Cheshire interiors - Lindow House, Wilmslow
PUBLISHED: 00:00 20 September 2017
Jo Deas' Wilmslow house is a blend of art gallery and family home, says Kate Houghton, where her two worlds collide and meld to create perfect harmony.
Jo Deas grew up in Birkenhead, studied graphic design and ilustration in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and moved to London to pursue a career working in magazines and designing book jackets and record sleeves. London soon paled however and she headed to Manchester for some northern comfort.
‘I met my husband, Ben, when I applied to live in a shared house in Chorlton, where he was already living. I carried on working, as a graphic designer for corporate identities, until we had our first child at which time we bought our first home in Wilmslow and I became a full time mum and had two more.
‘We moved three times in Wilmslow before we found Lindow House, which we just knew was the final home for us. It was built in the mid-1800s, just on the Georgian Victorian cusp; with its bay windows and double front (which now faces the rear garden, a change made prior to Jo and Ben’s arrival) it looked like a doll’s house.
‘We bought it in 2000, when it was just the original square block, in a rather rundown condition. There was so much to do. There was no central heating, black and white lino on all the floors, beige woodchip walls, an ancient kitchen and a tiny bathroom. What we saw when we first visited though was the space – the two main rooms downstairs had already been knocked through to make a single room, and it was fabulous, a sheer expanse of space, and we knew: finding a house like this, here in Wilmslow, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
‘The first thing we did was strip all the floorboards, paint everything white and fit an Ikea kitchen. Then we lived in it. At the time our children were two, four and six and we had been in a much smaller Victorian house, so moving here was a huge step. We have just taken it one step at a time.’
When they were ready to make more major changes, the first thing Jo and her husband did was convert what was an ageing carport into a living kitchen, which runs right from the front to the rear of the property, with huge sliding glass doors at each end. It’s a truly relaxing living space with views onto greenery and garden.
Their most recent addition is glorious pool room; long and soothingly dim, it’s a place to relax and, Jo says, is used by the family every day, far after the novelty has worn off.
While Jo’s home is beautifully decorated throughout, what really gives it its charm is the wonderful art and unusual ephemera scattered around every room (from tiny people used in architect’s models to vintage printing plates to cast off antlers) and most particularly in their own gallery space.
‘There was an odd 1970’s extension along here,’ says Jo, ‘half external and half internal. We’ve enclosed it all and created our gallery.’
It’s a fascinating space, with a quirky mix of bits and pieces they have collected over the years, from travels in the UK and overseas. The most eye-catching feature, however, is the set of three large canvasses on the rear wall, all of which have been created by Jo herself.
‘When my oldest child went to secondary school I started to think about what I might do next. The graphics industry has moved on dramatically since I last worked in it. I had retained a creative outlet over the years by doing the set design and backdrops for school plays. I converted the spare room and just started playing about.
‘I had absolutely no confidence in myself, but I took one of my early pieces to a framer in Bollington and he really liked it; he advised me to take it to the Bollington Art Gallery, run by Fiona Bailey. She loved it.
‘Six years ago she organised an exhibition, here at Lindow House, with me and five other artists. I couldn’t believe it – I sold every piece! It’s so hard doing exhibitions; I was so nervous that either nobody would come or that people would come but not like it.
‘From that first exhibition I had a breakthrough with a property developer who asked me to fill a house he’d built with art, both my own and pieces I sourced especially for the spaces in the property. The house sold with all the art included, at the request of the buyer, and this led to further commissions from property developers, interior designers and homeowners. They invite me to see the space where they want to hang work and I will suggest size, framing and of course colour schemes. The whole package is really important; it’s a little like an interior design service, but with art.
‘Since that first commission it’s been a non-stop word-of-mouth process, but I am about to do my first public exhibition in years, as part of the Wilmslow Art Trail in October.
‘I’m doing an open house here, sharing the space with Alderley Edge artist Amanda Wigglesworth. Our work will be displayed in the gallery, kitchen, sitting room and my studio.
‘I’m a real worrier and will really panic about it, I know, but at the same time I will enjoy it. I really like open house exhibitions as I think it really helps people see how art works in a room setting, making it much more accessible.
‘I think the first time I did it I knew I would feel like a failure if nothing sold. This time, with six years of success behind me, I’m a bit more relaxed and I’ll know if I don’t sell it’s because the right eye hasn’t fallen on it. There’s a lot less stress behind this than in my normal work.
‘For that, I have to go into a completely empty space and propose how to fill it, then create the piece and then put it in the space and then wait for the client’s response.
‘So far it’s all been great though!’
Wilmslow Art Trail runs from October 13-15 | facebook.com/wilmslowarttrail