Take a tour around this beautiful Victorian semi in Cheshire
February 14, 2017
The calm and comfortable atmosphere of Amy Bruce’s beautiful house is in sharp contrast with the hectic flurry she experienced during the first few months in her new home.
Following a stint working in London, she returned to Cheshire to be closer to her family and to develop her interior-design career. ‘I definitely wanted to buy a period property,’ she explains. ‘I simply adore high ceilings and the abundance of character you get with older places.’
Once the decision to move had been made, Amy didn’t have to hunt for long to find her dream property. Within a matter of weeks, a four-storey Victorian semi that ticked all her required boxes came on to the market. In a quiet road, close to shops and transport, its location was ideal, and there was also a basement with the potential to extend.
Crucially, it was structurally sound, with original sash windows, decorative coving and a beautiful, winding staircase. ‘Immediately, I could see the possibilities this house ordered. It was in good condition, but there was still a huge amount that I wanted to do to it,’ she adds.
Although the building had been fairly well-maintained, the interior was stark, featureless and essentially lacking in style. ‘It was almost clinical, with a worn kitchen, ripped-out fireplaces and a serious lack of storage,’ Amy recalls.
Fortunately, the previous owner was happy to allow her access to plan her changes while the purchase was still going through. She made good use of this valuable time, and was ready to start work on her plans as soon as the sale completed. ‘I hit the ground running,’ she says. ‘In fact, work started on the house on the day I got the keys.’
Initially, Amy stayed with family nearby while the builders cracked on with the renovation. The first five weeks were spent removing the old bathroom and tanking the damp, unused basement so it could be converted into an office, WC and utility room. After that, the main bathroom was refitted and the bedroom adjoining the master suite was converted into a luxury dressing room and second bathroom.
Next, Amy turned her attention to the lack of storage throughout the house – an issue she was eager to get rectified as quickly as possible. ‘I think it’s imperative to have a place for everything, if you want a home to function smoothly,’ she says. With this in mind, the dressing room and bedroom were fitted out with bespoke walk-in wardrobes, and shelving and cupboards installed in the alcoves in the living room, bringing purpose to areas that had previously lacked definition and character.
Six weeks later, once the carpets were laid and all the walls had been painted, Amy moved in, calling a brief halt to the activity. ‘I just lived in the house for a while, so I could get to know it,’ she says. ‘My new business, Grey Rose Interiors, was keeping me busy and I needed to save money for the next stage.’
Proceedings didn’t stand still for long, however, and within months, the second phase of renovations began. This time, Amy had her sights set on the gloomy kitchen, with its dark surfaces and worn, wooden units. She investigated several installers before choosing local company Lloyd Kitchens & Bathrooms.
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Amy had originally considered extending into the garden, but this would have meant losing a beautiful old wisteria just outside. A designer at Lloyd’s was confident that, with a re-designed kitchen, she could make much more of the existing space, without having to build outwards.
Maximising natural light was an important consideration, so the small French windows were replaced with larger, bi-fold glass doors spanning the entire back wall of the kitchen-diner. Amy also wanted to introduce texture and interest, and after being inspired by a photograph in a magazine, she designed ceiling coving with a modern look, complete with inset lighting.
‘The existing kitchen had no architectural features, so this was a good way to give the space some individuality,’ she says. ‘This room isn’t massive,’ Amy explains, ‘so I needed a layout that made the most of what space there is. I decided on simple, off-white furniture, a functional, range-style cooker and plenty of storage units to minimise clutter. When I saw this design in the brochure, I knew immediately it was the one for me. I fell in love with the plain, Shaker-style cabinets and modern, chunky handles.’
Transforming the dated kitchen took around eight weeks. The end result is evidently worth the time invested: it’s now a sumptuous, light-filled space that sets the tone for the entire four-storey house. Amy’s chic, multi-layered neutral scheme flows throughout, seamlessly linking the living areas to the bathrooms and bedrooms.
The same marble flooring runs from the front door, through the hall to the kitchen and dining area at the rear of the building, and most of the rooms are painted in Farrow & Ball’s classic cornforth white. ‘It’s a colour I’ve always liked,’ admits Amy, ‘It has both grey and beige tones, so it’s extremely versatile. Also, using a similar palette in the entire house makes it feel larger and creates a cohesive flow.’
The final project was the hallway, where Amy updated the stained glass in the front door and added wall panelling. This she painted and combined with Tektura’s Shanghai wallpaper, which has a textured effect and metallic highlights. ‘I’ll add more in time,’ she says, ‘but, for now, it was important just to get the place finished.’
With its calm colours and elegant, contemporary feel, Amy’s home exudes serenity and restfulness. Throughout, the rooms are decorated and furnished in airy shades, from off-white and fawn to silver and graphite grey, and there are clusters of comfortable cushions, oversized headboards and sumptuous curtains pooling on soft carpets.
‘I’m incredibly proud of the difference that’s been made in such a short space of time,’ Amy beams. ‘Undeniably, it’s been a challenge, but now, when people walk in, they always comment on how tranquil and relaxing my house feels.’
Photography: Colin Poole