Man cave to art dekko

Meeting a new partner didn't just change Paul Knowles' life, it inspired a whole new look for his home. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.

When Paul Knowles met Judy Sale, it soon became clear that they had a connection, and as time went by romance blossomed. They have been together for three years now and it's fair to say that ebullient American-born artist Judy has changed his life.

She has also changed his home after encouraging him to embrace colour and art.

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Paul's apartment, which sits on the top floor of a large period house in Harrogate, was previously a drab and uninspiring “man cave”.

“I had no interest in interior design whosoever. I liked the flat because it had big windows and great views but I moved in with two leather sofas, a TV, a wine rack and cooler and a bed and table. That was it. All the walls were painted white and it was very bland. I didn't know any better,” he says.

Judy didn't force her views on him, rather she let him arrive at the obvious conclusion himself.

The first realisation that his flat needed a makeover was sparked by one of her paintings. “We were in a restaurant in Haworth and one of my paintings was on the wall there. At the end of the meal he said he wanted to buy it. I was worried he was just buying it because it was mine but he insisted it was because he liked it,” says Judy. “The redecoration began with that picture and ‘start with the art' is a good motto as it can help inform what you do next.”

Paul found the perfect place for it – on the wall in the dining hall at the top of the stairs – and loved it so much that he bought more of Judy's striking abstracts. “I'd never have art bought before but that picture made me realise what a difference it can make. It opened my mind to colour and also made me see that I had an awful lot of blank walls,” he says.

Judy's paintings now feature in almost every room, adding colour, interest and vitality.

With his style confidence boosted, Paul, a financial consultant, went shopping for furniture and, to Judy's surprise, chose a set of sensational, yellow dining chairs.

“He asked if I thought they would look good and I said ‘yes'. I was amazed that he even considered them but he thought they would work with the picture, which they do,” she says.

Much of the furniture, including the sofa, is from Raft, a Harrogate store that now trades online as raftfurniture.co.uk. The rug in the sitting room is from the Afghan Rug Shop in Hebden Bridge.

Judy also sourced some vintage pieces, including a side table, which she spotted at the antiques centre in Salts Mill, and two chairs.

“I had the chairs for a year before I persuaded Paul to have one in the bedroom and one in the bathroom. They add character and that makes things interesting,” she says.

She also bought him two house plants – “Roy”, a palm tree, and “Betty”, an orchid.

“I love them and even speak to them. Roy is lit from behind and looks fantastic. That was Judy's idea,” he says.

One of the boldest steps forward was painting the walls of the study in scarlet.

“It took Judy six months to convince me to do that and we painted it together. I think it's fabulous. It has made an enormous difference, though I'd never have done it myself,” says Paul, who was also inspired by his partner's own home and by her love of galleries and museums.

Judy's house in Haworth is ablaze with colour and has great style, which has been influenced by her travels. She grew up in America's Midwest and studied art at university before becoming a military wife, marrying an American serviceman and then an English one.

Their jobs took her all over the world and she had lived in seven countries before ending up in Haworth nine years ago.

“My colour sense comes from my travels to Asia, Italy and Cyprus. These countries have no fear of colour, unlike here where people are frightened of it,” says Judy.

Her last home abroad was in Italy, where she bought and restored a group of medieval houses in a village. She left because she felt isolated and settled in Brontë country because she had a friend who lived there.

Her studio is on the lower ground floor of her home, where she paints pictures that feature in collections all over the world. Prices range from £50 to £1,500 and each tells a story as she often applies found objects to her work. The mixed media approach adds texture and interest.

“Paintings can have a powerful effect on a room. I always make the point that if you put artwork on the wall you don't need much furniture,” says Judy, who also studied interior design.

In Paul's case, the paintings and the new-look apartment that sprang from them have brought a great deal of joy.

“I never invited friends or even my daughter to my flat before, but I entertain much more now I have got somewhere that looks and feels like a home and that would never have happened if Judy hadn't come along. She has changed my life.”

For more on Judy's paintings go to www.judysaleartist.co.uk.