Fashion designer Georgia Boniface has continually altered her house to fit the changing needs of work and family life. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Mark Bickerdike and Molly Boniface.
In an era where climbing the property ladder is a commonly held ambition, it’s unusual for anyone to stay in their first house long term. Georgia Boniface is an exception. She and her husband, Kevin, bought their terrace home 18 years ago and have never felt the need to move. Instead they have continually repurposed rooms to fit their requirements.
They bought the property in Huddersfield because house prices were low and, as self-employed artists and makers, their income was erratic.
They also liked the grand and imposing architecture in the area, which bears all the hallmarks of a wealthy past. The town’s former riches came from textiles and, by the early 1960s, it is said that Huddersfield had more Rolls Royce cars than anywhere else in the world.
“Kevin grew up in Holmfirth so we knew the area and liked it. We knew we wanted to work from home and that we wanted children so we looked for a three-bedroom house with two reception rooms and found this.
“It has a lovely feel and we’re only the second family to have lived in it. It was previously owned by a lady whose father had built it. The decor wasn’t really our taste but we knew we could easily change that,” says Georgia.
She and Kevin, who are both art graduates, swapped patterned wallpaper for painted walls, which are mainly white, and carpets for stripped floorboards.
The dining room, which has proved to be the most flexible space of all, was immediately put to use as the base for the couple’s first business. Laundry was the a clothing range they launched after leaving university in Liverpool.
Hipsters of early 1990s vintage will recall the label, which was stocked by cutting edge boutiques in Britain and abroad.
When the first baby Boniface, Molly, now 18, arrived, followed by Edie, 12, Laundry was parked and the industrial sewing machines were packed away and put into storage. They were replaced by toys and all the paraphernalia associated with rearing children. The cutting table became the dining table.
More recently, the room has been commandeered as HQ for Georgia’s new fashion label, West View Study Centre, and is packed with fabrics, threads and sewing machines.
She designs, makes patterns and sews everything herself from exquisite fabrics, including wools and French linen.
The clothes are designed to flatter women who are 35 plus and have been a big hit thanks to the stylish and comfortable shapes and the fact that they are all machine washable.
“I call them contemporary workwear though people wear them for parties too,” she says.
Kevin’s desk is in the same room and his bookcase acts as a delineator for the narrow walkway that leads to the kitchen and sitting room.
He is a postman and a writer, best-known for his blog, www.themost difficultthingever.com, which he describes as “observational meanderings round Huddersfield”. A book of his best blog posts is due to be published next year.
Many of his amusing observations are made while on his postal round. “It can be anything from an overheard conversation or a view or a bird I spot. It’s motiveless appraisal,” he says.
When it’s time to switch off, the couple and their daughters spend family time in the sitting room. It’s big enough for a large sofa, the displaced dining table and a couple of easy chairs.
The walls are full of the family’s artwork, including the star prints by Georgia, line drawings by Kevin, photographs by Molly, and favourite buys, such as the animal masks from the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.
Houseplants are another major feature because of their ability to “make a space feel alive” while cleansing the air.
Most of the furniture has been given to them or bought from vintage stores The dining chairs and the easy chair in the sitting room belonged to Georgia’s grandmother and standard lamp came from Kevin’s uncle, while the old display cabinet was upcycled with new baize to hold mementoes.
“Most of what we end up with is serendipity and we make room for it,” says Georgia.
Upstairs, what began as the couple’s bedroom, is now Molly’s, while Edie has a single room and Georgia and Kevin are up in the converted attic.
The loft is also multi-functional. Half of it is for sleeping and the other is where Georgia cuts patterns and stores the finished products.
“I trained in fine art but I really enjoy designing and making clothes. My great aunt taught me to sew when I was a little girl and I’ve loved it ever since,” she says.
One room that has changed very little over the years is the tiny galley kitchen, which has retained its identity.
When they first moved in, they removed the mock wood panelling, took down the oppressive wall units and put up shelves. They also came up with a creative way of tiling above the worktops. Smashing cheap white tiles and arranging them as a mosaic looks fashionable and effective.
While she yearns for a bigger second bedroom for Edie, Georgia concludes: “We probably won’t move. We’re happy here, we have great neighbours and we have somehow managed to make the house fit all our requirements.”
For more details on Georgia’s fashion label, West View Study Centre, visit westviewstudycenyre.co.uk. Kevin’s blog can be found at themostdifficultthingever.com