Family makes dream home on £20,000 budget with lampshades made out of cat beds



A family has revealed how they are creating their perfect home by converting a five bed Georgian farmhouse on a £20,000 budget – including making lampshades made out of cat beds.

Environmental policy consultant Mavourneen Conway, 37, from Norfolk, UK, and husband Chris first tried their hands at home renovation when they added an extension onto their first house several years ago.

With three boys – Ciaran, 8, Liam, 6, and Owen, 6 – the couple decided to find somewhere with more space for them to grow up, so purchased a five-bedroom Georgian farmhouse in March 2021.

Rolling up their sleeves, the family got to work on creating their dream home, with most furniture thrifted and upcycled.







The family bought a 5-bed Georgian farmhouse to renovate
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“My husband grew up in a family where if you could do it yourself, you gave it a go,” said Mavourneen.

“His approach has certainly rubbed off on me. Building the extension to our first house taught us both a lot of skills and gave us a lot of confidence to try things.

“Our kids have also gotten stuck into lots of our DIY projects so hopefully they’ll do the same when they grow up.







Even this kids helped out with the DIY
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“I’ve always loved being creative, and DIY has given me a great outlet.

“It’s so satisfying being able to learn something new and make something yourself. With all the information available online, there’s a tutorial for pretty much anything which makes it so much easier to try doing things yourself.”

Mavourneen has developed a love for DIY, and is passionate about finding pieces second hand that she can upcycle.







Mavourneen has developed a love for DIY
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The family is striving to find second-hand pieces for the home to upcycle
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“My first DIY project in our new home was turning a coffee table I found second hand into an ottoman,” she said.

“I’d never upholstered anything before so that was a learning curve.

“Now I’ve got six dining chairs I’ve found that all need upholstering too. I also did my first bit of DIY art recently and I’m excited to do more of that.







The couple had 3 children who helped out with the DIY
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Mavourneen Conway from Norfolk, UK, and husband Chris
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“I’d love to get into carpentry and building things from scratch so I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m thinking about to give that a go.”

Some of Mavourneen’s other upcycling projects include giving a makeover to a piano she found for free, which her son is now learning to play, creating a vanity unit from a £30 chest of drawers she got second-hand, and creating a lampshade out of an old cat bed.

“I love our new DIY vanity unit, but our oversized ottoman will always be a special project as it was my first time upholstering anything,” said Mavourneen.







With a love for DIY, Mavourneen and her family have been keeping down costs as they renovate the home
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“Over Christmas I loved doing a DIY hanging wreath, and the boys and I made some oversized outdoor light baubles by using wire flower baskets tied together and wrapped in fairy lights. I’m hoping to be able to use them in the garden this year as they had such an impact.”

With a love for DIY, Mavourneen and her family have been keeping down costs as they renovate the home.

“The cheapest transformation by far has been the bathroom, which only cost us about £500 to do,” she said.







‘I’d say my style is a mix of natural, rustic and modern traditional elements’
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“There is such a huge list of other priorities, and the fixtures and fittings in the bathroom were generally sound so we had to work around what we had.

“We made a new vanity unit out of a chest of drawers I found on Facebook marketplace. We used a lot of items we already had and just repurposed them, including the vintage light fittings and the vintage mirror.

“We found a vintage cast iron radiator second hand for £80 which my husband installed.







The new kitchen cost the most at £12,000 as the family had to start from scratch
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“We also made some peg shelves to go around the bath which cost £70, and decided to seal and paint the wooden floorboards to save on flooring.

“In terms of the other rooms, the new kitchen was the biggest expense, costing £12,000, as we had to start from scratch.

“We had to open up and reinstate a fireplace, as well as replace all the units and worktops. However we saved the old units and turned them into a utility room in the cellar. We also kept and repaired the 30 year old vintage La canche range cooker that had been left behind by the previous owners.







‘There’s so much inspiration out there now that it’s almost impossible not to keep adapting and refining your style’
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“We saved money by sanding and refinishing the old parquet floor ourselves. We’ve also kept and painted the dining table that we were left from the first property we rented 15 years ago instead of buying a new one and I’ve bought second hand dining chairs which I’m currently refinishing.

“Our light fitting is actually an old woven cat basket that I found in a charity shop that we’ve turned into an oversized pendant light over the dining table.

“I think my style is still evolving, and has certainly changed a bit to suit the kind of property we now live in. There’s so much inspiration out there now that it’s almost impossible not to keep adapting and refining your style.







Mavourneen added that there is still plenty to do in the house, and that the full transformation could take up to ten years
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The children also get involved with shaping their home, knocking old tiles off walls and helping to paint the kitchen
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“I’d say my style is a mix of natural, rustic and modern traditional elements. I’m also drawn to some eclectic items having lived abroad for so much of my life, so I like to incorporate those too.

“I love thrifting unique items, there’s nothing better than a good second hand find.”

The children also get involved with shaping their home, knocking old tiles off walls and helping to paint the kitchen.

Mavourneen added that there is still plenty to do in the house, and that the full transformation could take up to ten years.







‘We have four more bedrooms, two bathrooms, a study and a conservatory on the list of rooms to sort so it’s going to be a long process’
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“We only moved in a year ago, so we’ve just scratched the surface of everything that needs to be done,” she said.

“So far we’ve redone the kitchen, the living room, one of the bathrooms and the boys’ bedroom. But even those rooms aren’t finished as there’s a long snagging list.

“Sometimes the scale of what we’ve taken on feels overwhelming but I have to try and remember that this is a 5-10 year project and that I need to be a bit more patient with progress.







‘We’ve bitten off a bit more than we can chew but it’s a joy to be able to restore a home like this’
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“This year we’re hoping to build a treehouse for the boys, tackle the hallway, the cloakroom and to make a start on the garden.

“I’ve found a gorgeous second hand brass sink that I can’t wait to install in the cloakroom if I can just find the right unit to fit it on to, whilst I’ve given my husband some plans for the garden furniture I ‘d like us to try and build.

“After that, we have four more bedrooms, two bathrooms, a study and a conservatory on the list of rooms to sort so it’s going to be a long process.

“We’ve bitten off a bit more than we can chew but it’s a joy to be able to restore a home like this.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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