before and afterInteriors

Before & After: A Scottish Victorian’s Colorful Makeover

by Garrett Fleming

Before & After: A Scottish Victorian's Colorful Makeover, Design*Sponge

Scotland’s closed bidding system has been doing a number on potential homeowners for quite some time. According to property laws, if more than one person officially expresses interest in a property it gets “sealed,” and each potential buyer only has one chance to make their best offer. If it isn’t accepted the first time, they’re simply out of luck. Also, in this competitive market the sticker price for a home isn’t a suggestion like here in the States. It’s a generally-accepted minimum, and it’s frowned upon for buyers to offer less than asking. Needless to say, it can be tricky and at times frustrating. Just ask Liz Engelsen and her husband. Over the past three years they’ve had six offers fall through thanks to the complicated process. Disheartened, the couple had accepted that maybe homeownership wasn’t in the cards for them. As it turns out, though, what they initially marked as bad luck was actually just fate holding them off until the perfect flat came along.

Situated in Edinburgh, the home that landed in their lap was a 1,100-square-foot, ground-floor Victorian with abundant original details and enough charm to mesmerize anyone as obsessed with interiors as Liz is. The only catch was how much work it needed. From the pipes, to the walls, and even the floors, nearly 100% of the space was going to need modernizing.

Not a pair to back down from a challenge, the couple spent three months in the thick of construction to bring the flat up to date. With their one-year-old in tow, they performed the tenuous balancing act of mixing old decor with new, traditional with modern and whimsical with classical until landing on the perfect “modern eclectic” look for their home. I think you’ll agree they’ve done a fantastic job. Scroll down to check out the revamp, and enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Liz EngelsenSource: SM Mortgages.

Image above: Liz purposefully incorporated a “modern eclectic” mix of industrial and traditional accents into the design of her Scottish flat. The combination is an ode to the 15 years she spent in New York City.

Before & After: A Scottish Victorian's Colorful Makeover, Design*Sponge
The lounge is one of Liz’s favorite spots in her flat thanks to the original fireplace, artwork from NYC and an “oh la la luxe” Jonathan Adler chair.
Before & After: A Scottish Victorian's Colorful Makeover, Design*Sponge
The ground-floor flat’s Victorian cornicing and “sky-high” ceilings were two of the major selling points for Liz and her husband.
Before & After: A Scottish Victorian's Colorful Makeover, Design*Sponge
This original oil painting by Richard E. Christian is my favorite accent in the Edinburgh home.
Before & After: A Scottish Victorian's Colorful Makeover, Design*Sponge
The process of reimagining the flat has lit a fire under Liz. It's inspired her so much, she’s even enrolled in design school.
Given how bold the flat’s transformation is, one would imagine the bulk of the couple’s renovation budget went to decor and furniture. On the contrary, most of it went to laying new pipes for the heating system, rewiring the electric and installing new steel beams for support.
Before & After: A Scottish Victorian's Colorful Makeover, Design*Sponge
Liz says never underestimate the power of a “Thank you!” and a good cup of coffee. Every time she walked through the flat during construction, she brought both for the crew. They did wonders for her relationship with them and lightened the mood during tough conversations.
Before & After: A Scottish Victorian's Colorful Makeover, Design*Sponge
Liz credits the UK’s Instagram community for giving her the confidence to chose such a bold wallpaper for this bathroom.

Source List


Wall paint – Farrow & Ball “Manor House Gray”

Ceiling paint – Farrow & Ball “Strong White”

Flooring – Dulux Diamond Glaze “Dark Oak” varnish

Chair – Jonathan Adler “Brigitte”

Martini shaker – Family heirloom

Mid-century lamps, various chairs, dresser – vintage

Rug – The Rug Company

White bench – Desiron

Fireplace artwork – Charlotta Janssen “Cocoa Cultures,” Gayle Mansfield “Blah Blah Blah” print

Throw pillows – Wendy Morrison



Wallpaper – Cole & Son

Mirror – Maison du Monde

Custom toilet paper holder – Beagle & Bear


Liz’s Bedroom

Wall paint – Farrow & Ball “Manor House Gray”

Flooring – Dulux Diamond Glaze “Dark Oak” varnish

Red table, red cabinet – Cappellini

Oil painting – Richard E. Christian “Marshes with White Egret”

Rug – Lillian August

Dresser – antique

Throw pillows – Hatti Patterson

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  • The information given about the Scottish system of house buying is totally incorrect.

      • Grace,
        If a property sale goes to sealed bids, which they don’t always, yes, then people put in their best and final offers so there is no reason for them to put in other offers. But more often, people will put several offers on a property until the price is agreed. Also you can put offers in below the offers over price, especially in a slow market. It’s quite a fair system, as sellers have to provide a home report and market valuation from an independent assessor. It’s also more binding, so sales are less likely to fall through.
        Cheers, Kerri.
        PS gorgeous flat!

        • Pleased you commented- read the first bit and went ‘whaaaat? That’s not true!’ Try buying in England if you think that system is complicated!

      • It’s generally considered in England that our Scottish neighbours have a fairer and simpler system – no gazumping (is that a word everywhere?)

  • It’s beautiful. Lovely taste. Love the dark grey paint and the pops of bold color here and there. So glad it wasn’t painted white, white, white. The Scottish house buying process seems awful.

    • The old bathroom had clearly been adapted by the local authority for disabled use, probably for an elderly or wheelchair-bound occupier. Possibly someone for whom design was not a prioirity at the time.

  • Thank you for the fabulous write up our flat renovation! It was certainly a journey & we are beyond excited. You really captured the struggle we faced in the super competitive and fast moving Edinburgh property market. Every time I heard a property sold in 3 days or that we were up against 9 other bidders, my heart would sink.

  • Gorgeous! Love the wallpaper in the bathroom. Lovely blend of colors. Great transformation

  • Liz – your flat and instagram are a real inspiration. I’ve just moved house to an older building as well and can’t wait to get my teeth stuck in to scouring your images for good ideas

  • We sold my parents house in Scotland on a ‘fixed price’ which was simpler. This is a bit misleading.