With a “sold” sign on their Edwardian terrace house, Ruth and Andy Preston faced a race against time to find a new home in one of Leeds’s most desirable suburbs.
It was a tough task, not least because the search was confined to just a few streets that were in the catchment area of a good school. “I was panicking because there was nothing on the market and then this house came up. A sale had just fallen through and so we jumped in with an offer at the asking price,” says Ruth, who has twin daughters, Lena and Emmy, two, and a son, Jude, four.
The property ticked all their search boxes: right size, great location, period features and immaculate decor. “We converted our last house from flats so we didn’t mind a project but with three small children and a business to run we wanted something that didn’t need any work,” says Ruth, who sells AloeBe products made from aloe vera and bee pollen.
The only issue was that the interior design wasn’t to their taste and rather than live with it, they decided to tackle a full revamp. The result is a stunning mix of Victorian and 21st century style, with a dash of mid-century modern thrown in. “It was very pleasant and beautifully done before but it was very mainstream and everything was quite neutral and that’s just not us,” says Ruth.
Before tackling the cosmetic changes, they put glass panels in the hallway door to bring in natural light, and they spotted an opportunity to change the layout upstairs to suit their needs. So an irregular shaped bedroom was split into an en-suite for the master bedroom and a separate house bathroom. The enormous old house bathroom was converted into a bedroom for Emmy and Lena and decorated with colourful Christian Lacroix wallpaper. What had been an office is now a dressing room.
“We now have the en-suite and a dressing room off the master bedroom, which works really well. I wanted a boutique hotel feel to the room, somewhere we can escape to after a busy day with the children,” says Ruth, who admits to being obsessed with Pinterest and Instagram.
That’s where she picks up many of her design ideas and the inspirational interiors pictures online have encouraged her to make some bold choices. Her bedroom is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Railings and Plummet, which contrasts beautifully with the seasoned wood of the antique chest of drawers. The fireplace is the focal point thanks to the old pub sign that hangs above it. “I got that from a reclamation yard and found a frame for it. The beauty of this house is that old and new work really well together,” says Ruth.
Her favourite hunting ground for old items is Newark Antiques Fair. For new, she loves Heal’s, Graham and Green, Rockett St George, Abigail Ahern and Ikea. Most of the children’s bedroom furniture came from the Swedish store. As you can now buy via Instagram, she shops there too and found the children’s height chart from Violet and Percy. Both she and Andy love design classics and they have invested in a George Nelson lamp from SCP.
The Hans Wegner chair and footstool on the landing is one of their favourite finds on eBay. It was found on the German version of the auction site and shipped over. Altogether, it cost £350 instead of the £1,000 going rate in the UK. “Andy is fond of the saying: ‘pay less, pay twice,’” says Ruth.
He also enjoys collecting and has an impressive number of Alexander Girard dolls from Vitra, which have pride of place on the shelves in the sitting room.
Across the hall, the old formal dining room is now a playroom. It’s a fun palace painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon, where toys can easily be tidied away thanks to built-in storage made by a local joiner. “We didn’t have a playroom in the last house and it’s made a massive difference. It’s somewhere to store all the toys,” says Ruth, who turned the old snug off the kitchen into a dining area/office.
She works from the table in there when the twins are at nursery and Jude is at school. She gave up a career in marketing to sell AloeBe’s health and wellness products, which she uses and swears by.
“I wanted something that fitted around the children and I am passionate about healthy living and natural products so it works well,” says Ruth, who generates extra income from letting the house out for film and photo shoots.
The property is on the books of Leeds-based UK Locations and was recently used by ITV’s Daybreak to film a kitchen competition with Howdens. Its popularity is thanks to the bold and distinctive decor.
“Some people might have thought that all the work we’ve done was unnecessary but the layout and design suits how we live,” says Ruth who has more plans for change. Next on the list is a new kitchen and bi-fold doors on to the garden and if she has her way it will be sooner rather than later.
• Don’t be afraid of dark colour. The dark greys in Ruth and Andy’s bedroom give it a cosy feel. For more ideas on how to use darker colours visit www.abigailahern.com. <https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/oepaBczO1ZHo> .
Check out German and Scandinavian versions of eBay for design classics. Even with shipping costs, it can be cheaper to buy from these sites than it is to buy in the UK.
Store keepsakes. Ruth writes down the funny things the children say and pops them in a large Taylors of Harrogate coffee jar for posterity.