Although Lindsey and Stephen Mannion had always wanted to live in a house with character, period properties were scarce in Derby, where they were looking for their new home. ‘It was a stroke of luck when this Edwardian house came on to the market,’ recalls Lindsey. ‘We fell in love with it as soon as we looked round.’ Excited by the prospect of owning the property, they made an offer and it was accepted.
‘We couldn’t wait to move in,’ adds Lindsey. ‘Having bought the house in September, we arrived on Christmas Day with nothing but a new bed and two beanbags. Luckily there were some built-in cupboards where we would be able to store items we would later buy to kit out our new home. Although an Aga had been included in the sale, we went out for Christmas dinner with family and friends, and then held a Christmas tea party with everyone squashed up on the beanbags!’
The owners: Lindsey and Stephen Mannion, who are both accountants, live here with their children Max, four, and newborn baby Nancy
The couple gradually made the house into their home, but it wasn’t until two years after their son Max was born that they found the inspiration they needed to begin a whole house transformation. ‘We were invited to the party of an old friend, Katherine Redshaw, who runs an interior design business and who had recently redecorated her own home,’ says Lindsey. ‘I was amazed by what she had achieved, and I told her how much I would love one of the rooms in my house to look like hers. It was a throwaway remark and I never thought she would take me up on the idea, but I’m very glad that she did.’
By the time the party had ended, Lindsey and Stephen had agreed to give Katherine free rein to update their living room, working to their budget. ‘We were very trusting. The deal was that we would leave Katherine and her team of tradespeople to get on with the project, so the finished scheme would be a complete surprise. It was like the TV programme Changing Rooms, I suppose,’ Lindsey explains. ‘Three weeks after the start of the project, Katherine opened the door to our living room and the new scheme left me speechless – it was stunning. Friends often ask us what our best design decision was and I say that getting Katherine involved professionally had made all the difference.’
The couple’s home project came into the national spotlight when Katherine made a three-minute film of the living room and posted it on YouTube. It was then picked up by ITV, which was about to launch its programme May the Best House Win. Each episode, homeowners open their doors to each other in the hope of winning a cash prize. ‘Our house appeared on it and won the prize for that week,’ smiles Lindsey.
The elegant new living room became the inspiration for the rest of the schemes in the house, as Lindsey explains: ‘I love glamour and glitz, such as the look of the Ritz hotel in Paris. What I like about Katherine’s style is that she can create an expensive-looking scheme on a realistic budget. As the living room was such a success, I was keen for Katherine to be involved in transforming the rest of the house. She created a series of mood boards and we discussed which ones I liked.’
Katherine and Lindsey proved that to achieve great results you don’t need a large budget. ‘It’s typical of Katherine to use salvaged pieces,’ says Lindsey. ‘On one occasion she used an old discarded fire surround to update the plain, rather boring fireplace in our living room. Katherine removed the old surround’s original details, such as the corbels, shelf and fluting, and added them to ours. It was a great idea and now our fireplace looks a million dollars.’
Among other pieces created using similar thrifty ideas, in the master bedroom Katherine gave a bland pine cupboard a French vintage style by adding a fresh coat of paint, new mirrors and decorative crystal doorknobs. ‘I didn’t recognise it when I first saw it,’ says Lindsey. ‘It was such a simple yet brilliant transformation.’
By saving money on their furnishings, the Mannions were able to spend most of their budget on other key elements in the house, including on the first floor, where they created an en suite by dividing the existing bathroom into two separate spaces, while their biggest investment downstairs was a new conservatory, to be used as a dining room. To link this additional space to the existing kitchen, the rear wall of the house was taken down and a steel joist inserted to support the new opening.
The blue Aga that was included when Lindsey and Stephen bought the house inspired the contemporary kitchen scheme, including the bright blue fridge. ‘The existing kitchen was a farmhouse-style design and was definitely at the end of its life,’ explains Lindsey. ‘It had to be ripped out anyway when we took down the rear wall to add the conservatory dining room.’ As there were new doors leading from the conservatory to the garden, the couple were able to block up the old back door. This gave them extra wall space, where they decided to position a new breakfast bar.
The old dining room was then converted into a useful playroom for the Mannions’ children Max and Nancy. ‘As we now have a baby, the changed layout of our home has significantly improved our lives. Max now has a separate space to play in,’ explains Lindsey. ‘All the extra room is fantastic.’
A clever finishing touch in the playroom is the luxurious-looking rug, which was actually made from four inexpensive cotton bathmats, sewn together to make one large beautiful design.
As with many house renovations, the couple’s project didn’t all go according to plan, and they ran into problems when the basement was being excavated to turn it into a cinema room. ‘When we were halfway through digging up the floor, the space rapidly filled with water and we were forced to invest in a sump pump to keep the room permanently dry,’ recalls Lindsey. ‘Fortunately, Katherine’s builders knew what to do to resolve the problem.’
With the cinema room carpeted and decorated, Lindsey found some inexpensive leather seating to try to balance the budget for this part of the project. However, Stephen’s choice of wallpaper immediately jeopardised her bid to keep costs down. ‘This was the only time that Stephen decided to make a contribution to the interior décor, and I loved his choice of design until I discovered how much it cost per roll,’ laughs Lindsey. ‘It’s just as well that this was his only contribution!’
Now that the project is over, Lindsey is thrilled at the transformation. ‘I sometimes wander round the house just to look at the finished spaces,’ she says. ‘I love the way each room feels so different. The playroom is bright and cheerful, while our bedroom is romantic and the dining room is natural – the wooden furniture looks great against the backdrop of the greenery in the garden.
‘It’s been a fantastic process,’ adds Lindsey. ‘I’ve especially loved learning that it’s possible to create a grand, elegant home without having to spend a fortune.’
|Construction and conservatory extension||£20,000|
|Kitchen (including installation)||£11,000|