Yorkshire Interiors - Leeds Town House transformation

PUBLISHED: 14:11 22 February 2012 | UPDATED: 21:05 20 February 2013

Yorkshire Interiors - Leeds Town House transformation

Yorkshire Interiors - Leeds Town House transformation

A traditional town house in Leeds has been transformed into a bright and stylish modern home. Heather Dixon finds out how Photographs by Colin Poole

Sarah Jarman and Paul Alexander think alike when it comes creating something different for their home. We wanted to create something a bit unusual, said Sarah. We are both involved in design so we know that some of the best ideas evolve gradually as you begin to work out the possibilities. In many ways, thats how this house developed.

Sarah and Paul had outgrown a two-bedroom terraced house in another part of Leeds and needed a property large enough to include an office for Sarah. Although the kitchen was really small with no work surfaces or storage, and the bathroom was accessed through a bedroom, they loved the light, square hallway, peaceful location and great potential to turn the dated interior into something special.

We werent bothered about the amount of work that needed doing, said Sarah. We renovated our last house and decided to sell it just after wed finished, so there was only a short break before we started all over again.

They began stripping wallpaper on the day they moved in. Sarah wanted to finish the house by Christmas, which gave them just five months to do all the structural work, plumbing, plastering and decorating.

It was serious stuff, she said. We drew up lots of plans, wondering at one point whether we should take out the chimney breast between the kitchen and dining room to create one large room, with an island in the middle. Then we thought no, because everyone was doing that, so we just knocked out the walls either side to create an open link, without losing the identity of two separate living areas.

Two windows were replaced with two sets of double doors overlooking the garden. New floorboards were aged and darkened with two coats of ebony outdoor wood stain and then a coat of gloss varnish.

The kitchen units were created using IKEA carcasses and gloss painted MDF doors, then a cantilevered shelf was fitted to the wall resting on steel supports inserted into the brickwork. You could lie on it, its so strong, said Sarah. We didnt want to fill the kitchen with units because they would have been overwhelming, so we kept the look as simple and open as possible.

A 1930s fireplace was replaced with a modern surround in the sitting room and, upstairs, the walls of the landing and bathrooms were redesigned to make the space flow more efficiently. When Sarah and Paul bought the house, the main bathroom was very small and accessed through one of the bedrooms, so they turned the bedroom into the house bathroom to create a light, spacious room large enough for a free standing bath.

The same chimney breast that divides the kitchen area also features in the bathroom, so Sarah put it to good use by creating an alcove for a modern sink. A mirror cut to size reflects light into this area. The original bathroom then became Sarah and Pauls en suite.

Because the room is the smallest in the house, they decided to splash out on green mosaic tiles from floor to ceiling. They are quite bright, but you can afford to go a bit mad in a small room, said Sarah.

Once all the structural work was complete, Sarah and Paul set about the decorating, working room by room to create a house of calm undertones with big, bold design wallpapers on the accent walls.

I had to convince Paul that the paper in the sitting room would work, but he chose the flamingo wallpaper in the bathroom, so we were both thinking along the same lines, said Sarah. It was challenging at times. At its worst we had just the cooker and a water pipe to keep us going. One job seemed to lead to another, and there were a couple of times when it seemed never ending, but in the main we worked on one room at a time so we could see positive results as we went along. We managed to finish most it in time for the Christmas deadline.

Sarahs modern work as a graphic designer is often inspired by designs from the past, and this is echoed in the design of her home. The house is furnished with a mix of old and new, many items handed down through the family or found for just a few pounds in charity shops and at car boot sales.

The dining room is a great example of old combined with new to great effect, the modern wallpaper and standard lamp off-setting a 1960s dining table and chairs bought on EBay.

I dont think there are any rules about what does, or doesnt, work together, said Sarah. If you like something you will find a place for it. I like a home to have depth and character, even though the setting might be quite modern. I treasure a lot of my grand parents things. I have old suitcases belonging to my grandfather in which I keep old toys, books and mementoes. I also like to collect things and display them. Theres no point in buying nice plates or glassware and then hiding them away in drawers.


West and Son 01798 861611

Graham Sanderson Interiors Harrogate 01423 568628

Old Flames of Easingwold 01347 821188 oldflames.co.uk

Muji Leeds 0113 245 2886 muji.co.uk

Poverty Aid in Leeds 01132744099 povertyaiduk.org

Paper Chase Leeds 0113 243 5028 paperchase.co.uk

Graham and Green 0845 130 6622 grahamandgreen.co.uk

Urban Outfitters UrbanOutfitters.co.uk

Sweetpea and Willow 0845 2572627 SweetpeaAndWillow.com

The print version of this article appeared in the March 2012 issue of Yorkshire Life

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