If scientists fancy proving the existence of an interior design gene, then they need to look no further than Katie Allan and her sister Rebecca. Their stylish parents took an adventurous and original approach to decorating the family home and the siblings have followed their lead.
“They were trailblazers in the 1960s and 70s and were big fans of Habitat. They liked anything that was a bit different. Mum once made Dad decorate a room with vertical stripe wallpaper hung at a 45 degree angle. They always encouraged us to be creative,” says Katie, who now runs JOAN with Rebecca.
The interior design and styling service also offers antique and vintage furniture and accessories for sale and hire.
Katie's own home reflects her love of all things old and interesting and includes some of her parents' collection. Their 1960s Arkana dining table and an original bubble light are among her prized possessions and look perfect in her period house.
She and her husband, James, bought it in 2013 when its life as a commercial property came to an end. It had been the village post office before being turned into a tearoom/deli and gift shop with living accommodation above.
“The owners tried to sell it as a going concern but struggled to find anyone to buy it, so they closed the business and got permission to convert it into a residential building,” says Katie, who loved the location in a thriving village between Easingwold and Boroughbridge.
The project was a huge job, made remarkable by Katie overseeing some of the work from Australia. She and Jamie moved there for nine months to set up a branch of his advertising agency.
“Rebecca helped and our builder, Adam Dawes, was fantastic. It's amazing what you can achieve with video and Facetime,” says Katie.
The Allans began by reconfiguring the layout from scratch, which included reinstating the original Georgian hallway. The shop became a sitting room and the dividing wall separating it from the tearoom was knocked down to create a dining area.
The open-plan room features an original Eames lounge chair from Tennants auction house at Leyburn. “We are always on the lookout for interesting vintage pieces at fairs and auctions,” says Katie, who started the business in 2011.
Rebecca, who previously worked for Leeds Museums and Galleries, joined her three years later. “We do everything from helping with layout, design and sourcing on a full renovation project to restyling a room and finding a particular item of furniture,” says Katie.
She and Rebecca managed to find items that referenced her home's previous use as a post office, including the Love Letters wallpaper from Andrew Martin for the downstairs loo.
What was the old catering kitchen has been extended and is full of light thanks to new Crittall windows and doors that lead on to the garden. The bespoke units are by Chapel Kitchens in Nun Monkton and Katie sourced the copper sink. It matches the ship's light over the island, which her parents found and restored.
The kitchen leads through to a breakfast room with a huge dining table that Jamie made using the old sorting office table legs topped with floorboards from one of the bedrooms.
A wood-burning stove adds cosiness and the tile-effect wallpaper by Smink Things is inspired by the architecture of northern England and adds character.
It's a fantastic family space with plenty of room for the Allans' children, Ruby, five, and Eddie, three, to play.
Elsewhere, what was a small back kitchen is now a utility room and separate study. The basement has been tanked and converted into Jamie's man-cave, complete with a wine room, snug and a pool table.
Jamie came up with the idea of tiling the wine room floor with 2p coins topped with resin. “I needed 22,000 and had to keep going to the bank to ask for a few hundred at a time,” says Katie.
Upstairs, the old living quarters have been completely reconfigured. What was the sitting room and an adjoining bedroom is now a master bedroom with dressing room and en-suite. The sink was designed by Katie from an old washstand and a glass basin. She also made all the curtains in the house.
The landing was created by shrinking the old master bedroom, which is now Eddie's room. A bathroom and store room are now a bedroom and the toilet and airing cupboard were knocked together to make a house bathroom. “We reused the old bath and had it re-enamelled,” says Katie, who also treated it to a marble surround.
The latest project is converting a derelict barn into a play space, garage and storeroom. “We aren't rushing it because we want it to be right,” says Katie. “It's taken about five years to get to this point but it has been worth the wait.”
JOAN is an interior design and styling service and offers antique and vintage furniture and accessories for sale and hire. It also sources one-off pieces. www.houseofjoan.co.uk
Barneby Gates wallpaper, www.barnebygates.com
Smink Things wallpaper, www.sminkthings.co.uk
Trainspotters lighting, www.trainspotters.co.uk
Urban Cottage Industries lighting, www.urbancottageindustries.com
Chapel Kitchens, www.chapelkitchens.com
Belgravia Stone marble, www.belgraviastone.com
The Shop Floor Project art prints, www.theshopfloorproject.com
KJA Services for Crittall windows, www.kjaservices.co.uk
Waltons Mill Shop for fabrics and wallpaper, www.waltonsmillshop.co.uk
J Rotherham marble, www.jrotherham.co.uk
Longwood Joinery sash windows, www.longwood-joinery.co.uk