Project overhaul: how we created our modern family home

When Londoner Sallie Chater and family found a home in Bedford, she never guessed it would provide her with a new job.
After moving from Exeter to the capital in her early 20s to pursue a fashion career, Sallie Chater quickly became an advocate of the central London lifestyle. She was a high-flyer at magazine houses including Condé Nast and Hearst, with flats in Harley Street, Notting Hill and Battersea.

She met her husband Duncan in 2003 when she was fashion manager for Harpers Bazaar and he worked at Esquire. Passionate about style, Sallie became fashion ad director at Tatler, beauty ad director at Vogue and project director at House & Garden, sparking a love of interiors. Meanwhile, Duncan moved to Men’s Health in 2004, where he currently heads up the commercial business as publisher.

In 2009 their first child, Coco, was born, followed three years later by their son, Bay. It quickly became clear that the home they bought together in Willesden Green was not great for a growing family. “We never pictured ourselves moving further than Zone 3 but we also wanted our children to have outdoor space and go to good schools.” So they started searching for homes within a 30-minute commute to a London mainline station.

A semi-detached Victorian property in the upmarket Castle Road area of Bedford caught their eye with a journey time of 36 minutes from the Bedforshire station to King’s Cross St Pancras. It was a huge 2,834sq ft of living space. With seven bedrooms and a tree-lined location a short stroll away from the river, this handsome three-storey house seemed like a sound investment.

An offer of £495,000 was accepted. “We could not believe how much space we got for our money. And we did not feel we had sacrificed too much of our old life. I frequently meet my friends for dinner and drinks in Granary Square [the buzzing new restaurant destination behind King’s Cross station] and Duncan’s commute to and from work in Soho is often shorter and more pleasant than for many living in London.”


Nautical but nice: the wallpaper makes a bold statement in the kitchen

As the stained-glass front door swings open it reveals high ceilings and an airy and calm space that leads from the hallway to the light-filled kitchen featuring bold, nautical-style, blue-and-white striped wallpaper — beyond is a garden with a pretty pink playhouse. It is now an idyllic family setting with its comfy, Scandi-style chairs — sourced on eBay and reupholstered with Andrew Martin cut-velvet fabric. 

Back in 2011 the house needed a complete overhaul, which took eight weeks, and they all had to move out. Local building company Pauley Ltd ( did a great job of restructuring the space for about £35,000 and Sallie project-managed the makeover while pregnant with Bay. 

“We reconfigured the kitchen and bedroom to make it more open plan. The floors were stripped back and we removed all the woodchip. We put a whitewash on the floorboards which, with the neutral paint palette, makes the house feel calm and relaxing. It now has enough open space, with doors to ensure we can close off the clutter from the children’s playroom.”

Sallie’s love of design means the house is always evolving but she is savvy over her choice of items. “As we don’t have unlimited funds, any changes always have to be on a budget and I try to use a mix of unusual pieces from different styles and eras,” she says.


Eclectic: “If you buy things you truly love, the pieces find a way of working together and create an interior that really reflects your personality,” says Sallie Chater

A tour of the house reveals some nifty finds, including huge silk scarves stretched inside wide frames that hang on the living room walls. “These were a bespoke order from Weston Earth images, a company that supplies Harrods and Harvey Nichols with beautiful silk scarves portraying magnified natural photographic images. Using them as prints provided an extremely cost-effective way of filling large wall spaces. At £300 each they are a fraction of the price of bespoke art but make a colourful statement.” 

Similarly, in the dining room, two large gold frames on white walls are filled with duck-egg-blue and gold wallpaper; a clever alternative to covering an entire wall which can be altered to fit any colour scheme. The dining table and chairs are painted light grey, and reupholstering the seats with a zig-zag grey-and-yellow fabric has given them a new lease of life. Treasured copies of Vogue fill a generously sized bookshelf alongside framed children’s book illustrations. 

Throughout the home, Sallie merges the Scandinavian look with vintage French style and clean, modern lines. The odd quirky item adds character. “I love pieces that show a sense of humour, such as my pineapple lamps and Vitra feather lampshades.” A silver Alexander McQueen Hero suitcase is proudly displayed atop the bedroom sideboard.

“I invested in some key pieces, such as our super-comfortable sofas from Heal’s,  but much of the rest of the house is made up of eBay and Ikea finds, high-street pieces and vintage furniture I have restored myself. If you buy things you truly love, the pieces find a way of working together and create an interior that really reflects your personality.” 


A neutral paint palette: creates a calm and relaxing house

Her knack for creating cool interiors on a budget resulted in a friend recommending her to a local developer. She was given free rein to revamp a gothic five-bedroom townhouse, now on the market for £675,000 (visit for details). “I have discovered that there is a market for clients wanting to achieve a top-end look without the Chelsea Harbour price tag,” says Sallie.

Hence her decision to set up Interiors at 58. Inspired by innovative fashion shoots and catwalk shows she will attend in her former magazine career, Sallie hopes to make this the go-to design firm for residential clients and developers wanting to give their space a glamorous but elegant look on a modest budget. Operating from home, this really is a family business (Duncan designed the website), which may never have blossomed had the Chaters not decided to take the risk of buying a property in need of a redesign. And it is always satisfying when your house increases in value by nearly £200,000 in only three years.


Lovely up North: the Chaters’ search for a family home took them to a seven-bedroom Victorian semi in a smart part of Bedford

“We are very pleased that we braved a move to Bedford,” says Sallie, whose parents have followed suit and uprooted from Devon to just around the corner. “There is real community spirit here and we have become so close to our neighbours that four local families recently went on holiday to France together.”
Sometimes finding the dream family home means thinking outside the box.

Get the look:

To book Sallie Chater’s interior design services, visit

Follow us on Twitter @HomesProperty and Facebook