First-time Buyers Guide to Decorating with Gemma Bertolotto

Mabel McLean
May 4, 2022
First-time Buyers Guide to Decorating with Gemma Bertolotto

As a first-time buyer it is so very exciting to receive the keys to your very own place. Your very own castle.

Thankfully your mortgage advisor will have ensured the most suitable deal for you. Also, they will have made sure that you have the right insurances in place to protect you, your family, and your home. Naturally, you’ll want to make your mark. With this in mind, we’ve asked the talented Gemma Bertolotto for her top tips on decorating.Gemma’s Instagram grid is a delight for the eyes (@childhoodinteriorsbygemma). She is a lover of all things home and family.

She is an excellent content creator, designer, property Investor and serial DIYer. Happiest when she’s organising, creating and completing a project. Gemma loves to share her design process of every project she’s undertaken, on Insta. She also loves helping someone else decorate and organise their home. Her eye for detail and way of pulling together rooms has been learned through trial and error, as well as a natural flair for interior design.  Gemma and Mabel have chatted about the first-time buying process and how you put your own stamp in it. Gemma shared her learnings with Mabel, for first-time buyers.

Here are 3 key focus areas you’ll need to tackle;

1. Where to start

Design one room at a time, think of its function. How will the room assist you in your flow? Set up the room the way you foresee yourself using it.  Will it be multifunctional such as a home office/guest bedroom?  Next, buy the furniture which will house your belongings, this way you can see how the space works and how much of the walls are covered up. There’s no point in having beautiful wallpaper if you can’t see it because of the clutter.

Once you’ve got your furniture, design the room around your favourite item.  Gemma chose a duck egg French bed for her daughter’s bedroom.  She then linked every direction to that one item when choosing wallpaper, paint, linens and other furniture.  The result is a beautifully pulled together bedroom fit for a princess!You don’t have to copy the previous owner’s idea, it’s your blank slate.

Gemma changed a double bedroom into a large bathroom as she valued the space for family bath time instead of a second spare bedroom.

Generous sized family bathroom with walk in shower and bathtub by Gemma Bartolotto
This is the repurposed bedroom turned into a generous family bathroom by Gemma Bertolotto.

If you want to see how a room will look before purchasing any items, create a mood board. Screenshot all of your choices and add them to a blank page. Swap out any items that don’t “spark joy”, wise words from Marie Kondo.
2. Budget

You may not have a big budget especially after putting down your deposit, solicitors fees and the first mortgage payment due!  To save some money look at creating a feature wall instead of decorating all the walls.  A feature wall will create maximum impact for a small amount of money.   Gemma recently created a panelled feature wall for less than £150. It might seem counterintuitive but don’t go for the cheap option as the only option.

It is far better to spend more on something you really love.  Gemma decorated her W.C three times as she tried to do it on a budget.  The first idea was horrendous using clearance wallpaper, which was a bargain, but it wasn’t really Gemma’s style and didn’t suit the space.  The second time Gemma loved the wallpaper but owing to poor quality the paper shrunk and the pattern could be wiped off.

Third time lucky, Gemma went for exactly what she wanted, more expensive, but no regrets.  Gemma learned that if she’d gone with her gut feeling, she’d have saved time and money.  Buying new isn’t the only way of furnishing your first home.  Consider pre-loved furniture, it is the most budget friendly, sustainable and interesting way to decorate your home.

Green velvet French sofa, a beloved preloved find of Gemma Bartolotto.
Gemma’s ‘wow’ pieces are all preloved finds, such as this stunning green velvet sofa.

Finding the right piece can take time so set up alerts on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. If you enjoy DIY, then you can find many items for free to upcycle to suit your taste and needs. Gemma created a wall of built-in wardrobes for less than £50 with old wardrobes going for free in my local area. They just needed the Gemma touch and now they look fabulous!Consider your big budget items like bed, mattress and sofa first.  You want an excellent night’s sleep, every night.  Same with your sofa whether you’re spending your downtime gaming or binge-watching the latest series of Married at First Sight, do it in comfort.  


It’s clear you should take your time and not be too impulsive in purchases, spend your money wisely.  
3. Accessories and Colour

Remember it is your home, it should reflect your personality and those living with you.  Though a large montage of the Marvel heroes may not be the feature wall you wanted in your living room but your 6 year old wants it.  Don’t follow trends if it’s not for you.  You’ve got to live with the decor daily so be comfortable and find your style.  Rugs are a great way to add colour to a room. A large area rug will anchor your furniture to the room.

It looks good visually and you can get some very budget friendly options these days. Don’t start adding colour to the walls straight away. Wait until you notice how the natural light affects the mood of a room. This way you can find out if a room is dark and dingy and will need brightening up or if it’s too bright and you’d rather have a cosy effect.


You can break this rule though. I painted my living room navy as soon as I moved in. I didn’t care how the light would affect it. I wanted a navy room and went for it. I absolutely loved it from day one!

Gemma’s passion for interior design comes across so clearly on her Instagram and she holds true to her style.

To make the move go smoother, Gemma suggests the following:

“Pack an overnight bag with everything you’ll need for the first night & morning. Things such as PJs, toothbrush, hair brush, soap, toilet roll, hand towel, coffee/tea, mug, phone charger, any medicines,etc. this will relieve a lot of stress. Order takeout for your first evening and eat from the box it arrives in. Pizza is a safe choice 👍🏻”

Above all else, enjoy your first home.  Take your time to make it your own, it’s your hard-earned money after all.  

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