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
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.