Ancient and modern

Janet and Kevin Stevens converted a stable using a mix of old and new materials. Sharon Dale reports

Most of us strive to create a work-life balance, but we rarely achieve equilibrium.

For Janet and Kevin Stevens, it has always been a priority, which is why they decided to live above the shop, when they opened up in Bedale almost five years ago.

Their store is an imaginative mix of homewares from British designer-makers and artists and unusual vintage finds. It's a Tardis of treasures that seems to stretch back forever.

Janet, a stylist, and Kevin, a furniture designer, turned the first floor of the market place premises into a flat, until the combination of the shop's success and the arrival of twin daughters, followed by a son forced them to rethink. "We loved it but it was becoming crowded," says Janet, who also has two lurcher dogs to keep her busy. When they bought the shop, it came with a stable, in a alley behind the shop. A long planning application later and a careful conversion and the stable is now their home – and still only a few yards from work.

It is a cleverly thought-out conversion of the long, thin building, that maximises light and space. It took eight months to convert the building.

"We were lucky because the shell was solid, it was just needed to organise the internal space," says Janet.

"It was obvious what to do. We wanted to make the most of the space, so we made it into an upside down house, which also means that we make the most of the view of the rooftops."

The two bedrooms and bathrooms are downstairs and the newly created first floor in the roof space is a large open-plan living area. Upstairs is open-plan with a large kitchen on one side of the stairs and a sitting area on the other.

"People think it's strange when they come through the door and we lead them upstairs, but when they get up to the first floor they totally understand," says Janet.

The decor reflects her flair for interior design and the couple's eclectic taste that mixes old and new and puts a contemporary spin on vintage finds.

The original dark beams and roof frame have been painted to make them less oppressive. The stairway is home to a little motorbike that was part of a fairground ride and the picture above it is part of an old linen bus roll that showed destinations.

The kitchen units and wooden worktop are from Ikea and shelves were installed above instead of wall units.

There is a balcony off the kitchen that acts as an area for growing

herbs and flowers. The sitting room features book shelves and large, comfortable sofas covered in throws so the children, Maddy and Jess, four and Ned, three, can bounce, play and spill without harm.

"We've got a relaxed attitude. We like the children to be able to run around and play," says Janet.

With the children's safety in mind they designed an innovative fireguard – a collapsible metal frame on a wooden plinth. Kevin also designed the oak staircase, shutters for all the windows and the enormous oak front door, which was made by a local joinery. He's also planning to build a sleeping platform in the sitting area for guests.

In the children's bedroom, storage was essential, so a substantial old chest was found and painted and brightly-coloured builders' buckets used for toys. Janet made the padded fabric flowers to brighten up the walls, taking her inspiration from Lauren Child's Charlie and Lola books.

The master bedroom is an oasis of calm with a contemporary bed and a striking painting by Neil McBride. The en-suite is another mix of old and new. The old bath was restored and the new Belfast sink fitted on a wooden plinth. An antique, wall mounted cabinet acts as storage.

"We like to keep things fairly simple, especially in a building like this that has character. So we kept the floors and walls neutral and added a few statement pieces," says Janet, who favours James white paint from Farrow and Ball for the walls.

The newly expanded shop is decorated in similar style and is doing well. Kevin concentrates on his own furniture design and sourcing stock from other designer makers and quirky pieces from auction rooms and sales. The latter includes everything from retro furniture and stage props to fairground rides and old aircraft propellers.

He is also restoring a travelling showman's caravan, which is parked at a friend's farm and is looking to build his own canal boat to use as a holiday home. "We get people from all over travelling to see us because they know they'll find something different. It's about serendipity. We shipped one of the fairground rides out to Japan recently," says Janet.

The shop has now spread up into the former flat and Janet has stolen a space at the rear of the ground floor as an office for her own venture as a freelance stylist helping developers. "I've got the architecture background, so I tend to become involved from the beginning, planning the use of space," she says. "For the show homes, I use a combination of old and new, which gives them a more homely feel."

Now 18 months after they moved in, another phase and probably another renovation project is on the horizon. The children are growing fast and are craving outdoor space.

Janet says: "It's great being able to go through the backyard of the shop and in through the front door of our house, but with three growing children and two dogs – and Kevin's showman's caravan to accommodate – we're looking for something bigger with a garden.

"It's not easy though because we don't want to be too far from the shop."

n Red House Interiors is open Thursday, Friday and

Saturday and by appointment. Tel: 01677 424076,

Janet Stevens Design: