Home makeover: ‘Renovating gave us a blank canvas for our colourful, creative home’

Carey Mann and Johan Karlberg’s Scandi-inspired, period property is a lesson in maximising space and furnishings

Valspar’s Winter Wonderland on the walls acts as a canvas for this cool living room. Carey and Johan are big fans of colour, sourcing their bright soft furnishings from as wide a range of outlets as Marks & Spencer to local independents, Artisans & Adventurers

Creative couple Carey Mann, a coffee shop owner, and Johan Karlberg, a music producer, had a budget of £125k when they were looking for a home together in the popular seaside town of Margate, Kent.

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In the dining room, an African street sign Johan brought back from Malawi sets the tone for more colour, with a rainbow of crockery from Habitat. Bench-style seating makes for a cosy and sociable atmosphere
In the dining room, an African street sign Johan brought back from Malawi sets the tone for more colour, with a rainbow of crockery from Habitat. Bench-style seating makes for a cosy and sociable atmosphere

‘We thought we would only be able to afford a flat,’ remembers Carey. ‘So, when we saw this gorgeous two-bed Victorian terrace we made an on-the-spot offer.

The house was in a very bad state, but we were keen to have a project that involved renovation – everything from the ground up.’

Make the most of a bright bay window with minimal white blinds to allow lots of natural light in. Carey also added interest by mixing different textiles on the mid-century chairs
Make the most of a bright bay window with minimal white blinds to allow lots of natural light in. Carey also added interest by mixing different textiles on the mid-century chairs

It’s no exaggeration: the house was completely gutted in August 2015 when they moved in, with all the electricity and plumbing replaced. Walls were taken out downstairs to open the space up, involving replacing a rolled steel joist.

‘Apart from the brick structure, there’s basically nothing we haven’t touched in the house,’ explains Carey.

Welcome to our home…

We are Carey Mann, 50, a coffee shop owner, and Johan Karlberg, 39, a music producer. We live with Granny, our dog, and Terminator 2, our cat. 

Our home is a two-bed Victorian terrace, located a 10-minute walk from the beach in Margate, Kent. 

Our biggest mistake was drilling into the wall where the main room of electricity cables goes from downstairs to upstairs. We had to break the newly renovated wall open to repair the damage.

Our biggest challenge was working every day for a month on plumbing and getting the humidity levels under control, with very little visual reward.

Carey-5

‘We did everything from scratch, so the process itself was probably the biggest challenge we had. But we knew we were paying attention to every detail and we wouldn’t have problems further down the line because we hadn’t cut any corners.’

In the dining area, Carey has chosen a similar rug design as the one in the living room but in a different colourway to create two distinct, yet connected, spaces
In the dining area, Carey has chosen a similar rug design as the one in the living room but in a different colourway to create two distinct, yet connected, spaces

Once the hard work was complete, the much more fun part began.

Choosing an eclectic mix of British and Scandinavian styling, Carey and Johan filled their space with inherited Swedish furniture, sheepskins, muted tones with pops of colour and splashes of intricate, kaleidoscopic wallpaper.

Carey has injected colour into her scheme by painting existing pieces, including her much-loved Scandinavian string shelves, which have been given a coat of Dulux’s Sulphur Springs
Carey has injected colour into her scheme by painting existing pieces, including her much-loved Scandinavian string shelves, which have been given a coat of Dulux’s Sulphur Springs

‘We love mixing old and new,’ explains Carey. ‘We thought it was important to honour the era of the house by bringing back as many of the original features as we could.’

In the hallway, William Morris’s Strawberry Thief wallpaper sets the tone for a bold, design-led house. A vintage coat stand from Johan’s parents is complemented by an IKEA bench and Swedish sheepskin
In the hallway, William Morris’s Strawberry Thief wallpaper sets the tone for a bold, design-led house. A vintage coat stand from Johan’s parents is complemented by an IKEA bench and Swedish sheepskin

The couple like to shop local, and, with some excellent options in the Margate area, it’s no wonder. Eleven Eleven is the place for mid-century furniture, with Artisans & Adventurers providing much of the couple’s furnishings, from beautiful baskets to cushions and throws. ‘We love that sustainability and ethical production is at the heart of what they do,’ says Carey.

A bit more about our home…

The easiest job was painting the outside of the house a light blue. For a week’s worth of work, it instantly made the house look beautiful.

Our best bargain was our Ercol sofa and matching chairs. They were £50 from a friend’s aunt and we had them recovered by a local upholsterer in Margate.

I love shopping locally where possible, or British – and if not British, Swedish. We usually spend our time between the UK and Sweden and we’re always on the lookout for mid-century furniture and homewares.

'Renovating gave us a blank canvas for our colourful, creative home'

‘All their collections are in collaboration with small-scale artisans and craft groups based in Africa and India. This store is close to our heart as Johan does a lot of music and humanitarian projects in Africa, too.’

As in the rest of the house, Carey has combined classic and modern design details in the kitchen, choosing a contemporary steel grey for the walls and cabinets and adding a traditional, farmhouse-style sink
As in the rest of the house, Carey has combined classic and modern design details in the kitchen, choosing a contemporary steel grey for the walls and cabinets and adding a traditional, farmhouse-style sink

Berkshire-based mother and daughter duo, Fitward & Hayton, are another of the couple’s firm favourites for quirky homewares, as well as family-run Three Little Pigs in Cardiff, who specialise in hand-crafted collections of Scandinavian and mid-century homeware and furniture.

Rather than fitting wall units, Johan made the kitchen shelves from scaffolding boards, held up by turnbuckles screwed into the wall
Rather than fitting wall units, Johan made the kitchen shelves from scaffolding boards, held up by turnbuckles screwed into the wall

Any other pieces come from Sweden. The couple often visit, and ‘when we travel, we tend to fill the extra space in the car with stuff. For example, all of our sheepskins, which we love, are from Sweden,’ says Carey.

A traditional toilet and bath sit beautifully alongside modern pink and off-white walls, Victoria Plum Annecy Green matt wall tiles and Tiles Direct white and pink Hex floor tiles
A traditional toilet and bath sit beautifully alongside modern pink and off-white walls, Victoria Plum Annecy Green matt wall tiles and white hexagon floor tiles

The couple decorated the house themselves, with many DIY projects adding a personal touch. Carey loves to upcycle furniture and her latest project was painting her treasured Scandi string shelves a happy yellow shade.

Perhaps the most impressive DIY though is the art deco-inspired cabinet in the bathroom, which the couple transformed into a sink unit.

Add definition to geometric tiles with contrast grouting. ‘Grout is a super important component to us when tiling,’ explains Carey. ‘We went for Ardex Antique Ivory on the walls and Cast Iron on the floor’
Add definition to geometric tiles with contrast grouting. ‘Grout is a super important component to us when tiling,’ explains Carey. ‘We went for Ardex Antique Ivory on the walls and Cast Iron on the floor’

‘We bought the old cupboard for about £30, painted it pink, attached Pushka Home knobs and a marble top then added the sink bowl and tap.’

Elsewhere, Carey’s beautiful work with florals make intriguing centrepieces in the living area. ‘I love to play around with flowers and make garlands for the living room table and fireplace mantel,’ she says.

Rather than buying a ready-made sink unit, try a budget-friendly, DIY solution. Carey made hers from an old cupboard and it’s now the centrepiece of her vintage-inspired scheme
Rather than buying a ready-made sink unit, try a budget-friendly, DIY solution. Carey made hers from an old cupboard and it’s now the centrepiece of her vintage-inspired scheme

Carey and Johan don’t have a favourite room as such, with it really depending on the time of day and year for where they most like to spend their time.

The Strawberry Thief wallpaper runs up the stairs into the first-floor hallway, framed by black skirting and a deep-stained staircase for a dramatic look
The Strawberry Thief wallpaper runs up the stairs into the first-floor hallway, framed by black skirting and a deep-stained staircase for a dramatic look

‘In the evenings we love getting cosy in the living room with a roaring fire, and equally love spending time outside in the warmer months,’ says Carey.

Carey and Johan designed the wardrobes in both bedrooms themselves by custom-building frames around IKEA doors, with an open shelf dressed with curtains to hide clutter away. The lampshade is from Love Frankie Ltd on Not On The High Street
Carey and Johan designed the wardrobes in both bedrooms themselves by custom-building frames around IKEA doors, with an open shelf dressed with curtains to hide clutter away. The lampshade is from Love Frankie Ltd on Not On The High Street

In 2018, they built a summer house in the back garden, which opens up as an inviting indoor-outdoor space, and in the first lockdown, last year, they also landscaped the garden, and built a small, four-person traditional sauna, too.

The colour continues upstairs in the main bedroom, with striking Serengeti wallpaper by Cole & Sons providing the reference for a mix of jungle-inspired textiles and ornaments. A concrete-effect ceiling adds further interest and texture to create a snug, eclectic space
The colour continues upstairs in the main bedroom, with striking Serengeti wallpaper by Cole & Sons providing the reference for a mix of jungle-inspired textiles and ornaments. A concrete-effect ceiling adds further interest and texture to create a snug, eclectic space

‘My best idea was building a sauna and installing an outdoor bath!’ says Carey.

‘We use the sauna four or five times a week. In terms of cost, it’s the best use of money for what you get out of it. It’s been such a blessing to have it during lockdowns – a place to rest and reinvigorate your body and soul.’

The trick to mixing patterns is using the same palette throughout for a cohesive look, as Carey has in the bedroom, with baskets from Artisans & Adventurers, an Oliver Bonas wall hanging, a rug from Three Little Pigs, and a Trefriw Woollen Mills blanket
The trick to mixing patterns is using the same palette throughout for a cohesive look, as Carey has in the bedroom, with baskets from Artisans & Adventurers, an Oliver Bonas wall hanging, a rug from Three Little Pigs, and a Trefriw Woollen Mills blanket

All that’s left to do now is the attic.

‘We toy with the idea of making it liveable when we eventually put a new roof on the house!’ says Carey. For now, though, they’re very much enjoying their brand new, period house as it is.

In the guest room, a colour scheme of mauve, black and grey draws the eye to the Victorian, cast iron fireplace. Carey and Johan designed the wardrobes themselves using IKEA doors, as in the main bedroom
In the guest room, a colour scheme of mauve, black and grey draws the eye to the Victorian, cast iron fireplace. Carey and Johan designed the wardrobes themselves using IKEA doors, as in the main bedroom
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Feature Lara Watson. Photos Fiona Murray. 

This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?