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

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'

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.

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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.’

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
Sarajane designed her kitchen units – painted in Farrow & Ball’s Off Black – in tandem with Watsons of Harrogate. The oak worktops are from Worktop Express. The island has a Victorian iron screen on the front from a reclamation yard. ‘We sandblasted off the rust then I oiled it,’ says Sarajane. The island worktop is made of micro-cement, and the barstools are from Cox & Cox. Simon built the cooker surround and the corbels by the hood are from a reclamation yard

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.

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
Sarajane describes her decorating style as Gothic and romantic, which she says is inspired by her love of literature, history and architecture

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.

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'

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.’

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
The same paint that’s in the bathroom – Pure & Original’s Black Smoke from the Marrakesh range – is on the dining room walls. The table is from eBay, as are the chairs, which Sarajane painted in Loof from Frenchic paint, mixed with leftover Off Black emulsion from Farrow & Ball on the seat covers, combined with Fabric Medium for a simple way to give old fabric a new look

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.

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
Simon built the shelving in the kitchen using scaffolding planks from a local timber merchant and decorative brackets that came from eBay

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.

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
After the couple removed the tiny 1960s fireplace they found this surround made of York sandstone. Using a needle gun, they removed the old render then added lime plaster to the back and installed an antique log-burner from Abacus Fireplaces. They also laid the slate hearth bought from a local builders’ merchants

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.’

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
The armchairs came from the Three Angels, Brighton and the Moroccan table came from Lots Road. Sarajane’s parents bought them the new Neptune pink sofa as a ‘renovation’ gift. The Montpellier Taupe porcelain tiles are 900mm x 900mm and cost £45 per sq m from Lapicida

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.

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
There’s interest in every corner of Sarajane’s home. A mix of lanterns, greenery and eclectic furniture gives a fairytale-meets-traveller vibe to the area next to the fireplace, with unique accessories displayed at different height levels to draw the eye upwards

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.

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
Don’t pass on a second-hand find if it looks worn. Sarajane reupholstered her old sofa and transformed it into a unique piece

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.

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
Sarajane inherited the crochet bedspread from her grandmother and the kingsize French bed was an eBay find. ‘We inherited all the previous owner’s furniture so kept the wardrobe and dressing table until we can find proper antiques to replace them,’ says Sarajane. They pulled up two layers of carpet, sanded the floorboards beneath and painted them in Strong White. They used Cornforth white on the walls and Ammonite on the ceiling, all from Farrow & Ball

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.

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
Good idea! Add interest to a blank wall by displaying empty frames. The raw materials are from an online coving and moulding company, and Sarajane made the frames and then painted them.

I used a lot of Pure & Original paint because it’s made up of only natural pigments and meets the most stringent environmental requirements.

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
This room is Sarajane’s pride and joy. The antiqued tin-plated copper bath and basin is from Bathroom Warehouse UK, which Sarajane commissioned to her own design. The antique Venetian mirror was an eBay find. The walls are painted in Pure & Original paint in Skin Powder from the Classico range

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.

Real home: 'We turned our home into Sleeping Beauty’s castle'
‘It was an epic task putting all the antique toilet components together,’ says Sarajane. ‘We even had to lower the floor to accommodate the waste pipe.’
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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!’

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