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Location: Surrey, U.K.

Budget: $16,000

Square feet: 130

Timeline: Three months

Top priority: Creating a sunroom with an old-school Los Angeles vibe.

In Renovator’s Notebook, homeowners open up about the nitty-gritty of their remodels: How long it really took; how much it actually cost; what went horribly wrong; and what went wonderfully, serendipitously, it’s-all-worth-it-in-the-end right. For more tips to nail your next project, follow @reno_notebook.

Retro, coastal, glam—these aren’t the first words you’d use to describe a space in a Tudor home. Unless, that is, you’re talking about the sunroom at the back of the circa-1915 house that designer Emma Merry shares with her husband, Charles, and their two kids in Surrey, England. A beachy Slim Aarons print dominates the wall, the seating wears mod upholstery, and it’s hard to tell where the interior ends and the exterior begins. In short, it’s 1970s Los Angeles meets 1910s England.

The project was part of a larger renovation last fall to move the kitchen to the front of the house, where it could be expanded. Filling the void with a chill zone was a no-brainer given that the spot receives more natural light than any other room. As for its contemporary decor, Merry tells us it was all about tapping into her all-time favorite design movement in order to set a mellow mood—even if it was a bit of a swerve from the expected.


Splurge: Let the Sun Shine In


Replacing the windows with a large, custom-made sliding glass door set me back $10,000 (including demo and installation), but it lets in tons of natural light and, in turn, really blurs the lines between the indoors and out. Admittedly, prefabricated bifold doors would have saved me some money, but, like the old windows, most of the options were made up of a dizzying grid of individual panes that would’ve detracted from the view of the fig tree and pond beyond. I also upgraded to UV-blocking glass to prevent the Slim Aarons print and upholstery from fading.

Splurge: Heat the Floors for Cold-Weather Comfort

I nodded to our home’s Tudor roots by installing porcelain parquet tile (which is much easier to clean than its real wood cousin) but went with a washed-out finish to keep things casual. It almost makes the floor look like a sandy shore. I added radiant coils underneath as well so my family can more comfortably enjoy the sunroom year-round. The cost: $4,250. 

Save: Turn Someone Else’s Trash Into Technicolor Treasure



Long before the renovation got under way, a friend had given me an old daybed she didn’t have use for anymore. As luck would have it, the piece had just the right carefree attitude the sunroom needed, so I hired one of my dad’s pals to restore its leather support straps and fashion it with fluffy new cushions wrapped in a faceted fabric by Linwood—and they only charged me $1,000. The exuberant print perfectly encapsulates the cheery vibe I was after, and—bonus—I can pop the covers in the wash if (and when) my kiddos spill something on them.


Save: Recast an Old Bar Cart as a Side Table

I needed a small side table that could house a few children’s books, a reading lamp, and my flower bulbs come winter. It sounds simple enough, but there was a catch: The piece would need some serious personality if it was going to keep up with the statement sofa and large-scale photography. My solution? A vintage bar cart with spiral-turned legs and shelves that resemble rolling waves. I came across it while perusing my friend’s shop, Hunter and Mae, and she generously gave it to me for my birthday. But first I paid her $75 to paint it maroon (Annie Sloan Primer Red) to match the daybed’s upholstery. Now every day after school, my kids swing open the sliding door and grab a book off the shelf, and I read to them as the trees rustle outside.