Harking back to the past

Clare Green pictured in her living room
Clare Green pictured in her living room
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Children’s fashion designer Clare Green restyled her 1930s semi in part of Leeds to create an entirely new look, as Sharon Dale discovered.

Although she works in fashion, Clare Green doesn’t allow its fickle nature to dictate the style of her home.

She and her husband Andrew shun interior trends and prefer to buy investment pieces that will last for years.

“Buying well is an eco-friendly approach. So we’ll save up and spend a lot on key items knowing that we won’t have to replace them. A good example is the sofa, which is 12-years-old and still going strong. We also try to buy British made products if we can,” says Clare, who has two daughters, Madeline, six, and Layla, four.

She takes the same approach with her children’s clothing label, LaylaMay, which she opened with her business partner Helen May.

Clare, who used to work for Topshop and in fancy dress design, creates cute classics that can passed down for generations thanks to the quality of the cut, the fabrics and the stitching.

Her tweed fabrics are woven by Marling and Evans in Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield, the jersey is also from the UK, while other material is sourced from Europe. All the pattern cutting and garment making is done in Sheffield.

“The idea for it came because I struggled to find clothes for my daughters that weren’t overtly pink and covered in embroidery. I’m not into branding either so that narrowed my choice even further. Helen and I started LaylaMay 18 months ago and it’s going really well. We make clothes that will last for years and can be passed on.”

She adds: “I also wanted everything to be as ethical as possible with manufacturing done in Yorkshire. In a previous job I travelled to the factories in the south of China. Workers there live in the factories and work seven days a week. I knew I didn’t want to go down that route and I now try not to buy anything made in China.”

The business is based at home, which is one of the reasons she and Andrew bought their roomy, four bedroom, 1930s semi in Leeds. It had more space than their previous house and had been renovated, which meant she could concentrate time and effort on her fashion label.

She was, however, keen to re-decorate and put some character into the modernised property.

“The previous owners had done a good job and they’d kept all the lovely 1930s doors but their tastes were more modern than mine. I’ve got more vintage stuff, which I’ve collected for years. I love having things that have a history behind them and I like hanging onto them.”

Some bargain buys have become more valuable over time, like the 1960s Chinese Girl print by Vladimir Tretchikoff, also known as the Blue Lady, which she bought in Brighton 10 years ago. The framed prints now sell for over £100. The strangely coloured lady has pride of place in the sitting room as her red lips match the walls.

The light that Clare bought in a charity shop when she was a teenager looks perfect in the dining room and is also worth far more than she originally paid.

The old chandelier, which she bought with wedding present money, is another favourite, while the Bradford Dyers Association picture she found in London has sentimental value. She paid £50 for it and presented it as a birthday present to Andrew, who is originally from Bradford.

Clare is especially drawn to the 1970s and a favourite shopping haunts is the Retro Boutique at Hyde Park Corner in Leeds. It’s a treasure trove of pre-loved fashion, furniture and curios. On eBay, she found a 1960s teak G Plan dining table and chairs. They were £500 but a new version of the same quality would have cost £2,000. She says: “The quality is fantastic and I love the shape. Again, it’s something that will last.”

Upstairs, Madeline and Layla’s bedrooms mix old and new furniture, with an old wardrobe and art deco chest of drawers that have been given new life with a lick of paint. There’s also a pretty vintage lamp sitting alongside new pieces from the Great Little Trading Company. The wallpapers are from Laura Ashley and the handmade quilts were bought from the owners of a cottage that the Greens hired from Under the Thatch. UTT specialises in romantic and quirky accommodation, ranging from quaint cottages to gypsy caravans, Airstreams and showman’s wagons. The master bedroom is in the converted loft and has been redecorated in wallpaper by Harlequin. The bed is antique and the original Lloyd Loom pieces are from the Retro Boutique.

“Andrew sometimes jokingly refers to my vintage bits and bobs as junk and there’s an old dressing table of my grandma’s that he won’t have in the house but generally we agree. We were brought up with similar backgrounds in that our parents used to save up and buy quality,” says Clare. “I think we’re passing that philosophy on to the next generation too.”

LaylaMay Clothing, www. laylamay-uk.co.uk. The range is also at Cootchie Coo Children’s Boutique, Victoria Quarter, Leeds.

Useful contacts

Retro Boutique, 8-10 Headingley Lane, Hyde Park Corner, Leeds

Handpicked Hall, Grand Arcade, Leeds, for work by local crafters and designer makers,www.handpickedhall.co.uk

Rockett St George, homeware, www.rockettstgeorge.co.uk

Cox and Cox homesware and accessories, www.coxandcox.co.uk

Celtic sheepskin company, www.celticandco.co.uk

Lloyd Loom furniture, Spalding, www.lloydloom.com

Great Little Trading Company, children’s furniture, www.gltc.co.uk

Under the Thatch cottages and quirky holiday homes, www.underthethatch.co.uk