At home with Bowdon artist Andrea Hughes

Andrea Hughes

Andrea Hughes - Credit: Archant

Talented Andrea Hughes has not only helped transform a dated 1970s house into a beautiful contemporary home, she has taken the leap and launched a new career as a portrait painter

Andrea Hughes

Andrea Hughes - Credit: Archant

Andrea Hughes has recently moved back into her Bowdon home following a nine-month renovation project that has transformed it from an anonymous 1970s design to a contemporary architectural statement.

But while months of living out of suitcases, juggling blueprints, builders and the demands of a five-year-old boy called Oliver would be more than enough to test the endurance of most people, Andrea has not only revamped her home, she’s revamped her career too.

The set designer, who has worked on this year’s Salford Comedy Festival, Coronation Street, Give Out Girls with Diana Vickers and Tracey-Ann Oberman, Vincent starring Ray Winstone and Sensitive Skin with Joanna Lumley to name but a few, has returned to her first love, art, and has launched a business as a portrait painter. She’s already had several commissions and this month will be moving her ‘studio’ from a spare bedroom in the house to an artists’ space in Altrincham’s Traders’ Outlet.

With prices for a portrait starting at around £1,500, Andrea is offering people the chance of something really special and yet affordable, involving hours of her work and dedication.

‘I love giving people something and they will love it forever,’ she says.

‘This is something they can treasure and it is unique to them. I have switched to portrait painting because I really believe there’s a market for this in Cheshire and South Manchester and I have always enjoyed a challenge too!’

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She’s pictured here working on a portrait of an American client whose name she won’t reveal. She also includes in her latest commissions a couple of paintings of children.

‘I tend to work from a photograph when painting children, as they move around quite a lot,’ she says with a laugh.

‘The first thing I’ll do is take a photo, then speak to the parents to see in what way they want me to the capture their likeness, whether they want something that’s almost photographic, such as the portrait I did of Oliver, or a more abstract feel.’

The huge painting of her son can be found in the main sitting room and gives the neutrally painted space a really dramatic focus.

It’s a stunning room filled with light and yet it feels welcoming thanks to the carefully chosen pieces which enhance its identity. There’s the Buddha over the fireplace, bought in an antique shop in Bangkok and shipped over, for example, and antique rugs acquired at auctions with partner Greg. All this gives you the sense that this is an artistic household.

‘We love going to auctions and finding pieces,’ says Andrea.

‘Pieces that you see in other areas of the house such as the wooden benches in the hallway and kitchen were from a reclamation yard in Monmouthshire. We also sourced the dining table in the kitchen from there, a large piece of burr poplar and added a sheet of bronze glass for practicality.’

Enter the dining room and it’s hard not to be impressed by the beautiful Maple &Co table, a collector’s piece by one of the foremost furniture makers in the Victorian and Edwardian era. It complements the two beautiful fireplaces in the room, one an Art Deco design and the other a stone inglenook which she and Greg found on Ebay.

‘Because the house dates back to the 1970s we couldn’t go too period as it just doesn’t work,’ explains Andrea, whose only concession to a passion for earlier antique furniture is a delightful carved French bed in one of the guest rooms.

‘However we thought we’d go for Art Deco as it has quite clean lines and brings in a bit of character without overpowering the space. This is such a nice room.’

A local building firm,Whittakers from Knutsford, worked on the project, extending the back and sides of the house and taking it up a level to create a master bedroom and en-suite. But Andrea took control of her beloved kitchen during the project.

‘I designed the layout of the kitchen. It’s a Neptune kitchen from Atlantic Timber. I got a dresser off Ebay and painted it to match the rest of the kitchen and I had this epiphany - I wanted the walls to match the units. I felt quite capable of doing the work as I’ve been a set designer for about 20 years and it requires all kinds of skills, from technical drawing to the obvious logistics side of things. I have to organise so many different pieces and put them together that this came naturally.

‘I absolutely love the kitchen. It’s where we end up sitting around most evenings -I did Christmas dinner for 15 people here, which was fantastic. It’s a wonderful space.’

Another stunning addition are the baths. The family bathroom has a bold statement copper bath, which Andrea says was bought because it added character to what could be a bland room. She also wanted a different style of bath for the en-suite.

‘The copper bath, while contemporary gives the room a much warmer, family feel and for the en-suite, I love the shape of the bath. I am a fan of nice clean curved lines. I don’t like things to be too fancy or elaborate.

The curved theme is extended into the master bedroom itself and a suite from Stocktons that features a curved dressing table, side table, mirror and bed. There’s also a whole wall of wardrobes built by Fairfax Interiors of Hale.

Andrea may be the artist but it turns out her partner is the collector, and aside from two watercolours by an artist called John Blockley - one above the TV in the sitting room and a red one in the kitchen - most of the artworks belong to him.

The painting in the upper hall is called Regret by a Dutch artist called Elis Meulder, an artist they know little about. In the downstairs hallway there’s a New York scene by Wilfred Lang, a collectible artist sold in galleries all over Europe, and the Thai figure in the hallway was from an auction house in Yorkshire.

In the downstairs hall are contemporary glass bowls by Gillies Jones from Rosedale, North Yorkshire. The couple had display cases built by Cheshire Contract Ltd to not only show off their beauty but keep them away from Oliver and Greg’s three children!

With the renovation creating masses more space as well as boosting the number of bedrooms from four to five, Andrea admits the house it still a work in progress.

‘It’s a big space to fill but we love sourcing different pieces so while it is challenging, it is also rewarding,’ she says. n