Photographs: Marie Palbom Photography
Reena has one of my favourite Instagram accounts – Hygge For Home, and we have even struck up one of those Insta friendships over the last year. She has also renovated her home into a Scandi-inspired dream and is a real High Street lover so we have loads in common. I was thrilled when she agreed to show us around her home for this week’s blogpost!
Reena, tell us about yourself – whereabouts are you based?
My name is Reena and I live in Cardiff in a terraced victorian house which comes with wonky walls, creaky floorboards, my three little ladies and my husband, none of which are perfect but I love them all and wouldn’t want it any other way!
I look after my little ones full time (they are 6, 4 and 2) but for the past two years I have also set up my own interiors business. This started with me documenting my journey of renovating our home in an affordable way with a young family on Instagram. I am really passionate about creating functional but cosy spaces and getting creative especially when you don’t have vast spaces or budgets to work with. The business took off and I now spend a lot of time working with brands to create content and I have also set up a blog because Instagram just doesn’t offer enough space to write and share everything that I want too.
You have an amazing Instagram account, when did you start?
When I gave up my job in PR to be at home with the little ladies in 2016, I really struggled as the jump from 2 to 3 was intense and life became harder. I was craving a creative outlet and focus other than my life as a Mum. I am really passionate about social media so wanted to start a blog but felt at that time I couldn’t commit to writing regularly enough. At the same time, I found myself living pretty much 24/7 in these four walls (which we had renovated in late 2015 but hadn’t decorated so it felt quite cold and clinical) so it became more important than ever to make my surroundings comfortable and relaxed. My sister had just returned from Denmark and I was moaning about needing to make the house feel more cosy and warm and she told me that what I was describing to her was “hygge” – the way the Danes lived and the importance they place on their homes and family time.
This gave me the idea to launch an Instagram account and start documenting what I was doing at home so Hygge for Home was born in October 2016. Around a month later, the concept of ‘Hygge’ appeared in the mainstream media and it gained a lot of interest. I think lots of people can relate to it especially here in the UK where we often have longer winters than summers so we spend a lot of our time indoors, although this year has definitely broken the mould!
There were only a handful of people sharing their homes back then but now there is a huge and thriving Interiors community on Instagram which is just brilliant and very inspiring.
How long have you lived in your current place?
We have been here for nearly 7 years. It’s the first house we have ever owned and it needed a lot of work. When we moved in we had a 9 month old baby and a wedding to plan which was 6 months later!
We spent all of our savings on the move and wedding but the bathroom really needed doing as we didn’t have a shower and with a baby anyone knows what an utter luxury a bath becomes and they are not time efficient so that was the first room we tackled. However, it was also a really tricky and expensive one to start with as the boiler was in there and had to be moved downstairs but we ended up in a 3m by 1.5 metre sloping roof space with a separate shower, toilet, sink and the all important non negotiable (with the husband) roll top bath!
We then waited a few years and in 2015 we gutted and renovated the entire downstairs. We moved out for a few months and replaced everything, had walls plastered, had a wood burner installed, new kitchen etc and my husband even did a bit of DIY and picked the worst job ever which was putting up coving. He has said never again!
We also had cowboy builders so none of what we did was straight forward but that’s a story for another day!
I love your kitchen cabinet – I think this originally Ikea?
The kitchen cabinet is indeed from Ikea! It’s my go to place for all of my storage issues which I have many of in this house. When we renovated we wanted to create a kitchen diner and also allow more light into the space. I didn’t want kitchen cabinets high up on the wall because it’s a fairly low ceiling so we have hardly any cupboard storage space! Initially I wanted a vintage armoire or antique medicinal cupboard but they were too expensive so I got this one from Ikea and painted it in Annie Sloan Graphite and bought rose gold handles from the same range as my cup handles on the kitchen cabinets. We use the cabinet as our larder.
Where are your kitchen cabinets from?
Our kitchen cabinets are from Howdens. I really wanted a bespoke looking kitchen so I only bought the doors from there and sourced everything else separately. It’s also cheaper to do it this way. At the time I also wanted dark grey or indigo but I couldn’t find any of the darker colours on the high street. It’s a lot more fashionable now so lots more choice.
My Mum thinks we are mad as we have no drawers in our kitchen! Only one under the oven for frying pans. We just didn’t have the width available on any of the cabinets to accommodate drawers as we also have an integrated washing machine and dishwasher so we keep lots of things out on top of the work surfaces. For me having things out on show like cutlery and things we use every day is fine, I prefer that look and again think it adds to the cosiness and homeliness. I definitely don’t mind a little clutter which is a good job with my little ladies in tow!
I sourced my own rose gold handles for the cabinets and then added lighting above the kitchen work surface instead of having too many spotlights. They are just plug in lights so can be changed in the future and also didn’t require an electrician or wiring in.
You can read Reena’s full kitchen renovation blogpost here.
What are your favourite interiors shops? Are there any hidden gems on the High Street, for you?
I love independent shops and I think the hidden gems are all on Instagram! My favourite online shops are Grey September, Lisa Valentine Home, Pea Style and Viv and Bo. I discovered each of them on Instagram and then found out that all of the lovely ladies who run them were also Welsh and live locally so we are now friends too.
Where do you mainly try and save money when decorating?
We are not natural DIYers and also have very limited time with 3 little ones but whenever we aren’t in a rush we always do our own painting and putting up shelves etc.
A top tip is choose a handyman over a specialist person such as a carpenter as they will often come in a lot cheaper. We have had lots of bespoke furniture made such as fitted open wardrobes and garden seating made from scaffold boards. We were quoted several hundreds of pounds more for a carpenter to design and build but we had a handyman to build instead at a fraction of the cost and designed ourselves. And when I say designed, I actually mean sketched and showed him what we wanted, we didn’t even specify size, just asked to make sure it fitted in X gap so don’t be nervous or put off by that. We also had our curtain pole made in the living room from a copper pipe it took the handyman just an hour to do!
I love the community and creativity on Instagram, what do you love about it?
I love that it is full of real people with real stories to tell. I used to love Pinterest and planned my first phase of renovations based on lots of things I had seen on there but Instagram is a whole other world. You are not dealing with pictures of extravagant and probably insanely expensive homes, you have a whole range of home styles and ideas at hand and the best part you can talk directly to the person whose behind the square. If you have any interior questions whether it’s picking a brand of paint, how to make something for the house, or you want to buy what you have seen, you know you’ll be able to not only find a picture on Instagram but you’ll actually be able to talk to someone about how they did it or get advice.
And the thing that has surprised me the most is the real and offline relationships that I have formed. I can honestly say that I have made friends for life and what’s really special is that if it wasn’t for the connection we have made online, our paths would probably have never crossed. I have even set a business and joined forces with another Instagrammer (@malmo_and_moss) called @hyggeforallseasons.
Do you still have any rooms to finish or any ideas you want to pursue in our home?
I would love to finish the play area side of the living space and get a pair of vintage chairs, ideally Jindrich Halabala ones or Bentwood rockers (upholstered in linen) to create a cosy reading corner/nook. I also need to redecorate the baby’s bedroom as she will be moving into her big girls bed soon, she is in the box room so it’s quite a challenging space but I am looking forward to the challenge!