Inside the stunning Far Headingley home of designers James and Ally Dowsing-Reynolds

They are both passionate about interior design but renovating their Far Headingley home was a whole new adventure for James and Ally Dowsing-Reynolds.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 4:45 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 11:07 am
Ally and James Dowsing-Reynolds in the kitchen of their Far Headingley home. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

James and Ally, both 41, fell in love with the Victorian property at first sight, being drawn to the high ceilings, the abundance of space and traditional features that period properties offer.

For former advertising executive Ally, this is her first period property, whereas James has lived in older properties before, however, it was the first major renovation project for them both.

“I've lived in Victorian Georgian various properties in London, so I've always loved that sort of architecture”, James explained.

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The stunning living room features dark panelled walls, with lots of warmth added with the soft lighting, plants and bright pink Chesterfield sofas. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“It's to do with the high ceilings, and the heights and space that you get with a period property.”

Ally said: “I haven't had the period features before, I've lived in new builds or little bit boxy houses, so I wanted the period features and all that goes with it, so big fireplaces and things like that so I was pleased that we've got this house.

“We fell in love with the street that it backs onto as it has a kind of a castellation on the outside so it was a quite handsome house on the outside.”

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing as the couple, who previously lived in Chapel Allerton, tried to buy their new home, as the house had been left needing major renovations.

The couple wanted to create a punk/rock feel in the hallway, which they accomplished with their choice of artwork. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Ally said: “When we saw it, it was in a real state, to be honest, it didn't have any running water.

“It had been left unoccupied for quite a long time, but we saw past that, and put an offer in and got it accepted.

“When the mortgage company came around, they said it was in too bad a state and we thought we’d lost it”.

In a fortunate twist, a local company then purchased the property to renovate and Ally managed to persuade them to sell the house back to them.

James Dowsing-Reynolds took the lead on the bathroom design, creating the perfect space to relax.

“I wouldn't leave them alone saying ‘you need to sell this house to us because we love it,” Ally laughed.

“I think eventually they agreed just to get me off their backs!

“They renovated it to our specification, and did the bare bones of it and got it working again and gave us a bit of a white box back

“That was five years ago and since then we've been slowly turning it into something that feels like us.”

The dining area is fun and inviting. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

That original white box has since been transformed, with the pale walls being painted striking dark blues and blacks, accented with pops of colour and plenty of foliage and textures.

The final result is a stylish, fun and calming home, carefully cultivated by the couple’s wealth of interior design knowledge.

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James said: “At first, we very much embraced the dark aesthetics and painted every room very dark, but with the hallway, we ended up flipping it back to white.

“We wanted a very strong sort of punk/rock type feel and felt that white wasn't that but the way we have expressed that attitude now is by using street art type artwork, and what that does is it gives you natural light as well and as a break from the darkness

“There are advantages and disadvantages like anything, the darkness is brilliant and we love it but sometimes you wish you could flip a switch.

While the bedroom is a luxurious space to relax, with the couple's signature edge thrown in. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“It’s about going back to how we wanted to make the room feel, and the practicalities of it all.

“When you paint your room dark you do need to double your light because the dark does absorb light so much. That's been the whole process for us.

"The kitchen was my favourite room but lockdown has taught me a lot as I found things just weren't really working practically, so that's a whole new field to explore.

"The bathroom is probably my favourite as that's the one that I actually led on but I'm so fickle there's still thing I'd do different and change.

“We've learned an incredible amount from that sort of process and I think we've had a huge understanding of it all now.”

James added: “We also discovered that we’re very similar and extremely different. Now when we do a room we have one person as project leader and we generally let them get on with it unless it's something we strongly disagree with.

"Because when we try to compromise we end up not getting anything that we wanted and having a neutral room that neither of us like."

Ally said: “We experimented, and we love doing that with interiors.

"We're both passionate about interiors and design. I'm incredibly passionate about the way that interiors can make you feel, and that goes into Dowsing and Reynolds as well.

"That's what the company is about - the power of your surroundings to make you feel, and how to express your personality through them. So we have fun with it.

"I would say my favourite room and the living room. It's the one that we've changed the most.

"It has been the hardest one for us to get right and I think we're always going to keep changing, especially as our young daughter Emily grows older and we're using the space in different ways.

“James has done a little bit of panelling on the wall and it has got our signature style which is kind of opulent, it's kind of dark with a little bit of an edge.

"We have been playing about with where the furniture goes, we've got two bright pink velvet Chesterfields facing each other because we want it to have that kind of more sociable feel.

"There are three things that you should do when you're looking at a space; how you use it is really important, and then having a look at the way you feel in the room.

“So I wanted the living room to feel quite playful during the day but feel cosy in the evening.

“The third thing is about personality so how it's expressing our personality, either through art, pictures of objections.

“ It makes the space feel your own and I think the living room for me is starting to kind of do that for me now.”

Ally and James Dowsing-Reynolds outside their Victorian home. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe