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Interiors ‘We moved into a 1960s time warp – and we love it’

The owners of this retro house originally planned to modernise it, but as they tell Jessica Doyle, the experience of living in it through the pandemic has brought about a change of heart. Photograph­y by Luke White

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When Abi Boura and Leigh Harmer first viewed their new home, they found they had walked into a 1960s time capsule, complete with its original fixtures and fittings – Formica surfaces, wallpapere­d ceilings and all. As founders of the furniture company Love Your Home – and, in Boura’s case, the former style editor at Elle Decoration – their personal aesthetic is along more contempora­ry lines, so the shagpile carpets and flocked wallpapers were not on their design wish list. But there

was something about the house that drew them in. ‘Clearly a lot of love had gone into it,’ says Harmer. ‘We bought it from a 100-year-old lady, and it had been built for her and her family in 1961. When we first saw it, it hadn’t been lived in for 18 months as she had moved into a care home, and some of the windowsill­s were falling off, but you could see it was built to a very high standard.’

The sale went through quickly, so although their longterm plan was to renovate and extend the living area, they undertook an eight-week quickfix redecorati­on that would enable them and their two daughters, aged eight and nine, to move in straight away.

First to go were the carpets. ‘They were an inch thick, and the bathroom carpets were bright pink; they were quite something,’ remembers Harmer. Beneath, they found wooden floorboard­s in perfect condition in the four bedrooms, which they layered with rugs, and on the staircase, where they added a simple sisal runner. On the ground floor, they decided simply to stain the exposed concrete floor in a light ochre shade.

‘It was a short-term solution,’ says Boura, ‘but actually I like it – I like the contrast of the raw concrete with a more finished, decorated look.’

Another big job was the heating system, which was no longer in working order. They removed four oil-fired boilers, and installed eco-friendly groundsour­ce heating (energysavi­ngtrust.org.uk). ‘It must have cost them a fortune to heat the house before,’ remarks Harmer, ‘whereas we’re told we’ll have the running costs of a two-bedroom flat.’

But not everything went in the cull. They opted to keep some of the original 1960s furniture and fittings, such as the Møller table and chairs, brass chandelier and the orange flocked wallpaper in the dining room. ‘We would never have put that wallpaper in ourselves,’ says Boura. ‘I don’t know whether it’s because of the lockdowns, but there’s been a move towards this sort of nostalgic look. Perhaps, if it weren’t for the pandemic, we would have just wanted it all ripped out straight away, but there’s something very comforting about living in what feels like someone’s parents’ house.’

Some of the existing details they’ve kept are very much of their time – for example, the tiki bar and stools, the wrought-iron filigree screening on the internal doors, and the original formica kitchen, which came complete with a pull-out, plug-in pastry-making trolley. ‘The top of it chills, and it has a chrome frame with a rim, which keeps the pastry cold and you can get it to exactly the right depth,’ says Boura. It’s just one example of the meticulous level of detail to which the house was built. ‘These days, we design houses to sell,’ she says, ‘but this one was designed for a specific family to live in.’

They found that the furniture they brought with them, including their own-design sofas, armchairs and beds, fitted in perfectly, albeit with a bit of judicious reupholste­ring. Their burnt-orange velvet Tilda sofa, a collaborat­ion with designers 2LG Studio, looks perfectly at home in the sitting room and ties in with the original orange dining-room wallpaper. Other sofas and chairs have been re-covered in subtle geometric prints and a large

scale black-and-white check.

‘The house has created a desire in us to use more pattern,’ says Harmer. ‘We’ve used way more here than we’d normally do.’ They did pare back some though, adds Boura. ‘There was pattern on every single surface, so we redressed the balance a bit by adding more on the furniture and toning down some of the walls, or keeping the floor plain where the walls or furniture are patterned. It modernises it a bit.’

Eight months after moving in, they still intend to renovate the kitchen and living area to create a more open-plan space.

As Boura puts it, ‘This house was designed for the way people lived and entertaine­d at the time, but the way we live has changed since then. We’ve had a few dinner parties here, and it feels a bit too formal, bringing people into a separate dining room and using the serving hatch – the whole ritual of it just seems a bit much.’

But their plans are now quite different from what they had originally thought they would do. ‘When we do extend, we’re going to carry through some of the existing details,’ says Boura. ‘The room with the bar, for

instance, has a lot of wood, and at first we thought, “That’s got to go,” but now we’ve decided to use oak-framed glazing in the extension, rather than the Crittall-style windows we originally wanted.’ They also plan to keep the round banquette area, but relocate it: ‘It works so well from a social standpoint,’ says Harmer. ‘It’s a natural sitting area, so we love eating there with the kids, or with friends for Sunday lunch.’

‘There’s something quite nice about being able to layer on top of something that’s existing, rather than starting from scratch,’ adds Boura. ‘It’s not at all the style we were looking for at the time, but I think it’s slightly turned us.’

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 ??  ?? Clockwise from left Boura and Harmer in their living room, where they removed the carpet, treated the concrete floor beneath with an ochre stain, and used rugs to add warmth; sofas from their furniture company Love Your Home fit in well with the new look; the couple plan to replace the kidneyshap­ed swimming pool with a natural pond in the future
Clockwise from left Boura and Harmer in their living room, where they removed the carpet, treated the concrete floor beneath with an ochre stain, and used rugs to add warmth; sofas from their furniture company Love Your Home fit in well with the new look; the couple plan to replace the kidneyshap­ed swimming pool with a natural pond in the future
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 ??  ?? The terrace has been jet-washed and planters left behind by the previous owner have been painted and replanted
Paint over wallpaper, rather than stripping it – it’s quicker and cheaper to do, and adds texture
The terrace has been jet-washed and planters left behind by the previous owner have been painted and replanted Paint over wallpaper, rather than stripping it – it’s quicker and cheaper to do, and adds texture
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 ??  ?? The curtains and carpet are the only things the couple changed in the dining room
The curtains and carpet are the only things the couple changed in the dining room
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 ??  ?? Clockwise from left The dining room still has the original flocked wallpaper, a mid-century Danish dining set that they bought from the previous owner, and a serving hatch; the kitchen features a pastry-making trolley and beyond is a seating nook with a built-in banquette; the velvet armchairs in the entrance hall are from Love Your Home; the bar room still has its original tiki bar and stools
Clockwise from left The dining room still has the original flocked wallpaper, a mid-century Danish dining set that they bought from the previous owner, and a serving hatch; the kitchen features a pastry-making trolley and beyond is a seating nook with a built-in banquette; the velvet armchairs in the entrance hall are from Love Your Home; the bar room still has its original tiki bar and stools
 ??  ?? The curved banquette in the round seating area off the kitchen has been reupholste­red in teal leather to give it a new lease of life
The curved banquette in the round seating area off the kitchen has been reupholste­red in teal leather to give it a new lease of life
 ??  ?? Work with existing light fittings if you can. In the bar area, Harmer resprayed the wall lanterns to freshen them up
Work with existing light fittings if you can. In the bar area, Harmer resprayed the wall lanterns to freshen them up
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 ??  ?? BEFORE
The thick carpet was removed, revealing perfect floorboard­s
BEFORE The thick carpet was removed, revealing perfect floorboard­s
 ??  ?? Boura and Harmer kept the original bathroom suite and tiles, and added a vintage rattan chair to chime with the ’60s theme
Boura and Harmer kept the original bathroom suite and tiles, and added a vintage rattan chair to chime with the ’60s theme
 ??  ?? The once-pink main bedroom now has a calming colour scheme with a rug covering the exposed floor
The once-pink main bedroom now has a calming colour scheme with a rug covering the exposed floor

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