Built in 1910, Abbey Withington’s Victorian terrace came with over 100 years of history. It also came with 100 years of questionable interior design choices. When Abbey and her partner Josh looked around the cosy three-bed not too far from the centre of Leeds, it was the little hidden flourishes of character and future potential that attracted them, not the Beetlejuice-inspired wallpaper, uneven floors, tired floorboards, multiple boilers, or the old fireplace that was inexplicably buried under laminate and tiling.
“It just felt homely, even though we knew it needed a lot doing to it,” Abbey reflects. “And it is not too big for our first home. It has nice sized rooms with big windows in certain spaces. It’s a typical terraced house with high ceilings and a little back garden.” As soon as they got the keys, the duo stripped out decades of wallpaper, flooring and unusual design features, taking it right back to basics. Within just 10 weeks, they’d overhauled the master bedroom, spare bedroom, Abbey’s studio, bathroom, hallway and living room.
Once the stylistic choices of the previous owners were safely banished to a skip, the pair started to re-envision the space. The heart of the home is the open plan living and dining area with grey painted floorboards, fresh mint green walls and a birchwood feature wall around the old chimney breast. A plush L-shaped sofa from Dwell embraces a round coffee table from HARTÔ to create the perfect little relaxation area, and on the wall, matte black shelving showcases Abbey’s favourite prints, magazines and ornaments.
Abbey’s eye for colour is a key element of her illustration and design practice, where she creates beautiful, happy sketches for the likes of ASOS, M&S and Joules. She dreams up her drawings from her small upstairs studio with soft camel walls, a collection of her own prints and a continuation of the grey painted floorboards.
“My favourite spot has to be sitting at my desk in the studio. The light streams in during the afternoons, which is a real treat as the rest of the rooms face away from the sun. Along with the natural light and warming tone of the room, it feels bright and happy – a quiet space where I can concentrate and create. The dog usually lays under my desk sleeping while I work.”
Across the hall from the studio is the master bedroom, where Abbey has opted for much darker shades to create a cosy nook that contrasts with the rest of the house. “Our bedroom is the darkest room in the house, painted a deep, rich green. We covered the back wall with sheets of birchwood – an idea I came across a while ago in an interiors magazine. This opens up the room a little and sits really nicely as a backdrop for the light wood bed and black fittings.”
Despite her home’s history of clashing décor, and Abbey’s own inclination to paint in bold colours, there is a synergy that draws everything together into a collective, consistent whole. Plywood appears on walls, desks and cupboards; shelves house candlesticks, vases and prints; matte black covers light fittings, handles and plumbing, and lush green leaves pop out from fireplaces and dressing tables. “I like that Scandi feeling of raw, open spaces and natural materials. But the real joy is in how you put it all together, making it your own with colour and unique personal touches.”
This is an edited version of this feature which first appeared in Volume 9 of our print magazine. While print copies are sold out, you can still purchase this edition in digital format for more interior inspiration and stories from small business owners.