Cathy & Tony’s Calm, Creative English Home

published Sep 12, 2014
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(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Name: Cathy and Tony
Location: Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom
Size: 1,400 square feet
Years lived in: 8.5 years; Owned

From the outside, our semi-detached Edwardian home with its postage-stamp front garden and modest entrance porch gives little away; it’s only as you step through from the narrow hallway that the house reveals itself as a lovely, light-filled space which opens out into the gloriously verdant garden at the back, with its rambling roses, raspberries and runner beans (as well as the washing line, rabbits and a trampoline).

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Front door painted in Farrow and Ball’s Brassica. (Image credit: Cathy Pyle)
(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Tony (a teacher) and I share our home with our three children aged six, eight and thirteen, and as I work from home as a photographer, the house has to be not just practical and well-organised, but hugely versatile too.

Even though it’s a busy family home, it’s important to us that it feels like a haven, and we’ve tried to create a space that is calm and beautiful, with harmonious colours that flow throughout the space, natural, tactile materials and well-planned storage that leaves just the right things on display. Original floorboards and fireplaces and a range of vintage accessories are updated with contemporary elements; brimming with arty pieces, rustic touches and rich textures, this feels (as a friend of ours said recently) like a place you’d like to stay for a while. We certainly intend to!

When we moved in just before our second daughter was born, eight and a half years ago, the house was dull, dark and just a little unloved; we’ve since extended the kitchen, opening it out to create a new dining area with French windows onto the garden, reinstated a wall between the living room and the study/play room to create two separate spaces (somehow TV, piano and homework did not work well together…), updated the bathrooms, and painted every room and many of the floors, as well as the stairs. There’s always more to do, as our needs and ideas evolve – and of course there’s never enough money in the budget to do all that we’d like to do! But beyond the necessary updating, the house is a constant source of projects and inspiration for me, and I’m always creating new displays to photograph, upcycling old items found in skips or at car boot sales, or reinvigorating old pieces of furniture with a fresh coat of paint.

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Harmonious, relaxed, textured, with elements of both contemporary and vintage design, all with close attention to detail.

Inspiration: As a photographer, I’m inspired by light and how it transforms the spaces we live in, and that’s had a big impact on how I’ve decorated the house. I love finding and reusing items from vintage stores and handed-down treasures such as the handmade blanket made by my grandmother when I was a baby. I’m also hugely inspired by the natural world, and love to incorporate natural textures and materials into my home (wood, wool, slate, linen), and all kinds of things from nature such as branches, pebbles and seashells. I also have a slight obsession with paint colour charts!

Favorite Element: The kitchen-diner overlooking the garden — it’s where we spend most of our time, cooking, eating, listening to music, reading, and where I take many of my photographs. I love how you’re so aware of the light, the weather and the seasons in there. We do love snuggling up on the big sofa in front of a log fire in the living room in winter though.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge has to be keeping our busy family home in some kind of order, and it’s especially important to me as I work from home. And there’s never enough storage, or the right kind of storage, for all of the stuff we accumulate. It drives me crazy at times, although of course I wouldn’t have it any other way!

What Friends Say: Inspiring, unique, creative; a happy house that feels loved.

Biggest Embarrassment: The “practical” carpet for the landing and stairs I chose as I thought it wouldn’t show the dirt: sadly since the day it was fitted it has looked dingy and in constant need of a good vacuum. Ugh! Next time I certainly won’t compromise on looks. The younger children’s bedrooms are also not quite the well-ordered, stylish spaces I might aspire to. One day, perhaps…

Proudest DIY: This has to be the pallet coffee table in the living room. We salvaged a couple of pallets from a local builders’ yard, fixed them together, painted them off-white and screwed on some wheels. I loved the result so much I made another one for the garden, perfect for a cup of tea or a board game on lazy summer afternoons. We’re also very proud of our garden which we have planted from scratch and which is now a gorgeously verdant space full of herbs, vegetables, rambling roses, jasmine and clematis.

Biggest Indulgence: Apart from a new roof (which cost a fortune so felt a bit indulgent but surely that doesn’t count?!), Tony and I have started to buy each other pieces of art for birthdays. We feel so lucky to be surrounded by beautiful, meaningful and original works of art that will last a lifetime and more.

Best Advice: Follow your heart, choose what you love and you won’t go wrong.

Dream Sources: Vintage shops, flea markets and car boot sales are my favourite places to browse for treasures. Art fairs would be the perfect place to buy more regularly, if only our budget allowed. And I’ve fallen just a bit in love with Anthropologie’s tableware since our local store opened earlier this year.

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Resources of Note:


Paints by Farrow and Ball: All White; Skimming Stone; Elephant’s Breath; Pavilion Grey; Blackened; Pelt


Shelf: Ikea

Mirror: From a local antique shop, and painted grey

Letter rack: Rockett St George


Coffee table: handmade

Chair and sofa: Sofa Workshop

Cushions: Habitat

Log basket: TK Maxx

Coasters: a gift from a friend

Vase: a handmade gift from a friend


Print by Anita Klein

Pen pots: Ikea

Desk: Dwell

Note block: Orla Kiely

Clipboards: from a local stationers’

Lampshade: Habitat

Picture shelf: Ikea


Chairs: from an old church

Range cooker: Smeg

Pendant lights: NUD, Sweden

Clock: Electric from Heals

Magnetic spice holders and knife rack: Ikea

Magnetic vase: Merci, Paris

Cup measures and teacup: Anthropologie

Small teacups and saucers: various vintage stores

Sofa: Ikea

Cushions: Habitat and Ikea

Throw: Heals


Bedlinen: H&M Home

Desk: Ikea

White painted chair: from a vintage store, painted in Annie Sloan chalk paint

Desk lamp:

Pencil holders: Muji

Pendant lamp: lacasadecoto on Etsy; bulb by Calex

White bedside table: from a vintage market, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Blackened


Cushion: Habitat

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Thanks, Cathy & Tony!

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