Kelly and Jonathan’s dining room at their home in West Yorkshire really comes into its own at Christmas when the couple and their children gather around the table, which is decorated with swathes of greenery brought in from the garden. ‘We tried going out for a meal once,’ says Kelly, ‘but it wasn’t for us. We like to stay at home.’
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Home is a handsome Grade II-listed country house, with roaring fires, squishy sofas and plenty of room to spread out. The family previously lived in a converted barn, which they outgrew. ‘The barn was very contemporary in style. I wanted something with more history and character; something that felt solid,’ says Kelly.
This house offered all of that and more. An architectural hybrid – it’s part Georgian, part Victorian – it had sufficient bedrooms and various outbuildings. The six-acre garden provided plenty of space to keep livestock, chickens and horses. ‘With all the children and animals, there is a lot to look after,’ says Kelly.
After they had their fourth child, Tara, life became even more chaotic for the couple. To make the house work, Kelly and Jonathan dismantled stud walls to create larger bedrooms – ‘Upstairs was like a rabbit warren’ – reducing the number to five. They removed ceilings and took up and replaced flooring in every room. ‘The amount of structural work we did was limited, though, because the building is listed,’ says Kelly.
When it came to interior design, Kelly was determined that the decoration and furniture should reflect their way of life. ‘With four children and three dogs rumbling about, the house is very much lived-in,’ she says.
She heard about I Gigi, a homeware store in Brighton (now online), owned by Zoe Ellison and Alex Ingram, who are also the authors of the interior design book A Life Less Ordinary. ‘The traditional farmhouse look was not for me,’ says Kelly. ‘The ideas in the book chimed with what I was looking for and gave me a starting point.’
Clutching moodboards and magazine cuttings, Kelly travelled to the Brighton shop and met Zoe and Alex. They hit it off immediately, and after the pair visited the Yorkshire house to chat things through with Kelly, a partnership was forged.
To achieve the calm look she craved, Kelly painted everything – ceilings, walls, skirting boards – in various shades of grey. Furniture, much of it sourced by Zoe, was customised.
‘When we were ordering the kitchen and looking for other things, I said I didn’t want anything that looked too polished or finished,’ says Kelly. ‘I prefer things to look raw and natural. The numerous spills, stains and restored breakages only add to the pieces’ stories.’
Zoe and Alex also worked with Kelly to make bespoke blinds, curtains, seat coverings, the supremely comfortable sofas, and even ruffled fabric sleeves for lighting cables. ‘I’m at home with four children and as much as I would love to go out and source everything myself, I can’t,’ says Kelly. ‘Zoe has been invaluable.’
The house definitely suits the family’s needs, and never more so than at this time of year when it is filled with foraged foliage from the garden, and a joyful scramble of children and dogs.