anne ditmeyerinterior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: claire bingham

by anne

Claire Bingham is a writer and interior designer based in Manchester and London, who flips between consulting on the design of people’s homes to writing about them, along with working for global fashion and beauty brands. The former Homes Editor of Elle Decoration with a background in antiques, textiles and illustration, her work has been published in titles including Casa Vogue, Vogue Living and the Sunday Times, among others. Today we have a sneak peek into the Victorian house she shares with her husband in Macclesfield, an industrial, once silk-producing town in the northwest of the UK. As someone often on the move, this is the first time she has been able to call a home a home. She describes her home as very much a work-in-progress and purposely so. Claire is a firm believer that the look and feel of a home should evolve over time, and I love that she sees as much beauty in the process as in the finished result, particularly in how she intentionally keeps some rooms raw to contrast with those that are complete. Thanks, Claire! — Anne

Image above: The finished/unfinished room between the living room and studio. I dabbled with the blue paint when we moved in but decided that would change the atmosphere of the room into something it is not. The Adam-style fire surround is really elegant, as is the herringbone reclaimed floor. I like mixing styles and don’t believe there are many rules when it comes to what goes with what. The Chesterfield goes with the Mexican runner and the French velvet pouf — and why not (although I guess they are all red)? And I don’t think I will ever buy a bookcase, too.

Image above: Leading through to the dining room-cum-studio, the stained glass doors were a big seller when we first looked around the house. I love all the original features to the architecture. It may be drafty, but it has gorgeously ornate high ceilings and a Minton tiled floor.

Image above: This is where I spend most of my day. A Victorian conservatory that officially makes this house a “villa,” I use the space as my studio and occasional casual dining at night. The table is black glass, and I love the contrast with the 70s Ercol chairs. The woodwork is painted in the palest of violets, which reminds me of a stay at the Lake Palace in Udaipur.

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

Image above: My many, many magazines and climbing jasmine in the studio. The plan is to let it cover the entire wall.

Image above: This is the living room — and my gorgeous kitten, Pip. She likes to check out the view. The French bench is one of a pair — the other one we use for shoes in the entrance. It was riddled with woodworm when we bought it (the joys of eBay), so hopefully it is now OK. The felt magazine basket is by Scandinavian design company, Muuto. The velvet curtains were tricky a) on a budget and b) with the three-metre drop. Who knew IKEA did extra long readymades, which you can turn up yourself? I really like mixing traditional and global styles with sleeker contemporary.

Image above: The small crystal lamp is an eBay Sevres find and the 30s Shanghai cinema poster is an image of the movie star known as Butterfly, “Hu Die.” I’m not sure if she’s going to stay, but she’s there for now. The marble fireplace was original to the house, but I wanted to break up all the vintage, so I installed the mirror minus its frame. Probably not the most safest of ideas, but I love the sharpness of the look. Above this, I’ve kept the original plasterwork exposed mainly because I’m too scared to paint over it and never be able to see it again.

Image above: I wanted to achieve a strong, moody vibe in the living room, so I repainted the original ivory color with a flat petrol blue. The woodwork is in the same shade, but gloss. The blue is a perfect backdrop to reds and pinks — I had a photograph of Frida Kahlo in mind when I was picking the shade out. Plus, the shop in the film Chocolat — hence the Provencal fabric for the cushion, although the link is pretty loose. The 18th-century chaise was a present from my dad when we moved in. It needs to be reupholstered beyond the calico lining, but I like it remaining unfinished for now. It’s always good to see the layers. The wine table — another tripod — is from eBay and I painted the base. I love the industrial look of the lamp and how it mixes copper and brass. It’s like a Tom Dixon that never was.

Image above: This is the guest bedroom at the back of the house. I wanted it to have a cosier, more intimate feel in contrast with the simplicity of the white bedroom at the front. The mirror, well, this was one of the first things I bought when I was 18, so can’t bring myself to get rid of it. I made the pillow out of vintage silk scarves and the linen is from Muji. The miniature bedside table on the left is a milking stool that was made by my husband’s grandad, so it’s very dear.

Image above: The throw is a handmade concoction made from a velvet floral fabric and a ticking stripe. In this room, I like how the opaque glass pendant stands out against the darker color of the walls.

Image above: This is our bedroom and the main thing about the room is the perfect shade of white. Oyster White by Sanderson. Wherever you paint it, it always looks good. This room is probably the most minimally styled in the house, but I like it for its (not quite) monastic qualities. It’s all very Zen. The bed is a simple classic style from UK manufacturers, Feather & Black. My favourite things are the loose hanging bulbs on ivory flex, which I put together myself. They’re fitted with dimmers so you can see the silhouette of the flux inside — all very pleasing. The tripod table is from IKEA (you can never have too many). On the opposite side of the bed is a white gloss cube, which makes it all a bit more modern. But best of all is the black satin ribbon above the bed, where you can switch off the main pendant from the comfort of the covers.

Image above: A Flos Parentesi lamp finds its home here! I guess you could call the hallway Rough Luxe. When we moved in, it was wallpapered in a horrendous burgundy-textured wallpaper, which was the first thing to come down. The remnants are left behind and look like lovely, flaky plasterwork. It stays for now, but I have in mind a quartz pale blue/grey at some point down the line. White banisters, too. The tiles are original Minton.

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  • so stunning and beautiful “decay” on the walls! fantastic choice of paint in all the rooms.. Loving the bird pillow on the sofa and curious about the “you can rarely see what is…” poster. Gorgeous place!

  • I love the blue walls in the living room, would you mind sharing the paint color name and manufacturer?

  • I love how Claire just goes with it! That’s the attitude I
    want to have in 2011 since I am one of those that over-thinks
    everything and wanted my home to look perfect like in a catalog.
    You can tell this home is “very her”, which is what I’m stiving
    for. Who cares if not everyone likes it!! Thanks for the

  • This is, without a doubt, one of my very favorites so far.
    The deterioration in the wall makes me shiver! I am so in love!!
    And that light in the dining room/studio…too much to

  • I’m curious as to how you access any of those books which
    are just stacked one on top of the other, thereby providing support
    for the whole configuration!

  • When I first saw the mirror above the fireplace, I thought
    it was a photograph or painting of the chandelier in front of it. I
    thought that was so clever! But yeah, the mirror works too.. I also
    love the finished/unfinished state of the whole place.

  • Yikes! Am I the only one who hates this space? The walls
    are very ugly. I don’t believe that “shabbily half finished” is a
    style. Sorry.

  • A class act! So very Pisces! As a typical Virgo, who always
    wants perfection, and is worried if things are not in the right
    place, I wish I could be like Claire – the carefree look that still
    has sophistication and a certain attraction in its rawness. A
    lovely home that feels homely.

  • Kim I’m with you on the paint job. I usually love distress, decay, rawness but this one is not my cup of tea.

    Partly it’s that the photos to the left & right of the fireplace need to be either much larger or smaller to have an impact against the wall. Also the way they’re framed doesn’t complement the rest of the room’s furnishings.

    I feel that if the photos were framed in a softer, more natural style (like the one to the left of the sofa), or switched out for larger pieces that pick up the colors of the room, the walls would look much nicer.

    I do think the sloping pile of books in the alcove (1st pic) aids the effect that the wall texture gives.

    This is just my opinion, and it’s fine by me if we all disagree.

  • I’m with Kim. This looks like a before to me. But good for her for going with what feels good.

  • First impression was that I like the unfinished walls, at least when they are made precious by being photographed here for a house visit. In my realm it would be the sad reminder of an unfinished project, but in this context it is intentional and elevates the imperfections to a more artistic level.

    Reminds me of John Derian’s Cape Cod house where he preserved the peeling wallpaper and crumbling paint with lacquer: http://aol.it/9km9lY

  • I agree with Kim. This is not doing it for me. The first room with the unfinished and partially peeled wallpaper is horrible. Not to mention the sconces without fixtures, just bare bulbs. The rest of the rooms lack cohesion or any real sense of style. It looks like a thrown together jumble as if they just moved in. I just see a lot of unfinished projects – and the last few rooms are just dreary. I guess this a case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes. It’s a shame too, because it’s evident this home has great bones.

    • Lynn

      To each their own, but it’s good to remember that style is pretty subjective. So I wouldn’t assume that this home lacks “any real sense of style” because it doesn’t suit your own, or others’.


  • I love it. The crumbling plaster, the mix of modern and old. It’s a wonderful example of that shabby aesthetic without being ‘precious’.

    The blue paint in the living room is incredible.

  • Hi, I too love the deep steel blue walls. Can you PLEASE tell me the paint color/source? I’m currently looking for that exact color! Many thanks.

  • As much as I am accustomed to and drool over the perfect catalog houses (and most every sneak peek here), this home truly is a breath of fresh air. I love how the designer lets the house be what it is, instead of knocking down and re-doing EVERYthing.

    I feel like some of these designers and home-dwellers are so concerned with trend, that they fill their homes with meaningless, on-trend items instead of embracing a touch of sentimentality and history and a sense of “use what you have.”

    Growing up, my dad was constantly (and s-l-o-w-l-y) chipping away on remodeling projects around the house. I think that’s why this sneak peek evoked a sense of nostalgia, and an appreciation for those sweet imperfections that I was immersed in (which of course, I hated at the time). I love seeing how it’s embraced here!

    Great work!

  • so pretty! i am about to paint my apt after years of living with the awful off-white paint the landlord put up. i am thinking blue for the bedroom and would love to see a paint chip of the blue in your living room. what is the name and brand? i’d also love details on that lovely earthy gray in the guest bedroom. congratulations on your beautiful home!

  • i get that her style is unfinished. that’s cool. i don’t mind the walls or the eclectic vibe.

    but it reminds me very much of one of the dark, dingy share houses i inhabited in sydney in my 20s. i think it’s the overall messiness that i can’t get my head around.

  • macclesfield! im a vermonter but my sweet husband is a macc
    lad. ive spent lots of time there and have a soft spot for that
    place. as for the unfinished walls….. lovely. unconventional. and
    just fine with me. i vote yes.

  • I like the fact that it still retains a sense of potential
    which so many over finished and polished places have lost. I also
    really like that earthy colour in the guest bedroom, what is it

  • The blue in the living room is Dulux Pebble Drift and
    Farrow & Ball Charleston Grey in the guest

  • i love the shabby walls – i wish my fiance would let me get
    away with that! but i have to say, the rest of the place just looks
    messy. the bed in the guest room wasn’t even photo ready! and
    christmas lights as a source of light? feels like college all over
    again…the least she could have done was tidy up a bit? and it
    felt like a pro photog was needed not her DIY photos…i just feel
    sorry for beautiful homes like this when their potential isn’t

    • Sarah

      Everyone has a different style when it comes to shooting their home- it’s funny because home owners are often criticized by commenters here because their home shots are “too” clean and styled. Some people prefer to leave things real and authentic- and while it’s not for everyone I hope everyone remembers it’s a real person and their home we’re talking about here- and maybe Christmas lights make her happy ;)


  • Wow I absolutely love the personality of this organic and textured home.

    I weep for the books, however – they won’t endure as they are now – I’d love to see them stacked and meandering on their sides instead.

    thanks for glimpse into this wonderful home!

  • This home is stunningly beautiful, dramatic and moody and only for the brave, which is why I love it! It’s so refreshing to see something different and it’s obvious Claire has truly individual taste and that’s why she does the job that she does. Abigail Aherne has forged her career championing dark seductive rooms and I think we’ll all be following in Abigails and Claire’s lead very soon.

  • For my own home, I tend to aspire to a very, very neat and clean aesthetic, but there was something about this post that had me reflecting about what makes a home inviting and personal.

    Often my favorite places are kind of messy, lived in, and comfortable; qualities that don’t always fully appear on film. I really appreciate Claire for sharing her real home, and hope that you will post updates as it evolves over time. (Especially the studio with the growing vines.)

    • mona

      people always say i’m defensive when i defend a home owner, but there’s a difference. it takes a heck of a lot of guts to put your home up here and i think sometimes people forget that (and politeness) when they want to express a difference of opinion or taste. i’ll always use my right to speak up when i think someone may be forgetting that this is a real home with a real owner and real feelings.


  • love the colors in this house – the blue and yellow are really distinctive. i am going out and purchasing some christmas lights for my stairway tomorrow. what a great idea.
    i also appreciate the fact that this house is different from what is featured on many blogs. frankly, i am really tired of the sparse modern look that dominates so many blogs. thank goodness we all have different styles, how boring life would be if we were all the same. thanks for sharing your home.

  • I’m still stuck on the walls – they are GORGEOUS. I’ll be returning to this house again and again – minimal, antiquated and feminine. Love this.

  • grace, that is certainly true, but as an editor you can make choices about what is worthy and what is not. taste, while subjective, does have limits.

    • Mona

      I don’t think taste has “limits” that aren’t based on one’s subjective opinions.

      I founded DS to celebrate things that I personally feel are exciting, different or beautiful so naturally things will be shaped by my own idea of what good taste and style are. I know and appreciate that it’s not for everyone, but I don’t think there are style rules written in stone that make this home “worthy” or unworthy.


  • I don’t really view the walls as unfinished. The wonderful patches of color, texture and layers really highlight the individual vignettes happening within the space. To state that “this is too small or that doesn’t work because…” really disrespects what personal expression/ interpretation of design is all about.

  • Love this sneak peak! The “unfinished” walls, the dark moodiness paired with the clean whites…stunning! I also love that this looks like a real home- it’s perfect!

    p.s. Grace- Your replies above are what make me love Design Sponge! Thank you.

  • I am way too uptight about book conditions to stack books that way! I love though how relaxed this house is; nice to let the materials or structures do what they will. This was a really fun post to read/look at because of it.

  • I think this home benefits from beautiful photography. I don’t mind the unfinished parts in the images. But if I saw these rooms in person, I would certainly hate them.

    Does it deserve to be here? Absolutely.

  • Hi – re. the books, thought I’d drop a quick note. I know it’s wrong, I know I shouldn’t! The ones in the alcove are all paperback fiction, so I’m less worried and certainly wouldn’t treat a photo/reference book in the same way. When it comes to novels, I like a well worn book for the sense of life it gives them. I like inscriptions, I like to fold corners. The person who may have picked it up becomes more visible if that makes sense. It’s rare that I’ll get round to rereading a book but if I do, they’re pretty easy to pull out, Jenga-style. They’re so tightly squeezed, nothing’s going to shift. Thanks for all the comments.

  • I’m not much of the design expert, but I think this house looks beautiful and those that seem to strongly disagree are being silly. I got especially excited when I saw the Aboriginal photograph in the 3rd photo of her house. I have thesame print hanging in my kitchen!

  • I understand some people may like this but these pictures depressed me. While I think the pictures are beautiful, the place gives me angst: it is decadent but it looks studied…

  • I agree with Kim; I don’t think the walls are unfinished. They are exactly as intended. I love this whole look. Yes, it looks studied, but so are many more conventional interiors. I love the fusion of pristine and ragged.

    Incidentally, I bought the same image of Butterfly, “Hu Die” in Toronto’s Chinatown. Sadly, the paper is so unbelievably soft that several framers have refused to frame it for me. Sadder still, I’m fingers and thumbs when it comes to doing it myself. Still, maybe someday ……

  • This place is very special. It is a home; full of all the joys, sorrows, fears, ambitions, loves, needs, wishes and so forth , that we all, as human beings , experience on this crazy planet.

    How can we criticize something which makes another person happy? We should all be a little more concerned with what positive and nourishing things we can take away from being “allowed” to share such a personal tour.

    Maybe this home makes you turn around from your computer screen, look at you immaculately ordered, or minimalist , or completely cluttered, disorganized mess that YOU call home and appreciate it ALL THE MORE! Or maybe you become inspired to paint something, make something, write a novel or bake a pie…or even organize your closet!

    This is what it should do.

    It is not a license to condemn the owner and her choice of how to keep her home.
    ITS HER HOME! Not yours. It’s her life.

  • I keep looking at this one. It reminds me of so many places I enjoyed and felt comfortable and welcome. It is not as “attractive” as so many of the house tours I see, but it touched me emotionally, which is really unusual from a home tour. I would venture to guess that a fair amount of what people are disliking here is the discomfort of seeing the evidence of a family’s intimate life–it is not at all hard to imagine all the joy and pain and sloth and work and fights and laughs that a home contains playing out against these walls.

  • I really liked this sneak, its a bit like my parents house, well a bit like my old room (gone now, made room for my parents). well loved, I think more people would have loved it with better photography or a more softer light.

  • I think it’s lovely and hello, it’s in Macclesfield–I just want to curl up in that red leather chair and crank up the Joy Division!

  • Wow, what a debate this has caused. I think it’s brave to follow your instincts and put yourself out there as Claire has done, and it’s nice to see a truly real home – many real home tours feel over-styled sometimes.
    Aside from the yellow living room wall, I adore the rest of the home for its raw, unpretentious and personal feel. Thanks for sharing!

  • Love this home, especially the roughness of the walls in her livingroom. check out a blog I did on a London hotel all designed around the roughness very cool “how rough can it get”

  • i think you have to see, feel and experience real plaster to fully understand why some of us are so resistant to covering it up with factory-produced paint. my 1880’s brownstone has the most marvelous peeling plaster walls, and since we’ve checked for lead poisoning, i am keeping them just like claire’s for as long as i can. i love the walls and the focus on authenticity and character in her design choices.

  • A lesson in restraint! I love the look of this place but in reality know
    I couldn’t resist ‘finishing’ and tidying it but that would be missing the point. Claire has decided to live in the now and see imperfections as a positive; an antidote to overstyling and a blessed relief to the neat freak in me!

  • Are there more photos of this house? I’m dying to see these rooms in their entirety.

  • Didn’t comment the first several times but figure you’re due one by now =) …and I’m also in agreement with the commenter who wanted to see more!

    Love this home! The eclectic mix of design, color and mood… not limited by cookie cutter nouveau sensibility… but secure in it’s individuality.

  • You’re walls are one of (if not thee) favorite thing I have ever laid eyes on. SO lovely.

  • I am in love with this house!!! The blue paint is absolutely to die for, and I love the unfinished walls; unfinished plaster has so much character. This house wasn’t just thrown together … it is a work of art. When I first look at a room it just grabs me; and that’s what I love so much about this house. It’s not the typical polished homes we’re used to seeing. The thing about this house is that it looks good when it’s tidy, and it looks just as good and stylish when it’s a mess. Now that’s interior designing at it’s best!

  • Hi,
    Great house , saw your hallway in Red Magazine ,September issue . I also live in Macclesfield and have just moved into a house with minton tiles in the hallway , really want to renovate them . Can you suggest what to do ?

  • How beautifully decadent and in a way truly rock and roll, laid back, confident and probably very welcoming. On another note I couldn’t live there I am worried that I might have an OCD flare up lol. Claire I love your style.

  • Its a lovely house, and I quite like the *idea* of the unfinished walls but from these pix the effect (only IMHO of course) is a bit gloomy, depressing and cold, very much’ just left home and broke’ feeling. I love the fireplace and the stained glass windows though.

  • I love this house! Mmmm.
    I know someone has already asked – any chance of getting the petrol blue paint colour details? Please?