Scandi interiors expert at Contura wood-burning stoves shares a guide to the essentials of homemaking for the first-time buyer
Last year, the number of first-time buyers in the UK reached its highest level since 2002 and with so many Brits re-evaluating their lifestyle or work-life balance, homebuying has continued strong into 2022. With so many new homeowners crossing the threshold into their new houses, Contura is on hand to help those looking to turn them into their forever homes
Catharina Björkman, the Scandi interiors expert at Contura wood-burning stoves, says: “It’s common to feel overwhelmed when moving into your first home. After what is so often a lengthy and stressful buying process, moving into a space that’s filled with boxes can feel chaotic.
“What’s key is to make the space feel like home as quickly as possible. Whilst it likely isn’t possible to make all the changes you want at once, there are a few key areas on which you can focus your time, money and energy in order to make it feel more like home.”
Read on for Catharina’s guide to the basics of homemaking…
Back to basics…
First things first; work out what actually requires work or needs replacing as opposed to simply needing a facelift. Any plumbing or electrical work will have been flagged on the surveys completed before you purchased the property, but beyond this, it’s worth checking when the boiler was last serviced. There’s nothing worse than experiencing a premature cold spell only to find the boiler is playing up.
Take time to find features in the home that can be left as is or easily revamped rather than replaced. Instead of ripping out an old fireplace and plastering it over, consider keeping the original mantle and either painting over it or stripping existing paint away to reveal the original stone, metal or woodwork.
Adding in a wood-burning stove is a great way of utilising original features in new ways and creating a statement feature for a room. It will also be kind to the bank balance, helping to save on ever-rising energy bills in the longer term.
Often, a room will look bigger and brighter once it has been thoroughly cleaned, so it’s time to bust out the marigolds and sweep away the cobwebs.
Focus on cleaning doorframes, windows and ledges, as these are frequently touched places so will be noticed if marked and, as they are often painted white, the dirt will show up easily.
Next, make sure that any metal hardware is gleaming, focusing on doorknobs, light fittings and faucets especially. Often, people spend lots of money on changing out old hardware in their homes, but with a bit of elbow grease and a good polish, formerly unappealing handles can suddenly gain a new lease of life and add charm back into the home.
If your home is in an area where limescale buildup is common, then make sure to use a de-scaler to remove any residue from around the bottom of taps and plug holes – a simple step that will be sure to brighten up bathrooms and kitchens.
In the flurry of buying a new home and wanting to settle into it as fast as possible, people often make rash choices that they regret later, or on the other extreme, dawdle for months over where to start.
A great place to begin is to simply pick out your colour scheme. This will then serve as the sounding board against which all other interior choices can be made. If you want an elegant and fresh home then a scheme made up of light neutrals, with texture and pops of colour for added warmth, is the way to go. However, if your home is your place of retreat, then enveloping hues of stormy greys and soothing navy blues would be ideal to invoke that sensation of being cocooned.
A great tip is to paint a small square of sample paint colours onto the walls and leave them for a few days to see how they look in the room. Often colours will appear vastly different depending on how the natural light filters into and moves across a room, so make sure to pay attention to that too.
Future choices can then be held against this original colour scheme. When it comes to choosing new flooring for example or purchasing big-ticket items such as a bed frame or sofa, they can be referenced against your chosen scheme to see how they will fit in and complement the overall mood of the space you are in creating.
Some items are a necessity and should be sourced as soon as possible when moving into your new homes, such as beds and blinds. Don’t worry about them being perfect, however, as beds can adapt to your aesthetic with cushions and bedding, whilst installing basic blinds is a good place to start before adding gauzy curtains later.
Other staples, such as your washing machine and fridge, should also be ready to go as soon as you move in, so consider ordering in time to arrive within the first few weeks of your move to ensure you aren’t having to ask neighbours to borrow freezer space or do a load of laundry!
Then, for the pieces that will add character to the home, feel free to take your time. If you are someone who likes to travel, consider your new home when abroad and see what items you can source there to take home, such as artwork or even vintage furniture.
Quality pieces are also something that can take time to find, so don’t feel the need to rush and buy the first piece of trendy furniture you come across. Not only does cheaper furniture last less time, but it can also date really quickly as styles and your own personal tastes change.
Woods like cherry, mahogany, maple and oak all age particularly well and are worth investing in for larger items such as tables, bookcases or chests of drawers. Natural materials such as reed and seagrass can be added too for sustainable and durable furnishings and storage solutions.
Finally, consider an item’s trajectory within your home and within future homes too. Also consider how items can work together even in different rooms, as future homes may have a different layout and will put them in the same space in the future.
For many first-time buyers, the draw of having an outdoor space to make your own is irresistible. Don’t underestimate the impact these spaces can have as part of your home too. You will look out of your windows onto them and use them to host family and friends throughout the summer, so investing time into them at the beginning is a great idea.
If you are still sorting your living room out, then having a seating area in the garden is ideal for spending the day with friends away from unpacked boxes. Picking up an eclectic mix of chairs at a second-hand store or garage sale is ideal for bringing life to your garden and can be easily swapped out for a more substantial garden set further down the line.
And think long term. Don’t just plant some posies and call it a day. Rather, invest in plants that will grow each season and in time turn your outdoor space into an oasis. A small hydrangea plant or butterfly tree can look inconspicuous to start with, but after living there for a few years it will grow into a real centrepiece for your garden, and will have cost you less than planting a full sized one later down the line.