Vin­tage finds and so­phis­ti­cated shades fill this Bed­ford home


Self-con­fessed ‘se­rial doer-up­per’ Cather­ine Wil­liams had been keep­ing an anx­ious eye on the prop­erty mar­ket when her hus­band, Matthew, sug­gested a trip to his home town of Bed­ford. ‘I’d just had our third child, and we were start­ing to feel very hemmed in at home,’ ex­plains Cather­ine. ‘But we’d left it slightly too long to sell our house and found we were priced out of our lo­cal area of Toot­ing in south Lon­don. When Matthew told me about this lovely road in Bed­ford, which was full of Vic­to­rian houses, we went to take a look around. It was gor­geous and I could in­stantly see us liv­ing there.’

The cou­ple viewed a pe­riod prop­erty on the same street that Matthew had in mind and fell in love with it, but it was over their bud­get. ‘ We de­cided to stay in our Lon­don home, but I never for­got it,’ says Cather­ine, a prop­erty lawyer. So when she found her­self still think­ing about the house two years later, she checked the land reg­istry and re­alised that it had never been sold. ‘I found the owner on Twit­ter and sent her a di­rect mes­sage, ask­ing her to get in touch if she ever thought about sell­ing,’ says Cather­ine. ‘Amaz­ingly, she emailed back to say it was on the mar­ket, but just with the lo­cal agent rather than with on­line agen­cies.’

Cather­ine ar­ranged a view­ing for the fol­low­ing day and by the evening the cou­ple’s of­fer had been ac­cepted. Two weeks later, they sold their Lon­don house and by July 2013, they had moved in. ‘ We were ab­so­lutely thrilled,’ says Cather­ine. ‘The house was per­fectly live­able; ev­ery­where was bril­liant white apart from a few pur­ple rooms and a plum car­pet on the stairs. The pre­vi­ous own­ers had done all the hard work – rewiring, re­plas­ter­ing, adding a new roof –

but it felt a bit sparse. There were no wall fit­tings or shelv­ing, so our job was to warm it up and make it feel less like a doc­tor’s surgery. Big Vic­to­rian houses can some­times seem a bit soul­less.’

Cather­ine’s first call was to a lo­cal car­pen­ter. ‘The staircase is ex­ten­sive, so we had some MDF pan­elling put in to break it up. This meant we could cre­ate a two-tone ef­fect with some colour on the pan­elling at a lower level, and keep it light on the walls above,’ she says. ‘I also asked the car­pen­ter to put tongue-and­groove pan­elling in the chil­dren’s rooms, and to make the kitchen look a bit more fit­ted and stylish, with hor­i­zon­tal cladding, a faux cooker hood and shelv­ing.’

The prop­erty was dec­o­rated in the same shade of off-white through­out – ‘I’ve ex­per­i­mented with colour be­fore and got it so wrong,’ says Cather­ine – and vin­tage finds were used to add char­ac­ter. ‘I’ve got a thing for ty­pog­ra­phy and old signs, and I’ve al­ways been an an­tiques hunter.’ ‘That’s why there are so many quirky bits and pieces. I don’t like things to look too glam­orous – I pre­fer them to be a bit knocked about.’

Down­stairs, the fam­ily liv­ing spa­ces, com­pris­ing a for­mal sit­ting room, kitchen, snug, din­ing room and util­ity area, are spa­cious and calm, filled with a clever mix of high-street, be­spoke and an­tique ac­ces­sories. ‘When we first moved in, ev­ery­one kept ask­ing what we were go­ing to put in this house as there were so many rooms to fill,’ says Cather­ine. ‘With so much space, you just can’t go high-end for ev­ery­thing. Luck­ily, there are some bril­liant buys to be found on the high street and with a prop­erty this size, it pays to be a bar­gain hunter. It has cer­tainly worked for us.’

de­sign tip‘ This house has lots of walls, so if I don’t have a piece of art to fill the space, I use a shut­ter – you can find them cheaply at an­tiques fairs’

11 HALL Cather­ine added pan­elling to tie in with the orig­i­nal cor­nic­ing and en­caus­tic tiles. Cabi­net, £200, Quirky Dove­tail. Try the Pel­ham wall lamp, £65, Gra­ham and Green

22&3 DIN­ING ROOM A neon cock­tail sign, vin­tage bot­tles and bold art­works cre­ate a unique space. Cather­ine painted the large black-and­white can­vas her­self us­ing left­over paint. Cock­tail sign, £69.99, Vi­o­let & This­tle. Desk, £125, Quirky Dove­tail. Ta­ble, £850, The English Pol­isher. Try the In­dus­trial Style Vida pen­dant, £116.40, The Light­ing Com­pany4 SIT­TING ROOM ‘I love the way the paint peels off old shut­ters; this one is cov­er­ing a ra­di­a­tor we haven’t changed yet!’ says Cather­ine. Coca-cola poster, £150, Sun­bury An­tiques Mar­ket. Chelsea nest of two ta­bles, £329, Con­tent by Ter­ence Con­ran, is a match

11&2 BATH­ROOM ‘The con­trast of clean lines and aged brass­ware works well,’ says Cather­ine. brass tap­ware, from £250, be­spoke taps. Stel­lar con­sole ta­ble, £299, Atkin and thyme. bath, £600, Lusso Stone. King­dom floor tiles, from £32.95sq m, walls and Floors

23 GUEST BED­ROOM Wood pan­elling pro­vides char­ac­ter, while the con­trast­ing black pen­dant and pic­ture frames an­chor the look. wabi Sabi framed art­work above bed, from £51.90, Ju­niqe. wooden chest, £50, Sun­bury An­tiques Mar­ket4 MAIN BED­ROOM Cather­ine painted the bed frame dark grey to tie in with the lights and art­work. bed frame painted in graphite chalk paint, £19.95 for 1L, An­nie Sloan. Stel­lar side ta­ble, £159, Atkin and thyme. try the Min­isun tal­is­man ta­ble lamp, £33.99, way­fair

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