Mel Prescott-Davies and her soldier Chris Green bought their Victorian terrace in Staffordshire through the Forces Help to Buy scheme and soon got to work on giving it a makeover. They created a country style that was so stunning it featured in Period Living magazine. Army&You caught up with the couple to find out about their forever home…
Who is your Army family?
Chris: Myself and Mel, who is step-mum to my three children – Megan (17), Ryan (15) and Jack (13) who all live with their mother in Essex. We also have a black kitten called Florrie, named after a young girl who lived here over 100 years ago.
How long have you lived the Army life?
C: I leave the Army in June after 22 years’ service. I met Mel in 2012 and introduced her to Army life for the first time. Apart from the separation she loves it!
How has moving into your own house benefited you?
C: It has given us a proper base as a family, somewhere that we can put our own stamp on without worrying about the upheaval that a move brings. It’s taken a lot of stress away from me. Leaving the Army after so long is exciting but also a very daunting experience. It means I can concentrate on hunting for work.
Why did you choose the Forces Help to Buy Scheme?
Mel: We wanted to put as big a deposit down as possible to make our repayments low. Chris wanted to ensure that his pension would cover the mortgage and household bills – the FHTB Scheme enabled us to do that.
C: It was very simple; the hardest part was finding the right home that matched our wish list. JSP 752 sets out the whole FHTB process and timeline and our application followed it almost to the letter.
Would you recommend it to other Army families?
C: Absolutely. Without this scheme we would not have been able to afford our forever home in the area we wanted.
How did the magazine feature come about?
M: A friend suggested I put my old house in Manchester forward for a magazine article, but by that time we had bought this house, so I shelved the idea. After restoring the original Minton and quarry tiles in this house I put some pictures together and tried again, Period Living adored it and it appeared in their 25th anniversary issue last November.
Where does your inspiration come from for your home décor?
M: Our style is vintage country. We love mixing old with new; I’d say it comes from a joint love of history. I’m particularly fond of all things 1940s so most of my inspiration comes from that era.
It sounds like you’ve really enjoyed the process.
C: I’ve really enjoyed the whole homemaking thing as I’ve never really had the opportunity before. Mel has mostly picked what to do in the house, but the front room was my domain.
M: He picked the furniture, colours and so on. It’s kind of like the sergeants’ mess minus the Chesterfield sofas! Though laughingly we did think we might buy one.
Has it been a costly project?
M: Although people might think the house looks expensively kitted out, it’s all done on a budget tighter than my jeans after Christmas. I had a lot of furniture from my old house, mostly pre loved, from second-hand shops. I’ve transformed them with a lick of paint, from tester pots which are cheaper than a whole pot. I’m also very handy with a sewing machine.
What advice would you give other families about furnishing their home on a tight budget?
M: Take advantage of colleges offering free or cheap courses. If you’re on a patch, see if you could share a sewing machine or work together to make things. Pinterest and Instagram are great for ideas and online groups such as freecycle, gumtree and preloved are ace places to find good quality second-hand furniture. Another good tip is to see what your neighbours are giving away if they’re moving.
Are there any traces of magnolia?
M: Honestly? Yes, sort of. It’s more a country cream (okay it’s magnolia I can’t lie). I know most quarters are 50 shades of magnolia and many Army families must long to strike out with bold colours, but we prefer a plain backdrop to complement our vintage furniture and soft furnishings.