Victoria Newhouse styled her home on a budget using vintage finds and work by British designer makers. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.
A previous career selling houses gave Victoria Newhouse the chance to see inside hundreds of homes and her “through the keyhole” experiences have helped inform her own interiors. “I worked in the Skipton area and saw some wonderful houses in the Dales. Some of those interiors were very inspiring and gave me lots of ideas,” says Victoria, a former young estate agent of the year, who worked for Dacre, Son & Hartley and Skipton Properties before launching her own business.
Her award-winning gift shop, Nora’s in Ilkley, prompted her decision to move to the town. She and partner, James, sold their new-build home in Cowling, near Keighley, to rent a newly-renovated cottage that once served as servants’ quarters for an Edwardian mansion.
It is small and there was no renovation work to do, so she was able to plan the décor quickly and cheaply, leaving her time to concentrate on the shop.
“I heard about this place from a customer. It was the chauffeur’s house and it was perfect because everything was done and brand new but it still had some of the old features. I didn’t want to spend too much on the interior as there was a lot of expense in setting up the business. I had experience of styling show homes on a tight budget, which really helped,” she says.
The biggest problem she faced was the sitting room, where there was an imposing chimney breast but no fireplace. Keen to create a focal point, Victoria browsed the Pinterest website for ideas and found a chimney breast in America dotted with shallow shelves. James, who is a competent DIY-er, improvised and made some out of coving. Topped with candles, they create a magical effect, especially at night.
The clock, which came from a French hotel, cost £80 and was one of Victoria’s winning bids at Andrew Hartley’s salerooms. She loves to source vintage treasures from the auction house, which is where she found the dressing table, which she revamped with her favourite Autentico chalk paint.
Full of bright ideas, she also created a shelving unit from old bushel boxes.
“I bought lots of them from a fruit farm for the shop when it first opened, but they weren’t as fashionable then as they are now. They are so versatile. They make great shelves. I put what my dad calls my ‘trankliments’ on them, which is all the bits and bobs of stuff I collect. James wired the boxes up with spotlights for me so they look more effective,” says Victoria, who also loves fairy lights and scented candles. Her favourites are by True Grace.
It is clear that she has a weakness for old, bevelled-edge mirrors and for vintage pictures, which sit beside contemporary graphic prints by artists including Saltaire-based Kate Holliday
“I have Kate’s work in the shop too. I like to stock British products and support designer makers,” she says. “The idea for that ethos came from a biodegradable dishcloth designed in Sweden and made in Britain. It’s got a lovely print on it and it is a really practical product. You can put it in the dishwasher and use it again and again. We stock them now and they sell really well.”
Victoria’s home boasts many items that she sells at her shop including parchment lamps by Manchester’s Northern Light, cards by Freya Ete and typography prints by Bold and Noble, plus cushions by Wiltshire artist Helen McAllister, who hand screen prints and embroiders her fabrics. She also has a lot of Ilkley-inspired products, from a bus blind print with local destinations on it to Ilkley map cushions designed by artist Jane Revitt.
The print is based on an Ordnance Survey map and the cushions, which cost £65 each, look set to be best-sellers at Nora’s. Victoria opened the shop four years ago with her mother Fiona, a florist, and it has been a big success, landing the title of Independent Gift Retailer of the Year (North and Northern Ireland) 2013 and being shortlisted in the Best Retail Display category at The Greats gift retailer awards 2014.
“It’s something I always wanted to do and thanks to the recession the joy had gone out of the property industry so it felt like the right time to have a go,” she says. “Looking back it was a risk. I was only 25 and fearless and I had complete belief it would work. Thank goodness it has and we’re even looking for bigger premises.
“It’s called Nora’s after my family nickname, which is ‘nippy Nora’ because I never sit still.”
It sells everything from cards, recycled wool blankets and hand-stamped keepsake spoons to candles and screen prints. The latest addition is limited edition cycling memorabilia including 50 commissioned Ilkley Tour de France framed prints, which will no doubt get pride of place in one of her ever-changing window displays.
“The window has become an obsession,” she says. “It’s how I get my creative fix.”
• Nora’s is at the Victorian Arcade, South Hawksworth Street, Ilkley, www.noras-shop.co.uk