Dan Whiston and Karen Barber share a passion for Dancing on Ice, Lancashire and interior design

PUBLISHED: 00:45 10 May 2013

Dan Whiston and Karen Barber keyhole

Dan Whiston and Karen Barber keyhole


Interview by Natalie Anglesey


Casual callers to a detached house in Poulton-le-Fylde might have been a little surprised to find Dancing on Ice stars Kerry Katona and Chico Slimani wielding paintbrushes and slapping on the emulsion.

The renovation project on the popular Hardhorn Road was no ordinary one. The people behind it – from conception to completion – were three times winner of the ITV hit skating show, Daniel Whiston, and former Olympic skater Karen Barber, his mentor and a judge on the programme.

During breaks in filming, number 238 became open house for many of the personalities taking part, although the entrance fee tended to be a few hours helping out with the decorating.

The house is where Dan, educated just up the road at Baines School, grew up and for several months he has shared it with Karen, who has coached him since he was just 15. But he has known this house for much longer.

‘It was our family home – my parents lived here for 35 years,’ says Dan. ‘It’s a special place for me and I suppose it’s a bit sad to have pulled it apart and started again. I have a lot of great memories here but my mum and dad love what we’ve done.’

Dan and Manchester-born Karen, who when not in the UK lives with her partner Christopher Dean in Colorado Springs, have a bond that goes beyond ice skatingand the banter between the two is reminiscent of a cheeky younger brother – ‘not that much younger,’ jokes Karen - and a patient, glamorous big sister. Unlike most brothers and sisters, they say they’ve never had a cross word off the ice and their special relationship extends into the world of business.with a sandwich shop franchise in Preston and a skating school. Now they are becoming property developers.

Hardhorn Road is their first toe in the water and it came about when Dan’s parents, Marj and Bill, decided to move. Dan and Karen bought the property to renovate and sell but when not away working, they lived here. ‘After all these year, I got the big bedroom,’ laughs Dan.

‘Bringing business into any relationship doesn’t always work, but we have similar tastes except when it comes to music,’ says Karen, scowling at a box in the corner of the kitchen/dining room playing house music. ‘I turn it down, he turns it up.’

Dan adds: ‘I think if you buy right and sell right and don’t try to over-inflate everything, you can still be successful. There’s a joy about what we do and we want that to come across for the people who buy our property. We wanted to create a house to suit a family but also a place where you could have a good party.’

Karen has spent a lot of time looking an interior design in the US and has introduced several features into Hardnott Road, particular in a very cool kitchen. The 1930s four bedroom house had always been well looked after but Karen and Dan have opened it out and create a more spacious feel. ‘I always had a bit of a vision of what I would do with the house,’ says Dan. ‘Interior design has always been a passion.’

Both have travelled extensively and stayed at many top hotels and imported ideas they had spotted, particularly for the bathrooms. They also have a shared like of matching black and brown and this, combined the suede furnishings and Swarovski crystal, give the house a contemporary, sophisticated feel.

Original features – a lovely stained-glass circular window and the original bowed front door for instance – have been retained and enhanced.

The next step is likely to be the purchase of land for a small housing development but whatever happens, Dan will remain rooted in Lancashire. ‘I love the place I was born,’ he beams. ‘I’m happiest where I belong and I’m really proud of my roots.

‘My parents first put me on the ice at the Blackpool Pleasure Beach Ice Arena when I was seven simply to keep me out of mischief while my sister trained. I felt I was flying – it was a terrific feeling of freedom and I knew this was what I wanted to do. I spent two hours training before I went to school and the same after school ended and I just loved it. I never once thought I was missing out on childhood. ’

At the launch of his next tour, other celebrity finalists and their skating partners crowd round to congratulate him on his third win on Dancing On Ice.

‘I’ll always be grateful to Beth Tweddle for giving me my hat-trick,’ Dan says. ‘I knew the moment we met she had the potential to go all the way to the finals. But it was a tough learning curve for her because she’d been trained as an athlete to keep her legs straight and rigid. She had to retrain to bend her knees and be more fluid on the ice and she worked really hard.’

Dan’s modest about his own contribution and after the tour he plans a holiday and before helping his dad in his carpet business. ‘Mind you,’ he jokes, ‘I get some looks when I turn up at a customer’s door with a roll of carpet on my shoulder!’

Get your skates on

Celebrities on Ice play five dates in Manchester during May. The producers include two past contestants in former England rugby captain Kyran Bracken and Chico while those expected to take part include Beth Tweddle, Matt Lapinskas from Eastenders and former Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas. You can find out more about Celebrities On Ice via www.celebsonice.co.uk The house is on the market with Farrell Heyworth for £499,950.

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