Angela’s Egan’s passion for antiques and collectibles has transformed a bland Victorian cottage into a welcoming home, where every piece tells a story. Heather Dixon reports.
Hoisting a heavy half tester bed up a steep flight of steps and through the narrow doors of her period home in Malton was no mean feat – but Angela Egan isn’t easily defeated.
‘It came apart into four sections and even though it weighs a ton we managed to manoeuvre it into the sitting room,’ she says. “Unfortunately we couldn’t get it any further – the stairs to the bedrooms are so narrow and awkward that I had to rethink the bed – or rethink the layout.”
Unwilling to part with her favourite piece of furniture, Angela decided to turn the sitting room into a bedroom and rearranged the whole house around it.
“I wasn’t sure whether it would work because I have to walk through the bedroom to get to the next floor, but the house is very quirky and so full of character that it simply added to its charm,” she says. “I turned the reception room into the sitting room. Unfortunately I had a similar problem getting the sofa inside. I have a lovely sofa which I wanted to use in the sitting room but there was no way we could get it up the steps.
“In the end it had to be carried through the kitchen door and go in the dining room in the basement. I just have some comfortable armchairs in the sitting room, which are perfect for cosy winter evenings by the fire.
“You have to compromise when you live in a period house. Nothing is ever straight – or straightforward.”
Antiques are a passion for Angela, who has been collecting them for years, everything from old paintings and furniture to fabrics, bedding and ornaments.
However, her previous home – a period apartment in Hastings – was much smaller so when she moved back to Malton she found herself with empty rooms to fill.
“I missed the countryside, the great community spirit and the amazing food movement of Malton – especially it’s amazing food festival, but I also missed the auction houses and wonderful little antique shops around here,” she says.
“The house was a blank canvas when I moved in. It had been renovated by the Fitzwilliam Estate and decorated in a pale cream throughout, so everything I’ve done has been cosmetic.”
With four floors to contend with, including the low, sloping ceilings of the attic room and narrow turns on the stairs, it needed a team of ‘very patient’ removal men to shuffle everything into place. But trying to fit large furniture into small rooms and awkward spaces hasn’t put Angela off buying antiques and oversized period pieces which continue to find a place in her ever-evolving home.
“From a very early age I realised that if you buy something secondhand, vintage or antique it will generally hold its value and you will get a better price for it if you sell it on, than you will for something new,” says Angela. “This gives you a lot more scope for change and allows you to sell something to raise money for something else. My style is difficult to date. I tend to buy what I like and not be a slave to fashion.”
Angela grew up in a period house full of “granny’s cast-offs which are today’s antiques” and she still has a lot of family furniture which she remembers from those early years “surrounded by beautiful old furniture”.
“I think you need to furnish a house with empathy for its age and character, without turning it into a museum,” she says.
“They have to evolve naturally over time.”
Angela spends a lot of her spare time – when she’s not walking her five dogs – looking for bargains in the local auction houses, car boot sales and antique shops. She has a friend in the antique trade who helps her to find bargains, and she has developed a keen eye for unusual collectibles which range from ornate pill boxes, old books and paintings to eiderdowns, earthenware and silver tableware.
“Some people would call it clutter but I love to surround myself with things which are unusual, beautiful or which have a story to tell.”
The multi-layered house is now full of Angela’s treasures in every high ceiling room, from the practical basement kitchen which opens onto a walled patio to the cosy first floor sitting room where she has her “office” contained within a former dressing table against one wall.
The William IV half tester bed is also on the ground floor, with stairs leading to the remaining two floors of bedrooms and bathrooms.
“I love the character and quirkiness of it all,” says Angela. “And there’s an added bonus – living here definitely keeps me fit.”
A HOME THAT’S FULL OF GOOD IDEAS
It’s not always easy to fit a table in a small kitchen, but Angela’s compact outdoor bistro set makes a perfect breakfast table
Modern televisions can dominate a small room. Hide a large screen by creating a simple MDF casing and covering it with your favourite fabric, which can be lifted or pulled out of the way for those cosy evenings in front of the telly.
Pick up original paintings in lovely old frames for ‘next to nothing’ at auctions. They look fabulous grouped together on a wall and work well in a range of settings, from cosy period to ultra modern.
Finding quality curtains that are long enough and within budget can be a challenge, but it’spossible to find top quality curtains in auctions and second hand stores. Visit them regularly and keep the window measurements to hand in case you see the perfect pair – and be prepared to adjust the length if necessary