Beth and Jon Miller have used their interior design skills to create a better work-life balance.
After deciding to swap London life for a new start in a regional city, Beth and Jon Miller were spoilt for choice.
“We’d lived in London for 15 years but we didn’t want to bring up our children there and that’s what prompted the move,” says Jon.
The couple, who have a son, Arthur, five, and a daughter, Edith, two, opted for Leeds after visiting a friend there.
“We had no connection to Yorkshire. I’m from North Wales and Jon is from Herefordshire, but we realised that it had everything we were looking for.
“House prices here allowed us to reduce our mortgage, there’s easy access to the countryside, lots going on and plenty of culture,” says Beth.
Finding a property in their top location, sought-after Roundhay, was never going to be easy but they had a healthy budget thanks to climbing the property ladder in London. Using their wealth of creative and practical skills, they had bought and renovated a series of “do’er uppers”.
“We did up four properties in London and we did a lot of the work ourselves because we are both very handy.
“My dad is a builder so if there’s anything I’m not quite sure about, I’ll call him and ask his advice,” says Beth.
The couple have used their talent for designing, making and project managing to change and update their home in Leeds and to set up their own business.
Jon, who previously worked in e-commerce, and Beth, who was in market research, now run Fresh Start Living.
It offers clients everything from restyling one room to designing and planning a whole house renovation. “We wanted something that allowed us to work more flexibly and was more family-friendly and Fresh Start Living does that. We do interior design and renovation projects and our speciality is reconfiguring space so we do floor plans and 3D visuals to show people what’s possible,” says Jon.
Their house is practically perfect now that they have put their own stamp on it. They both had reservations about the large, end of terrace property but were sure they could make it work for them.
What was a galley kitchen, dining room and an extension is now one big living kitchen. They did a lot of the work themselves and their love of upcycling is also evident. The feature light above the kitchen island was made by Jon using an old purlin from the loft and old attic floorboards have been repurposed as shelves. The mid-century G-Plan dining table and chairs were £100 from Facebook marketplace. “We like things that have had a previous life. They have character, you can see the craftsmanship and there’s a story behind them,” says Jon, who also sources from Gumtree and charity shops.
The kitchen cabinets are new and by German company Pronorm. They were sourced from Knaresborough Kitchens and the Millers found Morroccan-style tiles online at Total Tiles.
“We had a Pronorm kitchen before and really liked it so we managed to source one in Yorkshire,” says Beth, who used Dulux Heritage paint colours on the walls. Also on the ground floor is a separate sitting room. It was painted cream but is now darker and cosy in Dulux Oxford Blue with a pop of orange from the Habitat sofa.
The dark stained floorboards were sanded and the marble-effect fireplace replaced with a simple oak shelf and tiles left over from their en-suite.
The sideboard was £20 from Oxfam and Jon and Beth fitted it with new hairpin legs. The walls are full of art and photographs, some of which reflect their love of travel. They took a six-month career break ten years ago to visit Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and South America and they enjoy reliving their memories.
A dark, dank cellar has been converted into a multi-functional space that makes it a snug, guest room or children’s den.
Upstairs, the biggest change is the loft room. A dormer extension and clever stealing of space from the stairwell and the eaves has created a sensational master bedroom and ensuite plus a guest room
“There were about eight layers of white paint on the beams and Jon used a heat gun and a scraper to get it off. It really was a labour of love,” says Beth. “We also exposed the bricks and cleaned them up with acid and Jon made the wardrobes from old floorboards.”
The first floor has two bedrooms, a bathroom and a box room. The bathroom has a new free-standing bath that Beth painted in blue Fusion mineral paint and the sink unit is a chest of drawers from a charity shop. The box room is now the Fresh Start Living HQ and while the couple cut costs by making the shelves and desk, they splashed out on fabulous velvet fabric for the blinds. Named How the leopard got his spots it is from Leeds-based The Monkey Puzzle Tree, which turns artists’ work into fabric for sale by the metre.
While the Millers are used to moving frequently, they plan to stay for the medium term at least. “We love Leeds and really like where we live,” says Jon. “It’s a really friendly and creative street and there are lots of children for Arthur and Edith to play with.”
Fresh Start Living, www.freshstartliving.co.uk, tel: 07483 864 633
Art fabric from Charlotte Raffo at www.themoneypuzzletree.com
Kitchen cabinets by Pronorm from Knaresborough Kitchens, www.knaresboroughkitchens.co.uk
Morroccan tiles from www.totaltiles.co.uk