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How Tiffany Brien turned a rundown terrace into her dream home

The 29-year-old tells Stephanie Bell how she carried out an epic transformation on a 100-year-old property in Holywood

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Tiffany Brien in her new home at Seapark in Hollywood

Tiffany Brien in her new home at Seapark in Hollywood

Kevin Scott

Tiffany Brien in her new home at Seapark in Hollywood

Tiffany Brien in her new home at Seapark in Hollywood

Kevin Scott

Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Kevin Scott

Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Kevin Scott

Tiffany Brien's new custom homein Holywood (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Tiffany Brien's new custom homein Holywood (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott

Inside Tiffany's home (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Inside Tiffany's home (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott

Tiffany Brien's new custom home (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Tiffany Brien's new custom home (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott

Tiffany Brien in her new custom home at Seapark in Hollywood Co.Down on December 22nd 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Tiffany Brien in her new custom home at Seapark in Hollywood Co.Down on December 22nd 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott

Tiffany Brien in her new home at Seapark in Hollywood

Tiffany Brien has spent her career selling upmarket homes, so when it came to buying one of her own it is no surprise that she had a fairly lengthy wishlist.

Shopping for her dream home was never going to be easy, especially as she had her father Simon, one of the province's best-known estate agency bosses, casting his professional eye over everything she viewed.

Struggling to find something which met her - and her father's - high expectations, in the end Tiffany (29) opted to do it herself.

For six months the well-known beauty blogger and champion sailor renovated a rundown terrace house, which she bought close to the sea in her native Holywood.

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Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Kevin Scott

Ripping out everything from the floorboards to the roof, she virtually rebuilt the property from the ground up to create her dream home.

Tiffany, who is an associate director in her father's company Simon Brien Residential, has only recently moved in and is thrilled and proud of what she has achieved.

"I can't believe it is my home. I have to pinch myself," she says. "Every night when I go home I just think 'Wow, this is mine, all of this is mine and I did it all myself'.

"And I really did do it all myself. I researched everything and I had a budget, so I had to shop around and get the best price. It was a huge learning curve.

"I never realised there were so many different shower screen doors or appliances. You really do have to do a lot of research to keep within your budget."

Although she won’t reveal how much she paid for the property Tiffany did have a healthy budget to carry out the renovations and interiors.

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Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Kevin Scott

She was 24 when she took her first step onto the property ladder with a modest terrace in Holywood.

Tiffany had the house presented so beautifully that the very first viewer snapped it up, along with all the furnishings.

This new home is one she plans to live in for at least five years before she hopes to realise her ultimate dream of building her own home.

"I was very happy in my little terrace house but I just wanted to move up the property ladder to something a bit bigger with a garage and a garden," she explains.

"My dad, who is 'Mr Property', was super protective over me and what I was going to buy. In the end it was all about location and when I found the house with sea views in the town I grew up in and close to the local yacht club it was a no-brainer.

"It was a bit more work than I initially wanted to take on. I sold my own house really quickly and the girl bought everything in it which was great as it was all bought to suit the house so I knew I would need to buy new things.

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Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Kevin Scott

"I left it with just a suitcase and moved into my parent's house while the renovations were taking place."

Tiffany worked with local companies to carry out the complete renovation of the four bedroom end terrace, ripping out all of the floors, stairs and joists and taking off the roof.

She had to rewire and re-plumb the entire house as well as install a new central heating system.

The building work was carried out by a local contractor who started in January 2019 and the house was ready for Tiffany last July.

"The house is about 100 years old and had been rented out," she says. "The lady who owned it moved to London and she was delighted someone was going to restore it and live in it and enjoy it.

"It had a lot of period features but I had to take them out, although I replaced all the cornicing, ceiling roses and corbels with new plasterwork. The floors had started to rot so they had to come up along with the joists.

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Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Kevin Scott

"I worked with a Dungannon-based contractor called Alskea Contracts and they were exceptional. It was a stress-free process thanks to them.

"Nothing was any trouble. If I sent them a picture of what I wanted, they got it or did it for me, no questions asked.

"I filled the floors downstairs with concrete and put underfloor heating in and we also took the roof off so that we could insulate and we even rebuilt the chimney.

"We also rebuilt two bay windows. The house is like a brand new house and the only thing that remained untouched was the four walls. At one point you could stand in the hall and when you looked up you could see the sky."

Tiffany re-imagined the interior to put the kitchen at the front of the property, open to a dining area which in turn flows into a beautiful living room at the back.

One of the four bedrooms was turned into a dressing room for this former model, who confesses to having a very large wardrobe of clothes.

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Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Some of the stunning rooms and fittings in Tiffany’s Co Down home

Kevin Scott

Choosing the all-important finishing touches such as flooring, tiles, bathroom fittings, kitchen units and furniture was the part Tiffany enjoyed, allowing her to be creative and put her own stamp on her home.

The result is a stunning, contemporary interior which could easily grace the pages of a glossy magazine yet remains welcoming and cosy.

Again, Tiffany says working with local family-run companies helped this part of her build to run smoothly.

"The fun bit was decorating it," she says. "I didn't want to do it grey as I go into houses everyday that are grey and I just thought that was the easy route.

"Getting colours right was harder than I thought and I got Sarah Thompson, of Thompson Clarke Interiors, to help pick them. I have some lovely shades, like peach in the lounge which I would never have chosen and which I really love, and I also have blues. It is all very natural.

"I didn't want to do the traditional black and white chequered floor in my hall so I did a modern twist on it by using hexagon-shaped tiles.

"In my kitchen area I stole an idea for bench seating from The National Bar in Belfast and it works really well. All my tiles came from David Scott and my kitchen was designed by a young local designer, Laura Dallat, who recently came second in the Irish Kitchen Design Awards.

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Inside Tiffany's home (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Inside Tiffany's home (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott

Inside Tiffany's home (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

"It is a German-made kitchen which is in two tones of grey with white stone worktops from local company Lamont Stone. I flipped the layout and put the kitchen at the front of the house where the bay window is, where I have traditional shutters.

"My living area which is now at the back has been painted with a type of peach that looks like plaster and it's very warm and cosy."

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Tiffany Brien's new custom homein Holywood (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Tiffany Brien's new custom homein Holywood (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott

Tiffany Brien's new custom homein Holywood (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Most of Tiffany's furniture was bought from Thompson Clarke Interiors while her striking modern art work come from Canvas Gallery.

The stylish and comfortable corner sofa in her living room is an exact replica of her parents' sofa and she had it made bespoke by Drumbriston The Sofa Maker.

Pride of place is given in her dining room to a framed piece of patchwork, (left) which is very special to Tiffany.

"The patchwork piece in the dining room is handmade by my grandmother and is by far my favourite item in the house as it means so much to me," she says.

Her bathroom is super chic with a free standing contemporary oval bath, sleek vanity units with matching storage in a natural wood and an elegant black framed shower with feature tiles from David Scott. She sourced all of her sanitary ware from KE Plumbing Supplies.

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Tiffany Brien's new custom home (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Tiffany Brien's new custom home (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott

Tiffany Brien's new custom home (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

"It was just such a dream to work with local companies. Gareth Scott, of David Scott Tiles, really helped me to get it right in the bathroom.

"Local companies are so easy to deal with and they really helped me to make decisions."

Tiffany is thrilled with the end result and one of her favourite rooms is her large dressing room. "I didn't need four bedrooms so I turned one into a dressing room," she says. "Every wall in it has wardrobes and there is a dressing table. I have so many clothes that it really is quite cool to have this space. It is done in a way that it could easily be turned into a bedroom again.

"I love the entire house, it's beautiful. When I go home at night after work and shut the door, my living room feels like a little cave, it is so cosy and it's exactly how I wanted it."

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Tiffany Brien in her new custom home at Seapark in Hollywood Co.Down on December 22nd 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Tiffany Brien in her new custom home at Seapark in Hollywood Co.Down on December 22nd 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott

Tiffany Brien in her new custom home at Seapark in Hollywood Co.Down on December 22nd 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

And as for investment, has this savvy estate agent had a chance to assess if her money has been well spent?

She says: "Yes, I know people would pay for it to be finished like I have done it and if I sold it I would get my money back and make a little as well. I plan to stay here for five to eight years and then I would love to build a home.

"I don't want to move away from this area as it is where I grew up and I have my family, the sea and the yacht club close by.

"I've sea views from this house which are amazing and it might be difficult to get a piece of land here that I can afford to allow me to build in this area but we will see how it pans out.

"For the moment I am working really hard in my career and I enjoying my new house."

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