Double-fronted Victorian houses rarely come onto the market in Bramhall, Cheshire, so when this beautiful property, built in 1865 for the local stationmaster, was put up for sale, Caroline and Ian jumped at the chance to buy it.
The owners: Caroline Firth, an interior designer, lives here with husband Ian, a musician and music teacher, their children, Sam, 15, and Erin, 10, plus
Leo, the Persian cat
The property: A five-bedroom, semi-detached Victorian house built in 1865, in Bramhall, Cheshire
Total project cost: £28,000
'We were looking to relocate from north Manchester, and this was our dream location,’ she explains. ‘It’s got a great village feel, a large, private garden, and there are brilliant schools nearby.’
The house itself offered potential in terms of its size and period features, but the interior was bland and uninspiring.
‘It had been done up to sell, so it was liveable, even if it wasn’t what I would have chosen,’ she adds.
The house had been painted cream throughout, with budget bathrooms, laminate floors and a characterless kitchen added.
The five-bedroom, semi-detached Victorian house was built in 1865
As an interior designer, Caroline was desperate to introduce personality back into the house, using her signature combination of bold colour (opens in new tab)and characterful pieces.
‘I’d noticed that some of the rooms had limited daylight so chose strong colours for those spaces to give them a sense of energy,’ she explains.
The colour scheme in this snug sitting room was inspired by the eye-catching yellow chair from Oliver Bonas (opens in new tab). The walls are painted in Plummet by Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab). Caroline loves reading and wanted to create a library feel so chose cabinets with plenty of storage – these are from Ikea (opens in new tab) and were upcycled with paint. For similar parquet flooring, try Havwoods (opens in new tab), and for a similar chandelier, try Laura Ashley (opens in new tab). Glass coffee table, Made.com (opens in new tab). Airi antique gold mirror, Oka (opens in new tab). Grey throw, M&S (opens in new tab). Bon bon jars with fairy lights inside, LSA (opens in new tab). Michael Aram torched wine cooler, Amara (opens in new tab). Slate chopping board, BE Lifestyle (opens in new tab)
An off-white colour scheme maximises the sense of light flooding into the main living room through the original windows and French doors. The walls are painted in Strong White from Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab). ‘I wanted a really bold piece of art to add colour to the room so commissioned my friend, illustrator Gabrielle Dow, to paint the two butterfly canvases, which I absolutely love,’ says Caroline. Local joiner Philip Howard built the cabinets around the marble fireplace, which provide storage and somewhere to conceal the TV. Miss Clementine cream sofas, Sofa Workshop (opens in new tab). Cushions and throws, Habitat (opens in new tab). Rug, City Cows (opens in new tab). For similar side tables, try Made.com (opens in new tab). For grey radiators, try Castrads (opens in new tab)
A blackboard calendar wall sticker, from Ferm Living (opens in new tab), allows Caroline to keep track of appointments. The Mid-century desk was originally a dressing table bought on Ebay (opens in new tab) for £40. For a similar chair, try Made.com (opens in new tab). Lamp, Anglepoise (opens in new tab)
To keep costs down, furniture and accessories have been gathered from Ebay and charity shops, while pieces from high-street favourites, such as Ikea, have been customised for an individual look.
Glazed doors: £4,000
Building work: £1,500
Although the couple were keen to keep structural changes to a minimum to reduce costs, they knocked through between the front and rear living rooms to maximise light, and also installed large frameless glazed doors in the kitchen-diner to create better links to the garden.
‘By being creative and spending time finding the right pieces for each room, I’ve been able to create our dream home on a relatively tight budget,’ adds Caroline.
Caroline has recently redecorated the dining room, swapping pale grey walls for Farrow & Ball’s (opens in new tab) bold Stiffkey Blue. ‘The darker colour creates a real sense of grandeur, which helps the furniture and accessories to pop,’ she explains. The vintage Tulip chairs were recovered in Alchemilla Varesse velvet by Designers Guild (opens in new tab). The picture above the fireplace is by Maria Rivans, at The Contemporary (opens in new tab), in Chester. Caroline customised the gold candle holders and added pink candles. The dining table is an Ebay (opens in new tab) find. For a similar chandelier, try Laura Ashley (opens in new tab)
The kitchen-diner was already open-plan when Caroline bought the house, but she has considered knocking through into the adjacent utility room to widen the room and allow her to include an island. The floorboards are painted in Little Greene’s (opens in new tab) Dark Lead, while the bespoke Shaker-style units, created by local joiner Philip Howard, are painted in Farrow & Ball’s (opens in new tab)Strong White, with durable quartz worktops. The floorboards have been laid horizontally to emphasise the width of the room.
The kitchen-diner links to the garden through tall glazed doors from Frameless Glass Curtains (opens in new tab). Orange pendant lights, Habitat (opens in new tab). Black light shade above table, Made in Design (opens in new tab). Tulip dining table, Nest (opens in new tab). Dining chairs, John Lewis (opens in new tab)
Caroline painted the walls in her and Ian’s bedroom in Lead IIII from Paint & Paper Library (opens in new tab). The bed is from M&S (opens in new tab), while the statement headboard, which Caroline bought for £10 in a charity shop, has been upcycled with blackboard paint. Bedside lights, B&Q (opens in new tab). Bedding, John Lewis (opens in new tab). Cushions, Harlequin (opens in new tab). Artwork, The Cheshire Art Gallery (opens in new tab)
Daughter Erin’s room makes a real style statement thanks to the Swan Lake Black wallpaper from Nina Campbell (opens in new tab). Bedding, Zara Home (opens in new tab). Caroline sprayed the chair, which was from her parents’ house, in a pale bronze; for a similar chair, try the Mauricette from Maisons du Monde (opens in new tab). For a similar desk, try Made.com (opens in new tab). Bed, Ikea (opens in new tab), and bedding, Feather and Black (opens in new tab). For oak flooring, try the Natural Wood Flooring Co. (opens in new tab)
Caroline has created a cost-effective feature wall in the guest bedroom by positioning framed prints and fairy lights from Ikea (opens in new tab) above the bed. The animal plates are from Etsy (opens in new tab). For a similar wall colour, try Plummet by Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab). Bed, Feather & Black (opens in new tab). Bedding and cushions, Ikea (opens in new tab) and John Lewis (opens in new tab). Lamp, Moth in Didsbury (opens in new tab)
Son Sam’s room, which is located on the top floor of the house, has a cool, loft-style feel thanks to the monochrome colour scheme with yellow accents. For a similar wall colour, try Hudson Black by Abigail Ahern (opens in new tab). Bed, Get Laid Beds (opens in new tab). Yellow floor lamp, Ikea (opens in new tab)
A large sash window floods the family bathroom with natural light. The vinyl flooring, from Karndean (opens in new tab), echoes the wooden parquet on the ground floor but provides a more practical choice in a bathroom. For a claw-footed bath, try Fired Earth (opens in new tab), and for a double sink, try Victorian Plumbing (opens in new tab). The large mirror was an Ebay (opens in new tab) find; for similar, try Wayfair (opens in new tab)