A Perfect Balance of Old and New in a Victorian Restoration Project

With a background in interior design and a number of previous developments under her belt, we sat down with Emma Harris to discuss Brighton’s art scene, blogging and the inspiration behind her renovation project.

Brighton-based Emma Harris lives in her most recent restoration project with her husband, five year old daughter, cat, and cockapoo. Having completed her third renovation, she'd been on the lookout for somewhere new but struggled to find a house that wasn’t overlooked. Luckily she managed to find the perfect project just three doors down!

Emma has a keen passion for art and Lewes based Jessica Zoob is a particular favourite. Her work hangs throughout the house.

Emma has a keen passion for art and Lewes based Jessica Zoob is a particular favourite. Her work hangs throughout the house.

They started by completely gutting the house, “it was in a right state”, Emma laughs, outlining a wholesale revamp including re-plumbing and re-wiring the house, installing new flooring, bathrooms and kitchen. A seasoned pro, this was Emma’s fourth house project, and no doubt her experience helped her to get the job done without too much drama. They did have to totally redesign the downstairs layout when they suddenly found themselves no longer a ‘permitted development’ thanks to a change in planning regulations! However, on reflection, she says the new design has actually worked out really well.

Emma says that her husband has been one of her main inspirations in doing up this house. Despite trying her hardest not too make it too girly, she admits that “quite a lot of feminine elements are creeping in”. She says their style has evolved over the years, with this project taking on a more mellow vibe than previous houses, “this house just lent itself to softer colours and the neutral backgrounds allow the art work we love to stand out” she explains.

She also loves books, especially design and floristry books,  “I constantly look back through them as a source of inspiration, I never seem to tire of the imagery” she says. One of her current favourites is 'Modern Vintage Style' by interiors stylist Emily Chalmers which shows how to use vintage items in modern settings, “I love this mix of styles and feel that it represents how our homes have evolved over the years” Emma says.

Indeed her style can be seen as perfect balance of both old and new. She admits she loves vintage pieces and can be regularly found hunting out bits and bobs in Lewes, at flea markets or Brighton’s Sunday market. The property effortlessly juxtaposes beautiful original Victorian features with sleek minimalist cabinets. “I think in a Victorian house you can really get away with modern features, it is perfectly suited to mixing old and new” she explains.

Emma admits that she is ready for the next project, laughing that she is “always on the lookout”. A keen quilt maker, she has recently started to sell her handiwork locally and hopes to set up an Etsy shop. She has also just been asked to help a friend with a property development. One thing is for sure, the future looks anything but boring for this Brighton belle!

Photographs by Simon Eldon.  Words by Victoria Dockrell

This feature originally appeared in the Autumn 2012 issue of Heart Home magazine.