Co-op dividends

Claire Murray
Claire Murray
Have your say

Designer Claire Murray may have no garden but she has brought the outside into the converted Co-op shop she calls home. Sharon Dale reports.

Top of Claire and Adam Murray’s wish list when they were house hunting was a garden for their little boy to play in and somewhere to grow veg.

So they surprised themselves when they bought a converted shop that had no outside space whatsoever. “A lot of the houses we looked at had low ceilings and small windows and this house was the opposite. It has big windows and the rooms have height plus we got a lot more interior space for our money, so we compromised,” says Claire, an art teacher and designer.

The fact it had no garden also meant they didn’t have to fight other buyers for it when they bought at the top of the market five years ago.

“It’s worked out really well because there’s little park right across from the house that Sam can play in and there’s a patch of communal land opposite that we got permission to grow veg on.

“Plus the views from the house are incredible so we don’t miss having a garden.”

The property, in a village near Sowerby Bridge, is an old Co-op store that was converted in the 1980s. It sits high on the side of a hill and boasts some of Calderdale’s finest views from all three of its floors. The generous size gives them a large, open plan living space on the ground level, two bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second floor and a huge converted loft space on the third floor that acts as a guest room, a studio for Claire and an office for Adam, who works in publishing.

The house had been renovated but it was draughty thanks to the old, single glazed windows, so the couple consulted the Green Building Store at nearby 
Golcar. They suggested replacing them with double glazing in hardwood frames, which were then painted dark grey.

Claire also re-painted the duck-egg blue kitchen units in a more subtle, neutral cream to match the white walls. Colour in the open plan room comes from accessories including red and green Sheurich pots and vases from Caldene antiques centre in Mytholmroyd and interesting reflections from a collection of round mirrors.

Claire’s own design wallpaper adds wow factor to the hall and sitting area. It features her drawings of tree fungi and bark but its abstract effect is open to interpretation and has invited comparisons with Pink Floyd album covers. Its success with family and friends encouraged Claire to put her paper into production

The furniture, meanwhile, is a mix of new and vintage, most of which was brought from their previous home.

“We don’t buy a lot but we try and buy well so whatever we have lasts,” says Claire. “We splashed out on the beds which are from Warren Evans in London. It is an ethical company and we see them as a good investment because they are so comfortable.”

The ground floor is divided into cooking, sitting and dining areas. The dining area features a table from an antique shop in Hebden Bridge and is surrounded by Habitat chairs and an old teacher’s chair salvaged from a school. The light over the table is from Caldene Antiques.

On the wall behind is a series of framed prints plus photographs taken by Adam.

His photo of Newcastle brings back happy memories, as the couple, who are both from County Durham, met in the 
city. The print of New Museum, 235 Bowery, in New York, also has special resonance.

The family enjoyed Christmas 2011 at a friend’s home in the Big Apple and spent their time visiting galleries and taking part in family art classes in Brooklyn.

“I came home thinking about what I’d like to do next in my life. I realised I wanted to concentrate more on my own art and 
it’s strange because my designs are 
based on nature but it was the city that gave me the inspiration to do them,” says Claire, who decided to combine her work as a part-time art teacher with studying for an MA in surface pattern design and textiles. She now has a portfolio of drawings, many based on sea life and tree fungi, that she is printing on wallpaper and fabric.

She worked with local printers, The Print Bureau, in Hebden Bridge, and the papers are now in production with a major manufacturer.

“I’ll be selling my own designs through interior designers and small, independent shops and from my website. I’m also keen to work with people to create their own bespoke wallpaper,” says Claire, whose studio on the top floor offers a creative environment.

She is experimenting with upholstery on her desk chair, which she has padded 
with Sam’s old cot mattress and 
covered with colourful butterfly and birds fabric. “My work table is by the window and I have an old pattern printing block on sill for inspiration. Best of all, the view is amazing,” she says.

“I can see big skies, trees and deer in the field. It’s also very light. It’s the perfect place to work.”

Useful contacts

Claire Murray Designs including wallpapers, Claire’s blog is at

Beds from Warren Evans, London,

Hardwood, eco-friendly windows from The Green Building Store,

The Print Bureau, Hebden Bridge,