A 10-year Edwardian renovation project
Although she was keen on the idea of swapping her London home for a rural lifestyle, Sallie Chater admits that when it came to the crunch, she was not quite ready to take that step. Instead, after weighing up the pros and cons of numerous areas within commuting distance, she and her husband Duncan settled on an Edwardian renovation in the town of Bedford…
With their daughter Coco just a toddler, and son Bay expected, the couple began the search for a comfortable and conveniently positioned family home. As they viewed different styles and ages of property, Sallie realised she was looking for something very similar to what she was leaving behind.
A house with presence
‘Ideally, I’d have just picked up our Victorian terrace and brought it with us,’ she says, ‘I loved its high ceilings, the period features and the regular rooms, which are so easy to decorate. Luckily we soon discovered that Bedford has its fair share of beautiful old properties.’
Eventually the couple secured a three-storey, Edwardian semi on a quiet, tree-lined road within walking distance of schools, shops and the town’s elegant, riverside walks.
‘The house had the presence and the features I wanted, so it felt familiar,’ says interior designer Sallie (interiorsat58.com), ‘It was just a bit bigger that our old home, and in a more leafy, less frenetic location, so it was the best of all worlds.’
An Edwardian renovation project
The house was structurally sound, but the interior had not been touched for decades and needed a complete overhaul, ‘It was dark and dreary,’ says Sallie, ‘There were hideous, random carpets everywhere, and the kitchen had tatty, old-fashioned, wooden cupboards and terracotta floor tiles. Absolutely everything needed doing, and I could see this was going to be a long-term project.’
Nevertheless, the poor state of the house was a plus point in Sallie’s eyes. The thought of starting an Edwardian renovation project from scratch and tailoring the house to her own design was appealing, especially as she and Duncan had bought their previous home partially renovated, and with a recently-installed kitchen, ‘We paid a premium for something that wasn’t actually as high-quality as it looked, and in practice, not really what I’d have chosen,’ she says, ‘I didn’t want to fall into that trap again.’
Keeping the original footprint
Using her professional experience, Sallie started planning remodelling work on the Edwardian renovation straightaway. She left the original footprint untouched, but at ground level, an old-fashioned arch and tiny back staircase would come out, opening up the space for a new kitchen. Upstairs, she amalgamated two small bedrooms into one.
Once the house was theirs, she, Duncan and Coco stayed with Duncan’s parents, while a team of local builders put her initial plans into action. Walls came down, the kitchen went in and all through the house, wooden floorboards were sanded and rooms were painted. After seven hectic weeks, the family moved in and the interior has been an evolving project ever since.
A 10-year renovation
‘It’s taken 10 years to get to this position,’ says Sallie, ‘We brought our furniture with us, as we couldn’t afford to replace it, so things were a bit mismatched for several years. We did the first stage of the renovation so quickly before we moved in, that there were mistakes too, like the new patio doors from the kitchen. They weren’t what I thought I’d requested, but we’ve just lived with them until very recently.’
Mixing budget-friendly and investment pieces
Although budget and time restraints contributed to the interior’s protracted transformation, Sallie’s drive to change, refresh and update her home has played an equally important role. She has struck a clever balance, investing for the long-term in certain fixtures and furnishings, then layering on more budget-friendly, trend-focussed accessories that are readily replaced over time.
The living room is anchored by timeless, high-quality soft furnishings, while other items, which are regularly swapped around or superseded, come from favourites like Wayfair, Dunelm and Homesense. The kitchen’s simple white cabinetry and classic limestone flooring were fitted when the family first moved in, and have stood the test of time well. The wall treatments, dining furniture and various accessories have all been renewed at least once. The current dining chairs were an Ebay buy.
Beautiful yet practical
‘They get a lot of wear with a family, but they weren’t too expensive, so if they become stained, I can just replace them,’ says Sallie, ‘I want my house to look beautiful, but it has to be practical, and I want people to feel relaxed and comfortable.’
Although Sallie revamps the rooms quite frequently, she sticks consistently to a clear style, so there is a smooth flow through the house. ‘I’ll look at all the components in a room together, rather than choosing things in isolation, as it can be tricky trying to fit everything around one particular item,’ she says.
Enhancing period features
Her narrow palette of pale neutrals is lifted by splashes of green and blue and by muted metallics, glamorous mirrors and statement chandeliers. Clean, modern geometrics and plush, sheeny textiles provide plenty of interest and depth. Traditional period features like the fireplaces, bay windows and high ceilings were a big selling point for Sallie, and her Edwardian renovation décor choices enhance them while giving them a contemporary dimension.
‘I think period houses can be dark so I’ve worked hard to bring in as much light as possible and I’ve used Hemp Beige from Craig and Rose on the walls all through,’ she says. ‘I had it in my old house, so I know it works for me. The skirtings, picture rails and covings are picked out in soft gold, which is a standard favourite too.’
An Edwardian renovation is an ongoing journey
Over 10 years, Sallie has kept her focus on combining comfort and practicality with a polished, stylish interior. Although the major work is all but done, the Edwardian renovation project will continue to reflect new trends: ‘In my job I’m always seeing new pieces that would be perfect for my home, so in some ways it’ll never be completely finished,’ she says, ‘It’s an ongoing journey, but I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.’
MORE PERIOD RENOVATIONS
- The 7 most popular features we look for in a period home
- Traditional meets fun in this Edwardian bathroom renovation
- Restoring the Edwardian elegance of a run-down rental