Ellie McManaman and her partner, Simon, had just got their tiny rented home picture-perfect when she came up with an audacious plan that would get them on the property ladder and provide her with a dream job.
Thanks to a two-year conversion and renovation project, the couple now have a large live-work home on fashionable Bishopthorpe Road in York.
The journey began when Ellie spotted a gap in the market for a contemporary children's store selling organic clothing, gifts and homeware. While hunting for shop premises to rent, she found a former hairdressers for sale with a flat above that she thought might interest her father, a developer, who is part of well-known building business Mack and Lawler.
“He wasn't interested in it for himself but we could see it would make a brilliant shop and home and he agreed to help me do the work. I wasn't even looking to move but I fell in love with the building and decided to go for it. It was a huge leap from a one-bedroom rental to this huge place,” says Ellie.
The property was built as a butcher's shop with owners' accommodation in a house next door. It had been a hairdressers for 40 years and the couple who owned it had knocked through to the house and used the ground floor of both premises as a salon. They converted the upper floors of both buildings into a self-contained flat.
“I decided to restore the layout back to how it was originally so now we have the house and the upper floors as living accommodation and the shop is next door with a connecting door to the house,” says Ellie.
The shop, which features the old butcher's table and hooks, was the first part of the project and meant that Ellie could start to build her business. After A-levels and travelling, she worked in a nursery and realised that there was very little choice in the children's clothing, gift and homeware market.
“I was 22 years old with with no retail experience. The only thing I had was an A-level in Business Studies but I felt sure a shop would work. I liked the idea of sourcing good quality, design-led organic products that people could pass down,” says Ellie, who stocks items from all over the world, including Iceland, Denmark and Australia. She has been trading for almost three years from the shop and via Trouva.com, a website that allows independent boutiques to sell online.
She relished the rest of the project, which saw what was the hair dyeing section of the salon turned back into a dining room. What was the old waiting room was converted back into a kitchen. The salon's mini-kitchen is now a utility room.
On the first floor, there is now a sitting room and a large office and on the second floor is a large master bedroom, a guest bedroom and a house bathroom.
“My dad was a big help. I used his contractors and we project managed together,” says Ellie, who solved the problem of flooring by using Amtico's Parisian Pine, wood-effect vinyl in every room downstairs. It's hard wearing and dog-friendly – vital as she has two pugs.
She pushed the budget when it came to her kitchen. New French doors into the courtyard garden have brought in more natural light and she didn't skimp on the Shaker-style cabinets and the marble island. It's all white with walls in a complimentary neutrals and modern extractors that double as lights.
“I wanted the kitchen to be uncluttered and contemporary. I like cooking and the island has seating round so it's a very sociable space,” she says.
The new dining room features lots of pink as it's one of Ellie's favourite colours and it suits the grey concrete topped dining table. The table is from one of her favourite stores, Barker and Stonehouse, as are the chairs.
Other shopping haunts include TK Maxx online, Home Sense and Decoporium. The latter is at Thorp Arch, near Wetherby, and is full of vintage treasures, like her hall table which was a bargain £6.
Upstairs, what was once a kitchen for the flat is now a guest bedroom painted in Farrow and Ball's Hague blue with a bed from Made.com and a display cabinet that belonged to Ellie's grandparents.
The enormous sitting room is painted in white and Farrow and Ball's Inchyra Blue. The sofa was her parents' and she had it recovered. The armchairs are from Maison du Monde and the silver cabinet was a bargain £100 from Barker and Stonehouse as the drawers were missing but the gaps make excellent shelves. Houseplants are everywhere and her favourite “pot” was made by her mum from a doll's head.
“My mum is very creative and my dad did an art degree,” says Ellie, who has obviously inherited the artistic genes. Most of the walls feature her own paintings, which she often reworks when she gets bored of looking at them.
She says: “I'm always changing the rooms and I like moving things around. Luckily, Simon doesn't mind. The shop has given me another room to play with and because the stock is always changing there's always an excuse for a redesign.”
Bare Organics is at 45 Bishopthorpe Road, York. You can also find Bare products on Trouva, www.trouva.com