Rooms to skateboard in, pots of crayons and boxes full of toys. Just your average family home? Not with Hannah Gee’s dash of modern-meets- vintage style. Fun, functional and full of charm.
Hannah Gee, 38, who runs online vintage homeware shop Love Inc Ltd (loveincltd.co.uk), her husband Colin, 45, and their sons, Sam, eight; Joe, six; and Fred, four.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
A four-bedroom 1960s house that opens as a pop-up shop several times a year.
£519,000 in 2007.
Hannah and Colin had eyed up the house since living in a flat around the corner. ‘It was a modern white cube in a row of Victorian villas. It looked so intriguing,’ says Hannah. When it came on the market they instantly put in an offer.
Of the house, she says:
‘It was a random mix of 1960s and 1970s fads, from a brick-clad central hearth to a series of clunky additions – a garage, car port and conservatory. We removed the fireplace, knocked through several walls and rebuilt the garage and conservatory into flowing, family-friendly rooms. As it was within the existing footprint, planning was straightforward – a bonus in a conservation area.’
First thing Hannah did:
Put the garage on Freecycle. ‘Two guys pitched up with a truck and dismantled it, one breeze block at a time,’ says Hannah. ‘We rebuilt the space as a den: part party zone, part playroom.’
Favourite part of the house:
Her sons can skate, run and pedal through the open-plan rooms, but the ‘shop room’ still feels like Hannah’s haven. ‘I love my desk and shelving, where I’m constantly rearranging finds,’ she says. ‘It’s where I think up new ideas and photograph pieces.’
A vintage Italian Murano glass chandelier in the stairwell. ‘It cost £1,500 several years ago, but is worth more now. I love how it transforms the hallway into a dazzle of light. Proof that if you fall for something, you shouldn’t let it go.’
‘With big purchases like the Amtico flooring, we asked two retailers to beat each other’s quotes. There’s always room for manoeuvre.’
Hannah’s design tips
Buy what raises a smile – it’s what keeps your look individual. I loved the incongruity of my blue Chinese Foo dog statues, but no one else saw it. Then Abigail Ahern blogged about hers and I was so chuffed! At the moment I’m into Toby jugs – very ugly or very pretty, nothing so-so – filled with flower posies.
Group objects together for impact, whether it’s pots of kids’ crayons, jars of stickers or a whole wall of 1940s mirrors.
Invest in sectional shelving to display vintage finds – Ikea has a good selection. The boxes provide a frame for each object, organising what could otherwise look like a jumble of ‘stuff’.
Don’t scrimp on the finish of surfaces. Vintage works best against seamless, clean backdrops, which set off the textures of your finds. I’ve stuck to white or dark walls and smooth ceramic parquet tiles.
Hide away family clutter that will never look beautiful (tacky toys and DVDs) in Ikea boxes covered in favourite fabrics. I’ve used African cottons and vintage Sanderson prints.
Don’t underestimate your kids’ taste. My boys get the humour of kitsch objects or having circus lights next to ‘granny art’. It’s good to grow up understanding what makes good design and how to mix things with wit.