Illustrator Lianne Mellor and her partner, the artist James Clarkson, had no problem deciding the perfect location for their first home.
“It had to be Sheffield. James studied here and we have always loved it. It’s such a friendly place. They say it’s a city that operates like a village, and it’s got the highest number of artists’ studios in the country,” says Lianne.
After a round of viewings, they were eventually bowled over by an Art Deco bathroom in a three-bedroom terrace house close to the vibrant city centre.
They fell in love with the black glass tiles and turquoise border as pristine as when they were installed in the 1920s.
While the Victorian house had been modernised, much of the décor was too contemporary for their tastes and so Lianne and James have spent time reinstating some of the old features and filling the property with antique and vintage finds.
The previous owners had lowered the ceiling in the kitchen to put underfloor heating in the bathroom, so the couple put coving and ceiling roses in the rooms downstairs to restore some of the building’s character. They also removed carpets, stripped and stained the floorboards and completely remodelled the kitchen.
“The kitchen had units, shelves and worktops all the way round so it felt crowded and there was only space for a small dining room table in the middle.
“There wasn’t any need for all the cupboards as there’s a pantry with loads of storage, “says Lianne, who is well-known for her range of Mellor Ware china.
She and James took down the wall cupboards on the far side of the kitchen and used the worktop to make a large refectory-style table that now stretches out into the centre of the room. There is still plenty of space for Lianne’s collections, which include kitchenalia and vintage jelly moulds.
Most of the walls have been painted in different shades of grey and are decorated with art work, including a framed tea towel from an antiques centre and a favourite Bernard Buffet print that has pride of place in the kitchen.
Furniture is a mix of pieces donated by James’s dad, an antiques dealer, and treasures they have found in vintage, charity and antique shops in the area.
“Abbeydale Road is a brilliant place for antique shops. There are lots of them down there, so many that there are plans to brand it as Sheffield’s antiques quarter,” says Lianne.
The retro dining room chairs are a donation from James’s dad and the chaise longue was a bargain £20 from Beals Yard in Sharrow Vale and a set of Edwardian bedroom furniture in the spare bedroom arrived via eBay. It was too big to squeeze up the stairs to the converted loft, so they kept furniture to a minimum there and have designated the room “a place of calm”.
In the sitting room, an old sack now has a new life as an antimacasser and Lianne knitted the cushions covers and made curtains.
One of her best buys was a 1950s sideboard she spotted in a charity shop on the Wirral, where she grew up. It cost £1 and is useful and beautiful. The retro record player is also a focal point as there is no TV . The couple haven’t had one for years and are quite happy doing without.
“If you have a TV the room revolves around it and they are such a distraction,” says Lianne, who prefers to read, knit and dream up ideas for work.
She studied architecture at university but she didn’t enjoy using computer software to design buildings. Instead, she preferred hand drawing them and adding people and detail to the sketches. Confirmation that she could earn a living from her artistic endeavours came during the Liverpool Capital of Culture celebration in 2008.
She did some drawings of her favourite Liverpool buildings and hired a market stall to sell the framed pictures. They sold out and a host of commissions followed.
Instead of looking for work in an architectural practice she gave herself a year to make a career out of her illustrations.
“I haven’t even got an art GCSE but I grew up in a very creative family. My Nana Penny taught me to use watercolours when I was younger. We used to go to her house every Friday after school and would paint landscapes and eat biscuits. My Mum taught me to use a sewing machine and my Dad would always make up stories and plan treasure hunts to feed my imagination,” says Lianne whose workshop is at Exchange Studios.
Those skills and a love of nature inspired a new set of illustrations, while a passion for vintage tea sets sparked a plan to imprint the animal pictures on china.
Liberty of London was among the first customers for her products and she now sells Mellor Ware worldwide.
“It’s all about creating characters and telling stories. I absolutely love animals and have always kept pets, everything from fire-bellied newts and leopard geckos to rats and dogs. Every one of them had a completely different personality and that’s what I like to give all the creatures in my pictures,” she says. “I still have some of my nana’s watercolour paints and I like to use those when I can. She passed away so they are a lovely reminder of her.”
• Mellor Ware, www.mellorware.co.uk; Photos of Lianne in her studio by Gemma Thorpe, courtesy of Our Favourite Places, www.ourfaveplaces.co.uk.