Real home: this Victorian home's dark decor oozes drama

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco adds unique character to the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis
(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)

Although the idea of a period property wasn’t top of the list for tattoo studio owner Dain Maginnis and his wife, Cat, a false start and the imminent arrival of their second son, Barney, led them to this majestic Victorian villa in Alsager. ‘We had an offer accepted on a 1970s house but it was slow-going and was looking increasingly unlikely,’ says Cat. ‘At seven months pregnant, I had a wobble. We went to see 10 more properties and had an immediate connection with this house.’

Are you planning to tackle a period renovation like Cat and Dain have? We have masses of ideas and helpful advice on what to do and where to start in our feature on house renovation. For more real home transformations, head to our hub page.

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The owners Cat and Dain Maginnis (@ourvictoriandetached), owners of interiors shop Wild One Interiors (wildoneinteriors.co.uk) and their  children, Dexter, and Barney
The property A four-bedroom detached Victorian villa in Alsager, Cheshire
Project cost £16,530

The agents and owners moved swiftly to get the family moved in a matter of weeks. Fortunately there was no structural work needed, however, the house hadn’t been touched in a long time, which posed a challenge to the couple – by then they had a new baby as well as 16-month-old son, Dexter.

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

The dark theme goes right through to the kitchen, where a cocktail bar-inspired combination of emerald and flamingo pink offsets the dramatic hue of the cabinets. Cat and Dain had a clear vision of how the space could work and were clever with details such as the handles to give a high street kitchen a luxe look. Kitchen, Wren Kitchens. Pink geometric tiles, Topps Tiles. Handles, Ebay. Ceiling painted in Vardo, Farrow & Ball. Light shade, Amazon

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)

Neither Cat nor Dain had lived in a period home before so the first room, the snug, was a leap of faith. ‘We’re not ones for sample pots and swatches,’ says Cat. ‘We tend to just dive in and go the whole hog.’ They loved the resulting dark palette and Art Deco feel so much that they decided to continue it through the house.

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

The pink tiles in the kitchen are echoed in a dining set given to the couple by Dain’s brother, while a gallery of prints makes this a relaxed and inviting space. Prints by Eleanor Bowmer, Abel & the Label and Dain. Table and chairs, Facebook Marketplace

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)

Stretching a modest budget has taken some careful juggling. They’ve done much of the work themselves, making the most of budget-friendly online suppliers. 

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

 Paint (in Aga alcove) Down Pipe, Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)

Cat has a knack for tracking down vintage buys with bags of character while Dain has skill-swapped, providing tattoos in return for specialist trades such as plastering and electricians. 

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

The snug was the first room to be decorated. Cat cites designer Abigail Ahern as a big influence, and Instagram. Walls painted in Off Black, Farrow & Ball. Akello wallpaper, Holden Decor. Crystal pendant light, E2 Contract Lighting. Yellow armchair, Made. Cocktail chair and drinks trolley, antique; find a similar trolley at Swoon. Coffee table, antique (left by previous owner). Hide rug, Ebay

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)

Having gorgeous period features has helped: there are original fireplaces in most rooms, the floorboards are in great condition and the striking hallway floor is always a talking point.

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

The sitting room has an eclectic mix of patterns and finishes. ‘The two ornate frames were my best buys,’ says Cat. ‘They came from an old hotel in Llandudno. At first I thought they looked like panto props – they were so big and bright gold – but they look amazing as shelves.’ Gilt frames, Gumtree. Walls painted in Off Black, Farrow & Ball. Python wallpaper (on walls), Wallpaper Direct. Fornasetti wallpaper (on ceiling), Cole & Son. Rug, Wendy Morrison. Leather three-piece suite, DFS. Pendant light, Coldharbour Lights. Cabinet, Swoon

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)

Inevitably, the kitchen and bathroom were the big spends. ‘The kitchen was just bizarre,’ says Cat. ‘It’s a big room and it had an Aga tucked in one corner, a butchers block in the centre and not much else.’ They planned the new space themselves, finding units they liked at Wren Kitchens. 

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

The bohemian dining room is a great scene-setter for entertaining. Cat found the white fireplace a little sombre against the dark walls, so she got playful with the pink to lift the whole room. The concrete-topped table was a local bargain on Facebook Marketplace for £50, as was the set of Ghost chairs. Walls painted in Stiffkey Blue and fireplace painted in Nancy’s Blushes, both Farrow & Ball. Chandelier, E2 lighting. Hexagonal shelf unit, Etsy. Animal skull, Ebay. Zebra rug, Ikea

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)

They then tracked down a bulk-buy of 40 handles on Ebay to add their own twist. ‘Dain came up with the green ceiling, and we were going to have black wall tiles, but it might have been a bit much,’ admits Cat. ‘The switch to pink was last minute and has worked really well.’

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

Original features include encaustic floor tiles, cornicing, fireplaces and Lincrusta wallpaper. Walls painted in Off Black (bottom) and Mole’s Breath (top), both Farrow & Ball. Chandelier, Old Whyte Interiors

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)

There is a playfulness in Cat and Dain’s approach, and nowhere more so than in Dexter’s room. ‘There were plant walls popping up on Instagram, in restaurants and bars, and it looked fun,’ says Cat. 

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

The cabin bed in Dexter's room brings a sense of fun and adventure. Cat is considering adding a bamboo covering to the roof. Cabin bed, Noa & Nani. Curtains, Dunelm. Walls painted in Flemish Tapestry and Brilliant White, both Valspar. Nursing chair, Cult Furniture. Rug, Fiona Walker

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)

‘We picked the most jungle-like foliage and kept the rest of the room fresh with white and yellow. It’s such a happy space, it’s made me like white again.’

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

Dexter’s room has a ‘cabin in the woods’ theme complete with plant wall and a sunny ceiling. The plant wall sheets are simply stapled onto a framework of battens. Wall plants, Evergreen Direct. Desk, bench and metal D, Les Oakes & Sons Architectural Reclamation Yard

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)

The bathroom is last to be done and Cat admits she has reservations. ‘I am constantly thinking about it and grabbing screen shots,’ she says. ‘It’s a big room and it’ll undoubtedly be expensive, so we’ll probably go for more of a timeless look.’

A brooding palette with flashes of Art Deco creates drama in the period home of Cat and Dain Maginnis

A winged chair adds to the clubhouse vibe in the master bedroom, while the dark walls make a striking backdrop for the standout art pieces and made-to-measure wall mural. Walls and fireplace painted in Pitch Black, Farrow & Ball. Carpet, Carmount Carpets. Julius curtains, Made. Leather chair, Facebook Marketplace. Cushion, Divine Savages. Artwork to the left and on chimney breast, Florence Lee & Co and Lush Eclectic. Light shade, Anthropologie

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/The Contented Nest)
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The family are now a world away from the crazy early days of being up all night stripping wallpaper. ‘Barney was a terrible sleeper so we’d be taking it in turns to wash the dust off in order to feed him and get him back to sleep,’ says Cat. ‘It was ridiculous!’ But this house has won them over. ‘I really didn’t get the whole Victorian house thing but now I’m obsessed,’ adds Cat. ‘The ceilings, the sash windows, that hallway floor, I’ve fallen in love with it all. It sounds cheesy but this house immediately felt like home and now, with our stamp on it, it’s totally ours – this is us down to a tee.’

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