Updated: Nov 1
Interior Designer Lisa Honiball takes us on her Real Home Tour sharing sea views, design tips and successful home reno secrets.
This week's Real Home Tour is a corker! Not only are we treated to beautiful pictures of inspiring rooms, but we also get a lesson in interior design filled with invaluable tips for how to tackle a home renovation project from talented interior designer Lisa Honiball (I told you it was good!).
Lisa's Real Home Tour
Lisa and her hubby have incorporated budget-savvy DIY projects and upcycling into this brilliant transformation and every inch of their beautiful home feels considered and is personal to them (the best way to build a deep emotional connection with your home).
If you are an interior designer, I highly recommend looking up the supportive and rewarding community that Lisa has set up - Interior Design Insiders... but not until you've made a cuppa and taken the tour!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello! I’m Lisa. I’m an avid tea drinker, a Taurus, prefer savoury to sweet when it comes to snacks, and self-confessed Wordle addict (longest run 60 days). At 49 I’m navigating menopause and have an extensive collection of shoes (most of which I no longer wear on account of working from home, they’re the hangover from my corporate life).
I made the scary leap from a successful career at Microsoft to self-employment in 2011 when I re-trained as an Interior Designer. Over the last 12 years, I’ve worked for other interior designers, been part of a design franchise, and set up my own interior design studio working on a mixture of residential and commercial design projects.
In 2022 I set up an online membership community for Interior Designers called Interior Design Insiders. I am incredibly passionate about supporting interior designers and helping their businesses thrive – I wish something similar had been around when I graduated. My mission is to connect interior designers to their full potential and to each other.
Tell us a bit about your lovely home.
I live in a 4-bedroom 1950s property with my husband and our bear-dog Pepper. We relocated to Hythe, on the Kent coast, from Oxfordshire in 2014 and it was the best move ever.
The sea views and quiet road are what sold us on the house – plus, it’s an easy walk to the high street, the Royal Military Canal, and the seafront. It’s the best of all worlds and I still pinch myself that I get to live here.
The house has a joyous feel to it, lots of lovely natural light as it’s south-facing. It’s an upside-down house and built into the side of a hill. From the front it looks like a small bungalow but from the back it’s three stories. I love how unassuming and unpretentious it is from the exterior, but inside it’s a bit Tardis-like.
People can struggle with the concept of upside-down houses but, because of the slope, with our house you enter the house on the living level – which works really well and makes the most of the amazing sea views.
There aren’t a ton of architectural features (1950s!) and the ceiling height is a bit low – but really you don’t need a focal point in the house when you have amazing views of the sea.
Describe your interior style.
My interior style is quite hard to pin down – but I’d say it’s predominantly a transitional, mid-century modern look. Simple, timeless, practical design with clean lines, organic curves. Add in layers & textures, Persian rugs, wood, and natural materials.
I’ve used simple black wrought iron curtain poles in nearly every room, plus natural stones – such as marble - in bathrooms, honed black granite for the kitchen island, and tumbled travertine for our lower ground flooring.
I’m a huge fan of wood and go a little bit cuckoo for reclaimed doors – there are 4 sets in this house! – they just add so much character. I have huge salvaged antique French doors, Edwardian solicitors’ office doors which I bought on eBay, and some reclaimed old school doors which I’ve used on sliders.
Our house feels calm and homely with a cohesive palette of navy blue, off-white, sandstone, dark woods, mustard yellow, pale pink, grey and, of course, accents of black.
Largely I opt for block colour and texture over pattern – but I do love a stripe and use wallpaper in more transitional spaces. We have a fabulous Cole & Son wallpaper in the hallway, and the most gorgeous Emma J Shipley print in our guest WC.
Have you done any work to the house since moving in?
Oh yes! The house had been lived in by the same person for over 30 years and needed a complete overhaul (as an interior designer this was part of the attraction of the property!). First up was getting the property up to code with a complete electrical upgrade and a lot of work on the plumbing and a new boiler.
The kitchen wasn’t useable – so we spent 7 months with a camping gas stove and microwave, and we also tackled two bathrooms – which both had damp issues.
Four years after moving in we undertook a larger renovation which included a loft conversion, extension to the entrance hall, and some exterior works. We also had new flooring on the ground floor living level and decorated throughout.
The work outside included a new roof, rendering and cladding the exterior, plus extending the balcony, and connecting the first-floor exterior into the garden with a staircase.
Have you done any DIY or upcycling?
Yes – we installed the kitchen ourselves from IKEA as one of the first jobs when we moved in. 8 years later it is still going strong – but with a bit more budget to hand I have upgraded the peninsula unit.
I designed something that looked more like a piece of furniture and worked with a carpenter to make and install it. We used oak and oak veneer to replace door fronts, added the dreamiest bobbin legs, and kickboards.
Most of the actual cabinetry stayed in place – and anything we replaced was utilised in the laundry room - which we fitted out ourselves – so nothing went to waste.
An upcycle I love is our kitchen table. It was a find from a client who wanted an upgrade – it’s had a very simple upgrade with some paint to the legs.
I’ve made lots of the blinds and cushions in the house too. It’s not something I do for clients – as I’m not that confident – but I love making things for my own home.
I also did all of the decorating (bar wallpapering which I still get nervous about) including decorating the double-height hallway which involved a scaffold tower and nerves of steel!
What are your favourite features in your home? (Have they always been there, or did you add them?
The light and the views are the number one feature without doubt – so these are blessings from nature. Even in the winter there’s nothing better than watching a storm come in across the bay and curling up with a cup of tea in front of the fire.
The bespoke carpentry throughout the house is joyful – from the kitchen peninsula, to the window seat with shelving, to the bookcase with secret door that divides my husband’s office from the living room. It’s practical, beautiful craftmanship and a bit of fun.
Having something specifically made for your home, which is aesthetically pleasing, but also functional, is such a good use of your budget.
Are there any features that you don’t like or would like to change in the future?
When we built the loft extension I designed the space with pocket doors – but this was totally lost in translation. We weren’t living at the property and when I next went on site the builder had framed out for regular doors.
It wasn’t straight forward to correct as we were dealing with the eaves and dormer windows. I should have pushed the contractor to put it right, but we were already behind schedule and tensions were running high, and I was exhausted. However, it still bugs me now.
Where do you get your interior design inspiration?
Just about everywhere. From art, to nature, to interior design and architecture (in person, online and in magazines). Often a room design or feature will spark an idea for me – not an exact copy – but perhaps a material or colour that has been used in an interesting way which makes me look at things differently.
Anything else you’d like to share about your home…
Home takes time. The very best homes evolve with you, and have that layered, lived-in look that really reflects your personality. I’m aware that I get itchy decorating feet – which can get expensive – so I’ve learnt that a cohesive colour palette throughout the house allows me to change things up and move things around just by ‘shopping my home’.
I move cushions, throws, furniture, and artwork around quite frequently! It gives each room a fresh look without the need for spending any money, and I fall in love with my home all over again.
Get ‘the bones’ of your home right – great flooring, a tight colour palette, and a flow and layout that means each room works on a practical level - and then layer your home up with memories – all the pieces that mean something to you and make your home yours.
Great light, functional spaces, plus pockets of joy sparked by keepsakes are what makes a home perfect for me.
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Shopping Page - Curated shopping guides and shoppable mood boards.
DIY tutorials - Step-by-step tutorials on DIY projects for your home
Seasonal Styling - Interior styling tips and tricks to get your home looking its best, whatever the season.
Online Courses - Self-paced, affordable online courses on DIY, Home styling, upcycling and styling with flowers and foliage
Foraging - Guides to help you save money by foraging for flowers and foliage to style your home
IKEA hacks - transform basic IKEA flatpacks into bespoke-looking furniture to elevate your interiors
DIY Kitchen makeover on a budget - money-saving DIY and styling ideas
Real home tours - take a tour of a beautiful home and get inspired by reading the owner's story.
Home organisation - tips and tricks for organising your home with minimum fuss & maximum impact.
DIY tips and tricks - Advice to save you time and money and reduce the chance of mistakes on your DIY projects.