An injection of modern art and a few subtle changes has given this Harrogate apartment a new lease of life and realised a long-held ambition. Sharon Dale reports.
A shared love of art helped bridge a 200-mile divide to bring Dan Syrett and Jane Bruce together.
Their mutual passion for paintings, prints, sculpture and quirky objects is reflected in their Harrogate home, which is an ever-changing visual feast.
Dan’s own pictures are a major feature. An artist and designer, his career has also included fashion styling for pop stars and other celebrities. He moved from London to be with Jane after they met at a friend’s party in his native Yorkshire.
After a spell living in a large house, they recently downsized to a beautiful ground-floor apartment close to the sought after Duchy area.
“We loved the house and we had modernised it but we wanted to trade up. We looked for another house to do up but when we saw this flat that was it. It is in great location and it has big rooms with lots of wall space for our pictures,” says Jane.
It didn’t need much work, apart from re-decorating the mustard-coloured walls in white and replacing curtains with shutters, but the effect is transformative.
What was a traditional flat is now a contemporary space that has given them a chance to free up funds to invest in a long-held ambition.
They now own a 2,500 sq metre shop on Spa lane and have opened the Workhouse gallery. It is the town’s largest private gallery housing art and quirky vintage homeware. Jane is also planning a weekly “Let them Eat Cake” event with cupcakes inspired by Dali, Warhol and Damien Hirst and is hiring out the Workhouse an alternative venue for meetings.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” says Jane, whose previous career was as a corporate stewardess on private jets.
“I’ve always had a love of art. My mum was an artist and I have always collected. The chance to buy an established framing business came up and it include a lot of unused space for a gallery and for Dan’s studio. It was something we couldn’t pass by. Downsizing into the apartment also means we can do more buying trips to New York and Barcelona.
“We’ve done the Workhouse up to our taste and we‘ve got work from £30 to £5,000 from British and international artists, including screen prints from Texas, enormous mirrors and neon art from Brighton. It’s very eclectic.”
One of her favourite pictures came from a member of the Saudi royal family who had bought a Lear jet from American billionaire Donald Trump.
The John Mills painting was part of a clear out and the generous royal gave it to Jane as a gift after she admired it.
It hangs in their flat alongside a joint collection that includes a Jamie Reid – of Sex Pistols album cover fame – above the fireplace in the drawing room.
The couple’s favourite artists feature in their home and their gallery and include Yorkshire-based Daniel Cimmerman, Jehan, Dean Kemp and Johnny Middleton, plus Adele Underwood and London-based urban graffiti artist D*Face .
Their pictures, alongside Dan’s, usually dictate the rest of the decor.
Daniel Cimmerman’s colourful abstract, inspired by Captain Cook, is complemented by Dan’s butterfly graffiti prints and both feature large dashes of teal that is picked up with the sofas from Barker and Stonehouse. The multi-colours are also reflected in Jane’s collection of vintage Murano glassware housed in a French-style painted cabinet.
The kitchen reveals evidence of their love for vintage pieces and includes an old table from a shop in Whitstable, Dan’s granny’s 1970s teaset and a 1960s lampbase they found on eBay. There’s also what Jane refers to as “Dan’s Jesus paraphernalia”, a collection of crucifixes and iconography
One of her most cherished belongings is a giant Australian flag, which hangs in the study and reminds her of her native country. She spent most of her childhood down under before the family came to live in Harrogate when she was 15.
She’s seen the town change a lot since then. It was more blue rinse and traditional then but now it attracts a younger crowd, who are interest in the contemporary modern art Jane and Dan specialise in.
“There is no-one doing what we are doing but there are lots of galleries that have opened up here over the last few years, which is fantastic. We don’t see them as competition,” says Dan.
“We see it as a very positive thing. The galleries are attracting people from all over the country and one of the reasons they are buying is for investment, which is wonderful.”
The Workhouse gallery is on Spa Lane, Harrogate. To see more of Dan’s work visit www.dansyrett.com