Lancashire Interiors - a rural farmhouse in Downholland

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 January 2014

Caroline Lyster and Ian Munro keyhole

Caroline Lyster and Ian Munro keyhole


When this couple went from an apartment to a farmhouse the move presented several challenges

When you’ve lived most of your adult life in modern urban apartments, becoming the proud possessor of a rural farmhouse – even a contemporary one – requires a creative but commonsense approach to décor.

And when many of the fixtures, fittings and interior design have been dictated by the previous occupants who might have widely differing tastes, you probably need a little help from your friends.

That was the challenge facing Caroline Lyster and her fiancé Ian Munroe when they moved into Mickering Farmhouse, a five bedroom home tucked down a lane in the West Lancashire countryside surrounding Downholland.

‘Although it’s quite new it required a lot of work to get it the way we wanted it,’ says Caroline, who had a clear plan and enlisted the help of long-established St Helens-based furnishings and décor specialists Ena Shaw to help achieve her goals.

‘The glossy white floor tiles and the glossy white units in the kitchen/living room didn’t exactly scream farmhouse at me,’ she adds. ‘This room was probably the biggest challenge. It seemed to me to look more like an apartment than a farmhouse.’

Like most things in life, compromise was required and the units and the tiles remained but they couple softened the edges with comfortable seating and a real taking point – a glass-topped table made from the root of a sustainable teak tree.

‘Ian and I had lived in flats in Bowden in Cheshire and Manchester so life in an farmhouse is very different.’

The couple had known each other since school days – they were both at Ormskirk Grammar – and their respective parents live in nearby Aughton.

‘The danger was we’d make it look like an apartment on a grand scale. We wanted to mix traditional house style with modern and I think we’ve achieved that in this room.

‘It’s a lovely house for entertaining although having this big kitchen/living room means it’s quite hard to get people out of here and into the dining room. The modern way seems to be that people want to watch you cooking, but that can be a bit unnerving!

‘The reality is that we also rarely move from this room. We spent most of our waking hours in here.’

Ian runs a healthcare recruitment company and his working day can start at 4am. Caroline works as a freelance in marketing and communications but has always had a passion for housebuilding and interior décor.

‘Ian works very hard and even when he comes home he’s regularly working on his laptop. My aim was to create some calm for the two of us – somewhere we could shut ourselves away.’

Beyond the kitchen area, the main lounge is an impressive sized room with an equally impressive brick fireplace topped off with a huge feature mirror – a twin to on the landing.

The wall coverings, curtains and cushions from Ena Shaw are muted yet stylish. ‘I had colours in mind when we first started to plan things,’ says Caroline. ‘I wanted the rooms to look different but I also wanted a theme running through them. I prefer using silver shades rather than gold. Ian gets involved but our tastes are pretty similar.’

The chimney wasn’t functioning when they move in but there is now a wood burner in place and, while it’s a large room, a fire will give it a more intimate feel. It’s ideal for family gatherings. Huge picture windows lead to the garden decking area which has outdoor heaters for chilly weather.

Below is a basement that had been originally planned as a swimming pool. However, it proved unsuitable and is now destined to become a two-bedroom flat.

There’s a high level of security behind the automatic gates and the entire house is linked by an audio system. ‘After living in flats it is great to be able to be as loud as we like,’ says Caroline.

Much of the upstairs has been reconfigured and on the top floor, awkward spaces have been utilised to good effect and a lot of work has been carried out by Ian between running his business.

‘We feel this is now a real family home, adds Caroline, who will marry Ian next year in Majorca. ‘Moving back to our home area was never on the agenda and, at first, this might have seemed like a temporary move. But now, move away? That’s just not going to happen.’

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