A bigger canvas

  • This apartment in Leeds has had an artistic makeover thanks to its creative tenants. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by James Hardisty
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Take two artists, a tight budget and an apartment they want to call home and you have all the ingredients for a great interior.

The proof of this failsafe recipe is in Rebecca Appleby’s flat in the fashionable Hyde Park area of Leeds. Ceramicist and painter Rebecca and her partner Greg Farndon, an artist, have transformed the property into their first home together after meeting via Twitter.

The Leeds home of artists Rebecca Appleby and Greg Farndon

The Leeds home of artists Rebecca Appleby and Greg Farndon

“We saw each other’s work on Twitter and got chatting online about it. Then we met up for a coffee at the Frieze Art Fair in London and our relationship grew from there. Greg decided to move up to Leeds and we found this flat via a friend,” says Rebecca, who previously rented a house.

Flitting required an industrial skip as Rebecca is a self-confessed hoarder and a collector of everything from curios to vintage china and old furniture. Greg travelled light when he moved up from the south. He had a suitcase, a collection of art books and design magazines and a Habitat lamp.

“I went from a house to this small one-bedroom flat and I had to get rid of almost all my possessions. Vintage crockery was an obsession. I had some beautiful pieces, including 200 jugs and 50 cake stands. They were precious to me at the time but now they’ve gone I don’t miss them too much,” she says.

Her new home is in a characterful Victorian house split into flats, many of which have artistic, musical and literary occupants.

The Leeds home of artists Rebecca Appleby and Greg Farndon

The Leeds home of artists Rebecca Appleby and Greg Farndon

It is, she says: “A great place to live and it’s a really creative household full of really interesting people. Hyde Park is a fantastic area of Leeds. It’s got lots of characters, lovely cafes and an arts cinema.”

While she has a ceramics studio at the nearby East Street Arts complex, Greg works from home. To accommodate his canvases, desk and materials, the bedroom was converted into a studio.

The former sitting room is now a large bedroom furnished with a combination of Rebecca’s revamped vintage finds and Greg’s more contemporary pieces.

“Greg’s taste is definitely more minimal and modern than mine but we both appreciate good design and we have a shared love of the BBC’s 6 music, which helps,” says Rebecca, who upcycled a large 1940s sideboard to create the room’s centrepiece.

The Leeds home of artists Rebecca Appleby and Greg Farndon

The Leeds home of artists Rebecca Appleby and Greg Farndon

It is painted in white and grey with new yellow knobs for added zing. It sits in front of the chimney breast, which she has also painted grey. The alcoves have been turned into makeshift wardrobes with free-standing clothes rails.

Ikea picture shelves hold a colourful collection of cards and postcards that the couple send to each other on special occasions or before art shows and fairs. With no dedicated sitting room, the spacious kitchen is now a multi-functional space used for cooking, dining and relaxing.

The kitchen area is small so they created extra storage by putting baskets under the units, and they brightened the area with colourful, modern kitchenware.

The dining table was liberated from Rebecca’s grandma’s garage. It was mouldy and covered in paint but Greg gave it a new lease of life by sanding and varnishing it. Grandma also donated the vintage chairs, which Greg painted yellow.

The Leeds home of artists Rebecca Appleby and Greg Farndon

The Leeds home of artists Rebecca Appleby and Greg Farndon

What looks like a pricey Tom Dixon-style pendant light above is, in fact, a £5 cardboard flatpack Joxtorp shade from Ikea. The couple spray-painted the inside in gold, which transformed it so it creates a soft glow.

“Everything in here is make do and mend because we are both artists and our earnings are erratic.

“We don’t tend to buy much, most of our furniture and furnishings are acquired,” says Rebecca.

The 1920s leather chair was a swap for one of her paintings. It belonged to the manager of interiors mecca Redbrick Mill, Batley, where she and Greg sell some of their work.

The mill now has a dedicated space for work by independent artists and makers. Devoted To is a 6,000sq ft showroom that attracts shoppers from all over the North and beyond.

Rebecca’s paintings are popular but she is best known for her contemporary, sculptural and painterly ceramics.

The Leeds home of artists Rebecca Appleby and Greg Farndon

The Leeds home of artists Rebecca Appleby and Greg Farndon

She studied fine art and ceramics in Edinburgh after being inspired by internationally renowned potter David Roberts, who was her teacher at Dewsbury College.

Greg trained as a sculptor and worked for Pangolin Editions, Europe’s leading sculpture foundry, assisting on work for artists such as Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Angus Fairhurst.

He is now an artist and interest in his pictures, which have been described as having a “surreal Basquiat-ish sense of expression and colour” is gathering pace. The walls of their flat are filled with their own creations, along with work from fellow makers.

“I love to swap pieces. I was at the Ceramic Art York fair recently and swapped a piece with Rowena Brown,” says Rebecca.

As she and Greg blend their lives and their contrasting tastes, the couple are finding a comfortable compatibility.

“We moved here with very little so it was like starting again. We are different but we appreciate each other’s tastes and we have done what we can to make this flat our own,” she says.

“You are more limited in a rental property but if we ever buy a home we plan to go wild with the decor.”

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