Interiors: Happy accident proved the masterplan for Marie and John Owen
The couple bought their five-bedroom bungalow in Eskbank ten years ago, attracted by the layout and its potential, as Marie recalls: “The house had been well looked after and was very clean, but dated. It also had a lovely feel and an almost circular layout, which we really liked and we knew we could do a lot with it.”
When John and Marie moved in with their baby, Grace, they wasted no time in starting their renovation plans. “Over a period of two years we did the serious work such as replacing the windows, taking out the back boiler, installing new central heating and upgrading the bathroom, but we lived with the threadbare carpets and the woodchip décor which, looking back, was pretty horrendous. We then found out I was expecting twins so we put the plans for the loft conversion on hold and put in a new kitchen and added a conservatory. When the twins (Ralph and Lily) were two we did the loft conversion, which gave us another two bedrooms, a bathroom and an office. Apart from when the builders were knocking through the staircase, we lived in the house through all the work. When I look back and remember being heavily pregnant with no kitchen, and foundations for a conservatory in the back garden I do sometimes wonder how we did it.”
Today, according to Marie, the only things that are still original in the house are a few internal doors. The avocado bathroom suite is long gone. What this house has now is a fabulous, bold interior. “The décor is probably a reflection of my entire life – busy and a lot going on,” says Marie. “If I see something I like I buy it and then make it work. For instance, I went to TK Maxx to buy a photo frame. I saw the Union Jack chest of drawers and really liked it. I didn’t have a place for it but I bought it anyway. For larger pieces of furniture or wallpaper I probably take a little more time before I spend, but I still just go for what I like. I don’t really have colour schemes or an end result in mind, for me the rooms just grow.”
The colour scheme is bold, but it’s also flexible. A white backdrop dominates many of the rooms with just one feature wall adding interest, while it is the accessories that do all the talking.
“I do like things that clash – matching takes time which I don’t have a lot of. I really enjoy being in people’s houses who have a mix of things and everything has history – that’s what this house is like. It’s a mixture of pieces from different periods of our lives.”
The couple aren’t afraid of their critics either. “The leopard-print chest of drawers provoked great hilarity in my office, being named the most hideous piece of furniture ever seen,” Marie says. And even the woodburning stove prompts mixed results, such as ‘why didn’t you put in something more modern?’ But John had one in a previous house and we really liked it and we like the effect of having it on so we just looked for one in a design we liked.
John is a fashion photographer and Marie runs Location Scotland, sourcing locations for fashion and advertising photo shoots. “I do think we take inspiration from our work and it perhaps makes us a bit more risqué in our choices. We see a lot of styles and designs that push the boundaries and that perhaps shouldn’t work but do, and that gives us the impetus to have a go ourselves.”
The dining room is a perfect example. “I’ve always wanted a dark dining room and if didn’t work I thought, I can change it. I’m not scared to try things – you can always redecorate. Although, I really wasn’t looking for a black glass table and pink chairs as I already had dining furniture, but when I saw them in Martin & Frost they looked really good together so it was another instance of making it work.”
The kitchen is in complete contrast to the dramatic dining room with a gentle, country design in calming cream with pretty printed Laura Ashley wallpaper. I saw the kitchen in Ikea and instantly liked it. The fashion was for white, high gloss but that just wasn’t me.”
This house certainly reflects the personalities within it but now the Owens are ready to take on another project, as Marie explains: “There’s not much else we can do in the house and because of the company I run and the shoots we handle, we’ve always had a dream that we could find a house that we could use as a home and as a location for photo shoots. So, we’re taking the plunge and seeing what’s out there. I imagine we’ll find something by accident, just like most of my purchases!”
• This house will be coming on the market soon. Offers over £410,000. For further details contact Simpson and Marwick (0131-525 8600)
Location Scotland (www.locationscotland.com)