Ruth and Andy Pre­ston found that adding con­trast­ing colour was the quick­est route to fix­ing bland dé­cor

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Ruth and Andy Pre­ston didn’t have to look far when they be­gan their search for a spa­cious new fam­ily home; they dis­cov­ered a de­tached Vic­to­rian house with lots of char­ac­ter and plenty of out­side space just a few streets away from where they were liv­ing.

‘It was a wrench to leave our old home, as our chil­dren were born there and it was full of spe­cial mem­o­ries, but it was clear that we were going to need more space,’ ex­plains Ruth. ‘When we viewed this house, it was full of great features, with orig­i­nal tiles in the hall­way, large well-pro­por­tioned rooms and old school-style ra­di­a­tors. It was dec­o­rated beau­ti­fully, but it was quite neu­tral and that’s just not us. We planned to make it re­ally con­tem­po­rary.’

The first thing the Pre­stons did after mov­ing in was dec­o­rate their son Jude’s bed­room, so he could feel set­tled while the rest of the house was in tur­moil. ‘The idea was to fin­ish one room be­fore we started work­ing on another,’ says Ruth. ‘We had to be pretty or­gan­ised to jug­gle work com­mit­ments with three young chil­dren and a house ren­o­va­tion, but the best solution was to not think about it too much, and just do it.’

Luck­ily, there was enough down­stairs space for the fam­ily to live in com­fort­ably while

the work went on around them. ‘We found it frus­trat­ing at times, but thank­fully a lot of what needed chang­ing was cos­metic,’ says Ruth.

‘We sim­ply moved the fur­ni­ture from room to room to ac­com­mo­date the work. Some days we had no elec­tric­ity, or no hot water, or we had to keep the chil­dren away from wet paint, but ev­ery­one was very adapt­able.’

Ruth and Andy were keen to bring more nat­u­ral light into the hall­way, so they re­placed some of the door pan­els with glass, and painted the walls white to show off the orig­i­nal red and brown floor tiles. ‘We added a kick of colour by paint­ing the ban­is­ters and key pieces of fur­ni­ture dark grey to cre­ate a link to other rooms in the house,’ ex­plains Ruth.

‘We love the con­trast and the feel­ing of warmth that colour cre­ates. I also like mix­ing pat­terns and dif­fer­ent tex­ture. I’ll take an idea from some­thing I’ve seen and then try to take it a step fur­ther.’ Up­stairs, the cou­ple made bet­ter use of space of an un­nec­es­sar­ily large fam­ily bath­room by turn­ing it into a shared bed­room for their twins, Lena and Emmy.

They also split a bed­room next to it into two rooms to cre­ate a smaller main bath­room and an en suite for the main bed­room.

The liv­ing room was the last area to be dec­o­rated, and was the one that cre­ated the most prob­lems. After hav­ing a new car­pet fit­ted, Ruth and Andy dis­cov­ered it was faulty and needed to be re­placed. The re­place­ment was then dam­aged by a spillage, which took five professional at­tempts to clean. ‘Once we were happy with it and could finally put up the blinds, we could re­lax,’ says Ruth. ‘We had felt re­ally ex­posed with bare win­dows, so it was good to make the room feel homely again.’

Ruth has brought per­son­al­ity to her home’s dé­cor by us­ing large ar­eas of colour

block­ing, in­clud­ing paint­ing a feature wall in the liv­ing room in a deep shade of ma­hogany brown. A lighter com­ple­men­tary shade on the other walls keeps the whole ef­fect calm and wel­com­ing. The dark feature wall al­lows a bright geo­met­ric rug, deep-green vel­vet sofa and colour­ful art­work to pop out.

Moody shades brought to life by splashes of bright, pri­mary colour is a com­mon theme that Ruth has em­ployed through­out the house. ‘We wanted a com­bi­na­tion of mod­ern colours and an imag­i­na­tive mix of old and new fur­ni­ture,’ ex­plains Ruth. ‘I like to have fun with colour and cre­ate some­thing quite bold, even in the small spa­ces. In our previous house, we weren’t brave enough to do these things, but here we have pat­terned floor tiles work­ing along­side a striped stair car­pet, flo­ral prints against dark-grey-painted fur­ni­ture and colour­ful posters all the way through the house.’

Ruth has used scale to add vis­ual im­pact to the rooms too, choos­ing large pieces of fur­ni­ture, art­work and state­ment light fit­tings, for ex­am­ple an in­dus­trial-style pen­dant in the main bed­room. ‘You need to fill a big space with big things,’ she says. ‘Playing with scale is fun once you find the courage to do it.

Even in a small room, I try to think big.’

Across the back of the ground floor is an open-plan kitchen-diner that has a more tran­quil vibe. Sage-green walls and a painted out­door ta­ble and benches make for a re­laxed din­ing area. ‘We like the fact that the din­ing area is open plan and, there­fore, feels like part of the kitchen,’ says Ruth. ‘It’s a very so­cia­ble part of the house. I run my busi­ness from home and I sit at the din­ing ta­ble to work.’

Even­tu­ally, Ruth and Andy would like to add an ex­ten­sion to the kitchen and make bet­ter use of its re­la­tion­ship with the gar­den. They also plan to change the Shaker-style kitchen units to give the space a more con­tem­po­rary feel, how­ever, they have no in­ten­tion of rush­ing into another phase of building work. ‘Some­times you have to live with some­thing for a while to un­der­stand its faults and po­ten­tial, and that’s how we feel about the kitchen,’ says Ruth. ‘For­tu­nately, we have no plans to move from this house, so we have time on our side. The house will evolve at its own pace.’

Ôplay­ing with scale is fun once you find the courage to do it. Even in a small room, I try to think big’

Get the LOOK PAGE 76 7 Main bed­room A MIX OF GREY TONES GIVES THIS ROOM AN EN­VELOP­ING FEEL. FLO­RAL CUSH­IONS ADD A HIT OF HAPPY BRIGHT COLOUR Fox­tail king-size bed, £725, But­ton & Sprung. Ema­line cush­ions, £76 each, Boeme De­sign

4 Kitchen-diner A COM­BI­NA­TION OF CALM SAGE-GREEN WALLS AND CREAM SHAKER UNITS CRE­ATES A LAID-BACK FEEL For sim­i­lar units, try the Shaker De­signer, from £3,057 for a kitchen, Wren Kitchens. Ti­tan size 5 pen­dant light in black, £359, Orig­i­nal BTC

5 Kitchen-diner THE BLACK RANGE COOKER SETS THE TONE FOR A COUN­TRY SCHEME, WHILE METAL BAR STOOLS ADD A HINT OF IN­DUS­TRIAL STYLE Puf­fin Billy tea towel, £12, Martha and Hep­sie. For a sim­i­lar cooker, try the CDL100DFFBL/C, £1,740, Range­mas­ter range,...

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