Louise McCabe, the founder of design consultancy and vintage shop Studio Nelly, is unarguably a visionary. Her home – a colourful, glamorous and fearless space which doesn’t take itself too seriously – is a natural extension of the vision behind her brand.
Studio Nelly offers a curation of interior ideas, whether through consultancy, wholesale prints of her sought-after ‘I love you. In French’ print or vintage portraits sourced from the 1930s to the 1980s. Her business prides itself on solving design conundrums by combining unconventional nuances to create an infinitely liveable yet bold interior style.
Louise’s trademark vision for irreverence is nowhere more at home than her own four bed, semi-detached, 140-year-old Victorian house in a conservation area of south Liverpool, where she lives with her husband Aaron, their children, Alfie and Minnie, and Riley, their cockapoo.
“I’ve driven past these homes longingly for years and always loved them,” says Louise. “So, we knew when we were relocating back to our home of Liverpool from London, our search area was going to be pretty narrow as this is where we wanted to be. I think we both knew as soon as we walked up the path this would be our home. We just got ‘the feeling’.”
The building had original features, such as stained glass, large hallways and high ceilings. Whatever was removed over the years prior, the couple did their best to replace it, setting out to make significant structural changes that took eight years to complete.
“The house has changed dramatically,” says Louise. “It bears no resemblance to the place we first moved into, and we’ve gut renovated the whole ground floor. We’ve taken down most of the internal walls and replaced some with Crittal-style steel doors. We’ve repositioned the kitchen bringing it out of the back of the property into the centre of the home, as the old layout didn’t work for us. I wanted the kitchen to feel less like a kitchen and more like a room with an oven. The windows were rotten and single-glazed, and we had to return them to timber sash to abide by the conservation area regulations.”
Louise’s obsession with European apartment design, where rooms flow with ease from one to the other, has been mirrored in how a room’s theme has expanded fluidly across the entire floor. Preserving the integrity of the building’s heritage, she resisted opening the ground floor completely. The key to achieving the ‘apartment vibe’ Louise wanted was unifying the entire downstairs through tumbled oak parquet.
Statement lighting is central to their home’s aesthetic, and playing with scale brings a dynamic element to the play of light and shade. “I have lots of very large lighting in smaller areas and lots of teeny-tiny lighting in larger areas. I always love hanging lighting lower than you should, to the point where you could almost bang your head but don’t. The effect is magical, though my family may disagree.”
They have Art Deco marbleised globe lights in the kitchen, rescued from an old hotel in Llandudno, alongside American mid-century style light fittings. “It’s a bit of a running joke in our house that you have to start switching everything off about an hour before you go to bed, but I think great lighting in various shapes and sizes is essential for any space.”
Changing her shopping tactic since renovating, Louise sourced interior design which was one-of-a-kind or unusual. As is the way with vintage, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and Louise exercised patience in finding forever pieces. Flea markets in Paris, online vintage retailers and charity shops remain her go-to’s for sourcing vintage gems. But eBay is her favourite for lighting. “I find so much great lighting on eBay,” she says. “Over-sized vintage BHS, Laura Ashley, and M&S lamp bases are what to look out for, and I’ll pair with shades from Pooky if it’s the pattern I’m after or H&M for low-cost wicker shades.”
Spying her next design adventure, Louise remains open to a future relocation. “We’re ‘one and done’ reno-wise, but I’m always up for a change of wall colour. I guess there are always more big things we could do to the top floor, but as much as we have loved and still love living here, we don’t see ourselves staying here forever. Our only priority for this home is to enjoy living in it.”