Childhood Interiors by Gemma
by Laura Michlek
Stepping inside Gemma’s home is like being in a fairy tale, with pretty floral patterns lining the walls and quaint but striking features as you turn each corner. The more you explore each room the more you fall a little bit in love. Describing her interior style as ‘a whimsical and modern version of classic’ Gemma has created something very special for her young family to grow up in.
“Everything has been created with family life in mind. What’s most important for me is creating a fun and unique home that my children love.”
Starting in Gemma’s daughter Sophia’s room, you are instantly drawn by the large oak beams that span across the ceiling. Gemma has carefully outlined each beam with an enchanting floral wallpaper that drops down to the white panelled walls. Your eyes next cast over the opulent French style carved wooden bed, vintage blue bedside tables that are framed with classic pleated lamp shades, and the most beautiful traditional doll’s house. Sophia’s room even has its very own ballet barre! It’s the perfect space for a little princess.
Continuing through the enchanted forest that lines the walls, you enter Sophia’s dressing room that houses lovely open shelving for her tiny clothes before you reach the sweetest pink en-suite at the end. With hints of gold scattered throughout the marble topped vanity unit, tap and tiles, it’s a space that Sophia will not only be able to love as a child but she will also be able to grow in in the years to come.
Not to be outdone by Sophia’s room, Gemma’s son Stefano’s room is also very special! Looking up you instantly feel a sense of calm as you take in another themed mural that covers the entire ceiling. This time you find clouds circling the dreamily matched ceiling feature light. The room is finished with pops of red detailed in his industrial bedside tables that bring a fun and playful atmosphere to the space.
“A little fun fact: Sofia’s French bed is actually almost 200 years old, and Stefano’s are also Victorian beds that I’ve bought from local estates in the Glens.”
How lovely to have so much history in your home!
It’s clear to see even visiting their first few rooms of the home that Gemma has a love for wallpaper!
“Oh yes, I love using wallpaper in my home. It provides a huge wow factor, and it also reflects our personalities. I especially love murals. They are like images from stories, and they make the walls look like giant pieces of art. They create a huge impact for very little work.”
I ask where she sources the items used to style her home.
“Most of my ‘shops’ are online. Rebel Walls is where I go to for murals, Greenshop Paints is my favourite store for all painting/stain/oil projects, and Dowsing & Reynolds have amazing light fixtures.”
Gemma and her husband Paul first moved into their home in Aberdeen in 2015 after Paul had a job offer that was too good of an opportunity to miss out on, and it wasn’t long before Stefano and Sophia arrived to complete their family.
“I was sad to be leaving the city and my friends and family but when we saw this property, it was love at first sight! The size of the rooms, the views, the gardens, and the period details… I loved everything! We couldn’t believe that selling a tiny house in Edinburgh meant we could afford this huge, beautiful house.
Now we absolutely love our rural home and rural life.”
The couple’s love for property runs a little deeper than their own home too, as they also own a rental apartment building, The Duke of Montrose. I ask if she was involved in the styling of that too.
“I wish I could style and furnish them. I have so many ideas, but the best option is for our tenants to make their homes reflect them. The building is stunning with gorgeous features, so we maintain those instead of decorating.”
Heading back to their home we take a run through the floor plan. It comprises of a large family room, a country kitchen with a utility/boot room, a pantry, dining room, home office, family bathroom, four bedrooms, plus a home gym, garage, and a bothy.
I ask if there was a lot of work to do when they first bought the property.
“The kitchen was the only modern room. Everything else had to be decorated and repaired. We had to repoint the entire home, repair 30 windows and lay new flooring throughout. Then I became pregnant, so all other renovations were put on hold barring essential work. Two children later, we started properly working on the house again during the first lockdown in 2020 and I don’t think I’ve stopped decorating since!
“Changing parts of a listed building can be expensive so we’ve concentrated on redecorating. I’ve designed everything myself. We didn’t have enough funds to pay for labour and materials, so DIY was our only choice. I watched YouTube tutorials so I could learn skills like how to tile, plumb and decorate.”
Gemma’s Instagram page @childhoodinteriorsbygemma is full of useful tips for designing, styling and ‘DIYing’ your own home. Featuring picturesque mood boards curated for each of her rooms, sharing her vision and themes for each space, her posts provide endless inspiration.
“Oh, creating mood boards is such a lovely task to complete, I find them really calming. Most of the time I just complete them for fun (just like how some people like to colour in) and other times it is to show other parties my vision. I always complete one when I’m making a big purchase. I want to make sure the item will look right with the other items in a room/space.”
And where does she find her inspiration from?
“I see inspiration everywhere. I love home interior magazines and visiting gorgeous buildings whenever I travel.”
As I delve a little deeper into Gemma’s home, I can’t help but notice some of her unique home furnishings. Take her home office for instance, featuring an oversized statement fringed curved sofa that you can’t help but be in awe of.
“A local family member was actually selling the desk, built in cabinets and sofa so we snapped it up without hesitating. The funny thing is we only went for a £90 mirror!
“A big house needs furniture that’s the right scale for the room. High Street stores don’t provide this, so you really need bespoke. That didn’t suit my budget so preloved is my best choice. I think 90% of our furniture is preloved and buying the right pieces has taken years. I’m really interested in buying quality and sustainable products and furniture.
“My greatest challenge was designing on a budget because our rooms are huge, so they swallow up a lot of money for very little effect. Take our garden for instance, with over two acres we spend a small fortune maintaining it and you wouldn’t notice much difference.”
I feel Gemma is being a little modest as I can’t help but notice her pristine outdoor kitchen, another special designer dupe created entirely by herself.
“The whole thing cost less than £100!”
Created using an old work bench that was carefully covered in blue Deck Chair tiles it looks the perfect spot to enjoy the summer months.
Talking of perfect spots, I ask Gemma if she has a favourite within her home.
“I absolutely love gazing out the west windows towards the mountains. I feel like I’m in my own little bubble away from the world. I wish the windows were a little larger to take in more of the mountain views. My goal is to have a glass box-style extension or orangery on the west side of the house one day.”
Before I leave Gemma dreaming of her next DIY project, I ask if she has any tips for readers.
“If I could pass on any advice, I’d say most DIY projects are easier than you think. It takes time and practice but with a few tutorials, which I often share on my Instagram, you’ll be able to tackle lots of projects. And don’t overlook preloved furniture. It’s usually an absolute bargain and superior quality to what you can find in shops. I’ve found a lot of free items that I’ve upcycled into dream pieces.”
It’s been lovely wandering through the halls of Gemma’s home. I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve next. She’s proven you really can create your own fairy tale and live happily ever after!