The many designs of our lounge over 20 years

This month marks the 20 year anniversary of the date we bought our home and I recently came across some old photos that we took of it shortly after moving in and before the renovations began?

It was a beautiful house that had been practically destroyed and all it’s lovely Victorian features removed during the 1970’s when a developer turned it into two separate flats which were let to tenants. It had no redeeming features when we viewed it but we saw the lofty ceilings and the huge windows and the potential to turn it back into a family home. It was also located on a lovely road that we could only dream of living on, but couldn’t afford, but due to it’s state of neglect it was within our budget and we had decided to buy it before the viewing was even complete.

It’s only now when I look back at the old photos that I can see what our terrified parents could see, who thought we’d lost our marbles and had bitten off more than we could chew, but over the years we gradually turned it back into a home which we have loved and raised our family in and had so much fun in learning new skills and crafts.

Pretty dire wasn’t it and look at that electric fireplace!

As I love a before and after feature, I thought it would be fun to post some of the many incarnations of our lounge over the years. Bare in mind we had little money then as it was all being spent on the basics, plasterers, electricians and plumbers, so everything was a bit make do and mend, loaned sofas from friends and cushions made from charity shop remnants of fabric. You get the picture? I did however, always seemed to persuade Mr B to splurge on expensive wallpaper, a feature wall as they were fashionably called back then.  I’ve actually looked at some of these photos and thought what was I thinking, but it was such fun and we were young and full of enthusiasm, so hey?


Neisha Crosland wallpaper makes it’s first but not to be last appearance at Barlow towers. Why did I ever think red was a good accent colour with this scheme? Can I just add this was before I went to Uni to train as an interior designer, so throw me some slack!

The Neisha Crosland wallpaper is replaced by a Miller Harris Design, which they no longer seem to sell, and some smart grey sisal flooring, when grey was just becoming the new neutral, things were looking up? The electric fire was quickly replaced by this salvaged slate open fire surround and clever Mr B learnt some carpentry skills and made these fitted book shelves copied from a picture I’d seen in Elle Deco.

A bit of a rudimentary mood board just to get some ideas together for the latest look. It’s not turned out exactly like this as we’ve changed our minds on some of the items along the way but it’s pretty similar, as you’ll see in the pictures below, which is what is so great about mood boards, you can quickly see if your ideas are going to work?

The wallpaper has been replaced by simpler painted walls in setting plaster by Farrow & Ball and the paint work in off black also Farrow & Ball, which was a big and very scary decision but we love it now. Wonder if we’ll say that when we look back on these photos in years to come?

The rug I originally put on the moodboard was from French Connection but we decided we wanted to invest in a vintage Iranian rug which we found at Insitu Manchester and the vintage leather 1930’s chair was an Ebay find from a local seller. I made the washed linen curtains from fabric bought from Ada & Ina.

The open fire is regularly used and is one of the changes we made that will stay forever.

The loaned Edwardian chesterfield was gifted to us in the end and recovered in a sand coloured linen fabric and the large antique mirror was a bargain find from Pear Mill in Stockport and restored by Mr B, he even remade some of the missing plaster work! He has definitely learned a lot of skills over the 20 years!

Some of our favourite items from local independent retailers Moth, Room 365 and Object style, all based in and around Manchester, sit on our mantle piece.

If you enjoyed seeing these before and afters, let me know as I have a load more old photos of some of our other rooms that I’ll post in the future, if you like?





  1. Catherine 22 August, 2017 / 12:44 am

    I enjoyed this! L0ve seeing what other people do to their houses. About 20 years, I remember seeing a newspaper article about Rita Konig’s London flat. She had wallpapered the chimney breast in her bedroom and I thought it was stunning. Love your dark woodwork. Wood burning stoves in fireplaces are really popular in London now.

    • Karen Barlow 22 August, 2017 / 8:23 am

      Funnily enough Catherine, I remember that feature on Rita Konig’s flat, if it was the same one I’m thinking of the wallpaper had large camellias or magnolia flowers on it? It was stunning and I’ve loved Rita Konig’s eclectic style ever since. You really can’t beat a real fire can you to make a home feel cosy? We were lucky enough to find the matching fire surround at another salvage yard shortly after, so have the same fire place in the back lounge as well. Thank you for reading my blog and stopping by to leave a comment, it’s always lovely to know that people have enjoyed what you’ve posted x

  2. Carole 22 August, 2017 / 12:50 pm

    Karen – I loved the pink and black lounge thanks for sharing the progression too! very enjoyable

    • karen 23 August, 2017 / 11:42 am

      Hi Carole,

      How are you? I can’t believe we met randomly in Merci in Paris & through the wonders of technology we’re still in touch! Thanks for reading my blog and sending a comment. I’m glad you approve of the latest incarnation, we’re really pleased with it too although as a stylist I’m always wanting to tweak things slightly?

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