Yorkshire Interiors - a restored Edwardian house in Ilkley
PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 January 2014
COPYRIGHT COLIN POOLE
A neglected Edwardian house has been restored to create a lovely escape from the outside world, as Heather Dixon discovers
Emma Birch has designed the interiors of luxury transport, beautiful homes and commercial spaces, but nothing proved quite as challenging as her own home in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. ‘I wanted a place where I could truly relax and be myself,’ she says. ‘A house should be an extension of the person, but it’s a lot more difficult to stand back and see the bigger picture when there is so much to choose from out there, and when you are emotionally involved.’
As a result the house has evolved gradually over 20 years, starting with a room-by-room renovation that included converting the cold, empty basement into a separate flat, which is now let, rewiring, new central heating and reinstating the character of the elegant Edwardian property. ‘The house was looking quite sorry for itself when we first saw it, but the approach to it was lovely,’ says Emma. ‘The location was perfect, set on a hill within walking distance of town and the moors, so it was exactly what we were looking for. We had the best of both worlds.’
But they faced years of hard work to get the house ship-shape. The garden was completely overgrown and there was a ‘strange’ lean-to at the side of the house which was eventually pulled down. Inside, the fixtures and fittings were dated and many of the architectural details had been hidden, including the period doors that had been covered with sheets of plywood in the 1970s.
‘We lived in the house while we renovated, paying for things as we went along,’ says Emma. ‘Over the years some of the rooms have been done several times – such as the kitchen and bathroom – because our tastes and ideas changed.’
Faced with so much choice in fabrics, furniture and accessories, Emma decided to stay ‘true to the house’ and create a look which complemented the high ceilings, light open rooms and period features. ‘In many ways a house dictates its own style so I work with the room dimensions and the way the sun moves round the house,’ says Emma. ‘I wanted to come home and completely relax in comfort so I developed a soft, layered look using neutral tones throughout. I used to make every room look different but now I prefer the rooms to flow into each other to make the house look bigger. I also work with the height of the rooms, adding pictures, mirrors and curtain pelmets, so that everything looks balanced. You have to think on a larger scale with high ceilings and use the space above, which is why I love big chandeliers. They work really well in this kind of property.’
Emma can’t resist buying beautiful accessories, such as statement candlesticks, glassware and large lamps, which she moves around the house to refresh the rooms. ‘I mix old and new together, combine modern aluminium and glass with traditional wood, and reinvent furniture which no longer looks right but which is too good to throw out,’ says Emma.
One of her reinventions has been the set of four Habitat dining chairs that have been recovered and the legs aluminium stained. Local joiner Steve Bailey has given the kitchen units a makeover using half of the original carcasses and half new. The doors were then hand painted in a bespoke colour mixed by decorating company Face Lift. Emma restored the sitting room fire surround by reinstating columns that were stored in the attic and adding ornate carved oak details to create a striking focal point in the room. The fireplace was also painted to make it look aged.
Emma has added colour and depth with soft furnishings, particularly at the windows where she has framed the views with pelmets, curtains and blinds in fabrics which reflect the mood of each room and the way it is used.
‘The house is now an extension of me and reflects who I am,’ says Emma. ‘I am a get-up-and-go person by nature but I feel very relaxed and calm in this house. When I first moved here the house felt sad and tired but now it feels lived in, warm and welcoming again. I think its pride has finally been restored.’
Emma Birch Design & Interiors 01943 600920
Homes Direct 365 01642 455589 homesdirect365.co.uk
Richard Taylor Designs 0207 351 25670 richardtaylordesigns.co.uk
Oakleaf Reproductions Ltd 01535 663274 oakleaf.co.uk
George Smith 0207 384 1004 georgesmith.co.uk
Porta Romano 01420 23005 portaromana.co.uk
Daedalian Furniture 01535 640860 daedalianfurniture.co.uk
Julian Chichester 0207 622 2928 julianchichester.co.uk
Steve Bailey Construction 07785 776969
Designer Shutters 01535 636263 designershutters.co.uk
Milner Gray 0113 250 0800 milnergraybathrooms.co.uk
Steve Simpson, artist 07837 271714 stevesimpson.co.uk
Chelsea Textiles 0207 584 5544 chelseatextiles.com
Face Lift 0785 5503544
George Smith Upholstery 01484 462606