25 Beautiful Homes
Karen Mcbain and Kevin Steer used their combined expertise to create an elegant home
The ground floor of this impressive Victorian property in Guildford is home to Karen Mcbain, Kevin Steer and their son, Monty, 11. ‘I had wanted to live in London, if I’m honest,’ says Karen, ‘ but when we saw this property we loved its cosmopolitan feel, with its high ceilings, sash windows and large fireplace.’
Having been a visual merchandiser for Harvey Nichols, Liberty and Asprey, it is hardly surprising that Karen’s home is full of fabulous textiles, ceramics and antique furniture. It was her work in retail and her love of interiors that led Karen to enrol on an interior-design course. Meanwhile, husband Kevin, an aircraft engineer, decided to try his hand at carpentry, plumbing and electrics. With these shared talents, the couple eventually teamed up professionally, so after 20 years of marriage they now run a successful interior-design business together.
The refurbishment of their current home was a project they embraced. The property had been converted in the 1980s and the cornicing and ceiling roses had been
ripped out, while dividing walls had created a small kitchen and bedroom. On a more positive note, the house featured a communal basement area, and five years after they moved in, Karen and Kevin bought this lower-ground space while creating a larger kitchen on the floor above.
‘It was quite a challenge to transform such a dingy, dark cellar into a comfortable and inviting bedroom,’ says Karen. To inject some badly needed character, they added panelling and a false fireplace with a surround from a local reclamation yard. ‘I realise the rule for a small dark room is generally not to paint it a dark colour,’ says Karen, ‘ but I took a gamble on this shade of grey and I really feel it worked.’ It is her choice of richly coloured textiles and subtle lighting that add a sumptuous warmth to this subterranean space. ‘It felt like we were creating a theatrical set,’ explains Karen.
The kitchen was another allencompassing project. Karen took on the design side while Kevin needed to call on all his joinery and plumbing skills to create the sort of space that the couple had in mind. ‘I began my design with a basic and traditional kitchen dresser in mind, and then worked around the room from there,’ says Karen. ‘I absolutely loved designing this room as I have a fixation with kitchens and the way they are laid out.’
Karen’s design eye encompasses a love of tapestry, print, paintings and ceramics from several periods, and throughout her home, pieces from a range of different eras contribute to its eclectic style. ‘I take my inspiration from designers such as Ben Pentreath, House of Hackney and Abigail Ahern,’ says Karen. ‘I also love visiting my favourite shop Wattle & Daub, as it’s always such an inspiring space featuring so many beautiful pieces.’
‘Moving to this property has enabled Kevin and I to really make our mark,’ concludes Karen. ‘We’ve loved working on it – especially introducing layers of colour and texture into this lovely space.’
decorating tip‘ Don’ t have any rules on what to include in your home – if it feels right just buy it’