix the roof, rewire the house, put in a new heating system, and replace the windows; however, it had really good bones, so we knew it would be worth it. Shortly after we bought it, sadly, two kids broke into it and set it on fire and destroyed many of the rooms, including the living and dining room, to name a few. This completely put us back, and we had to start from scratch, stripping everything back to the brick and taking up floors and ceilings. With everything, though, there is a silver lining, we hadn’t realised the ceilings had been dropped, so you can imagine my sheer delight when we uncovered beautiful coving and ceiling roses along with old window shutters buried beneath the window frames.
Over the years, we have slowly but surely brought life back into the house, one leak and dry-rot wall at a time. It has been a real labour of love, and although it can be challenging at times I have loved every minute of it and can’t wait to continue my dream DIY journey.
What was your biggest worry about renovating?
I never really worried about it, and to be honest, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. I was realistic about it, though and knew it wasn’t going to change overnight, and I think if you have that in your head, it helps. Blood, sweat, tears and lots of laughter have already gone into making our perfect family home, but it's going to take a few more years yet to fully complete! We are in no rush, so we are taking it day by day!
Before we bought the house, we did make sure it was structurally sound and that the roof was in good enough condition, as we knew it would cost a fortune to fix it if it wasn’t. Thankfully there were just a few small problems which we were able to sort out without a huge cost.
I always say, "Rome was not built in a day”, and I try to break down a project. Sometimes the bigger picture is scary, but I take each job step-by-step, as it is much more manageable and achievable. If I didn't do this, the job would seem too big, and I would feel like I was getting nowhere. I like to tick off tasks, even if it’s something small like sanding a windowsill - all these little tasks add to the overall makeover.
What has been the biggest surprise about planning for your renovation?
The biggest surprise is how I have created a little DIY community through my Instagram page who are as excited about my DIY projects as I am. My Dream DIY tagline is "If you can Dream it, you can DIY it", and that is what my page is all about - showing people that if you have a vision for what you would like your home/ garden to look like - then you can with a bit of planning and patience, achieve the home of your dreams.
Regarding actual DIY, the biggest surprise was my love of tiling. Our hallway was very dark and dreary, and I knew tiles would add a much-needed injection of colour into the space. I was very conscious, though, that the tiles had to fit with the style of the property, so when I came across the Dorset Tile from TileMarket, I knew they would be just right. I wanted to tile the hallway myself, so under the watchful eye of DIY Dad, I got to work. Over a couple of days, I was able to transform our hallway into something really special, and it is my most proud DIY to date. I love it when visitors call and say I love the original tiles, and I reply well, actually, they are new tiles, and I laid them myself.
Can you share with us any Instagram accounts you are currently using for inspiration? And tell us why you like them.
I have a few accounts that I go to regularly. I love watching our local IG accounts - @honeybeeandhollie is such a lovely girl, and although our styles would be different, I love how Melissa uses colour and gets stuck into lots of projects. @home.diy.diary is also a great account to follow. I connected with Shauna through RTE’s Big DIY Challenge, her account is very hands-on and has lots of valuable DIY tips and tricks. @shabby.ie is another Irish content creator who is bursting with ideas and hacks to help you transform your home.
Do you have any ‘go to’ or favourite suppliers / brands?
I always shop locally when I can. I live in Lurgan, which is handy as there are lots of building suppliers very close by. Of course, I love TileMarket and have used them for many years; they always have such a great range, and the fact that they are on my doorstep makes it even better- because when you need an extra bag of grout, you don’t lose a whole day running to get more supplies.
I also use JP Corry’s for all my timber. Again they are based in Portadown, so it is easy to go in-store and get what I need. The staff there are really helpful too and give some great advice.
In terms of brands, I love anything by Willam Morris; his prints work so well in our home and are really in keeping with the era of the house. I recently used his wallpaper in both my bathroom and bedroom, which are beautiful. I am also a massive fan of Angel and Dick from Escape To The Chateau; I adore their creativity and work ethic. I have Angel’s wallpaper in our hallway and landing, and it is just amazing.
Which room are you most excited about renovating? And what are your initial ideas for the room?
At the moment we are renovating our bathroom in the main house. It is small in space, but I want to maximise every square inch of the place. I want to recreate how it might have been in the 1900s and add a little luxury to it. However, what I am most excited about is renovating our dressing room, which will change how we live. For years we have been living out of bags and clothes rails, and I just can't wait to be able to go to a wardrobe and pull out an outfit without dust and paint on it!
So far, if you could give one piece of advice to another renovator, what would it be?
As I said above, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Take each job one task at a time, and it’s ok if it doesn't happen overnight. We have been working at our home for years, and it’s nowhere near done. Take pictures of what you like for inspiration and make mood boards.
I like to use Canva to design what I want the room to look like; this helps with the design process. Most of all, enjoy it and remember if you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world; everything can be fixed.
Thanks Aislinn for giving us an insight into the world of DIY - highlighting both the struggles and highs of home renovations. Head over and follow Aislinn's DIY journey on Instagram to see the hard work come together tile by tile, room by room!