Interior designer Ann Marie Cousins felt ‘fearless’ when she set about renovating and decorating her family home in Ilkley, Yorkshire, northern England. ‘I am used to working with clients who have their own ideas and tastes, so it was liberating to have carte blanche to do what I liked,’ says Ann Marie. ‘I love to mix and match styles and budgets. I liken it to wearing a designer handbag with TK Maxx shoes – splash out on something timeless and team it with a fabulous bargain to create the overall effect.’
Ann Marie’s Victorian home may have its original Tudor-style exterior, a style that resurged in popularity in the 1800s, but the interior showcases a combination of antiques and bright, modern colours, quirky accessories and inspirational decor. ‘You have to be imaginative and pull things together, but in doing so, give your home character and soul,’ she explains.
Ann Marie and David bought the six-bedroom, semi-detached house for its period features and location – a compromise between David’s love of the countryside and Ann Marie’s (self-confessed) passion for urban living – in 2011.
‘I lived in London for a long time and had never worn a pair of wellies, but we had always wanted a period house with a garden,’ she recalls. ‘It’s in a great location but when we bought it the decor was very traditional – mostly cream, peach and green. It had been well cared for but needed updating to suit our modern family lifestyle.’
At first, they applied for planning permission to extend the house, but then realised that they could make dramatic changes with the interiors that would be more effective and cost-efficient.
So instead of building outwards, they raised the height of the kitchen floor by 30cms to make it level with the playroom and hallway, used the extra height this created in the cellar below to create a large basement utility and home gym, and took out a wall to create an open-plan kitchen-dining area.
They turned one bedroom and a Jack-and-Jill bathroom into an ensuite and dressing room for the master bedroom. They also turned the attic space into an ensuite guest bedroom, upgraded some of the windows, laid parquet floors, updated the lighting and fitted a new kitchen and bathrooms.
While all this was happening Ann Marie was pregnant with their youngest child, Cara, and had two other children to consider. ‘It took 10 months to complete the work before I could start on the decor and furnishings,’ she adds, ‘working around the demands of two very young children.’
But by the time the renovations were complete Ann Marie knew exactly how she wanted each room to look.
‘I wanted the house to be a warm, vibrant, relaxing family home,’ she says. ‘We have kept all the original features and respect the period of the house, but we have brought it up-to-date. The most difficult challenge was finding a good balance between old and new. It also needed strong colours to make it warm. I think the great thing about colour is that paint is relatively cheap and if you get it wrong, it’s easy to change it. It means you can afford to experiment – and that’s exactly what I did.’ If Ann Marie wasn’t sure about a colour, she painted the inside of a shoe box and added brown paper to reflect the floor, then carried it around the room to see what effect the light had on it.
One of her favourite rooms is the sitting room. ‘I love this room because it’s so light and cheerful. When I want a few moments to myself I come in here, sit by the window and feel completely chilled,’ she says.
Now, Ann Marie feels their home has just the right balance of family heirlooms, treasured personal mementoes and modern furniture to respect its history and live in the present.
‘A big house needs to be full of character and children, and I think this house was ready for us to come along,’ she adds, admiring the fabulous views towards the Yorkshire Dales.
The owner Interior designer Ann Marie Cousins lives with her husband David, an accountant, and their three children, Isla, 8, Shay, 5, and Cara, 3, in this Victorian home in Yorkshire, England.
The home The semi-detached house in Ilkley, built in 1897, was purchased by the family in 2011. It features a converted kitchen-dining area, drawing room, sitting room, playroom, six bedrooms – three with ensuite bathrooms – and a basement utility area and home gym. The house is well-located with lovely views over the Yorkshire Dales.
Get the look
Clockwise from top left Chandelier from Flamant, Dh390; Spiral cushion by Clarissa Hulse at Amara, Dh300; Carine lamp from Blanc D’Ivoire, Dh696; Vase from Zara Home, Dh209; Tray table from Lifestyle, Dh319; Galaxy sofa from Natuzzi Italia, Dh19,750.