THEY DID A NUM­BER ON THIS HOUSE

A tele­vi­sion in­te­ri­ors ex­pert takes us on a tour of the stun­ning home she shares with her part­ner. The early days of this ren­o­va­tion pro­ject would have tested any re­la­tion­ship

Cheshire Life - - Manchester - Mairead Ma­hon

Sian Ast­ley had com­pleted her law de­gree at Manch­ester Univer­sity and she was des­tined to be­com­ing a bar­ris­ter when she made a mo­men­tous de­ci­sion.

It led to her swap­ping a horse­hair wig for a builder’s hard hat. ‘My heart wasn’t re­ally in it, so I took a va­ri­ety of posts, in­clud­ing sev­eral with build­ing firms and learned on the job.

‘Then, armed with a £1 de­posit, I bought my first prop­erty with a 100 per cent mort­gage and, from that, built my prop­erty port­fo­lio,’ says Sian, who runs the hugely suc­cess­ful More­geous – which is all about ‘mak­ing prop­er­ties more than gor­geous’. And she’s very hands on.

‘Ab­so­lutely: skips, dirt and dust hold no ter­rors for me, although I do make the con­ces­sion of smoth­er­ing my hands in in­ten­sive hand cream ev­ery night.

‘Other than that, it’s steel toed boots and dun­ga­rees all the way,’ laughs Sian, who is happy to note that many builders are now say­ing they want to see more women in the trade.

Sian can do ev­ery­thing from ren­o­vat­ing and re­fur­bish­ing build­ings to in­te­rior de­sign and has worked on com­mer­cial prop­er­ties, as well as hun­dreds of homes.

Chances are you’ve prob­a­bly seen her in ac­tion as she has a highly ac­tive so­cial me­dia pres­ence – www.more­geous. com – and reg­u­larly ap­pears on tele­vi­sion pro­grammes such as the BBC ‘Get the Builders In’ and Chan­nel 5’s ‘Half Built House.’

In 2019, she will be work­ing on a new BBC pro­gramme, in­volv­ing vir­tual re­al­ity ar­chi­tec­ture.

Sian lives with her cats, Bilda and Rocky, and right hand man, Mar­tin Sykes, aka Mr More­geous, who she first met at a char­ity auc­tion – he was one of the lots that was up for sale.

‘Sian did bid for me but when the price reached £800, she dropped out. Not very flat­ter­ing, but then Sian does love a bar­gain,’ laughs ex-fire­man Mar­tin.

“Sian did bid for me but when the price reached £800, she dropped out. Not very flat­ter­ing, but then Sian does love a bar­gain”

To­day, the cou­ple are ren­o­vat­ing their fab­u­lous Ed­war­dian home in Fal­low­field but the early days were cer­tainly a test of any re­la­tion­ship.

‘Well, when we be­gan, we lived in one room. It had no win­dows, just plas­tic sheet­ing and, in the depths of win­ter, when the door was opened in swept the snow. It was im­pos­si­ble to flounce out af­ter a tiff, so we just learned not to have them…much more prac­ti­cal,’ says Sian.

A classy ex­ten­sion has been added to the back of the home and a pri­or­ity for Sian and Mar­tin was that it was to­tally sym­pa­thetic to the rest of the house.

‘The slate and the bricks were all re­claimed and lo­cal. Some came from an ear­lier part of the house that had to be de­mol­ished and the slate came from a house in the area that was be­ing pulled down. I cleaned ev­ery sin­gle brick by hand, in the gar­den, us­ing no more than a wire brush and pa­tience. I quite en­joyed it, although the cats wan­dered by wear­ing be­mused ex­pres­sions,’ says Sian.

While the in­te­rior of the ex­ten­sion, which will form a kitchen and so­cial area, is still a work in progress, the sense of light and space can al­ready be ap­pre­ci­ated.

Sian cheer­fully ad­mits that it is im­pos­si­ble for her to pass a recla­ma­tion or sal­vage yard – her lat­est find is a huge num­ber 3, that will be soon be hung on the front door, which opens onto a lovely hall, with a fea­ture stair­case.

‘I stripped the pine, ex­posed the brick­work and painted a black run­ner on the stairs but I wanted some­thing eye-catch­ing at the top. One of my nick­names is The Wall­pa­per Wizard so here, de­spite Mar­tin’s gulps, was a good chance to live up to it.’ In­stead of wall­pa­per­ing the space in a con­ven­tional way, she placed rolls of black and white pa­per at var­i­ous an­gles to cre­ate drama.

‘Don’t be afraid of your imag­i­na­tion,’ says Sian who has also used wall­pa­per as a ceil­ing cov­er­ing in a bath­room in or­der to make the space more in­ti­mate.

It’s not just wall­pa­per that Sian

has used on the walls. In the sit­ting room, she has con­tin­ued the wooden her­ring­bone floor­ing partly up an area of the wall in or­der to show­case the beau­ti­ful wood by draw­ing the eye. Although the rooms flow into each other, there is a care­ful de­lin­eation of space,

‘Peo­ple now some­times look for al­ter­na­tives to open plan liv­ing space, so although the rooms are con­nected, spa­ces are dif­fer­en­ti­ated. Our din­ing room is sep­a­rate from the sit­ting room,’ says Sian. It has ban­quette seat­ing made by Mar­tin and a char­ity shop ta­ble but, af­ter be­ing painted by Sian, it be­lies its hum­ble ori­gins.

‘It goes well with the very ex­pen­sive fab­ric used in here and goes to show that bar­gain finds can match well with high end lux­ury,’ says Sian. She fin­ished the room by tiling the fire­place in soft in­dus­trial ma­te­ri­als that evoke the look of an Ed­war­dian fish­mon­ger’s shop.

Up­stairs, Sian’s imag­i­na­tion and skill has pre­sented the fin­ished bed­rooms into in­di­vid­ual jewels of style, mak­ing use of drift­wood head­boards and lux­u­ri­ous fab­rics, with bath­rooms that show­case warm cop­per pip­ing.

‘We’re still work­ing up­stairs but it is al­ready look­ing tran­quil,’ says Sian, who re­cently re­vealed that, for 11 years, she has man­aged a chronic, painful con­di­tion.

It cer­tainly hasn’t stopped her and, as if run­ning her busi­ness, look­ing af­ter her prop­er­ties, main­tain­ing a so­cial me­dia pres­ence and her TV work wasn’t quite enough, she also op­er­ates an AIRBNB Ex­pe­ri­ence Walk­ing Work­shop for home ren­o­va­tors and any­one who wants to reignite their in­te­ri­ors mo-jo.

‘Peo­ple come from all over the UK and abroad to the house. The in­ter­ac­tive ses­sion lasts four hours and we also have a house tour, which helps peo­ple to see the nuts and bolts of a ren­o­va­tion.

‘Oh, and yes, we al­ways have a fab­u­lous lunch, quite of­ten in the gar­den which even has its own gin ta­ble,’ laughs Sian, who is fast be­com­ing an even more fa­mous builder than Bob.

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