Interior designer Janey Butler - Stylish and chic
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 August 2019
She was raised in the Cotswolds but has called the North West home for almost as long. It’s the unique intermingling of the two influences that informs designer Janey Butler’s cutting-edge take on country chic
No wonder Janey Butler is constantly striving to create something 'simple and calming and beautiful'. When you have a mind that is continuously whirring in the way hers does - let alone a travel schedule that has taken her to three European destinations in the last ten days - you must, either consciously or otherwise, want to be somewhere that gives you a little peace.
It's not just the work in hand she's thinking about - she is, she admits, meticulous about detail - it's the next foreseeable steps and the leaps down the road that aren't even in sight yet.
'I'd love to create an interiors destination that has a spa and restaurant on site,' muses Janey as she straightens the tassels on the oversized rug that takes up much of her office lobby, making sure it's photo-shoot perfect. Her design studio and show home sit in the grounds of the magnificent Capesthorne Hall Estate, just beyond Alderley Edge. Presumably the grandness informs the blue sky thinking: 'You'd go for lunch, have a treatment, wander around a beautiful interiors studio and shop. It would be an entire experience. Something like Daylesford,' she says referencing the Cotswold institution; the destination farm shop that sells a certain sort of country lifestyle as much as its organic produce and high-end homewares. 'We're screaming out for somewhere like that up here.'
Janey may call Cheshire home but she was born and raised in Cirencester in the Cotswolds on 'a gorgeous old farm' in the middle of rolling greenery. 'It's not until you're older that you look back and realise where your love of nature and stone walls and just being completely on your own stems from,' she says.
She spent a childhood watching her mother - who is from the Wirral originally and would eventually be the reason Janey made the move north - renovating properties to sell on at a profit.
'I think that's where the foundations were laid to go into interiors,' she says. 'My mum was amazing, how she transformed homes and gardens. I think that's where the whole love of the interior and the exterior being combined began.'
She is still inspired by nature now. 'I just love being outdoors. I love gardening or just going on long walks with the dogs. And Cheshire is just as beautiful as the Cotswolds for that.'
And so it has resulted in her signature, increasingly recognisable, style; neutral, calming colour palettes, natural woods and stones, clean lines and luxe textures. 'It's massively important the landscaping works completely with the interiors,' she adds. 'There's nothing more wonderful than sitting in a really beautiful space looking out to an equally as beautiful space.'
Sure this all looks fabulous on camera - a shot of one project, a Knutsford barn conversion, ranks as one of the most popular images ever on the interiors app, Houzz - but you've got to be in it to really appreciate it.
There's a restraint that perhaps isn't associated with Cheshire's interior design aesthetic which, like it or not, has been somewhat defined by the sprawling grandiose style of footballer's mansions.
'I for one don't think you need to have it OTT,' insists Janey. 'I think you can still have a wow-factor piece but it makes more of a statement if it's on its own. Gone are the days where people think the more shiny something is the more expensive it'll be so therefore we need lots of it. I think for me it's about taste and style. I do like the mantra of less is more.'
Janey may be restrained when it comes to her statement pieces but when she introduces them, she most certainly makes them count. She sources them from across the globe, from Italy to the USA to Holland.
She points to what is essentially a 10ft long console table made from the bark of a lychee tree. The wooden wall carving behind her she sourced from Indonesia and would be four months in the making should a client want one. Then there's the petrified wood; pieces of trunk or bark that have been fossilised over millions of years.
'I love imperfections,' she says acknowledging the wood carving has somehow changed in colour over the years. 'I actually think the more aged something is or the gnarls it has in it is what makes something really beautiful.
'Perfect things have a place. But when it's natural materials, they have a life of their own. The older things get, the more faded they get. And I really like that. Sometimes the challenge is getting that across to people. Some people want a constant level of perfection. And I think, no, a home's for living in and letting it move and age.'
Those touches of opulent perfection are visible too - the odd giant piece of art or extravagant chandelier, tumbling twinkling from the double-height ceilings. They're also there when it comes to the more functional aspects of the design. For example, the aluminium wall panelling that, at the touch of a button, retracts to reveal a television screen behind it.
This element of the design, it turns out, is a Cotswold's influence too - in a fashion.
Eleven years ago Janey was visiting her sister who still lives there when she was introduced to local property developer, Andy Butler. 'Within the first week of meeting he said he was going to marry me and proposed three months later,' she explains. 'So it was a bit bonkers.'
Not least because of the distance. Her mother - who sadly died last year - was living in North Wales at this point and Janey had moved up and bought 'a little wreck of a cottage' nearby she was planning to do up.
She abandoned that and for the next 18 months based herself in the Cotswolds and began working with Andy who had cornered the high-end barn conversion market there. Their styles, however, weren't necessarily a natural fit.
'Andy was, when we met, exceptionally contemporary. I was probably a bit more vintage.'
So how did it work? 'It was a bit volatile,' she laughs. 'It was a bit painful at the start. Then once we got an understanding it began to work.'
Their first shared project was a 16th century cottage. It sold within two months of completion. They've gone from strength to strength and are now known collectively as The Llama Group. Though Janey still works on interiors-only projects they frequently combine to do full renovations,
'We still occasionally [disagree] today but generally our stars have really aligned.'
Last year they won Best United Kingdom Private Residence at the International Property Awards for their work on an Alderley Edge renovation and redesign. Their growing reputation is still somewhat surprising to Janey.
'We'll be abroad and I'll introduce myself and people will say 'Oh, I love your stuff',' she smiles. 'You never realise these things about yourself but people must see my work and recognise it. They'll say, 'I can spot a Janey Butler interior a mile off'. And I find that amazing.'
Should you want a piece of that Janey Butler look without the personal service price tag then, good news, they're planning to launch a home and collections side to the business; an online store that will sell everything from the price-on-application dining tables to more accessible cushions, throws and tableware as well as her own range of rugs and candles. They're hoping it will come to fruition within six months.
There may, in time, be a Manchester store. As for that spa destination? Who knows. But if it's anywhere close to being as serene and stylish as her décor, we'll be the first in line for Janey Butler's special brand of outside-in Zen.