Instagram is brimming with stunning real-life homes that provide plenty of interiors inspiration. One of the most beautiful that I’ve come across to date belongs to Beth Harrison (@_beth1980_), who shares my love of Scandinavian style and muted colours – in fact, her Victorian terrace features some of my all-time favourite pieces, including Design Letters & Friends mugs, Muuto’s ‘The Dots’, Eos feather lightshades and HAY cushions. So, when I discovered that she happens to live just a few streets away from me in Bristol, I couldn’t resist popping round to take a look and indulge in some design-related chat…
Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
“I’m from Bristol and I live near the city’s famous Gloucester Road with my husband and two daughters. I’ve always been interested in interior design – as a young girl I remember saving up my pocket money to spend in Habitat (probably a bit odd in hindsight!). I’m largely inspired by my artist mum, who created a beautiful home for us to grow up in. My career is in social care which I love, so interior styling is very much a hobby rather than a profession.”
How long have you lived in your house?
“We bought the house almost six years ago when our first daughter was three. We were looking for more space and a bigger garden, and we also wanted to return to our north Bristol roots.”
What first attracted you to the house?
“We had looked at a number of properties in the area, and I hadn’t expected to like this house very much before visiting it. It had been rented out to tenants and the photos I’d seen weren’t exactly attractive, showing a dated kitchen and a frankly hideous bathroom! But when I saw it in person there were so many things I instantly loved – the original stained-glass porch door, the Victorian fireplace in the lounge, the steps down to the kitchen, the proportions of the rooms. As we’d always planned to do a full renovation, we could overlook the aesthetics and focus on the building itself. We were so happy when we finally exchanged contracts and took ownership!”
What work have you carried out?
“Pretty much everything! A loft conversion, a new bathroom, relocation of the boiler, a new kitchen extension with bi-fold doors, re-plastering everywhere, exposing and restoring the floorboards in several rooms, re-installing original Victorian fireplaces in two bedrooms… We’re now gradually replacing all the radiators with industrial-style column ones, and I’m determined to rid the house of all carpet – just the stairs and landings to go now! We have also redesigned the garden but there’s still work to be done out there. It’s never-ending, but I do enjoy it.”
How would you describe your interior style?
“I love Scandinavian design: simple and minimalist with a very neutral colour palette. However I also want to preserve the original Victorian features in our home, so I try to strike a balance between the two styles. The house is painted almost entirely in grey (Farrow and Ball’s Cornforth White in most rooms) and I’m mostly drawn to products that complement the black / white / grey / wood theme. Occasionally I use pink to add warmth, and I have a growing collection of baskets and succulents, which add colour and texture. I hope our home is a calm and relaxing place to be (at least after the girls have gone to bed!).”
Where do you find inspiration for your home?
“My mum’s house! I should probably photograph it some time. Pinterest is also brilliant, and Instagram has some lovely accounts – my favourites for interior inspiration are @countyroadliving, @thesefourwallsblog, @onlydecolove, @thefranklife_, @apieceofcake82 and @dhowelldesigns.
“I try to photograph things that grab my interest when I’m out and about: lighting in cafés, crockery in restaurants, colour schemes in shops, bedding in holiday homes… Our trip to Copenhagen last year was also an amazing opportunity to gather ideas for decorating our own home. I took an empty suitcase with me, and it came back bursting at the seams!”
What’s your favourite room or corner in the house and why?
“That’s a tricky one as it changes so often. At the moment it’s probably my bedroom, specifically my bed – and not only because I love my sleep! We’re fortunate in that we aren’t overlooked, so in the morning I can sit in bed to read, looking out over an avenue of gardens and trees. This happens rarely as we have two young early-risers in the house, which is perhaps why I appreciate it so much.”
And your favourite piece of furniture?
“The kitchen table is very special. I saved up for about two years to buy it after seeing it in a window display. Having a kitchen which could accommodate the table was a strict criteria when we were house-hunting and I just love it, though it’s probably a bit too big for us! Another favourite item is the wedding favour my brother gave us. It’s a collection of framed vintage letter-press blocks spelling out our four names.”
Where do you like to source things for your home – any favourite shops or websites?
“Bristol has some great independent shops including my new favourite, Mon Pote in Southville. We’re so lucky to have the UK flagship store for HAY just up the road in Bath, and Papersmiths in Bristol’s Clifton Village also has a small collection of their products. I go to Brighton every summer and always take a visit to Workshop Living and Abode.
“When shopping online I try to support small UK businesses as much as possible. The Future Kept, Rose & Grey, This Modern Life, Violet and Percy, Studio NL and One Must Dash are some of my favourites.”
Do you have any design or renovation tips that you’re happy to share?
“Don’t rush into any major renovations or big purchases. When we initially moved here, I was adamant that I wanted to knock down the wall between the two reception rooms, but having lived here and used the space, I’m so glad we didn’t. Having a separate playroom where the chaos is contained works well for us.
“Also, find a style you love. It sounds obvious, but in the past I’ve dabbled with colour (in our first house we had a green kitchen and a purple bathroom!). It was good to experiment, but ultimately I love grey and I hate clutter, so that’s what I’ve learnt to stick with.
“Finally, I think it’s worth saving up and investing in the things you really want in your home. Over the years I’ve treated myself to some beautiful items that I love and enjoy every day. Having said that, although I dream of filling the house with George Nelson lighting, I have to be realistic about what I can afford – and IKEA is only down the road!”
Finally, do you have any future plans for the house?
“Always! I’d love to tile the hallway with Moroccan-style tiles, and I have plans to create a second lounge in the playroom one day, though at the moment it’s handy to have a space where the girls can let rip with the glitter and paint! We considered doing an extension on the side return, but have now ruled this out. Instead we’d like to use this outdoor space to create a quiet area of the garden with ferns and festoon lighting. Finally, the carpet on the stairs… it’s got to go!”
To see more inspiration from Beth’s beautiful home, do take a look at her Instagram feed. And if you want to recreate the look yourself, you’ll find a curated selection of products from my shop below, including some of the items on display in the photos above…
All photography above by Abi Dare