Cheshire Interiors - Peek inside a Chester house that gave its owners the chance to change

PUBLISHED: 19:52 02 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:42 20 February 2013

Above: The colours in the painting by Nicki’s uncle, Philip Gronau, complement muted tones in the lounge

Above: The colours in the painting by Nicki’s uncle, Philip Gronau, complement muted tones in the lounge

Nicki Miller's home in the centre of Chester gave her family the perfect opportunity to reinvent their lives WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

Moving to Chester was about more than acquiring a new home for Nicki and Graham Miller. The couple were living in Lower Heswall and while being keen for their teenagers Abi, Will and Toby to have more independence, they also wanted a new start for themselves. Eight months ago they took the leap.

The boys are at Kings School and row at the highest level, said Nicki, a veterinary surgeon. We were used to the drive from Heswall to the city but as their rowing became more demanding we were doing it more and more. A lot of our friendships were here too.

The move though was mainly about new beginnings and reinvention. It was about approaching 50 and thinking whether we wanted to settle into that slower existence of village life or whether we should think about reinventing ourselves. We chose the latter.

Nicki has not wasted any opportunity. As well as keeping the family happy she works part-time at a veterinary surgery in Wirral, she is on the fundraising committee at Kings School and is studying a four-year homeopathy course.

She has approached the redecoration of her familys Hough Green home - dating back to the late 19th century - with the same verve and enthusiasm she has for life. With the help of interior designer Chris Blythe, who runs CB Interiors in Frodsham, the 51-year-old has transformed several areas of the house including the lounge, study and master bedroom. She also has plans to replace two bathrooms, completely remodel the kitchen, create a front terrace and build a new garage connected to the main house with a glazed atrium.

In several rooms striking Designers Guild wallpapers add dazzle to feature walls and complement original marble fireplaces. New blinds made out of old curtains dress bay windows perfectly, contemporary pieces, including an unusual lampshade made out of paper, add depth and coasters, used as tiles in one of the bathrooms, give character. Dotted around the house are beautiful antiques and paintings, including a reproduction of a Chinese monks chair, sourced by Lower-Heswall-based expert Valerie Wolff and wooden tables made by a craftsmen in Herefordshire.

But what really makes this five-bedroom house a home is the wealth of treasured items Nicki and Graham have collected over the years. These range from birthday and wedding anniversary gifts that date back to Grahams days at Cambridge University to cherished family heirlooms. On the walls youll find paintings by Nickis uncle, Philip Gronau, ceramics made by daughter Abi and several pieces of furniture that once belonged to Nickis grandmother, Carmen Gronau. She was a member of the aristocracy who once headed up the Old Master department at Sothebys.

Marquetry chests, beautiful pieces of art and a huge bed, take pride of place in the house. A baby grand piano once owned by Nickis grandfather Hans Gronau, who was an accomplished pianist, is a stunning addition to the study. Her grandfather bequeathed it to British composer Lennox Berkeley but it is now back in the familys ownership.

Nicki said: My grandmother had impeccable taste and was a very interesting lady. Im very pleased to have these items in our home.
I wanted the house to have a mix of different styles. I think it feels contemporary with things like the paper lampshade but I dont feel like Ive fallen into a decorating clich.

Nicki has also added her own touch by giving old items a new lease of life. The mirror in the lounge, for instance, was once gold but Nicki covered it in silver gilt to match her new colour scheme. Old posters Nicki and Graham had in their first starter home have been mounted and framed and are hung pride of place in Tobys room. A painting of Chester Cathedral, by Abi for GCSE examinations, has its perfect resting place at the top of the stairs.

Nicki has enjoyed putting together her new home and is excited about the plans to come over the following months. But she is most happy about the change it has made to their lives. They no longer spend hours commuting to and from Heswall Nicki choosing to cycle around Chester on her pushbike the children no longer rely on their parents for transport and Nicki and Graham have that lifestyle change they longed for.

Nicki said: We have always lived in old houses but this has to be the calmest. Theres something about the space. Its on a main road but I quite like that. I love the hustle and bustle and the fact we have a bus stop outside our house.

I like feeling we are in a city and I love being able to get on my bike. Chester is the most beautiful place. Its made such a difference to our lives. Its quite exciting being able to do what you want, its very liberating. Were very happy here.

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