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Couple’s £600 Dining Room Upgrade is Picture Perfect

January 20, 2021, 12:00 PM
  • Lesley Swales and Paul Parkin gave their dining room a stylish revamp in just three days on a £600 budget
  • The DIY savvy couple built bench seating and a live edge dining room table from scratch, upcycled second-hand display cabinets and reupholstered their dining room chairs to keep costs in check
  • Say the room “came together perfectly” and reveal the money-saving hacks they utilised to add tasteful touches for less

Many of us are looking forward to a time when we can host family gatherings again.

Thanks to some impressive DIY, Lesley Swales and Paul Parkin, from East Rainton, have the perfect space for entertaining their ever-growing brood.

The couple revamped their dining room in three days on a £600 budget to give it a stylish new look. The tasteful space features bench seating and a live edge table, both built from scratch, as well as upcycled wall units, reupholstered dining room chairs and some stunning budget accessories to complete the look.

Lesley, 57, an area group manager for a contract catering company, and her partner Paul, 48, a catering manager, are thrilled with the new space, which was designed to better accommodate their large family.

“We share four kids and six grandkids aged from five to 15 years old, so we needed to make way for more bottoms on seats,” Lesley told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk. “Our first thought was to add bench seating along the wall, which would service one side of the dining room table. We could then reposition the four dining room chairs we already had around the other sides.

“We also needed a bit more storage in the room, which evolved into the idea of putting display cabinets either side of the bench to complete the look,” she adds.

They’re no strangers to DIY, having upcycled and restored various pieces of furniture in the past.

“Paul likes to do woodwork in his spare time and we have lots of pieces he has built around the house,” says Lesley. “We’re huge fans of the Australian home makeover TV programme The Block and pick up a few good ideas from the show.”

Lesley started the process by ordering two wall cabinets from Ikea but the plan was halted by some second-hand finds.

“The very same day, I saw some similar pre-loved ones for sale locally so I cancelled the order and went to pick them up,” says Lesley. “We ended up buying the set of three beech glass-fronted cabinets from the seller for £100, which was a bargain.”

Next, the couple carefully removed a radiator to make way for the bench and patched up the wall.

“We also chased out an area of wall where we were putting a new radiator, which we had picked up second-hand months before,” says Lesley. “Luckily, my brother-in-law is a professional plumber, so he kindly put in all the new pipework and attached the new radiator.”

The bench design was born from Paul’s imagination.

“He didn’t draw up a plan, as such,” says Lesley. “He just asked me what I wanted, explained the image he had in his head and got started.”

Paul bought some smooth dressed timber from a local timber merchant to speed up the process.

“He used to use a lot of reclaimed wood for his projects, but it takes a lot of prep work to make it look nice,” says Lesley. “He used the smooth dressed timber for the frame and MDF for the panelling, which we decided to add to the bench and wall to mirror the style of our kitchen cupboards and tie the space together. We opted for a solid seat bench, rather than one you can open and use for storage so the build was fairly simple.”

While Paul was busy, Lesley turned her attention to the wall cabinets.

“I painted the units in Frenchic Gentleman’s Club Trim Paint and used a shade called Blackjack for the interior to give it a more striking appearance. I ended up painting a bottom section of the glass to make the cabinets appear as if there is a cupboard below the shelves, as this was the style I wanted for the room.

“Once Paul was done with the bench, I painted the front panelling in the same shade of grey and gave the walls a lick of Gentleman’s Club Wall Paint.”

Paul used a special trick to give the bench a natural look.

“He really finely sanded it down and burnt it with a blowtorch to help bring out the grain and make it appear more prominent,” says Lesley. “He repeated this two to three times and then treated it with two to three coats of Osmo Polyx Oil, which is really hardwearing.”

Lesley picked the central cushion from TK Maxx and the surrounding navy and yellow cushions from Matalan. The artworks, by Sara Lovari, were bought in Cortona, Italy and reframed to better fit the space.

Paul even whipped up a new table from a large piece of oak he’d bought a couple of years ago for £10.

“He shaped the edges to make it look like a live edge table and treated it in the same way he did the bench so it matches perfectly,” says Lesley. “He also bought new black, steel cross frame legs for the tabletop, which freed up some space under the table.”

Towards the end of the project, Lesley threw one last challenge into the mix.

“The dining room chairs didn’t really go with the new look so I decided to have a go at upholstering them,” she says. “They are quite simple in style and easy to take apart, so it was easier than I thought.

“I bought a second-hand sewing machine for £30 and some textured navy and yellow Orla Kiely fabric for £100. I took one of the chairs apart, unpicked the fabric and used that as a pattern for cutting out the covers for all four chairs. Once I’d cut and sewed them, I fitted them over the chair frames and stapled them into place. I also painted the legs in Blackjack to match the interior of the display cabinets. It worked out so much cheaper than buying a new set of chairs.

“We’re really happy with how the dining room turned out. It all came together perfectly and it’s exactly the vision we had for the space,” says Lesley. “We did it while we were both off work and took a leisurely three days over it, but if we squashed down the time I'd say we spent around a day and a half of solidly working on it.

“It’s a shame that we can’t have family over to enjoy it yet, due to the pandemic, but we’ve sent them photographs. I posted some pictures of the room on a DIY group I’m in on social media and it got 3.7k reactions and over 480 comments, which I didn't expect. The comments were all really positive with people saying the room looked like it was something out of an interiors magazine.”

Tom Church, Co-Founder of LatestDeals.co.uk commented: “Lesley and Paul have worked hard to create a show home look on a modest budget.

“Their DIY solutions make the most of the space. Plus, they’ve saved money by upcycling.

“The £10 live edge tabletop is an especially impressive bargain that shows off Paul’s woodwork skills to the max.”

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summerdaze39 months ago

Hi you have done a fantastic job, looks very classy indeed. Something bugging me though as never heard of it "live edge tabletop"?? What does it mean. And lastly I love your flooring where is it from please??

Thanks for sharing ***

lesleysswales8 months ago

Hi just seen your comment. Live Edge is a take on tables that are made from the slice of a tree so the edges are the shape with the bark on that can either be left on or stripped off leaving the shape. The flooring is laminate from b and q. Thsnk you for your nice comments

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