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
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...