Through an Edwardian keyhole in Sale
PUBLISHED: 00:16 04 January 2011 | UPDATED: 18:22 20 February 2013
Everyone knew the house that Lesley Spellman bought, for all the wrong reasons. But now the Edwardian semi has been transformed. Emma Mayoh reports
When Lesley Spellman decided to buy her Edwardian house in Sale everyone thought she was mad. A hole had been knocked in the back wall, it had taken nine months for professionals to clear it out and it was in desperate need of some serious attention.
They all thought I was crazy, said 42-year-old Lesley, who lives with husband Steve and their three children Luke, 15, Leah, 12 and Nathan, seven. The house was notorious locally. People had this fascination with it because it has been an eyesore in the area for 20 or 30 years and they would stop and stare at it.
Ive heard the hole in the back wall was made as it was the only way of getting into the house because it was filled with so much stuff. You had to use a ladder to get to the second floor and the house was pretty much derelict. People couldnt visualise what it could be. But I fell in love with it. I saw a great opportunity and I couldnt wait to get started.
Lesley managed to see beyond the fact that everything was falling apart. It took eight weeks just to clear the land around the house. All the timbers had dry rot, the windows had seen better days and few original features could be saved.
But for Lesley, who has since set up a business as a professional declutterer after discovering the concept when she lived in New Jersey in America, it was a challenge.
I could see the potential. As soon as the house came on the market I knew I wanted it, she said. It was something I could really get my teeth into.
Wed missed out on a house around the corner but Im glad we did now. Doing this house is one of the best things I have done in my life.
The whole project took a year but in just six months the mother-of-three, with the help of builders GT construction in Altrincham, was able to move in with her family. She had completely restored and renovated the house. Original stained glass windows were returned to their former glory, the oak floorboards were brought back to condition and a beautiful staircase that winds up through the three storey house was turned into a remarkable centrepiece.
A kitchen extension, which includes a family room with a sofa big enough to fit the whole family, was added to provide a contemporary touch and the former cellar was converted into a gym, storage space and cinema room - the only request made by husband Steve. Smaller details were taken care of too, including a few ornately decorated cast iron radiators, fitted by Castrads in Woodford, which were designed to be in-keeping with the house, and friend and interior designer, Michelle Parker, helped Lesley with some of the finishing touches towards the end of the project.
The whole process, Lesley said, ran smoothly apart from the weeks before the family were due to move in, culminating, on the day of the move, with the discovery that the drains were blocked. They could be fixed - at a cost of 15,000.
Inside, Lesley has combined furniture from previous homes, including a precious antique grandfather clock bequeathed to her by her grandmother, with statement pieces and luxurious items including gold tiles from Tyles of Timperley in the master bedrooms en-suite.
She has also used high street designs from places like Ikea, British Home Stores and Next and some furnishings have also been brought back to life, including the bed in the master bedroom which was re-covered. Dotted around the house also are reminders of holidays, special occasions and friends including paintings bought on a holiday to Altea in Spain, a metal wall hanging in the shape of the Empire State Building and a decoupage of New Yorks Towers of Light - the couple lost friends in the attack on the Twin Towers.
But in spite of her homes many delights, it is the laundry room, a plain space full of storage boxes and utility items, that she loves the most.
She explained: The laundry room, cupboards and drawers were as much of a big deal as the kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms. If we wanted an organised home for our family we needed good storage.
I knew what I wanted, particularly from a storage perspective. That was very key in my plan. I know I am a bit of a control freak but I enjoyed the involvement I had with this project.
Now people peer up the drive for different reasons. Lesley has created a stunning, comfortable and - most importantly - organised home for her and her family. And she could not be happier.
There were very few of the original features left but what there was I wanted to make sure we could keep. I felt it was important to save them. I tried to mix the old with the new and I hope Ive managed that well.
I feel there are very few things I did wrong. I put my heart and soul into this house and I lived and breathed it. It is a lovely family home and its something I can be really proud of.
Lesleys top ten tips
Start the New Year as you mean to go on with advice on how to declutter your home
1. Plan your day. Choose a room, drawer, wardrobe and stick to it. Don't get waylaid putting stuff back into other rooms until the end.
2. Use it, need it, love it? Most objects fall into these categories. If you don't use it regularly, need it sometimes or love it all the time, it's time to question whether it should stay.
3. Be realistic. It's taken months or sometimes years for the clutter to build and it will take time and effort to sort it out. About four or five hours decluttering a day is more than enough.
4. Choose your destinations. Know beforehand where you can offload the things you choose to lose. Choose a charity shop you feel passionate about and where it's easy to park. Know how your local recycling centre works. Make sure your sister, mum or friend needs, will use or love your cast offs. If you plan to sell, find someone to do it for you or ensure you have the tools and the time to do it yourself.
5. Get started. There's no easy way. Tackle visible clutter first on surfaces or the floor to give yourself space to work. Then work clockwise around the room until it's done.
6. Colour code. Use different coloured bags for different things so you don't get confused. You can go through a lot of black bin liners in a day. I use blue for charity, green for recycling, clear for family and friends etc.
7. Out the door. Plan to offload everything on the day you declutter. That way there's no chance of it reappearing. I have never had a client with regrets.
8. Keep a vision. However you envisage your newly decluttered space, keep that firmly in your mind all day to keep your motivation high.
9. Save storage till last. Don't buy storage until you have fully decluttered and are ready to organise. That way you can get exactly what you need.
10. Organise for your lifestyle. Choose a system that works with your lifestyle. Be realistic and don't micro-organise. Then sit back and take it all in!