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How NI businesswoman Nuala Campbell transformed dilapidated Belfast terrace into stylish Airbnb on £25k budget

Nuala Campbell built and installed the kitchen herself and scoured online stores for bargains - and her property is already being booked up quickly

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The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

18 Whitehall Gardens during

18 Whitehall Gardens during

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

Nuala Campbell is thrilled that her hard work is paying dividends

Nuala Campbell is thrilled that her hard work is paying dividends

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

For someone who has always loved DIY, renovating a period property in Belfast was the ultimate challenge for local businesswoman Nuala Campbell.

Rolling up her sleeves to do much of the work herself, she has completely transformed a rundown three-storey terrace into a chic and contemporary Airbnb.

Saving money by doing it herself was top of her agenda when she and husband Frankie (44) got the keys to their new investment property at the beginning of December.

Spending every evening after work up until 10pm and all day Saturday and Sunday working alone on the house, Nuala (37) is thrilled by the results.

A self-confessed flatpack furniture junkie, Nuala says she would prefer the gift of a power drill to designer perfume any day.

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The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

She also surprised herself by not only assembling every piece of furniture in the house herself, but she also built and installed the new kitchen.

Internal walls came tumbling down as she wielded a claw hammer, and when the building work was complete Nuala also proved to be a talent when it came to interior design.

As well as undertaking this project, Nuala has a busy career. She owns non-profit making company Titanic Creative Education, which trains young people in the art of movie and film prosthetics. And she also runs Titanic FX, supplying professional prosthetic materials to movie sets and TV shows as well as industrial clients around the world.

Her husband Frankie is also in business and runs The Cutting Edge barber shop on the Ormeau Road.

Fitting a house renovation into her busy schedule was, she confesses, exhausting, but seeing the finished product has made every minute of her hard work worthwhile.

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The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

"I am the handyman of our house," she admits. "I am the one who puts up mirrors and does the repairs. My husband doesn't do any DIY at all, and in fact if he needed a new mirror hung in his barber shop he would phone me.

"My friends buy me gift vouchers for Screwfix for Christmas as they know I love power tools. I've always loved building flatpack furniture and would joke that if I ever found myself unemployed I would go and work in IKEA."

I decided that I would man up and do it myself. It was stressful doing it all on my own but I had a great feeling of accomplishment at the end, even though I was exhausted

Nuala reveals they decided to buy the house "because I have no pension and we thought it would be a good investment".

She continues: "It is a beautiful period property with tall ceilings and decorative coving but it was in a terrible state and we didn't realise just how bad it was until we got the keys."

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18 Whitehall Gardens during

18 Whitehall Gardens during

18 Whitehall Gardens during

Nuala and Frankie bought their new house in Whitehall Gardens, off the Ormeau Road in Belfast, for £143,000. It is a three-storey, four-bedroom mid-terrace dating back to around 1920.

It had been rented out and had fallen into a bad state of repair when the couple acquired it. Initially they had set aside a figure of £10,000 to renovate and furnish the property, but their budget more than doubled to £25,000 when they unearthed some unexpected issues.

Nuala explains: "One of the first things I did was knock down a wall to open up two downstairs rooms into one. The wall was made of lath and plaster and when I touched it, it just crumbled. Every single interior wall was the same and we had to secure them, build them up and replaster them, which was a big cost we weren't expecting.

"Also, because we were planning to rent it out we had to spend a lot more on electrics than we expected for health and safety reasons.

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18 Whitehall Gardens After

18 Whitehall Gardens After

18 Whitehall Gardens After

"We also had the added expense of installing a full gas heating system and replumbing. It pushed the budget way beyond what we had hoped to spend." Nuala saved £3,000 by building and installing the IKEA kitchen units herself. "I'm really pleased how the kitchen turned out," she says.

"I had a bad experience with tradesmen getting a kitchen put into my own house last year. They were supposed to be here for a week and they were still in my house seven weeks later.

"I decided that I would man up and do it myself. It was stressful doing it all on my own but I had a great feeling of accomplishment at the end, even though I was exhausted."

Another area where Nuala realised she could save money was on the furnishings. A savvy shopper, she sourced some fantastic bargains without having to sacrifice quality.

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Nuala Campbell is thrilled that her hard work is paying dividends

Nuala Campbell is thrilled that her hard work is paying dividends

Nuala Campbell is thrilled that her hard work is paying dividends

Seeking inspiration from the internet, she amassed thousands of pictures of rooms she liked and set about recreating the looks by scouring online and local shops for bargains.

For practical reasons she painted the entire house white so that it could be easily touched up between rentals. Going for a modern industrial theme and a pared back Scandi look, she has created an exquisite interior which her guests are not likely to forget.

She says: "I always liked things very symmetrical but the more pictures I looked at online the more I saw how things that didn't match looked great together.

"I realised everything didn't need to line up perfectly and I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and try and recreate some of the lovely looks I had seen online.

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18 Whitehall Gardens After

18 Whitehall Gardens After

18 Whitehall Gardens After

"I ended up with 3,000 inspirational screenshots of rooms on my phone and I spent hours and hours searching for furniture online."

Working within her tight budget, she found that the Christmas and January sales offered huge discounts. End-of-line products were also among the best bargains.

Every single item in the house was bought at a discounted sale price except for one Scandi-style writing desk bought for a bedroom.

"I couldn't get a desk like it anywhere else so I bought it at full price. It was supposed to be a 40-minute assembly but in the end it took me four-and-a-half hours as it had 260 pieces and no instructions!

I didn't just want to decorate a house and put any old furniture in it, I wanted to create somewhere people will enjoy staying, somewhere that I would enjoy staying in. I want people to have a feeling of having stayed somewhere lovely

"It cost £320 and was the most expensive item I bought, even more costly than the king-size beds."

She was able to pick up sales bargains in one of her favourite shops Made.com, where she got bedding reduced from £90 to £20 and cushions from £40 each to two for £10.

One of her favourite finds was a stunning royal blue bench and yellow chair for her living room, which she bought for £80 each from myfurniture.co.uk. Two days later they were back to their normal presale price of £280 each.

Her biggest bargain, however, was her dining table.

She sourced a furniture-maker in England on eBay who built her a table from her exact specifications and delivered it for a total cost of £120. "It was made from scaffolding planks and he made it to the exact dimensions I asked for, the exact colour and the exact level of gloss. It looks fantastic."

Another bargain - and one of her favourite purchases - was a modern black framed shower screen she picked up on Amazon for under £100. Similar screens can cost around £1,000.

Nuala used her creative side to decorate the property with accessories by creating art online herself and buying frames in bulk on Amazon.

Her oak laminate flooring, which was installed throughout the property by a friend, was also bought in the sales, reduced from £24.99 to £8.99 a box.

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The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

The dramatic transformation of Nuala Campbell’s house

Her industrial style metal king-sized beds came from Wayfair and were another sale bargain at £220 each with mattresses.

While she is thrilled with every room in the house, her favourite is the bathroom where she managed to almost exactly replicate the industrial look she came across in a picture online.

In total Nuala has pulled off a chic interior at a total cost of £3,000 for all the furnishings and accessories, including lights and rugs.

Her home was posted on Airbnb just last week and already the two larger bedrooms are booked out until July and the two smaller rooms are booked for the next eight weeks.

Thrilled by her achievement, she says: "I travel a lot with work and have stayed in Airbnbs all over the world - some are really good and some are very shabby.

"I didn't just want to decorate a house and put any old furniture in it, I wanted to create somewhere people will enjoy staying, somewhere that I would enjoy staying in. I want people to have a feeling of having stayed somewhere lovely.

"The look is a mix of industrial minimalist and Scandi and I'm really delighted with it. My first guests said they loved the pictures online and thought it was beautiful.

"It just shows you can do things cheaply and still create something really nice. Each of the four bedrooms is being rented separately, or it can be rented as a full house.

"We have a lot of people coming here to work in the film and TV industry and it would be nice to think that if they are staying in the house together that friendships can be made as well."

You can book Nuala's property at https://www.airbnb.co.uk/users/show/5000400

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