An Environmentally Conscious Couple Has Designed an Incredibly Playful and Modern Victorian House
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Name: Robin Hamaker-Taylor and Alec Taylor
Location: Pontcanna — Cardiff, Wales
Size: 1963 square feet
Years Lived In: 2 years, owned
It’s easy to jump onto the eco-friendly bandwagon these days. After all, #plasticfree, #ecoMonday and #gogreen are some of the most popular hashtags around. But for American/British couple Robin and Alec, caring about the environment isn’t just a day job: Robin is an environmental consultant and Alec works for the charity WWF to preserve British marine life. It’s also a way of life that’s reflected in everything they do. And it’s certainly reflected in the way they’ve renovated their Victorian home in Cardiff, the capital of Wales.
“My interest in environmental conservation and in solving climate issues were developed during my upbringing in Northern California, a place with more trees than people and beautiful mountains and lakes,” Robin says. After moving across the pond, Robin met Alec and the rest, as they say, is history. The environmentally-conscious couple initially lived in London for a few years before leaving for Cardiff two years ago. They bought this three-bedroom period home on a beautiful tree-lined road, and have been lovingly renovating it ever since.
“Interior design, decor, and the environment don’t often collide, but I don’t see why they can’t,” Robin writes on her blog, The Good Interiors Co. “There are now many sustainable products and materials on the market and a growing interest in and curiosity around the environmental impact of everyday life. They say 2019 is the year of the vegan, after all. But with this growing interest, there is still a lot of confusion about what actions people can take, what is genuinely sustainable, and a general anxiety about how much comfort people will have to give up if they do take action.”
There are a lot of tips to take in from how they’ve furnished their place, starting with how they reuse old furniture. Most of the beautiful furniture in their home is antiques from family, from flea markets, or eBay. And when possible, the couple have generally stuck to using natural and eco-friendly materials and products in the house. Having said that, they did have to use vinyl to replace the old bathroom floor temporarily. “I feel like a hypocrite having vinyl in the house! But I plan to repurpose it elsewhere when we put proper tiles down, which means it won’t just end up in landfill—vinyl can take hundreds of years to break down. I know not everyone can be perfectly sustainable, but it’s worth doing our best for the planet and future generations,” Robin tells me.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: It’s a huge mix of things, which obviously falls under eclectic, but to sum it up, I’d call it “playful modern Victorian”. I mix pieces from the Victorian and Edwardian eras through to mid-century and layer in various collections, which have memories and meaning to us. I also like to mix dark, moody color palettes with lots of pops of color, and black and white stripes as my “neutral.” In many ways I’m a maximalist, but I do curate what’s allowed in the house rather than bringing as much in as possible.
Inspiration: The Victorian era and the Arts and Crafts movement are big inspirations, including greats like William Morris. I also look to traditional and maximalist designers like Veere Grenney or Kit Kemp to see how they layer up spaces and use color. Luke Edward Hall and Beata Heuman are two young designers here in the UK who consistently amaze me with their originality and playfulness.
Favorite Element: Our Cole&Son Fornasetti nuvolette (cloud) wallpaper, which starts in the entryway and goes all the way up the stairs and through to the back. It’s such a special wallpaper. It has amazing movement, and despite being black and white and depicting clouds, it doesn’t feel too stormy or cold. It’s always interesting to look at, and makes us smile every day when we come home.
Biggest Challenge: Sticking within the existing kitchen is a tough one. I’d prefer a much more traditional kitchen for such an old house, and we would love to be able to do a kitchen renovation at some point down the line. But for now, we’re trying to make the space work for us. We’ve hung our collection of colorful travel posters in the kitchen to create a focal point, for example, and brighten space. Another big one is storage in this house, since there are very few built-ins. At least this presents an opportunity for styling—I’m always trying to find trunks or other creative ways of storing our stuff.
What Friends Say: Wow, look at your stairs! Your house should be in a magazine! (We have very kind friends).
Biggest Embarrassment: The vinyl we used vinyl as a cheap temporary fix in our bathroom.
Proudest DIY: Wallpapering! I didn’t do all of the wallpapering in the house, but the rooms I did do were really tough, so I’m pretty proud of this. It’s terrifying when you first start.
Biggest Indulgence: Shipping my collection of colorful American dishware (Fiestaware) over from the US. I even made my family members bring some over in their suitcases. You just can’t get Fiestaware over here and it’s so iconic, I couldn’t live without it!
Best Advice: Be brave—don’t be afraid to do what your heart is telling you to do, because you’re worried what other people might think. We kept this in mind, and as a result, our house makes us happy every single day. Also, never bring anything in your house that you don’t love.
Dream Sources: Made.com, West Elm, Selecny, Pamono, Anthropologie, eBay and flea markets for vintage.
- Paint — Forest Storm, Leyland Trade
- Wallpaper and blinds fabric — Palmeral, House of Hackney
- Armchairs — Strandmon, IKEA
- Sofa — Florence, Sofa Sofa
- Coffee table — vintage, Stonehill, eBay
- Gold foil insect prints — Deco Scarab, The Curious Department
- Mirror — vintage
- Large art on scrolls — Audubon bird drawings
- Light fixture — Silvia, brushed brass, Umage
- Victorian ceramic ‘wally dog’ figurines — Vintage
- Pineapple lamps, Marks and Spencer (no longer available)
MIDDLE ROOM DOWNSTAIRS
- Paint — Pink Ground, Farrow&Ball
- Chesterfield sofa — Vintage
- Chest of drawers — This best, who we call ‘the Big Boy’ is from Alec’s parents and has been in his family for ages!
- Glass shelves — Hardwick, Next (no longer available)
- Brass light fixture and wall lights — eBay
- Rug — IKEA (no longer available)
- Round wooden side table — Alec’s family heirloom
- Round swivel chair — This was Grandpa Bob’s chair, (Alec’s maternal grandfather)
- Pink metal side table — Made.com (no longer available)
- Art prints — Jan Skacelik
- Zebras — I’ve collected these since my childhood—I’ve always had an unhealthy obsession with black and white stripes!
- Table and chairs — vintage McIntosh. I recovered the chairs from their original velour, to a black and white wool herringbone
- Art — Cardiffonia, I Loves the ‘Diff; custom map of California, Mapiful
- Photo wall shelves — IKEA
- Side cupboard — Another beautiful heirloom from Alec’s mum!
- Paint — Pavilion Gray, Farrow&Ball
- Vintage travel posters collected from throughout our years of adventures
- Paint above herringbone tile — Tom’s Bakery, Earthborn
- Glass carbouys and bottles — Vintage french and English
- Paint — Aubusson blue, Annie Sloan
- Wallpaper — Seaweed, William Morris (cobalt/thyme)
- Rug — Fairtrade West Elm (no longer available)
- Chest of Drawers — We call this one the ‘Tall Boy’ because, well it is your classic tallboy dresser. Another stunner from Alec’s very kind mum, which came from her family. Almost all our clothes fit in here!
- Dressing table — Hand painted vintage, by local Cardiff shop Beti Biggs
- Mirror above dressing table — Vintage
- Mirror between cupboards — Marks and Spencer (no longer available)
- Loveseat — Margot, Made.com
- Tassel light fixture — Home Sense UK (no longer available)
- Floor lamp — BHS (no longer available)
Thanks, Robin and Alec!