25 Beautiful Homes
Into the light
Caroline Firth’s creative approach revitalised her family home, making it bright and beautiful
‘Pick paint colours last. It’s easier if you decide on the atmosphere you want to create and pull together furniture, artwork, blinds and so on first’
Viewing a period property proved to be an eye-opener for Caroline Firth, as she and her husband Ian searched for a new home. ‘I fell in love with the idea of living in an older house,’ she says. ‘There weren’t that many Victorian homes in the area we’d chosen, so when one did come on the market, I really wanted it!’
The property that caught her attention was an attractive, double-fronted semi with high ceilings, fireplaces and elegant proportions. Inside, the rooms were bland, painted cream and fitted out with uninspiring, budget floorings and fixtures. ‘It had been decorated to sell but I was desperate to add some character,’ recalls Caroline.
By giving her herself a few months to familiarise herself with her new surroundings, Caroline soon discovered that parts of the house could feel a little dark at certain times of day, so opening up the space and boosting light would be important. At the same time, she was keen to introduce colour, interest and individual touches.
The tired kitchen was Caroline’s first project. Oak-effect cupboards were replaced with a single symmetrical run of units and a slim dresser opposite for extra storage. A local joiner made the Shaker-style cabinets, and having splashed out on beautiful quartz worksurfaces, Caroline cleverly cut back when it came to the flooring.
‘We took up the existing wood-look laminate, relaid it horizontally to accentuate the width of the room, and painted it,’ she says. ‘It was supposed to be a temporary measure, but we really like it, so it’s stayed.’
To help distribute light around the house, the small front living room and larger sitting room at the back have been knocked through. To further balance the two spaces, Caroline chose a dramatic dark grey and yellow scheme for the living room, contrasting it with the sitting room’s fresh offwhites and vibrant mid-greens.
‘The sitting room almost put us off the house because the heavy curtains made it so dark and uninviting,’ says Caroline. ‘The living room was also a bit of a “nothing” space to start with, but now the light is more even between the two areas, and the colours really lift everything.’
Stylish new wooden parquet now extends from the hallway into the dining room and living rooms, bringing a unified feel to the house. ‘I’d seen parquet in magazines and liked it,’ says Caroline. ‘Ours isn’t reclaimed, but all the edges were sanded, so it looks a bit battered. It was cost-effective and everyone thinks it’s an original floor.’
As she gradually redecorated the house, Caroline developed knowledge, skills and inventive ways to maximise her budget. She sourced vintage furniture and customised high-street buys for an individual look. The result is a bright, lively interior with a unique mix of styles (cheshireinteriordesign.com).
‘I’ve tried to work with the original building but still make it ours, so there are traditional features next to modern pieces, and some unusual accessories,’ she says. ‘I’m always adding and refreshing, too.’
Investing in their home for the long term has certainly proved to be the right decision for Caroline, Ian, and their children, Erin, now 13 and Sam, 18. ‘I wouldn’t want to move from here,’ says Caroline. ‘We’ve put our heart and soul into it.’