Yorkshire Interiors - Victorian townhouse in Harrogate

Victoria and John Manktelow manage to combine a lively young family with a passion for antiques in their Victorian townhouse in Harrogate as Heather Dixon reports <br/>Photographs by Colin Poole

Antique furniture and children would spell disaster in most households but it’s not a problem for one couple. ‘Antique furniture is often so well made that it stands up to all the knocks and scrapes of family life,’ says Victoria Manktelow, who is passionate about all styles of furniture, old and new.

‘It all adds to the character and history of a piece.’

And in a place where children are the heart of the home, there is no room for anything which isn’t child-friendly. Fortunately Victoria tends to buy large scale, heavy duty items which have withstood centuries of wear and tear, mixing them with practical storage ideas that feature in every room.

‘It’s a great family house and we make use of every inch of space,’ says Victoria. ‘I’m a bit of a hoarder and tend to buy things on impulse, so we sometimes have to move things around to make a new piece fit. Unfortunately for me, we’ve reached the stage where there’s not a lot of room for anything else.’

More space and a private garden were two of the motivating factors behind John and Victoria’s move from a two-bedroom duplex in the town centre to their three-storey family house on the outskirts of the popular North Yorkshire town. At first they lived there on their own, creating a look based on neutral colours and fine furniture bought from all over the UK.

But when John was made redundant it created the perfect long-awaited opportunity for them to open their home to foster children and start a family.

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First impressions of the house were mixed. It had most of its original features, an elegant stone frontage and well proportioned rooms, but the house was decorated in garish colours – including bright pink in the entrance hall and footprints painted onto the original hall floor.

‘I was working and living in London during the week so I would come home to two days of pandemonium as we stripped off woodchip wallpaper and toured the DIY stores choosing paint colours, between catching up with friends and family,’ says Victoria.

The kitchen was last on their list of home improvements and posed the biggest challenge. It’s only 5ft wide but John and Victoria love cooking and entertaining, and wanted to include all the appliances that go with it. Victoria also liked the idea of having a solid wood kitchen with an over-mantle.

‘We spotted a display kitchen which was really made for a much bigger room but it was just what I had in mind,’ says Victoria. ‘Everyone thought we were barking mad to put large handmade cabinets into a galley kitchen, but you’d be amazed by how much we’ve been able to fit in, and the layout works brilliantly.’

The adjoining dining room was initially painted deep red, but after a while Victoria and John decided it looked as though ‘the monks were coming to dinner’ and they changed it for a light, shabby-chic style which offset their dark wood dining table and antique 16th century coffer.

‘I saw the old chest in a shop window and did a double take, then dragged John inside to have a proper look,’ says Victoria. ‘It was like seeing the Holy Grail. I couldn’t walk away from it.’

Buying on impulse is nothing new to Victoria who happily spends hours looking around antique shops, sale rooms and car boot fairs looking for irresistible bargains. ‘I like to find individual pieces so I tend to avoid mainstream outlets. I like to hunt for something a bit different. If I won the lottery I would go to France and buy everything from bricantes. I’d have a ball. I think my passion for furniture comes from my parents. They had exquisite taste in furniture so I was brought up with an appreciation of it.’

In the early days John and Victoria favoured a pale, pristine look but all that changed when the children came along. ‘It’s a working family home, very robust and lively, and often full of children or friends of ours, so we can’t be precious about the house,’ says Victoria. ‘Every room is used, including the attic which was converted by the previous owners.’

Although Victoria has put her furniture-buying on hold for the time being, she still can’t resist collecting smaller things and has a particular penchant for duvet covers. ‘I have more duvet covers than I have shoes,’ she says. ‘I have inexpensive ones and sets which are quite special, so I can change the look of a bedroom in an instant. I probably have enough to supply an entire hotel. I just can’t help hoarding.’

One of John’s priorities is to find storage solutions for the accumulation of accessories and furniture, and the plethora of children’s toys and equipment. Baskets arranged on open shelves, large box chests which double as tables, built-in cupboards and under-bed containers all play their part in keeping the house tidy – although they admit it’s an uphill battle at times.

‘We’re at that stage where design has to take second place to practical family living,’ says Victoria. ‘The house has many beautiful features and we’ve filled it with some heavy duty antique furniture which stands lots of wear and tear, but we’ve had to say goodbye to the pared down shabby-chic look.’


James Brindley of Harrogate 01423 560757 jamesbrindley.com

John Lewis 08456 049049 johnlewis.com

Feather & Black 01243 380600 featherandblack.com

Woods of Harrogate 01423 530111 woodsofharrogate.com

Elaine Phillips Antiques 01423 569745 elainephillipsantiques.co.uk



The print version of this article appeared in the May 2012  issue of Yorkshire Life 

We can deliver a copy direct to your door – order online here 

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