A little sanctuary: See inside this stunning interior designer's home that is also a holiday let

You would think designing your own home would be a breeze for an interior designer, not at all says Tor Vivian after she renovated an old forge and barn in North Yorkshire. Catherine Scott finds out more.

Wisteria Barn in the tiny North Yorkshire village of Low Azerley is about as far removed from the busy streets of London as you can get. Until last year interior designer Tor Vivian commuted from the tranquil “paradise” as she describes it to her office in London.

“I’m from North Yorkshire originally but moved to London when I was 21. But when the children were about three and five we decided to move back, but what happened was I ended up commuting back and forth to London for 21 years,” says Tor.

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The family had rented for a number of years, moving 12 times, until buying Wisteria Barn seven years ago,

Wisteria Barn Picture Yorkshire EscapesWisteria Barn Picture Yorkshire Escapes
Wisteria Barn Picture Yorkshire Escapes

"We really didn’t have any intention of buying but then a friend said their property was for sale and we should take a look. We did and we fell in love with it,” says Tor, who still travel to London on a regular basis.

You would think being an interior designer the project would have been easy.

“It’s strange but when you are designing your own home it is very different from designing a clients. But I find it really difficult to do my own staff. I think may be you over think it as when I am designing for someone else I just know instinctively what will work.”

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Although the former forge had been renovated it was in need of modernisation, reconifiguration and a designer’s touch.

The colours in one of Tor's paintings Man in a Hammock inspired the rest of the room Pictures: Yorkshire EscapesThe colours in one of Tor's paintings Man in a Hammock inspired the rest of the room Pictures: Yorkshire Escapes
The colours in one of Tor's paintings Man in a Hammock inspired the rest of the room Pictures: Yorkshire Escapes

“As it was an old forge most of the house was on one level," explains Tor.

"Our bedroom (the master bedroom with ensuite) is the only room in the two-storey part of the house and you had to go through the kitchen to get to the rest of the house. I thought about it long and hard and played with lots of designs, which is something I enjoy doing for clients. I did a 3D visual of how it might look, and in the end decided to move the kitchen into what had been the sitting room. I love space planning as well.”

She enlisted a local builder who she now uses on a lot of her Yorkshire commissions, and the result is a bright and airy beamed double height ceilinged open plan kitchen/dining/sitting room that forms the heart of the home.

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This leads to the cozy sitting room which includes a generous L-shaped sofa, TV and Sonos music system. From the sitting room there is a second sitting room with an additional toliet and separate utility room.

Greens and Blue can be seen through the comfortable rooms in Wisteria BarnPicture: Yorkshire EscapesGreens and Blue can be seen through the comfortable rooms in Wisteria BarnPicture: Yorkshire Escapes
Greens and Blue can be seen through the comfortable rooms in Wisteria BarnPicture: Yorkshire Escapes

Tor successfully blends old and new and says that it was actually their eclectic collection of modern art that influenced much of the design

“We do have eclectic mix of stuff from antiques we’ve inherited to a collection of modern art.

"The Man in the Hammock painting above the fire place is a big piece and I pretty much designed that part of the house around it and took the blues and green from it from it for the paint and chairs.”In fact throughout the propety Tor’s love of blue and green are clear to see.

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“They are my favourite colours and they go so well together. I love colour in a property and I’m not afraid to use it.”

The open plan kitchen/dining room has double height ceilingPicture Yorkshire EscapesThe open plan kitchen/dining room has double height ceilingPicture Yorkshire Escapes
The open plan kitchen/dining room has double height ceilingPicture Yorkshire Escapes

She had some old arm chair frames that had been in storage for three or four years, which she thought she might use in a client’s home but decided to use in her own. She had them reupholstered in fabric to complement the painting and in a washable fabric. Even the bespoke corner sofa is in a washable fabric.

“We have a dog and had teenagers and I wanted everyone to relax in the space as at the end of the day it is a home to be lived in.” A large pop art print of Marylin Munroe hangs in the kitchen which Tor described as "a bit wild but it works.” A bespoke island in the centre of the kitchen is also painted blue.

Now that her two children have left home she has taken the decision to share the family home with others, as a holiday let thorough Yorkshire Escapes (https://yorkshireescapes.co.uk).

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It means the decision to have a lot of washable fabrics was even more sensible. When they have guests they move out of the house into the barn at the back of the property where Tor also have her office.

When they bought the property it had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but by converting a double garage they have created five bedrooms and four bathrooms.

Tor is a fan of Christopher Farr’s Carnival Green design – “I’d have it in very room if I could,” she says,

A bespoke blue island in the kitchenPicture Yorkshire EscapesA bespoke blue island in the kitchenPicture Yorkshire Escapes
A bespoke blue island in the kitchenPicture Yorkshire Escapes

As for paint she works with Paper and Paint library and Farrow and Ball.

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“I say that I can probably recognise every Farrow and Ball paint colour when I see it, although they do keep bringing out new ones so that will keep me on my toes.” Among the Farrow and Ball colours she has used in Wisteria Barn are Stone Blue and Mizzle.

All the floors were concreate but Tor added wood flooring in the kitchen, some stone and carpets in the rest of the house.

There are distinctive mirrors throughout Wisteria Barn and although many of them look antique, Tor confesses they are mostly made by her picture framer from Ripon who she’s worked with for 25 years.

She likes to buy furniture from Julian Chichester both for her clients and for herself.

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Lighting is crucial, says Tor, who likes to put lighting sensors in her bathrooms. Lamps are a passion and she buys a lot from Pooky and Richard Turner Designs.

Outside there is a lawned garden and small stream with plenty of room to sit and play outside.

It may be just three miles from the historic market City of Ripon, but Wisteria Barn feels like it is its own little secret.

"It is so tranquil. You can’t hear the road at all – it’s a little sanctuary – a bit of paradise," says Tor.