Calling all design show scouts: I have a TV personality for you! She’s humorous, talented, charitable, and she has a pint-sized sidekick with plenty of opinions of her own. There’s also a pair of wrinkly bulldogs for us dog-lovers to enjoy. This personality is self-taught and makes the type of bold design choices that can be difficult to execute. On top of that, her designs embrace accessibility — an element all too often ignored. I really think I’m onto something here and will require my finders fee, but here’s hoping
Pati Robins becomes the next HGTV sensation!
Originally from Poland, Pati moved to Cardiff, Wales to be with her husband Colin, an army veteran with physical disabilities. They live with their two bulldogs, Shy and Lilly, and their daughter Olivia, who Pati says is quite “headstrong when it comes to how she wants her room.” Pati is the full-time caregiver to her husband, as well as a
photographer, DIY’er and cofounder of the Style Squeeze blog.
She and her husband chose their home for its proximity to their daughter’s school and because it had already been partially adapted for accessibility needs. Being that the home was owned by the city and not a private landlord meant they could make more design changes to the space, which was an absolute necessity. “When we moved in, the home was painted in magnolia [cream], complete with nicotine stains coming through the walls. It wasn’t a looker, but it had potential, and I was determined to make it work for us,” says Pati.
What Pati lacked in home renovation experience, she made up for in determination. “I remember trying to drill a hole in the wall in order to install a curtain rod and crying as I was doing it. Don’t ask why, but I was petrified of power tools.” Another challenge was her garden project, where the slanted ground and excess mud required her to climb, then slide to where she wanted to work. Her home projects may have been a literal uphill climb and a journey of style discovery, but in the process, Pati has developed a style that works for their space, meets her family’s needs, and makes them feel energized and comfortable. Doesn’t that sound like an award-winning plot? —
Photography by Pati Robins
Image Above: Pati and Colin’s living room is an ever-changing collection, but they stick to their main colors: pink and yellow. Pati says, “all the items in the room are collected over the years, and nothing matches, but it somehow works together.”
Pati and her husband Colin with their English bulldog, Lilly. When they first moved into their space, they were on an especially tight budget. “For the first six months, we slept in sleeping bags on the floor. Thinking about it, our dog had a better bed than we did!”
Hitting their style stride took some time. Pati first painted everything white to freshen up the space and began hunting for secondhand furniture, but she said they felt like guests in their own home. “The white color with our small windows did not work well. It made the space look drab and hospital-like. Don’t get me wrong. We love white spaces, but in this home, it didn’t look and feel right. My husband has spent a lot of time in hospitals, so having a space that doesn’t remind him of hospitals relaxes him. Also displaying elements that we all love makes the space personal to all of us.”
After a few years of living with white walls and not feeling at home in their home, Pati and her husband discovered British interior designer
Abigail Ahern. Drawn to brighter, bolder pops of color, they interpreted Abigail’s dark, moody interiors with their own touch, and the result is vivid and unique. When Pati found the Abigail Ahern lamp on eBay, she says, “I have never driven so fast to collect an item as I did when I was was collecting this light.” The fake donkey is a reference to a battalion nickname from Colin’s time in the army. Their daughter had the idea for the bright pink frame, and the yellow goggles on the bust came from her lab kit.
When Pati and her family moved into their home, the living room was painted a creamy tone, which hid three layers of wallpaper. Removing the wallpaper led to Pati needing to teach herself how to repair plaster on a small scale, but today the black paint reveals the potential she saw in their home. “I am also a self-confessed cushion addict — I store all my cushion covers in my daughter’s bed (just don’t tell this to my husband — he thinks they are all gone).”
Sourcing this reading nook chair was an adventure and a half! It was a struggle to fit it into Pati’s car, as well as into the house, where its original red color defied their palette. Her husband questioned if she had finally gone too far, but she rubbed the chair with rubbing alcohol, then applied a dark leather dye, and voila! It’s a perfect fit, which is fortunate because after all the moving struggles, this chair isn’t going anywhere, “This is the reason why we are not moving out.” After several years in their home, the leather dye has held up without any problems.
Pati bought the compact IKEA table and chairs secondhand as a temporary dining solution 10 years ago. She has chairs ready and waiting in the attic, but she hasn’t found her dream dining table yet. The canvas hides a broken thermostat she isn’t allowed to remove — a creative way around a rental challenge. Pati painted the chair rail the same color as the walls (a custom Valspar color) to detract attention from it, since she couldn’t remove it completely.
From crying while drilling holes for curtain rods, to this kitchen, Pati has proven her power tool and DIY chops! She left the cabinet framework, but she replaced the doors and work surfaces, and removed an upper cabinet to add the open shelving. Now it’s a space where she actually wants to cook and enjoy her coffee.
Pati added more function to her kitchen area. “A bit of worktop, few wood pieces screwed into the wall and one leg, and now my daughter has a space for her morning breakfast.”
Pati framed this tea towel she found on eBay, and now Snoop Dogg is the show-stopper in this area of the kitchen. With a few screws and an outlet, she was able to add the task lighting for when she uses the bar area as a work station.
The front hallway is a tiny nook that Pati filled with a big personality. She painted the walls and ceiling with chalkboard paint to leave messages near the door. She sourced the floor tile on Gumtree (similar to Craigslist) and had just enough tiles to cover the floor. That was her first foray into tiling, and it was a success!
Pati says the stairwell is one of the more challenging aspects of their home. She plans to paint the staircase and add a geometric runner, as well as paint Colin’s stair lift. For now, she uses the dark wall and artwork to prevent the lift from becoming a focal point.
The second-floor landing features another secondhand furniture piece, which had enough damage to merit painting. The large mirror helps expand the feel of the space, and the dramatic art, purchased at a boutique in Poland, makes for a colorful focal point.
Pati and Colin’s daughter Olivia would be a great co-host if Pati had her own design show. Pati muses, “She picked all the colors and patterns herself. I was just doing all the work while she directed me.” The biggest challenge with Olivia’s room was fitting everything in a small space, but a corner wardrobe solved a lot of their storage needs, leaving Pati to store her secret stash of cushion covers in Olivia’s bed.
Pati sourced the artwork secondhand, but the patterns fit right into Olivia’s scheme. They made the desk by combining a work surface, IKEA shelving and leather pulls made from one of Colin’s “old” belts, but Pati confesses, “okay, it wasn’t old, and I am hoping he won’t need it.” Olivia’s bright flamingo accent lamp came from
What was once a giant mud patch is now an outdoor spot that is wheelchair-, kid- and dog-friendly. Pati recalls, “Laying decking was fairly easy. What
wasn’t was digging into a clay soil to flatten it. I will never do that again even if someone pays me.” There’s still more work she’d like to do, but she’s procrastinating while she simply enjoys her outdoor space.
The dark, moody walls and bright pops of color continue into the bedroom, which Pati says helps them to fall asleep but makes waking up difficult. Pati uses extra accent pillows to hide a bed lift. Her design skills help the equipment to blend into the house and create a comfortable environment. Her luxurious headboard was a budget-conscious, upcycling project.
Sick of waking up and staring at a blank wall, Pati added a salvaged mantel and wallpaper. She alternates the featured artwork with mirrors, but the bust and cheery yellow frame are mantel staples.
Pati is most thankful that “we were given an amazing opportunity to rent a home that we can change, and that after many years together, we are still happy being here.
Paint: Valspar – custom color
Sofas: Ikea Landskrona Series
Coffee Table: secondhand
Dining Table: Ikea
Chandelier: Abigail Ahern (eBay find £50)
Table lamp: Kartell via Pati’s mom
Cushions: Age of Reason UK, ebay, H&M
Artificial plants: Abigail Ahern , Rockett St George, Wyldhome and eBay China
Living Room Wall Art
Donkey head: Abigail Ahern for Debenhams
Sex Pistols, The Exploited and Stiff Little Fingers – vinyls
Ibride Ida Tray
Man and a Woman: diedododa
Frames: Ikea, thrifted, and some bought in budget stores – they are plastic – spray painted
KitchenPaint: Valspar (custom color)
Wall tiles: Topps Tiles- Metro Series
Floor Tiles: Tile Mountain
Cabinet Doors: Kitchen Door Workshop
Shelves: scaffold boards sanded and stained
Snoop Dogg framed tea towel: eBay
Candleholders: Claus Ohlson and Gumtree
Barstools: Amazon UK
Plants and planters: Nickie Kelly and Hilary & Flo
Ceiling light: upcycled DIY project
Spice rack: vintage drinks crate
Paint: Rustoleum chalkboard paint in black
Ikea Stall Shoe Cabinet in white
“Hi” letters: paper mache
Birdcage lampshade: homemade
“Hell Yeah” neon: Light Up North
Paint: Farrow & Ball “Down Pipe”
Art: from a boutique in Poland
Black dresser: vintage
Letter F: handmade
Mirror: Ikea Hemmnes, upcycled
Rug: eBay China
Wooden Star: Nickie Kelly
Paint: Valspar custom color
Bedding: eBay and H&M
Cushions: eBay, Asda and Age of Reason studios
Desk: Ikea Kallax and Ikea worktop
Light: Graham and Green
Tassel Blanket: Ikea (tassels handmade)
Artwork: secondhand find
Wall lights: Ikea
Neon heart – next
Flamingo lamp: Love Frankie
Paint: Valspar “Tempest Teapot”
Wallpaper – Barbara Hulanicki
Bed: Ikea (upcycled)
Headboard: eBay (upcycled)
Artwork: vintage from Poland Typography print: We Are AMUSED
Bedside lamps: Kartell (secondhand)