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Couple transform their ‘dirty’ council flat over six years

A care worker has revealed how she transformed her ‘dirty’ two-bedroom council flat into a cosy home after saving money for key purchases.

Abby Dunsmure, 26, moved into the flat in Helensburgh, Scotland, with her husband Stuart, 25, six years ago after a period of homelessness. 

At the time they relied solely on Stuart’s, had no furniture except for a bed and needed to take out payday loans to buy key items like a fridge.

Now Abby and Stuart are both in full-time jobs, pay rent on their flat and have spent a total of £6,000 improving their home.

They updated the bathroom for just £60, gave the kitchen a £40 refresh, and invested in pieces like the £1,000 sofa and £350 coffee table, while picking up accessories from TK Maxx and Dunelm. 

Bedroom before: Abby Dunsmure, 26, moved into the flat in Helensburgh, Scotland, with her husband Stuart, 25, six years ago after a period of homelessness. The only piece of furniture they had was a bed, pictured, which was situated in a dingy room with a broken floor

Bedroom after: Over time the couple have saved to improve their home, making it cosier and more inviting. Abby and Stuart added a plush carpet and elegant bed to their bedroom

Bedroom after: Over time the couple have saved to improve their home, making it cosier and more inviting. Abby and Stuart added a plush carpet and elegant bed to their bedroom

Bathroom before: The bathroom floor was stained and dirty and didn't create a feeling of relaxation. Even then, Abby was looking out for homey touches like the set of drawers pictured

Bathroom before: The bathroom floor was stained and dirty and didn’t create a feeling of relaxation. Even then, Abby was looking out for homey touches like the set of drawers pictured

Bathroom after: New flooring, under-sink storage and a fresh coat of paint transformed the bathroom. Abby and Stuart have received praise on TikTok for how they have changed the flat

Bathroom after: New flooring, under-sink storage and a fresh coat of paint transformed the bathroom. Abby and Stuart have received praise on TikTok for how they have changed the flat

Living room before: The couple relied on one income when they first moved into the flat and initially didn't have the money to spend on improving the walls or furnishings

Living room before: The couple relied on one income when they first moved into the flat and initially didn’t have the money to spend on improving the walls or furnishings

Living room after: The couple added a new carpet, painted the walls and decorated with classic, comfortable furniture that give the room a sophisticated feel

Living room after: The couple added a new carpet, painted the walls and decorated with classic, comfortable furniture that give the room a sophisticated feel 

Slow and steady: Abby and Stuart, pictured, who now both work full-time, made over the flat by replacing the vinyl tiles, updated the bathroom floor and decorated with bargain buys from shops including TK Maxx and Dunelm, while saving money for big buys like a coffee table

Slow and steady: Abby and Stuart, pictured, who now both work full-time, made over the flat by replacing the vinyl tiles, updated the bathroom floor and decorated with bargain buys from shops including TK Maxx and Dunelm, while saving money for big buys like a coffee table

Abby showed off the makeover in a TikTok video that has received more than 123,000 views and 13,500 likes, with viewers applauding her for showing council housing in a positive light. 

Abby said: ‘There’s a massive stigma with council housing and people being on benefits. I got my flat a good few years ago now and I was homeless at the time. I found myself on my own quite young.

‘Me and my husband both work full time now, it’s just we were in an unfortunate situation at the start. A lot of people have had bad things to say about council houses but the people who live in them aren’t bad. Some of them are just in sticky situations.

‘It angers me when people judge council houses. I’ve had a few comments because of where my flat is – it’s in the worst area in Helensburgh.

Kitchen before: The council flat's kitchen was plain but livable before the transformation

Kitchen before: The council flat’s kitchen was plain but livable before the transformation

Kitchen after: A fresh white colour scheme, new flooring and swish handles lift the room

Kitchen after: A fresh white colour scheme, new flooring and swish handles lift the room

‘I’ve had people say to me “you live in Junkieville”. Because it carries a stigma, I’m painted with the same brush, even though me and my husband work.

‘We’re all tarred with the same brush of being drug users or junkies when we’re not. A few people I know myself have said that. They just judge what property we’re in.’

Abby explained that when they moved into the flat, they relied solely on Stuart’s income. He found himself in debt after taking out payday loans to fund essential purchases. 

She continued: ‘But I was able to get a full-time job and it made things easier. He paid off the debt and we’ve been able build up the flat, make it more of a home. 

Bare: The bedroom before had a brown carpet, plain walls and minimal basic furniture

Bare: The bedroom before had a brown carpet, plain walls and minimal basic furniture

Chic: Abby has worked to save up money for luxurious touches like this dressing table set

Chic: Abby has worked to save up money for luxurious touches like this dressing table set

Cosy: At Christmas the room is decorated with festive touches of red and a tartan throw

Cosy: At Christmas the room is decorated with festive touches of red and a tartan throw

‘I would definitely say buying cheaper, like we used to, is a waste of money because it wouldn’t last, so we’d build up the savings and buy the bulk of the furniture.

‘I’ve found my style. I loved taking something from what we had at the start to what it is today – a diamond in the rough.

‘I love transforming things and I’ve always had a good eye for design. I used to be a cleaner as well so I’m quite particular in the way I like things.

‘If there’s been council workers coming in, they see a huge change to some of the houses they do go in.

‘I live in quite a rough area so not many of the flats look very nice, but they come into my flat and say it’s a whole different world to what they’ve been working in.’

Little touches: Abby and Stuart have made use of neutral tones to create a cohesive look throughout their home. Pictured, a stylish mirror in a corner of their bedroom

Little touches: Abby and Stuart have made use of neutral tones to create a cohesive look throughout their home. Pictured, a stylish mirror in a corner of their bedroom

Now the couple, who pay full rent because they’re working full-time, are saving up to buy a place of their own.    

‘Me and my husband aren’t wanting to get a mortgage – we want to cash buy a house which is why it’s taking so long,’ Abby explained.  

‘We wanted to buy our house outright so we have security in the long run and no one can take it off us. We’ve been made redundant in the past. 

‘We’re looking to buy an ex-council property. Council properties are much better standard than new builds. You get much bigger gardens.

‘We’ve never claimed any sort of benefits and we’ve not received any family help at all. I know people can be judged wrongly, but we’ve got this far and saving to cash buy on our own. Stuart works 100-hour weeks including his sleepovers.’ 

The couple have been praised by TikTok fans, with one writing: ‘Absolutely stunning gal! I lived in a council flat for eight years before I bought. Absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.’ 

Another said: ‘Some council houses are nicer than bought houses as people feel a snobbery towards them. I’ve seen some lovely council house accounts on here.’

A third added: ‘I grew up my whole life in a council house. My parents worked so hard and had no money. It taught me to value everything. Your home is beaut.’

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