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Relaxing in style.

Byline: By Francesca Craggs

Francesca Craggs finds colour, opulence and a relaxed style of living at Jill Kirkham's period terraced home.

Despite the decedent fabrics, designer wallcoverings and contemporary furniture, Jill Kirkham isn't precious about her Victorian terraced home in the suburbs of Newcastle.

As owner of exclusive haberdashery shop VV Rouleaux, which recently moved to Brentwood Avenue in Jesmond, she is used to being surrounded by beautiful things.

However, she agrees there are more important things in life than possessions.

In spite of its designer touch, the house she shares with husband Richard, a jewellery designer, their daughter Alex, 16, dog Poppy, two pet rabbits and cat, is there to be enjoyed.

"We are a family that don't take off our shoes and we often sit on the floor and eat a curry. We are very busy and have pets, so we're not precious about the house. Life's far too short. Beautiful fabrics are there to be touched and enjoyed. There's no point if you can't," she says.

The family moved to Fenham a year ago from Garden Village, Gosforth. They were attracted to this property because of its grand period features, big rooms and small garden.

Jill, 49, says: "The last house we lived in had very large gardens which led down to a burn. It was really beautiful and a lovely place for Alex to play when she was younger. The only problem was it was all garden and the rooms were too small. We moved here because we wanted bigger rooms, high ceilings and more architectural features.

"As both Richard and I are self-employed, we have little time, so we wanted a smaller garden which would be easier to maintain. There's a huge amount of space here, which is great for Alex now she is older."

A former fashion designer, Jill is also enthusiastic about interior design and cites colour as her real passion.

Combining her flair for design with love of colour, she has created a haven of opulence in the lounge. Mocha walls provide the dramatic backdrop for jewel-like shades of amber, cerise pink and acid green.

Elaborate floral wallpaper, designed by Mathew Williamson for Habitat, forms a feature wall and draws the theme together. Stunning shot silk cushions and curtains, which Jill designed and made, add colour and glamour, while rare accessories, some from VV Rouleaux, add interest to every corner. Jill says: "The living room is definitely my favourite room as it shows my passion for colour. It's very Bohemian, rich, opulent and a lovely space for entertaining. It looks stunning at night when it is subtly lit.

"The shot silk curtain fabric set the theme for the room. I bought it in London before we even moved here. I thought the colours were amazing, so I bought it. Alex and Richard spotted the wallpaper in Habitat and thought it would be perfect for this room. We then chose Maraschino Mocha paint, by Dulux, which is a great contrast to the bold colours. The mirror is from TK Maxx ( we just fell in love with it. The cushions are made from ribbons which I collected many years ago as a fashion student. I think the colours are really beautiful."

Jill, born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, is inspired by a number of factors when designing a room.

She says: "Interior design is a hobby for me, but I would also say I'm obsessed with it. I have to have a passion about a theme before I start to decorate a room, and buy lots of fashion and interior magazines for inspiration. We even scour secondhand clothes shops sometimes. I love Designers Guild collections as they are always very colourful. I get inspiration from everywhere and subconsciously ideas are going into my head all the time.

"Design is also a very personal thing and it's nice to have a story behind it. Trends are cyclical and we are always bringing old bits of furniture and accessories out of the loft. You think you'll never like things again, but you do.

"The light fitting in the lounge is a French antique which dates back to 1890. We bought it in an antique shop 25 years ago, and it's been in the loft since we sold our flat in London many years ago." The property is a great space for Jill and Richard to entertain.

She says: "When the rest of the rooms are completed this house is going to be our own designer showpiece. The house definitely reflects our personalities. It's creative yet practical. We feel that there's isn't much in town for our age group, so we tend to do a lot of entertaining at home.

"Home for me means somewhere for us all to be together, enjoy the company of friends, and generally chill."
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 19, 2006
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