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Home Tour: Sandra Baker’s Maximalist Victorian Home with a Modern Twist

Sandra Baker – of the to-die-for interior inspiration Instagram account @the_idle_hands – shares this wonderful historical Yorkshire home with her husband and two daughters. Running with its Victorian origins, the interiors are a daring embrace of all things maximalist. From patterned floral wallpaper to stripy runners, tasselled lamps and green velvet sofas, Sandra’s home is a triumph of eclectic detail. On paper it sounds like a lot is going on, but Sandra’s skilled eye has woven these references together to create a wonderful harmony of print and pattern. We also love the use of a darker palette for the walls, which in turn make brighter colour references pop! Enjoy this conversation with Sandra around her home and the design choices behind it.

Hi Sandra, how long have you lived in your home?

We moved in in November 2012, so just over 6 years.

Can you describe it in 3 words?

Bold, patterned, whimsical.

What was the first thing you noticed about the space?

The scale of it. The rooms were all so much bigger than in our previous house (which is why we were moving).  It felt really grown up, and I still can’t believe it’s mine!

What was the biggest challenge you faced when decorating?

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the sort of house where you can apply a quick coat of paint and transform it.  Every room we’ve decorated has had to be stripped right back and new electrics and plumbing installed, then the walls made good and new flooring fitted.  This makes it costly, which in turn means that it’s taken a long time to get to where we are now. And there’s still a lot to do!

What is the best design advice you’ve received?

Don’t dive straight in and decorate as soon as you move in.  Live in the house for a while and see what works and what doesn’t.  You have a much better chance of getting it right.

What aspect of your home do you love the most?

The space.  We have room to come together as a family, but enough space to take a breather from one another!

Do you have a proud DIY moment?

I do! We had lived with the kitchen, as it was when we bought the house, for a couple of years, as we weren’t in a position to buy a new one.  One day I decided I couldn’t live with the yellow walls and cream units a moment longer, and spent 3 solid days painting it from floor to ceiling.  It may not be my dream kitchen, but it scrubbed up pretty well!

Favourite piece of furniture?

The wooden “monk’s bench” I inherited from my great auntie.  I remember it well in her hallway when I was little, and now it sits in mine, still lined with newspaper from 1974 (and provides great shoe storage!).

What is a dream piece you’d like to acquire?

I wouldn’t say no to a Houtique “Wink” lamp.

Was there a leading inspiration for your home?

If I ever feel in need of inspiration, I always find it in Jo Berryman’s work.  She’s wonderful.

How do you approach choosing furniture for a room?

Instinct! I’m not the greatest planner, I tend to fall in love with pieces, buy them and hope for the best. I can usually find a way to make it work (which isn’t to say I haven’t had to send back a few mistake items in my time!).

Biggest design error?

Being led by fear (it’s too bold, it’s too bright, what about when we come to sell?). I strongly believe that your heart should soar when you come through your own front door, whatever your style.



Biggest indulgence?

Easily the amount of House of Hackney “Artemis” wallpaper I used across three floors of hallway.  I will love it forever, though.

You have friends visiting for the weekend! Where do you take them?

Saltaire, for a wander round Salts Mill, a huge converted mill housing a great independent bookshop, an antiques store, art store, interiors store, galleries (loads of David Hockney) and fabulous eateries.  It’s my happy place. Saltaire village also has great independent shops to rummage in.

What do you love most about living in Yorkshire?

The proximity to beautiful countryside, whilst still being able to pop to decent shops! I didn’t grow up here, but I’m proud to call it home.

Whose home would you love to sneak peek into?

I’d love a sneaky peek into Pearl Lowe’s incredible home.  I’d probably try and claim squatter’s rights!

And finally, what’s the next home project?

The biggest one to date! Removing a huge chimney breast wall up two floors to make an open plan kitchen/dining space, and to reconfigure the main bathroom space upstairs. It will make a huge difference to the way we live.

To see more of Sandra’s fantastic home, follow her on Instagram @the_idle_hands.

Inspired by Sandra’s home? Click to find everything here.

The Seven Most Beautiful Antique Fireplaces on Vinterior

Fireplaces have become a celebrated feature in many homes. There is much scope for experimenting with different ways to use – or decorate! – a fireplace. Whilst nothing is better in the throes of winter than curling up in front of a warming fire, they also provide a scope for creativity throughout the rest of the year. Fill the hearth with candles for a contemporary look (or if you’re not too confident at building fires just yet). Alternatively fill them with houseplants or a vase of flowers for something more summery. Some are lucky to already have beautiful antique fireplaces still in place in their homes. Others of us are on a reclamation mission to re-install all those wonderful historical features we ripped out in the 1970s in the name of modernity! Many fire surrounds can be fitted with ease around existing hearths but even a brand new fireplace can be installed if you’re keen to use it as a centrepiece. Enjoy some of the most beautiful antique fire surrounds on Vinterior below and get inspired!

  1. Large Restored Antique Victorian Cast Iron And Tiled Fireplace Grate

2. Edwardian Wooden Fire Surround

3. Antique Tiled Art Nouveau Combination Fireplace


4. Antique Victorian Rouge Royal Marble Fireplace Surround


5. Victorian Statutory Marble Surround

6. Antique Hand Carved Pine Surround

7. Antique Victorian Tiled Fireplace Insert

If you have a fire surround but feel like giving it a new look, Vinterior also has a selection of beautiful antique tiles! View them all here.

Feeling inspired? Click here to browse through the full collection of antique fire surrounds and accessories.

Title image: House & Garden Magazine

Do we live in throwaway homes and can we avoid this? Amanda Jones has an ‘Exit Strategy’ and some great advice.

Amanda Jones is the human behind the popular Instagram account @small_sustainable_steps. Known for her honest and helpful posts across a wide host of topics, from living with MS to fighting a culture of excess and waste within her home, Amanda’s social following has gathered serious speed. In an age of microwave consumerism, and the subsequent throwaway culture which can arise from this, our curiosity was piqued by Amanda’s smart approach to curating her home and what finds a place in it. Her recent ‘Exit Strategy’ – by which we refer to the removal of anything deemed to be excess – resonated with many of Amanda’s followers. Enjoy this candid chat with her about all things interiors and creating a home which breathes.

How did you become interested in interiors?

I first became interested in interiors at the grand old age of 10. I was moving into my own bedroom for the first time, and my Mum gave me carte blanche on how I wanted my room decorating. It was the smallest bedroom in the house… I chose a dark brown wallpaper with small sprigs of peach flowers printed on it. Very 1970s. I could tell my Mum thought it would be too much, but I loved it. I went away for a week with my friend’s family, and when I got back my bedroom was done. I loved it, and I’ve been hooked on interior design ever since. The chest of drawers I had in my bedroom belonged to my grandparents. I still have it now in my living room. So I’m not only hooked on interiors, but also secondhand furniture. 

How would you describe your home?

My home is an eclectic mix of vintage and new pieces. Everything I have in my home has some meaning to me, my family, or some practical use. It is colourful and calm. Whilst I might have a minimal mindset now, and my home is very pared down to what it was, I don’t think I’m what you might typically see as minimalist. There’s no monochrome or clean lines. It’s all about being comfortable, about not being too precious. When people visit, I want them to feel relaxed and welcome.

What concerns you about buying patterns today, particularly for home design?

I am particularly concerned about the growing trend of fast interiors. We are being encouraged to replace furniture or decor on a regular basis. If we’re not careful, the interior industry will go the same way as fast fashion. This throwaway mindset means we aren’t really giving any value items we are bringing into our home. Mass produced furniture and decor can be bought so cheaply now, and therefore easy to dispose of. This is a worrying trend, not only for the planet, but also for our pockets.

Can you tell us about your recent ‘Exit Strategy’?

My Exit Strategy is something I devised when I started to declutter. These are some tips to make the process of letting ‘stuff’ go as easy as possible:

  1. Decide where that item will go. It could be to a charity, a local group, a friend, or sell something. This actually makes letting go easier, especially as you know that someone else will benefit.
  2. Have a holding place, out of the way, where donated items can be stored. That way you’re not tripping over bags and boxes. Ideally get items out of your house as soon as possible because then you are less tempted to pull things out again. When decluttering it is important to get a sense of the space you’re creating, this gives you motivation to do more. It’s your reward, so to speak. If you have bags and boxes piled up, it’s difficult to see your progress.
  3. Set a date to remove these items, and do it.
  4. Now I’m living a low waste lifestyle, I’ve developed another point. Before I bring anything new into my house, I ask where that item will go when I no longer require it. Is it something someone else will want, is it recyclable? I try and avoid items that will only end in landfill. This has made me more mindful of my purchases, and really question if I genuinely need something.

What is the first thing you approach when renovating a room?

When I’m designing a room, I first think about how I will use the room, and just as importantly, how I want the room to feel. I might then choose an item of furniture, or a decorative piece, and pull the look together from there. I never rush a room, I like it to evolve over time. I’m a firm believer that a piece of furniture will find its way to you, even if you have to wait a while. I always have a mental list of things I’m on the hunt for, and keep my eyes peeled when I’m out and about.

What do you most value in sourcing second-hand/vintage furniture?

When I’m buying secondhand furniture, I really value the history of the piece. I love finding things that are unique, things that have been made to a high standard. I always look for something a little bit different, and when I do eventually find what I’m looking for, it’s a bit like you’ve hit the jackpot.

Which aspect of your home do you enjoy the most and why?

The aspect I love most about my home is the view over the garden. It was originally why we bought this house. We are in a slightly elevated position, with views over our neighbourhood. Even though we are in a town, it feels more like the countryside. We recently updated our old conservatory, adding a large gable end window and solid roof, which means we can appreciate the view all year round now. It’s a really lovely, calm space to sit.

Do you have any renovation projects in the pipeline?

Updating our conservatory was the first phase of renovations, and we still have more to do. I have MS, and we are looking to ‘future proof’ our home, should my needs change. We will be changing the layout of our downstairs, so we can add a bathroom, without extending. This will mean moving our kitchen into the dining room/conservatory space. We want to keep the look of the new space as simple as possible, to feel light and airy. We are going to have to make a relatively small space, work very hard.

What are your top three tips to those who are thinking about sustainable consumerism for home design?

If I were to pass on three tips for sustainable home interiors it would be: 
 
  1. Think before you buy, is it something you really need? What will it bring to the quality of your life, is it something that you will have for many years, or is it just an impulse buy?
  2. Don’t bow to trends. Know what you love, and stick to that. I’ve had a similar look to my home for 30 years, I’m confident in the look and feel I want in my home.
  3. Buy secondhand if you can. It’s not always possible but the more we stop the demand for new, the healthier our planet will be.  

Do you feel inspired by Amanda’s approach to sustainable home design? Let us know in the comment section! If you would like to find unique and built to last vintage furniture, enjoy browsing the Vinterior collection here.  

Don’t forget to follow @small_sustainable_steps to hear more from Amanda about living a life with less waste and much more besides!