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All change with Sally Chater

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Sallie Chater’s home is constantly evolving. According to the interior designer, the beautiful five-bedroom Victorian house she shares with her husband Duncan, and their two children, Coco, 12, and Bay, ten, will never be finished.

“My friends laugh because every time they come here, they try to spot the thing that has changed since their last visit - not a week goes by that something new hasn’t arrived!” Sallie reveals when we speak over the phone.

“It’s one of the reasons I like to invest in only a few select things, as most things I will want to change fairly regularly. Plus, we have children and dogs, and I like everyone to feel relaxed at our home. It’s important that it’s our home as well as looking good.”

Sallie, the founder and director of affordable interior design studio Interiorsat58, and Duncan, who works in publishing, bought the three-storey, semi-detached property in a picturesque part of Bedford 11 years ago.

They decided to move out of London - where Sallie had worked on prestigious titles such as Vogue, Tatler, Harper’s Bazaar and House & Garden - when their second child was born to have more space, so they looked further afield.

They found a seven-bedroom town house they loved, but Sallie confesses the interior of the property, for which they paid £485,000, looked much different to the luxurious, bright, stylish decor the home, which is now worth £1million, boasts today.

“It was ghastly,” Sallie admits. “The house needed doing up completely, but this suited me as I would always want to put my own stamp on any house.

“We stuck to a budget of about £30,000, and I did a lot of upcycling. I’m a big fan of eBay and the likes of HomeSense, getting a bargain and adapting it to make it look how I want.

“We started by stripping off all the wood chip and horrible carpets. The colours were very dark so we bleached the wood floors and painted light walls with Craig and Rose Hemp Beige.

“I also painted the picture rails and coving and skirting in a pale green gold tone to add definition, which 11 years ago people thought I was mad. Now everyone loves gold!

“We knocked down two bedrooms on the first floor to create a larger bedroom for my son, so they could have equally sized bedrooms so no arguments!"

Working for high-end publications, Sallie had developed an interest in creating luxurious and elegant interiors.

After moving to Bedford, she decided to leave her often 12-hour days in the capital, and launched her affordable interior design company as a sideline but it quickly became a full-time job with flexible hours so she could spend more time with her children. Ten years later, Sallie hasn’t looked back.

“I have been extremely lucky as I was fully booked from the moment I started,” she says. “My clients range from stately homes to city centre flats but all my work has a luxury feel.

“I specialise in a high-end look but this can be across many price points, some clients like to invest in very high-end pieces, and others like to achieve this look on a more modest budget, either way I help clients achieve the luxury look they want.”

In terms of investment pieces for her own home, Sallie has chosen ones that she loves, and ones that she knew would also stand the test of time - but she also admits she’s a fan of spotting bits and pieces on the high street.

“We invested in beautiful sofas from Heals which we still love 11 years later, but everything else was bought very reasonably,” Sallie explains.

“However, as time has gone on I was able to invest in some higher-end pieces like the light over the dining table from the White Company that cost £750, a bespoke £1,000 rug from Rug Couture, an ottoman from Liang and Eimil, and artwork from a gorgeous company called Quintessa.

“I also have had bespoke furniture made by joinery company Sevensides that are both beautifully detailed with fretwork mirror panels, and perfect for storing my work samples as I designed the pieces myself.

“However, we also have some great Ikea side tables in the living room that are little trolleys but I upscaled them and put beautiful mirrored trays on top of both shelves on each trolley and I love them like that!”

So how did Sallie transform her home from a dark property, into the airy, light haven we see today? “Starting at the front of the house, I removed the stained-glass windows from the doorway, and replaced them with etched glass, to brighten up the area,” Sallie explains.

She also painted the stairs white, with brown treads in a “genius” move that has stood the test of time. A lover of gold, Sallie used a gold-green paint called Striking by Crown on the railings, skirting boards - and even on the ceiling coving.

“It really draws your eye to the ceiling and makes a feature of the rooms,” Sallie says. “I use the technique in clients’ houses too. Pick a lovely pale colour for the hallway, but you don’t want it to bland, so we do the woodwork in a contrasting colour.”

On the ground floor is the children's snug, playroom area, with a corner sofa and a desk for homework. Then the next room is Sallie’s office with a stunning fireplace that’s been made into a feature thanks to her joiner inserting fretwork mirror panelling - although she confesses it “looks nothing like an office, it’s a beautiful room that happens to have a desk in it!”.

Through that room is the kitchen area, with two lovely upholstered benches, perfect for socialising.

“I kept the height of the kitchen units low on purpose to make the room feel wider,” Sallie explains. “And we have new doors that open up, leading to a formal-looking, well-manicured garden, with a small, heated above-ground, swimming pool, meaning the house flows nicely.”

Upstairs are the children’s rooms, which Sallie assures me are always tidy, and a family bathroom, with a striking silver bathtub.

Sallie says: “We don’t want it to be like a forced home, but we do encourage the kids to put their things away. My tip is to have less attractive things on the entry walls, so you don’t see them. Also, my daughter’s room has a lovely unit so all her stuff, like multicoloured things, goes in there so I don’t have to see it.

“In my son’s room, the bed was £400 from a company called Noah & Nanny. It was a bargain and he’s got endless use out of it, with space under it to play and spread out all his stuff.”

Then upstairs is the main bedroom, featuring a beautiful white four-poster bed.

“I felt the size of the room could handle it,” Sallie explains. “The sideboard on the right-hand side is vintage, from the Fifties, and I fell in love with it. We then paired it with two mirrored chest of drawers that have lovely leather trim on the side of them. It’s a little more masculine in here, but it complements the white bed and rug beautifully.

“There’s also a nude picture in there too I bought from an auction in Bedford for £7 and we really love it.”

So what’s next for her ever-changing home? Sallie says her next project is a small swimming pool sunk into the ground in the garden. And a kitchen extension is on her list for next year. And she’d also like a bathroom on the top floor.

“The project will never be finished,” Sallie laughs at the end of our call. “All the rooms in my house are constantly evolving - and that’s the way I like to do things!”

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