From dull to dreamy - inside a Shrewsbury townhouse

PUBLISHED: 00:16 18 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:19 20 February 2013

From dull to dreamy - inside a Shrewsbury townhouse

From dull to dreamy - inside a Shrewsbury townhouse

Shrewsbury artist and interior designer Cleo Fallows has slowly turned a townhouse into a dream home, liberally stamped with her personality and style. Sharon Chilcott reports

For the first Christmas in five years, Cleo Fallows will be able to truly relax at home, knowing that her work is done. In those months and years she has transformed a two bedroomed townhouse in Shrewsbury that she didnt really care for into a dream home, packed to bursting with her signature style.

Cleo took on the townhouse as a bit of a project, choosing it because it was affordable and in the right location for her work and not because she felt a particular affinity with it.

She says: There was a lot that needed doing. It needed a new roof, a new ceiling in the bedroom, central heating and a lot of rewiring. It seemed like a big project for a long time. For the first couple of years, it was all structural work, which I completed as and when I could afford it. I was living here with the building going on around me, scurrying from one room to another like a hamster! It took ages to make it feel homely and thats only really happened this last year, now the cosmetic touches have been completed.

Surrounded by her beautifully decorated furniture, favourite finds from auctions, pretty inherited china and items donated by friends, she is truly in a world of her own making.

I never stop being creative, its an intrinsic part of my life and work, says the part-time interior designer who also runs her own business hand-painting and designing furniture for commissions in a range of innovative styles.

And whilst her two-bedroom home in Shrewsbury is now decorated pretty much as she likes it, it will never stop being a bit of a laboratory where she tries out different ideas.

I like trying out different colours and finishes and living with them for a while, she says. For example, at the moment Im experimenting with Dutch metal leaf and tourmaline on some of the tiles in the kitchen to see if I like the effect. If thinned down and lightly applied, the tourmaline reacts with the leaf producing some really interesting effects.

After the expense of renovating the property, decorating and furnishing it was necessarily done on a budget. Rather than replace the kitchen, she painted the units cream, decorated the walls with Fired Earth paint in a lovely Oak Fern colour and primed and painted the existing wall tiles in muted Fired Earth colours with the recent experimental addition of the Dutch metal leaf on the odd tile. Immediately the dingy and oppressive kitchen, with its old-fashioned wooden units and dark green and terracotta tiles, was transformed into a much prettier, lighter and airier space.

Most things in this house started out life looking a lot different to how they do now, said Cleo, explaining how she gave the living room a similar facelift, by introducing a new fireplace. The artistically decorated fire surround started out as a dark wood one, which a friend donated and chopped down to fit the space. Cleo then set to work painting it and decorating it with Fired Earth tiles, incorporating her own ingenious touches by adding pretty brooches in amongst the tiles. The resulting effect is stylish and eye-catching, and, decorated with a swag for Christmas, it forms the perfect centrepiece to her living room, where other festive touches include a papier mch mask of her daughters face, given a seasonal make-over.

Even though Cleo says she adores colour, she deliberately kept to a limited colour palette in this room, designed for relaxing. Nevertheless, her creative streak is in evidence everywhere even the unusual Chameleon cushions on the sofa are her own design and she has designed a range of mugs and greeting cards on a similar theme.

Cleo has been hand-painting furniture for the past 10 years and has incorporated some of her pieces in this room, including a pretty bureau with shelves. Theres never enough space in the drawers of a bureau so I put an old bookcase on top of a bureau and painted it and its made it into a more practical but very pretty piece of furniture, she says.

Theres also a painted dresser, where Cleo displays a lovely collection of old china to which she is particularly attached I inherited it and over the years I have added to it with pieces bought at charity shops, she says. A 50s cocktail cabinet, decorated in a black and white architecturally-inspired design has also found a home in the living room. It may or may not have found its permanent place Cleo has a habit of moving furniture around and also adopts pieces for a while before moving them on. Im always shuffling things around or Ill move things on and put something else in their place. Things are always changing and evolving, and I like putting things together that you wouldnt necessarily expect to go together, she says.

The black and white architectural design is one of her favourites possibly inspired by her architectural background. She studied architectural interior design at university, learning about spatial planning and design layouts.

Cleo has used this favoured design on a low level 60s sideboard in her office, where it sits alongside what she considers to be the pice de rsistance of all her finds her office chair. Probably dating from the 1960s, Cleo loves it because of the method by which it was produced, using the cold moulding process. This technique, pioneered a few decades earlier, was the same process that went into making World War II planes. Its and ingenious and functional break through, a design classic, says Cleo, who picked it up in a junk shop.

Every room in the house has a distinctive theme. Her office provides what she calls a clean work space but upstairs she has deliberately introduced a more feminine feel. Her bedroom has a romantic, French vintage appeal, with pretty painted furniture including hymn chairs she picked up very cheaply at an auction in Devon and transported back on top of her car. In this room she also displays a favourite outfit on a mannequin.

I love to surround myself with really good finds and things that people have given me which really mean something to me, said Cleo. This was my first project on my own and I had to take a really deep breath when I moved here, but now I have my things around me, it feels like home and I have grown to love it.

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