Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Interior designer thrilled to transform her own home

MOST people would agree that having work done on your house is stressful. Not Niki Schafer.

MOST people would agree that having work done on your house is stressful. Not Niki Schafer.

The interior designer is having a two-storey front extension and a single-storey side extension built at her four-bedroom home in Walton Avenue.

The project is scheduled to take around five months but the thought of having workmen treading their muddy boots all over her house and making endless cups of tea with three sugars doesn’t faze her — even though the work is taking place as she is trying to organise this year’s Henley House and Garden Show.

Mrs Schafer, 44, says: “I love having this much activity going on. I’m genuinely excited every morning.”

She is treating the project like one of her jobs and says her family — husband Richard, 44, and children Genna, 13, Finn, 10, and Zoe, seven — are like customers.

“The joy of designing is for me,” says Mrs Schafer. “I like understanding people’s needs.

“Essentially my family are my clients. I understand what they want and how they live and the best way to design the space for them.

“If they want something hideous, believe me I’ll tell them!”

The family have lived at the house for only 14 months but Mrs Schafer knew she wanted to redesign it when they were looking round prior to  buying it.

She says: “I had interior designed and planned the house before we even moved in.

“It is a habit. I even do it on holiday. I walk into a hotel, a restaurant or a gym and I will immediately assess the space and what needs to be done.

“I’m not a ‘fall in love with one house’ kind of girl — I fall in love with every job I do.” The reason the family bought the house was because it was so near the centre of town and she would be able to walk the children to school — Genna is a pupil at Gillotts and the younger two are at Trinity primary.

“The location was absolutely ideal,” says Mrs Schafer. “Walking to school is very important to me because it means I get to spend time with my children.

“The potential of the house was just huge. This road is amazing and every house has got potential. It was instant — I knew what I wanted to do to it.”

She previously lived in Deanfield Road for 12 years and says: “I spent five of those years looking for a  project.

“That’s how people are in Henley — living in one location and keeping an eye out for what else is out there.”

The front extension will mean the addition of a fifth bedroom, a new study for Mr Schafer, who is managing director of a telecommunications company, and a playroom for the children.

Mrs Schafer didn’t want to lose any space at the back of the house, where there is a large garden with a shed, a vegetable patch and her office.

Her son Finn plays football and she says: “I wanted to make sure he had a nice big garden to play in and I wanted to build my business.

“What’s the point of having an enormous front garden? I knew it was only ever going to be a car park so why have a huge car park? All the houses in the street are staggered and ours is set further back than the others — four or five metres back.”

The exterior will be blue grey slate and off-white render.

“I never wanted a red brick façade,” says Mrs Schafer. “I’d lived in a red brick house my entire life because my father was in the RAF and we went from one red brick house to another.

“I wanted to live in a house with a facade that I’d created and loved.”

She also wanted to be able to stay in her home while the building work was going on.

“The design was to minimise the disruption,” she said. “It was designed so we could build the front and the side and then knock through.

“I needed it to be clever. I needed us to be able to live in the house as a family and to keep the cost down. I wanted the kitchen to work still.”

She gave her plans to designer Nigel Hefferman, who “came up with the goods very quickly” and planning permission was granted by South Oxfordshire District Council in  October.

“I was absolutely thrilled, it was exactly what I wanted,” says Mrs Schafer.

The work is being carried out by TW Construction and Developments, of Reading.

Two new bedrooms will be created on the top floor of the front extension with her husband’s study below complete with a library for the whole family to use.

Mr Schafer, who works in Portsmouth, will be able to work from home more often.

“It’s a long commute and I encourage him to work from home as it’s a wonderful thing to do,” says his wife.

“The playroom, I think, is important so that the kids have somewhere to keep all their stuff separately — their toys — and that they have a space to play in.”

The playroom will have a bright yellow gloss ceiling and feature yellow cushions.

Mrs Schafer also wanted each child to have their own bedroom while still having room for friends to stay.

The current bathroom, which is fairly small, will be moved into one of the existing larger bedrooms.

The side extension will mean the kitchen becomes a utility room and the dining room will be expanded to accommodate a new, open-plan style kitchen with an island, a seating area and a fire.

Mrs Schafer explains: “Places like the dining room are really important. There’s this whole family space where people can come together and talk while somebody cooks.

“I see it as the engine room in the centre of the house. If you don’t have that, communication breaks down and relationships break down.

“Being able to sit down and eat together is important whereas taking yourself into a closed space has a very different feeling. It’s for the end of the day, watching a movie with a glass of wine and chilling out.”

There will be a porcelain tiled floor in the open plan area and patterned flooring in the entrance hall.

The front door will be moved, allowing glazing to be installed so that light will stream in from the front of the house to the back.

“I think that a front door and hall is where people make up so much of their minds about your house,” says Mrs Schafer.

“Design is about how effective the space is and making the most of your building.

“When it’s your house, you’ve got this amazing huge canvas. It’s a privilege to design it for you and your family in a way you believe in.

“The fire is for me, the tiles, the art, the glass panel at the front. The door handle is definitely for me.

“Finn likes texture, whereas Genna will like bright lights and shiny things and Zoe will love bright colours.

“With the kids I will show them lots of things they like and colours and incorporate them into a proper scheme.

“For many years I’ve lived not being hugely proud of my home, so I can’t wait to say, ‘I’ve built this and it works for us’.”

• The Henley House and Garden Show, which is supported by the Henley Standard, will take place on March 12 and 13. The show will showcase the best in craftsmanship, design and artistry. For more information, visit

More News:

POLL: Have your say