‘Have fun with your spaces, layering up eras’ – a 1930s semi that mixes old and new

<span>In Alison Sharpe’s house living room, a velvet Bo Concept sofa is paired with a mid-century recliner and Yepa coffee table by Made. <em>All photographs by Claire Bingham</em></span><span>Photograph: Claire Bingham/The Guardian</span>
In Alison Sharpe’s house living room, a velvet Bo Concept sofa is paired with a mid-century recliner and Yepa coffee table by Made. All photographs by Claire BinghamPhotograph: Claire Bingham/The Guardian

A lison Sharpe has long surrounded herself with stylish, colourful people from whom she takes inspiration. She was a punk on the Manchester fashion scene before becoming a textile designer, and her love of interiors has been a constant.

The 1930s semi in Macclesfield, Cheshire, that she shares with her husband is filled with personal treasures, from a vintage bergère armchair upholstered in a Vivienne Westwood fabric to a painting by friend and artist Ben Mayman that brings the blue-painted walls of the dining room to life.

It was the garden and the potential to build that attracted the couple, who have lived here for 31 years (originally with their two sons, who have flown the nest). They added a double-storey extension to house a kitchen-diner and a 40 sq metre en suite master bedroom. Twenty years ago, bi-fold doors and walk-in showers weren’t as commonplace as they are today. For Sharpe, 61, it was a triumph of using commercial products to create a forward-looking family home. Today, she runs online store Cup + Cloth from her home, selling crafted and collected pieces.

The open-plan dining space, painted a striking dark blue (Blue Ember by Valspar) with a mustard yellow radiator, centres on an early 20th-century kilim rug, a vintage farmhouse table and white Verner Panton chairs, alongside mid-century elements such as a G Plan sideboard and contemporary ceramics.

“We have a combination of family heirlooms, items bought at auction and charity shop finds among modern pieces,” says Sharpe of her eclectic taste. “I believe you should have fun with your spaces, layering up interesting objects and eras. I’m forever moving things around for an immediate change-up.” Longevity is at the heart of all her design choices though – she invests in pieces that will stand the test of time.

In the white-walled living room – with its original 1930s fireplace – a scattering of ceramics, a 1980s geometric rug from Habitat and ikat-print cushions add energy and colour to the space. Originally it was two reception rooms, but they opened the space up to maximise on dual-aspect light once the boys were older and toys didn’t need hiding away.

In the centre of this room is a concrete Yepa coffee table from Made.com and the canvas above the sofa is by Sharpe herself, from her art school days.

“We chose to keep the walls mostly white. As the furniture is a mix of all eras and styles, we find the white calms things down,” she says. And the floorboards are painted black or white throughout the house.

The architecture of the bedroom combines art deco-inspired glass bricks and the smart granite-tiled en suite. However, the star of the show is the Key Shag rug, a hand-loomed lizhnyk – a blanket-type rug made using naturally dyed wool from sheep raised in the Carpathian high mountain pastures of Ukraine. “I try to source small-batch goods from makers who care about what they create. It matters more when you know the backstory of the person who made it,” Sharpe says.

She admits to a soft spot for chairs: “Totally my weakness. I have four in the shed as I can’t fit them inside.” There are plenty of textiles too. “It’s a collector’s habit.”