Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
Sarajane Corani and Simon Bowler bought a Victorian house and renovated it to give it a classical feel with a fantasy flourish
Sarajane Corani and her partner Simon Bowler moved into a little terraced house in a Yorkshire village seven years ago. Their original intention was to do it up and move on, but they liked the village so much they decided to stay.
Then, a little over two years ago, a much bigger property opposite their house came up for sale. ‘So we bought it,’ says Sarajane. ‘It had its own drive and garage and a huge garden for all the dogs, cats and chickens we plan to get.’
It was a four-bedroom property, but nothing had been done to it since the 1960s, when the end section had ceased operating as a Post Office. It had then been occupied by a couple who had lived there for 50 years.
Come on in...We are Sarajane Corani, 44, a logistics operation manager for a ski company, and Simon Bowler, 39, a joiner and carpenter.
Our home is a Victorian four-bedroom detached house in a Yorkshire village.
My style is Eclectic and romantic, with a touch of Gothic and Victorian. I love antiques and rarely buy anything new.
We bought it because It has a huge garden and enough space for Simon to build his dream man cave and for me to have lots of animals and a veg patch!
I'm most pleased with My bathroom, with the silver bath and antique loo. I love the ceiling height and the floor we grafted over for days, both in here and in our large bedroom.
My advice is Don’t do anything major to a house for at least six months, until you get a feel for it. Then you’ll know how you want each room to work.
There was no heating, just one coal fire, and only one electric socket per room. ‘It was a real ugly duckling of a house,’ says Sarajane. ‘There were pistachio green walls, horrendous carpets, a tiny kitchen and grim bathroom. It was really dilapidated.’
Undaunted, the couple moved in and hired an architect. It took about a year to get planning permission and they started renovations at the end of October 2018.
They totally gutted the house, moving walls and taking up floors to install underfloor heating. They also had to sort and discard all the furniture left behind by the previous owners. The Post Office part was demolished and a two-storey extension was built in its place.
At the back of the house they added a single-storey glass extension and knocked the old tiny kitchen, the old larder and coal-house into it to make one big family room.
They also put in oil-fired central heating and rewired, replumbed and replastered, doing most of the work themselves. ‘And we had to live there among all the mess and debris,’ says Sarajane. Luckily the couple have been together for 12 years and happily faced the challenge.
One essential extra was their en suite bathroom, created from a bedroom and shower room. The flooring in here is parquet, bought for a bargain £300 from eBay, which the couple laid themselves. ‘We got 25 square metres and Simon sanded each piece first. After laying it, we treated it with Danish oil and then added a waterproof layer. We extended it into our bedroom too.’
The main bathroom is Sarajane’s favourite room, though, as it took a lot of searching for the right ‘ingredients’ for it. ‘When we arrived, it had just a tiny electric shower,’ she says. ‘I used to borrow my neighbour’s shower when I could.’
Finding the perfect items for this bathroom took a long time. ‘But I don’t mind doing things slowly,’ she says. ‘For instance, we found our Victorian porcelain loo on an allotment in Sunderland. It was being used as a planter!’ she says. ‘It was an epic task putting all the components together and we even had to lower the floor to accommodate the waste pipe.
We battered our floor with chains and nails to get an authentic look of age.
Sarajane found the cistern, brackets and toilet seat on eBay and then all the connecting pipes were specially made by Abacus Fireplaces in York.
‘An eBay company called Bathroom Warehouse UK supplied the tin-plated copper bath from my description of one I’d seen on Pinterest. It was made in Indonesia and they aged it for me. The basin came free with the bath.’
The couple also laid a new floor of cheap boards in here themselves. ‘Then we sanded and waxed them before we battered them with chains and nails to get an authentic look of age,’ says Sarajane.
It took the couple two years to renovate and furnish their house, and Sarajane did all the decoration herself. ‘I used quite a lot of Pure & Original paint because it’s made up of only natural pigments and meets the most stringent environmental requirements,’ she says.
Sarajane also upcycled her dining chairs by painting them in Loof from Frenchic paint and leftover Off Black emulsion from Farrow & Ball on the seat covers. ‘If you combine emulsion with Fabric Medium, it’s a simple way of giving old fabric a new lease of life, without the need for re-upholstery,’ she says.
I used a lot of Pure & Original paint because it’s made up of only natural pigments and meets the most stringent environmental requirements.
The couple put down new floorboards, then Sarajane stained and waxed them, then battered them with chains and nails for an antique effect
All that’s needed to do now is for Simon to demolish the garage. He’s already built himself an oak-framed man-cave just behind it. ‘Building it himself was really important to him as he’s a joiner. In fact, one of the reasons we’ve decided to stay here is that he’s built up such a large client base,’ says Sarajane.
Sarajane describes her decorating style as Gothic and romantic, which she says is inspired by her love of literature, history and architecture, ‘and this house is just the right age and has just the right space to display it,' she says. ‘Plus, it’s perfect for entertaining friends and family. This has been a huge but amazing journey – and an extremely rewarding and fulfilling one!’