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Home makeover: ‘Our style is a modern take on traditional’

Take a look inside Fiona's eclectic Manchester home, filled with unusual antique finds

‘At £8,000, the bi-fold aluminium doors were the biggest
expense of the whole project. Because of the high ceilings, 
they had to be made bespoke. It was worth it though, as I 
love being able to open the doors fully onto the landscaped 
courtyard. The island stools were a bargain from Dunelm’

With a lifelong passion for antiques and an eye for a bargain, Fiona Lee has managed to blend old and new on a budget. Here, she talks us through her home makeover experience…

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My story

It was the lovely big bathroom that clinched the sale when we first viewed this house. It was a total doer-upper, but it felt like a Tardis. I’ve never been one to chase postcodes, so we opted for a cheaper area of Manchester with lots of green spaces, which has since gone up quite a bit in value.

‘I’m always changing the furniture around, I’ve swapped the pink sofa and leopard chair around, as I like to work with what I’ve got rather than buying new stuff. My business offers an upholstery service, which is a great way of bringing second-hand sofas back to life. I’ve dressed them up with cushions from House of Hackney and Linwood, while the white lamp is by Abigail Ahern’
‘I’m always changing the furniture around, I’ve swapped the pink sofa and leopard chair around, as I like to work with what I’ve got rather than buying new stuff. My business offers an upholstery service, which is a great way of bringing second-hand sofas back to life. I’ve dressed them up with cushions from House of Hackney and Linwood, while the white lamp is by Abigail Ahern’

Unfortunately, after we made an offer, the financial crash happened, and the sale of our previous apartment fell through.

Welcome to my home…

A bit about me I’m Fiona Lee, 38, an interior designer and owner of interiors shop, roseandleeinteriors.com. I live with my husband, Trevor, 45, a medical construction manager, our daughter, Annie, four, and Freddie the cockapoo. 

Where I live Our home is a three-bedroom Victorian terrace in Radcliffe, Manchester. We bought it in May 2009.

What I wanted to change I called it the beige palace as the bland décor just wasn’t us. The main problem though was the pokey kitchen, which was totally unsuited to family life. 

Home makeover: 'Our style is a modern take on traditional'

This meant we had to pay two mortgages so we couldn’t afford to do much for a while.

We started by putting up a wall between the living and dining room, but it was another 10 years before we extended into the side return to create a bigger kitchen-diner and utility room. We’ve saved a fortune by doing most of the work ourselves.

‘My husband, Trevor, gave this wall a broken plaster effect using different paints. I knew I wanted a strong bold piece here and found this canvas at Surface View. It’s called Lillah McCarthy by Ambrose McEvoy from their National Portrait Gallery collection. The chest of drawers was inherited from Trevor’s mum and works well with the antique Persian rug’
‘My husband, Trevor, gave this wall a broken plaster effect using different paints. I knew I wanted a strong bold piece here and found this canvas at Surface View. It’s called Lillah McCarthy by Ambrose McEvoy from their National Portrait Gallery collection. The chest of drawers was inherited from Trevor’s mum and works well with the antique Persian rug’

My taste’s quite eclectic and I’m not afraid of colour. When I do interior design consultations for clients, I feel it’s my job to push them a bit further than they would normally go.

A bit more about my home…

How I made it my own We’ve stuck to dark colours to suit the age of the house, sanded the floorboards and filled it with treasured antiques and vintage pieces. Trevor did all the plastering – apart from the new extension and a couple of ceilings – as well as building the alcove cabinets and fireplace in the dining room.

My favourite part The open-plan kitchen/family room is a great space for kitchen discos and having all our friends and family round, as and when Covid permits. It’s really changed the way we use the house and gives us the extra option of indoor-outdoor living as well. 

Home makeover: 'Our style is a modern take on traditional'

My husband’s a bit more conservative in his tastes, but he lets me run with colour as he knows I’ll make it work.

Next we’re thinking of buying a holiday home in Tuscany where I can hold residential classes in interior design. I’d love to move somewhere more rural in about five years’ time too, but for now this is a really happy family home.

Kitchen

‘Having our daughter, Annie, was the spur we needed to extend the sloping kitchen into the side return. I got sick of putting her in the dining room next door while I was in the small, cold kitchen. After remortgaging to fund the work, we managed to build the extension and install the new kitchen.

‘I had always wanted concrete worktops, but when we were quoted £8,000 for them my husband made wooden frames and did it himself for around £800. The pendant lights are from Pooky’
‘I had always wanted concrete worktops, but when we were quoted £8,000 for them my husband made wooden frames and did it himself for around £800. The pendant lights are from Pooky’

‘It was meant to take six weeks but ended up lasting five months as the builders kept going off on other jobs. Ideally, we would’ve had the dining table under the lightwell, but the design was dictated by the fragile old Victorian lead pipes, which would’ve cost thousands to remove.

‘As we overlook fields and trees at the back, I wanted the kitchen to reflect the natural colours outside. I love dark colours but didn’t want it on the walls, so we opted for kitchen doors with brown and bronze tones instead’
‘As we overlook fields and trees at the back, I wanted the kitchen to reflect the natural colours outside. I love dark colours but didn’t want it on the walls, so we opted for kitchen doors with brown and bronze tones instead’

‘Instead, we built a bigger island to hide them. Our friend, who makes fitted wardrobes, built the kitchen while Trevor and his friend fitted it. We spend our lives in here now and Annie can run around while I cook.’

Dining area

‘When we first moved in, this room had a laminate floor on top of concrete that was all bumpy. We never used the space as it felt like a through-room. At first, we put down Victorian terracotta tiles, but when we extended the kitchen and knocked through, I wanted tumbled stone for a natural look, which would work well with the concrete worktops. It’s also low maintenance with a dog.

‘The dining table was found in a skip in Italy and cost £20. After treating it for woodworm, it’s been cleaned and polished up. When I had it in my interiors shop, people would try and buy it, but I’d never part with it’
‘The dining table was found in a skip in Italy and cost £20. After treating it for woodworm, it’s been cleaned and polished up. When I had it in my interiors shop, people would try and buy it, but I’d never part with it’

‘Trevor put in the fireplace as there was nothing here before. We looked at lots of reference books to make sure the design was in keeping with the era. Even the paint colour on the woodwork, Tanner’s Brown by Farrow & Ball, is the same shade Victorians would’ve used.’

Living room

‘This was the first room we renovated. When Trevor removed the window sill, we realised it was actually made from two bed panels and the whole wall collapsed! Thankfully he can turn his hand to anything, so after rebuilding the wall, making a new Victorian-style window sill and replastering, we were able to redecorate.

‘I’m very sentimental about the Italian bureau that’s been restored with French polish as it’s one of the first things Ibought when I got into the antiques trade with my dad. My leopard-print chair is another favourite. It’s a bit Bet Lynch but I love clashing patterns!’
‘I’m very sentimental about the Italian bureau that’s been restored with French polish as it’s one of the first things I bought when I got into the antiques trade with my dad. My leopard-print chair is another favourite. It’s a bit Bet Lynch but I love clashing patterns!’

‘As we live in an old Victorian terrace in an industrial city, I’ve always said we need to embrace dark colours. That’s why we chose a limited-edition William Morris wallpaper across the chimney breast and alcoves as the design is the same age as the house.

‘The Ca’ Pietra tiles behind the new log-burner are the same as the kitchen splashback, so they link the two spaces together’
‘The Ca’ Pietra tiles behind the new log-burner are the same as the kitchen splashback, so they link the two spaces together’

‘The wall colour, Sulking Room Pink by Farrow & Ball, is very sympathetic to the era as well. Trevor painted it during lockdown and he loves it, and I never thought he would!’

Master bedroom

‘We used to sleep in the front bedroom, but this room overlooks the forest at the back of the house and feels much calmer, so we moved in here. I painted the walls in Green Smoke by Farrow & Ball to reflect the outside and create a tranquil feel.

‘I love the rattan French vintage feel of the bed, which I stock in my shop, Rose & Lee Interiors. The vintage bedside tables were sourced at an antiques market and the blue throw is by Broste Copenhagen’
‘I love the rattan French vintage feel of the bed, which I stock in my shop, Rose & Lee Interiors. The vintage bedside tables were sourced at an antiques market and the blue throw is by Broste Copenhagen’

‘Next I’m planning to add some House of Hackney wallpaper on the window wall, as it’s less obvious than having it behind the bed. It would be nice to have more space, so we plan to convert the loft next summer and create a new master bedroom suite. It’ll have a free-standing bath under the window and walk-in wardrobes.’

Bathroom

‘When we first viewed the house and saw the avocado bathroom, I immediately envisaged a free-standing bath there instead. The room was so big you could dance in the space, but everything was placed around the edges. Five years after moving in, we finally got round to changing it. Trevor’s mum paid for it as a gift before she died.

‘I wanted the bathroom to look very Victorian with the high cistern toilet, monochrome flooring and vintage curtains. We chose Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball for the walls as the room’s so big and light, it can take it’
‘I wanted the bathroom to look very Victorian with the high cistern toilet, monochrome flooring and vintage curtains. We chose Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball for the walls as the room’s so big and light, it can take it’

‘A double walk-in shower was a must for me. I’m not a bath person but Trevor and Annie use this free-standing bath from Bathstore, and my sister comes to stay just so she can enjoy it! Now we’re planning to change it again with wooden floorboards, burgundy walls, House of Hackney wallpaper, double basins and a Crittall-style shower screen.’

Annie’s bedroom

‘The pink grey wall colour was the starting point in here. It’s called Peignoir by Farrow & Ball. For the wallpaper, I didn’t want anything too girly and I love the idea of Annie knowing a bit more about the world, so we chose an animal design that she loves.

‘The Cole & Son wallpaper was one of my biggest indulgences. It wasn’t cheap but I fell in love with it. Annie adores ballet so we’ve hung her tutus above the bed’
‘The Cole & Son wallpaper was one of my biggest indulgences. It wasn’t cheap but I fell in love with it. Annie adores ballet so we’ve hung her tutus above the bed’

‘The IKEA bed is adjustable so it can be made bigger as she gets older. When we convert the loft and move our bedroom up there, this room will become a home office and Annie can move into our old bedroom.’

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Feature Karen Wilson. Photos Katie Lee. 

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