A mar­riage of styles

When Jo Dav­i­son and Alis­tair Hax­ton got mar­ried and set up home in Jo’s Ge­or­gian apart­ment in South York­shire, two sets of be­long­ings had to be­come one

Period Living - - Contents - Words Tony Green­way | Styling Katie Day | Pho­to­graphs Jeremy Phillips

Set within a Grade Ii-listed manor house, this lovely apart­ment is a per­fect mix of his and hers style

Di­vor­cée Jo Dav­i­son was liv­ing with her grown-up son in a spa­cious Ge­or­gian apart­ment near Sh­effield, when she met, fell in love with, and then mar­ried Alis­tair. There was one ques­tion that hadn’t been popped, how­ever: where would they make their happy ever af­ter home? Jo was re­luc­tant to give up the apart­ment, which was set in a con­verted 1790s manor house and run as a co-op­er­a­tive, with all the res­i­dents shar­ing the land, build­ing and main­te­nance. ‘Thank­fully, Alis­tair fell in love with the apart­ment, too,’ says Jo. ‘I adore it here but we would have moved if he hadn’t taken to it – you can’t be part of a co-op­er­a­tive in an old build­ing if your heart’s not in it.’ Alis­tair, who had been liv­ing in a ter­raced house in Sh­effield, is a di­rec­tor of an ar­chi­tec­ture prac­tice and spe­cialises in ren­o­vat­ing her­itage build­ings, so he had lots of ex­pe­ri­ence with pe­riod prop­er­ties.

Jo found her­self won­der­ing how Alis­tair’s pos­ses­sions would fit along­side her own and whether their dec­o­rat­ing tastes would be com­pat­i­ble. She needn’t have wor­ried. ‘The first thing we did was gather all the pos­ses­sions that he loved and sit them side by side with mine,’ says Jo. ‘Some things just didn’t go to­gether, so they had to be hid­den away in cup­boards. Al­though maybe slightly more of his stuff is hid­den away than mine!’

Slowly, how­ever, the cou­ple worked out which items com­ple­mented each other and those they would have to dis­card. They dis­cov­ered they made a great team as they cre­ated and com­pro­mised on a new look for the in­te­rior dé­cor. ‘Alis­tair is very re­cep­tive to some of my more off-the-wall thoughts,’ says Jo. ‘But then, as an ar­chi­tect, it’s his job to lis­ten to peo­ple’s ideas and try to make them work. So when it came to redec­o­rat­ing and restyling, he pro­fes­sion­ally man­aged me!’

For ex­am­ple, the big dif­fer­ence in the sit­ting room is the colour on the walls, which Jo had orig­i­nally painted soft yel­low. Alis­tair con­vinced her that black would be a bet­ter and bolder op­tion. ‘You know 50 shades of grey?’ says Jo. ‘Well, I’ve dis­cov­ered there must be 50 shades of black, too. We had patch tests of dif­fer­ent types of black all over the walls be­fore de­cid­ing on Far­row & Ball’s Pitch Black.’ Alis­tair adds: ‘Dark colours can scare peo­ple be­cause they think they’ll make the room seem smaller. In fact, the ex­act op­po­site hap­pens: if the wall is dark, it fades back.’

Both Jo and Alis­tair love the pe­riod look. Some of the items they chose for the apart­ment are gen­uine an­tiques; oth­ers are char­ac­ter pieces from junk shops. ‘We like to browse wher­ever we are,’ says Jo. ‘We’ve been to jum­ble sales in France and picked up some amaz­ing finds for five Euros.’

Load­ing the car up with an­tiques from the con­ti­nent might be easy enough, but buy­ing fur­ni­ture fur­ther afield proved more prob­lem­atic. ‘We bought our sit­ting room cof­fee table in In­dia,’ says Jo. ‘We were told that it would only cost a nom­i­nal sum to ship it back, but there was im­port duty, ship­ping tax and a range of other costs to con­sider. We ended up spend­ing more than £500 on top of the price we paid for it, just to get it home.’

The cou­ple agree that the best thing about the apart­ment is its won­der­ful Ge­or­gian pro­por­tions. ‘We love the high ceil­ings and big win­dows,’ says

Jo. ‘Small pieces look ridicu­lous here, so we have to buy big. We also have lots of large mir­rors dot­ted around which re­flect the light well.’

Jo and Alis­tair aren’t plan­ning on mov­ing any time soon, al­though Jo ad­mits that the lack of a sep­a­rate din­ing room can be an is­sue oc­ca­sion­ally. How­ever, any­one who lives in a pe­riod prop­erty will have their pet peeves. ‘Old build­ings have their idio­syn­cra­sies – like the floors, which are at weird an­gles be­cause the joists have sagged over the years,’ says Alis­tair. ‘In the bath­room, the floor tiles had cracked be­cause it wasn’t to­tally level. When we had it retiled it took the tiler over a week just to level the floor, so we were without a bath­room for nearly a fort­night. For­tu­nately, we have a good neigh­bour who let us use his.’

What they have learned to do, though, is make the most of what they have. ‘When you live in a old build­ing, “per­fec­tion” doesn’t ex­ist,’ says Jo. ‘So you have to love it – warts and all. And we do.’

This im­age: The cou­ple’s home is set in a Ge­or­gian manor house that was con­verted into apart­ments more than 35 years ago Right: Both Jo and Alis­tair are tall, so the kitchen units were hand­made to their height by Croft In­te­ri­ors, with work­tops from...

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