Dowsing and Reynolds are renowned for design and it shows in their stunning Leeds home

Keen to swap their 1980s, mock Tudor semi for a period property with character, Ally and James Dowsing-Reynolds had their heart set on a Grade II- listed house close to Headingley.To say it was in need of renovation is a gross understatement. It had been empty for two years, had a crack in the side, no running water and no electrics.“Plus the garden was a jungle and the previous owner, an eccentric professor, had contravened listed building rules and put in plastic windows, but we could see the potential in the house and we were really excited by it,” says Ally.The couple put in an offer but lost the property to another buyer when the bank refused them a mortgage because of possible structural issues.

The house and garden are now picture perfect after a major renovation. Picture by James Hardisty

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Fortunately, fate stepped in, albeit with help from resourceful Ally, who discovered that the new owner was a builder.“We contacted him and said that if he renovated it to our specification, we’d give him a guaranteed sale,” she says.“He agreed, which was perfect because we’d never done a project like this before and he had the experience. He and his team were brilliant and showed a lot of care. They were also open to our ideas.”It was agreed that two rooms should be combined to make one large bathroom and that two attic rooms should become one bedroom with an ensuite.In the kitchen, an extra window was installed, along with glazed double doors to the hallway to allow in more light, though the builders drew the line at putting in concrete worktops.

“We were a bit disappointed at the time as we were going through an industrial phase but we love the wood worktops now,” says Ally.They look perfect with the handcrafted cabinets that the couple have painted black, adding their own brand handles for extra effect. A combination of hanging plants and pendant lights was James’ idea, as was the steel panel he turned rusty with bleach and vinegar for use as a splashback.

All Lights Off paint by Dowsing & Reynolds

The couple’s design prowess is well known to devoted fans of their store, Dowsing & Reynolds, which has been a huge success online. Its first bricks and mortar shop recently opened in the Victoria Quarter, Leeds.Its USP is in selling what James and Ally refer to as “striking fittings and stylish accents”. They include those hard-to-find items, such as gorgeous handles, light switches, sockets, bulbs, showers and taps.

The shelves covered in real moss available to buy from their store in the Victoria Quarter, Leeds

Dowsing & Reynolds also has its own range of paint, own design lighting, real moss – for those who want to embrace the trend for moss walls – faux foliage and other home accessories.“We specialise in those boring things that are often overlooked, like the humble light switch, but which can make a big difference if you get them right,” says Ally, a digital expert who founded the business seven years ago with James, a sculptor.He had spotted a market for industrial lighting and accessories and began creating and selling his own before expanding the range to include other homeware and hardware.

James and Ally in their kitchen. Picture by James Hardisty.

The style and originality of Downing & Reynolds’ products filled a gap in the market and James and Ally now sell worldwide, with a large proportion of their sales concentrated in London and the South East.The creative couple have since been joined by operations director Tony Green and now have 50 staff at their headquarters in Meanwood, Leeds.

The HQ is close to their home, which is complete after a second makeover to turn what was a cream shell into a super-stylish family house.There were few period features left in the 1860s building save for the staircase, some cornicing and a cupboard in the kitchen but the character and the look is something the Victorians would surely appreciate.The dark colours, bold prints, eclectic combination of styles and a nod to the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement are all here.“I did consider keeping the walls cream and going minimalist but it just isn’t me. I love dark colours and had used them in a previous house,” says Ally.“My mind was made up after visiting my friend, Katie Woods, who had used them before. I wanted that darkness back in my life. It just looks more warm and cosy.”

Dowsing & Reynolds' Hartley hare lamp from £179,99

Ally used Dowsing & Reynolds’ All the Lights Off, a deep grey paint, in the kitchen and dining room. The latter also features NLXL wallpaper, which appears 3D, a circular table from Redbrick Mill in Batley and a vintage sideboard that James upcycled.The hall is a combination of All Lights Off and Spruced Up, a dark green.Art and plants are everywhere and add colour and vitality. Most of the greenery is real, including the moss covering the sitting room shelves. Convincing faux plants are in the dark corners where real ones would struggle to survive.“In terms of style, I like contrasts so it’s not unusual to see opulence meets grunge,” says Ally, whose favourite homeware stores include Redbrick Mill, Abigail Ahern and H&M Home.

The best-selling Bubble chandelier from Dowsing & Reynolds is in their daughter's room

The sitting room, which is painted in Dowsing & Reynolds’ Mud Wrestling, doubles as a playroom for the couple’s daughter, Emily, who adores the Hartley Hare floor lamp, also stocked by her parents’ store.

Ally and James' bedroom with Ikea bedside tables upcycled with paint and Dowsing & Reynolds handles

Upstairs, a dressing room was a must and James fitted it out using scaffold planks and poles.“We love the house and I can’t see us moving for a long time,” says Ally. “We are very busy at work so this is a lovely, cosy place to come back to.”*Dowsing & Reynolds can be found at 25- 29 County Arcade, Victoria Quarter, Leeds. The 2,100sq ft shop spans two floors and features room sets, including a bedroom and bathroom. The online shop is at www.dowsingandreynolds.com