The introduction to Sandra Baker’s Instagram account neatly sums up her style – “considered, courageous design”, though “courageous” is perhaps an understatement. Those who dare not stray from safe neutrals or obvious colour combinations may feel that Sandra deserves a medal for extreme bravery for her bold and sassy interiors.
A lawyer by profession, she has a long-held passion for interior design, which has proved to be the perfect creative outlet. It started when she was a teenager who regularly restyled her bedroom. Now, she is an Instagram content creator with over 75,000 followers.
Sandra joined the picture-led social media platform in 2017 with the username, the_idle_hands. Looking for inspiration while sharing her own love of home decor appealed. “I discovered a huge community of people sharing pictures and details about their interiors,” she says. “It felt really exciting because I’d found so many like-minded people.”
The first few photographs she posted of her own home attracted “likes” and followers in numbers that she found astounding. “It was a lovely surprise, especially as I didn’t post the pictures to get followers, I just wanted to share,” says Sandra, who loves mixing colours and patterns in her Victorian end-terrace home near Ilkley.
She and her husband bought the house eight years ago and have since made the property more open plan while redecorating it. One of the most recent projects was taking down the structural wall that separated the dining room from the kitchen. “It was a big job because it was a chimney breast wall so we took the chimneys off the roof and then had to do some underpinning. The financially sensible option would have been to leave it as it was but it has made a huge difference in making the space more usable and so it has been worth it for us,” says Sandra, who makes all the decorating decisions with her husband’s blessing. Her two daughters, aged 12 and nine, have input in their own rooms but are happy for Mum to make suggestions.
Wallpaper has played a big part in many of her schemes recently thanks to an ever-increasing number of options. “I’ve always liked wallpaper but I’ve used it more in this house because there are so many interesting designs thanks to niche wallpaper brands that weren’t around when I had my last home. The choice is incredible,” she says.
Sandra’s living room features House of Hackney paper, along with walls in Little Greene and Farrow & Ball paint. The mid-century inspired green sofas are from Hitchin-based Living Room and are packed with cushions as Sandra is a self-confessed “cushionaholic”. “Some are cushions I have had for a long time and others are ones I’ve just fallen in love with but I had so many it was getting ridiculous so I’ve just given a big bag full to a charity shop and some to my sister,” she says.
The recently completed living kitchen with separate pantry is a triumph and features parquet flooring from Armley-based Birbek, which runs throughout the ground floor.
The kitchen cabinetry is by Shipley-based makers Born of Wood and includes an island topped with marble-effect porcelain.
The most-asked question on Sandra’s Instagram is “what is the colour of the kitchen walls?” The answer is Obsidian Green by Little Greene, a classic off-black colour. This is contrasted with a colourful House of Hackney wallpaper and lots of artwork from artists found on Instagram and from galleries including the Baltic in Gateshead. The pictures are displayed on a shelf, rather than wall hung, to make swapping and changing much easier.
Lighting is another passion and the kitchen area alone features three different sets – globes over the island from Pure White Lines in London, an antique chandelier from Agapanthus Interiors and gold wall lights above the splashback from Graham & Green. In the adjoining sitting area, a corner sofa from Sofa.com and pendant light from Anthropologie complete the scene.
The study/guest bedroom has attracted plenty of comments and questions thanks to the “Pants” picture from Shuby Art and the mid-century desk, which was a bargain at £80 from Facebook Marketplace.
Vintage pieces are a key element in most of the rooms, including the bathroom, which features an antique stand with marble top. “I snapped that up on eBay and had a sink put into it,” says Sandra, who also splashed out on a copper bath from Coppersmith Creations.
Upstairs, her daughter’s bedroom is decorated with a marble-effect wallpaper mural, a bed from Made.com and a rug from interior designers favourite online shop La Redoute. Costs were cut with a paper shade from Ikea and a throw bought in the Anthropologie sale.
Her latest makeover is in the sitting room, which has been treated to new wallpaper by Pierre Frey and to two antique lamps from Hartleys Auctions in Ilkley. “I’ve got plenty to keep me going as I’ve also got the top-floor bedroom and bathroom to do,” says Sandra, who reassures us that, although her home looks picture perfect on Instagram, that isn’t the way she and her family live 24/7. “My house is a tip most of the time. It’s definitely not a show home.”
*Useful contacts: Sandra’s Instagram account is the_idle_hands. Handmade kitchen by Born of Wood, Shipley, www.bornofwood.com. Green sofas from www.livingroom.uk.com. Blinds from Hillarys, www.hillarys.co.uk. Parquet flooring from Birbek, Leeds, www.birbek.com. Pure White Lines, London, www.purewhitelines.com. Antique chandeliers and lighting, www.agapanthusinteriors .com. Shuby Art, www.shubyart.com. Coppersmith creations, copper bath, www.coppersmithcreations.co.uk
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