Mom with 2 daughters in a playroom with a wooden slide and a jungle mural, bookshelves
Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

This Family’s Renovated 1960s Home is Full of Surprises — Including a Secret Bookcase Door

updated Oct 4, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids. Join us over on Instagram for more!

Cubby. Real solutions for unreal times.

Join us for a weekly dose of fresh, modern ideas for life at home with your kids.

Fliss Beasley’s Instagram handle is @thearchitects.daughter, which is an accurate description of Fliss, whose father is an architect. However, a more accurate name might be The Architect’s Daughter and The Property Manager’s Son, as the account chronicles the home renovation of Fliss and her husband, Daniel, who are both second-generation home renovators in the United Kingdom.

While the Beasleys come by their renovation instincts naturally, renovating their own home in Yorkshire — which they share with their daughters, Ella, 5, and Ivy, 2, and a mini lop Bunny called Beau (short for Rainbow, the name Ella chose) — was actually something quite new for the couple. Fliss says she had zero experience of remodeling prior to her own home (before deciding to stay home with her kids, Fliss worked as a preschool teacher). Daniel had worked on dozens of renovations before, but they were all rehabs of rental properties that his family’s business owns. “Cheap and cheerful, all neutral, and empty,” says Daniel of the rental renovation ethos — a far cry from the Beasleys’ playful, personality-packed home. Instead of the boring landlord-special, you’ll find joyful wallpapers, tons of color, an indoor swing, and even a secret door hidden behind a bookcase. 

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

Not only is the home’s style different from what Daniel had worked on before, but the process also proved to be unique: Living in a house and renovating it at the same time is very different from working on an empty rental apartment.

Fliss and Daniel bought the house, a 1960s detached four-bedroom, two-and-a-half years ago knowing that renovations (and a second baby!) were ahead of them. The previous owners had planned to expand the house and had even drawn up plans and done phase one of the work, but they’d decided to move before executing their plans. “I thought it would be easy,” laughs Daniel. “I figured, I have done this 50 times over.”

What they didn’t account for was the oftentimes near-impossible task of deciding what you want for your personal home — not to mention the many challenges that popped up trying to renovate during lockdown with two young children at home! (The shell of the extension was built in July 2020, and Daniel worked on the interior into the early spring of 2021.) On the plus side, it was stay-at-home orders that prompted Fliss to start an Instagram account to share their progress with the friends and family they couldn’t see in person. 

Since then, Fliss has been sharing their wins (and occasional stumbles) in her refreshingly friendly Instagram stories and posts. And what started as a lockdown diversion has become something so much more: Fliss now calls on her community of nearly 4,000 followers when she’s stuck with a design problem. She’s also found creative fulfillment in the process of designing and photographing her home. “I never would have thought I’d keep doing it after lockdown,” she says. Here at Cubby, we’re grateful she has, and we can’t wait to see what project she and Daniel tackle next.

Here’s how Fliss and Daniel approach renovation, parenting, and even social media.

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

On the benefits of open-plan living: 

“Open plan living just works for our family,” says Fliss. “The house is literally all open downstairs, there’s a lounge that feeds into the dining room, that is open to the kitchen. With two young kids they can be watching TV or playing while I’m cooking: It works brilliantly.”

On building in a big surprise: 

The Beasleys knew they wanted something extra playful for their kids’ playroom and even debated the idea of a slide entry from the second floor. “I wanted to have it be a fun, engaging place: educational but not like a school,” says Fliss. The couple finally settled on a secret doorway hidden behind a bookcase, but they didn’t tell their daughters what they were up to. “They would see him working at home, but they didn’t know our plans,” says Fliss. “When we finished it, we said, ‘Look, we’ve built you a bookcase.’ The girls were really excited, but when we showed them that one of the books has a lever inside that you pull to open the door, the kids were amazed.”

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

On the endlessness of renovations:

“I was always going to do the inside part of the renovation,” says Daniel, who hired a builder to do the shell of the extension. “With my background of the rented houses, I thought, it’ll take me no time at all. But everything has taken longer than I expected — and that’s even with being home so much last year. I would probably still be doing it now!” Daniel says the difficulty of making decisions for your forever home and the challenges of living in a home while renovating it are not to be discounted! “It’s all worked out for the better, but the renovations were definitely longer than I expected.”

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

On her background as a preschool teacher:

“I was a room leader for toddlers, 18 months to 3 years; it was great” says Fliss. “Now that I have my own children [the childcare] is such a labor of love. It’s so cliché, but you’re thinking about your own children and their personalities, the next steps that are coming.”

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

On the art of playtime: 

Leave it to a former preschool teacher to have mastered playtime at home. Fliss relies on three strategies to keep her kids engaged. First, she tries to limit how many toys are out at one time, and will encourage girls to put away a toy before they start to play with another. Her second strategy is toy rotation. Rotating which toys the girls have access to each season keeps playtime “fresh and exciting,” according to Fliss. “They get different aspects of play and learning in a different season.” Finally, Fliss loves to create invitations to play. “I’ll set out things as a play provocation, say they’ve taken a fancy to collecting pine cones, I’ll put those out with a selection of toys.”

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

On her go-to decor move:

“I like an accent wall as a way to inject a different element into a room without being too overpowering,” says Fliss. “In Ivy’s room it’s a very detailed wallpaper which we felt would have gotten lost, if used on all four walls. In the lounge area of the kitchen, I used wallpaper to break up the space: It’s quite a large open plan, so we used wallpaper to really home in and make it feel more cosy.”

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

On the best money they ever spent on their home: 

Of all the many things they’ve bought for their home and for their children, Daniel and Fliss agree on the best 20 pounds (approximately $27 USD) they ever spent: Their daughter’s okay to wake clock, which changes color when it’s okay for Ella to get out of bed. “Otherwise she was waking us up at 5 am!” says Fliss. “I am trying to get our youngest, Ivy, into it, but she just turned two, so we may have to wait a bit.”

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

On letting her daughter have a say in the design: 

“Ella was 3 when we moved and I was pregnant. It was a big deal we were getting a new house and a new baby. I wanted her to help decide on her big-girl room,” says Fliss. When asked, Ella said she wanted a mermaid-themed room. “She said Ariel, and I love Disney, but I wasn’t really interested in a Disney-themed room,” says Fliss. Instead, she opted for a room that nods to Ella’s preference: watercolor-inspired curtains, a jellyfish-like light fixture, and mermaid wall decals that can easily be removed later. Fliss even let Ella pick the wall color. “I think she chose pretty well!” she says.

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

On Instagram expanding their design horizons: 

“Instagram has helped us try new things,” says Fliss. For example the black woodwork in the entry hall. “There’s no way we would have done it before,” says Fliss, who notes it was particularly challenging for Daniel to break out of the impulse for neutral, rental-friendly choices. “Our Instagram community has helped us see the vision,” says Fliss.

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography
Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

On not sharing it all: 

While Fliss is very active on Instagram, she doesn’t show her daughters’ faces on the platform. “It’s a personal choice to keep their faces off Instagram,” says Fliss. “I feel it’s their decision to make for themselves when they’re old enough to understand the pros and cons of online presence and of course I want to protect them and their identity.” (Fliss did agree to have her girls photographed for Cubby because the home tour felt like a milestone, “This documents the journey we’ve been on so far together in our family home,” she says.)

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

On indoor-outdoor living — no matter what the weather:

“We’re really all about natural light and a fresh feel indoors,” says Fliss. “We love a weekend where we can go out for a long doorstep walk, then come back and dine al fresco as a family, but if the weather isn’t cooperating, we compromise and sit indoors with the bifolds open.” Even on a winter day, the floor-to-ceiling glass doors lets the family feel connected to nature.