sneak peek: karen barlow


karen barlow
is a freelance interior designer and still life props stylist based in manchester, england.  thirteen years ago she and her husband chris bought this 1879 victorian house.  despite not having heat, two gross kitchens, undesirable bathrooms, and the fact that the home had been stripped and converted into two flats in the 1970s, they were able to see the true potential beneath the less than perfect facade. we hope you enjoy this beautiful sneak peek (and fantastic wallpapers) as much as we did! don’t miss the full post after the jump, and additional images here. {thanks so much, karen!}anne

{photos by Eleri Griffiths and James White}

[Over 8 years we scoured antique markets, car boot sales, jumble sales and local newspapers ( this was pre ebay) for baths, sinks, flooring and doors. Sofas and drawers were bid for at auction and Chris made lots of the cabinet furniture, required for storage, using salvage. Farrow & Ball paints provided just the right hues for our restored period finds. I loved the project so much and learnt such a lot about good design and project management, that last year I graduated with a BA(Hons) in Interior design.]

The French doors in the back room were salvaged from a Manchester hospital that was being renovated into city apartments. They had previously been used to separate two wards. The stained glass looks beautiful with the sun shining through and echoes the stained glass in the Victorian church windows next door to our house. The fireplaces in both reception rooms are also salvaged and are regularly used in the winter months. The wallpaper in this room is “flora & fauna” by Anthropologie and the olive green paint colour on one wall is “citrine” by The Little Greene Paint Company.  Chris made the book case using a combination of an original Victorian piece, salvaged doors and MDF. It is painted in mid lead by The Little Greene Paint Company.

The lounge has been decorated using a Neisha Crosland wallpaper “candy stripe”  and a customized paint by Rose of Jericho. We saw this colour in a hotel we were staying in and the paint company kindly mixed some for us. The rug is Laura Ashley and many of the cushions have been made by myself using bin ends and jumble sale finds.

The hall was re-built, as there was a false wall running through the centre, to divide the flats. The spindles and newel posts are all salvage pieces and have been painted in string by Farrow & Ball. The stair runner is a Cath Kidston design, made by Ulster carpets and is an absolute favourite of ours. We bought it approximately six years ago and I think it is now discontinued, so apologies, if you are trying to find it.  The hall floor was salvaged from an old cinema, where it had previously been in the foyer. We bought it in two dustbins, one black tiles and the other white and then had to work out how to lay it. It was a labour of love but looks as though it has always been there.

CLICK HERE for the rest of karen’s sneak peek after the jump!

Our bedroom is unashamedly feminine (sorry Chris) with lot’s of vintage finds such as the satin eiderdown, which dictated the colour scheme and cost £1.00 from a local car boot sale. The paint is “pink ground” by Farrow & Ball  with “Mimosa” wallpaper by Cole & son behind the bedhead.

Many of the pieces of furniture have been repainted using “Cornforth white” by Farrow & ball. The curtains and blinds were made by myself using fabric from The Conran shop.

A lot of the furniture throughout the house is from France and purchased at Newark International Antique fair, which is a treasure trove of vintage and retro items brought from dealers throughout Europe.  The 1950’s prom dress was bought to re-sell, as I also sell vintage clothes and textiles but it is so beautiful that I am saving it for my daughter, Amber when she gets older.

The bathroom cabinet was originally two office desks which we have attached together to house all our lotions and potions. It has been painted in a grey eggshell by Dulux and then decorated with a range of grey Farrow & ball papers, which have been protected using several coats of PVA and water solution. The handles were a gift from a friend from Anthropologie in the states, before we were lucky enough to get one in London.

The kitchen is full of salvaged pieces. The units are Victorian pitch pine and have been repainted in French grey by Farrow & ball.  The wooden floor is block flooring and was originally in a school gym in Lancashire. We bought it from a market trader who had it stored in banana boxes. It took weeks of cleaning but has been a great success, adding loads of character to the kitchen and adjoining office space. The poster on the wall is a 1963 British Rail timetable.

The office space has been painted an art deco “pea green” colour to compliment the crescent stripe wallpaper, in the same colour, by Neisha Crosland.  The desk was made by Chris using a Victorian dining table with turned legs and old floorboards for the table top. He makes similar pieces for sale through  The chair is a vintage 1950’s piece.

The bathroom is again a mix of modern and salvaged pieces. The sink is a 1930’s original and the bath is a French cast iron roll top, painted in down pipe by Farrow & ball. The marmoleum flooring is by Sinclair Till and the towel is an Orla Kiely design.

George helped to design his room. One wall is a collage of his favourite things such as skateboarding and music. The opposite wall is papered with a graffiti design wallpaper available from B&Q. The orange drawers are original Victorian and have been updated with a slick of orange gloss paint. The curtains are original 1980’s and I have also collected lot’s of 80’s bedding for the room over the years.

  1. Emily says:

    Who have thought red and white spots would work so well with those tiles?!

    Awesome! I wish I was brave enough to use colour like this!

  2. San says:

    Absolutely fabulous. Love it. Can I move in?

    And I WANT THIS CARPET!!!! How dare they to discontinue it.

  3. rose says:

    Love that couch, what a great first photo!
    Also so happy with all the color in this house. Although I appreciate it, I’m kind of tired of all the clean white walls and white fur pillow homes – nothing but creative color in this feature!

  4. lydia says:

    oh my! i am in LOVE with her home!! especially the mix of the green wall and pink couch….and the wallpapers! BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS!

  5. laura says:

    love that first image. any chance we can get more details on the couch? love the color and the design!

  6. Karen says:

    This is the kind of home I want to jump through my computer and live in for a while. Especially love that Orange Dresser with Vintage Knobs, what a great combo, inspired me! Thank you for sharing.

  7. meatclub says:

    I used to live in Manchester and never have I seen such a cute and charming abode! Nice mix of vintage and creativity. Do you have a website for your prop styling work?

  8. Heather says:

    Seriously? I love every single thing in this house. Except for the fact that I don’t live there.
    love it! love it! covet it!

  9. I have to disagree with the above commenter. I love the teenage room! I was actually thinking when I saw it — yeah for you! you allowed him his own space with his cool stuff! I remember my mother helping me arrange a massive collage of New Kids on The Block posters on my wall similar to what you have done and I always loved it — it was so fun. I think it is cool to teach kids that they can create their own space with design in mind. I think a teenager would be proud of this space.

    what a fun home!

  10. Debra says:

    This is a very beautiful big house. I just love the living room especially that couch. This home really does have lots of unique furniture and cabinets. I love the entire house.

  11. I just LOVE that mirror in the first pic! Gorgeous home!

  12. Nikasha says:

    I saw the first pic and knew I would love this house. Olive green and pink is my favorite color combo!

  13. What a beautiful house! So many unexpected twists and turns, but it all works together seamlessly. I love it! My favorite is that polka dot runner!

  14. Adriana says:

    Wow! Such an elegant use of colors. Love it!

  15. Dionne says:

    A great example of Eclecticism! When you look at this house you can really see that ‘home is where there heart is’ love, creativity and time has gone into this home and you can see it clearly! I love it everything works so well together and nothing looks to awquard or clumsy. This is like my dream home and the vintage items give it another dimension of history and character!

  16. Lesley & Martin says:

    What a fantastic house!! Do you design beachuts?!

  17. Lesley & Martin says:

    What a fantastic house!! Do you design beach huts?!!

  18. Kate S. says:

    Love the colors and textures – the alternating sparse and thick aesthetic. Fantastic.

  19. nikki says:

    red with white dots – just perfect details :)

  20. Lucy says:

    I loved it. Especially the rooms with the fireplace. I hope one day I ‘ll get a house as beatiful as this one

  21. What a fabulous home! Love the use of color and pattern!! Drooling!

  22. Eva says:

    enjoyed this peak a lot. Thanks, you did a wonderful job!

  23. Oh Boy do I ever love these designs. The match one of my paintings…it like the girl in my painting lives in the pink and green house! What a inspiration!! This has opened up a can of paintbrushes for me! :) great job….drooling here too.

  24. Hannah Parrett says:

    Love the place! very macunion! very unique! the french doors is such a cool idea! have a question! we live in manchester. can you recommend some good car boot sales and or flea markets! thanks!

  25. Juliet says:

    What a lovely home Karen. Love the mix of vintage and comtemporary. I wouldn’t have expected anything else, because you are lovely. We met at the Vintage fair in the Victoria Baths the other day. Best Wishes!

  26. Helena says:

    Amazing – I love all the salvaged pieces!

  27. Wow, the person who has choosen this furniture has some great designer talent. I especially love the sofa in the first picture.

  28. Lena Blonsky says:

    Gorgeous! I’m in love with the fuscia sofa against the green wall! What a combination! and the red carpeting on the stairs and the corridor accentuated by the b&w tiling?….what can I say….I want the same!

  29. tamerelbaz says:

    I really like the vintage affect to the furniture repainted by Farrow and Ball “Cornforth White). French style with a traditional-not as over powering look

  30. Mania says:

    I love those ideas! Especially the dots on the staircase, lovely. We are just about to refurbish about house and I am thinking about refurbishing some old furniture. Will let you know how this went.

  31. Kalina says:

    Lovely colours and patterns. Great job

  32. Terence Leonard says:

    Your house is brilliant!! Invite us round at once. Why isn’t it featured on your web page????

  33. Dean Sig says:

    i love the metal pan holder hanging in the country style kitchen – very homely look :)


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