Writer and vintage enthusiast Victoria Benn wasn’t keen on buying a Seventies house until she saw the chance to turn back the style clock. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.
When the hunt for a home in their preferred location proved fruitless, Victoria and Wayne Benn agreed to expand their search area. They began to look around the perimeter of the pretty Dales village of Grassington but when Wayne suggested they also veer away from their preferred property type, Victoria was horrified.
A detached 1970s house had caught his fancy and appeared to be the opposite of what she had dreamed of. “I was looking for an old cottage or farmhouse with lots of character and original beams but I agreed to go and view the house thinking there was no way we’d buy it,” she says.
From the outside it clearly wasn’t her type, but as any good matchmaker or estate agent will tell you: “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
There were large dual-aspect windows that filled the four-bedroom home with light and the views from the front stretched over the River Wharfe to Grass Woods.
The location couldn’t have been better. It was close to good schools for the couple’s son, Seth, now 15, and daughter, Beatrice, 11, and was within walking distance into Grassington.
While dreams of an inglenook fireplace, farmhouse kitchen and cottagey interiors faded, Victoria realised, with growing excitement, that the house would allow her to “go retro”.
That sealed the deal and she and Wayne bought the property and have never had a single regret. “I love mid-century style and this house really suits that because it was built in that era,” she says.
A lifelong enthusiast of old, beautiful and quirky homeware, Victoria has put her passion to good use and, along with collecting items for her home, she runs Yorkshire Vintage Fairs with a friend. The latest is today, at the Wesley Centre in Harrogate.
“I can trace my love of vintage back to my grandmother who also loved buying old things. She had a room full of her finds, which was a real treasure trove. She let me rummage about in there and she always said ‘yes’ if I asked if I could keep something,” says Victoria.
Before she could fully furnish her house, she had to redecorate or what she calls “de-pink” it. The walls and carpets were mostly in Barbie’s favourite colour and weren’t to the Benn family’s taste.
The kitchen is now in a neutral off-white with a dining area that sports a vintage table and bright orange 40/4 chairs that were designed by David Rowland and feature in the MOMA in New York. “I bought them from a used office furniture supplier in Cleckheaton and they got them from a police station in Leeds. They were a bargain at £30 each,” says Victoria.
They go beautifully with her favourite Denby Arabesque tea service, vintage West German pottery and the Ladderax shelving unit that holds the TV and houseplants.
Next door, in the large dining room, the walls have been re-painted in Farrow & Ball’s Olive. The blinds are in vintage fabric by Swedish designer Saini Salonen bought from the Space Vintage shop in Harrogate.
The sideboard and table were sale bargains from Heal’s and the chairs are Ercol.
The sitting room also has a whole new look thanks to some stand-out pieces, including the French Ox-Art coffee table made in 1976 and the vintage sofa and chairs re-covered in plush yellow, red and blue fabrics. The blue echoes her collection of Rimini Blu ceramics by Bitossi.
For added fun, there is a music corner with an original Dansette record player and the couple’s collection of vinyl.
Upstairs, Ladderax shelving reveals its stylish practicality in Seth’s bedroom. It’s perfect for storing everything from school work to books and treasured possessions.
In Victoria and Wayne’s room, the superking bed is from Feather and Black and the decor has hints of Art Deco, which echoes the style of the family’s previous home in Harrogate. It’s also full of books as Victoria is a freelance writer/PR specialist and author of Studs & Crooks. The Hidden History of Kilnsey Show.
Art is another great love and the walls of the house sport everything from classic 1950s prints by Tretchikoff to vintage posters, including one by Man Ray, which was bought from a specialist stall at one of her vintage fairs.
She also has work by Yorkshire artists Victoria Alderson and Helen Peyton, and ceramics by Grassington-based David Ashby and Carine Brosse.
“The great thing about vintage decor is that it works really well with contemporary art,” says Victoria.
“It wasn’t what I originally wanted but I love the house and I’m so pleased we moved here. It’s such a lovely, friendly community in Grassington and we enjoy being part of it.”
The Harrogate Vintage Fair is being held today, Saturday, from 10am to 4.30pm, at the Wesley Centre, Oxford Street, Harrogate. Entry is £1.50, www.yorkshirevintagefairs.com
The Hedgerow, florist and coffee shop, Threshfield, near Grassington, www.the-hedgerow.co.uk. This shop has some lovely vintage garden planters and furniture.
Vintage fairs are a great source and a fun day out. Our entry price is £1.50 entrance and the fair includes 30 stalls, a vocalist, swing dancing and a tearoom.
The Magpie, Skipton. This shop has interesting vintage pieces, along with work by contemporary artists and Annie Sloan paint.
Posh Tat specialises in decorative salvage, reclamation and “tat”. It also supplies props to Pinewood Studios. It is based at High Trees Garden Centre, near Leeds Bradford Airport. www.poshtat.co.uk.
Space Vintage, Harrogate. This is a go-to place for vintage and retro furniture and homeware. www.spaceharrogate.co.uk.
Living Vintage Furniture, Skipton, has some great items for sale and the owner is a brilliant furniture restorer.