Our Modern Victorian in Harrogate - California style + English architecture

I think I need to come up with a name for this style I am working in at the moment - Californish? Englafornian? Okay, maybe not….. But I have completely fallen in love with bringing the casual, eclectic California vibe to our classic english Victorian here in Harrogate.

Elaborate mouldings, grand height ceilings, classic millwork have always been an absolute favorite of mine. Being from the East Coast of the U.S. (Boston and New York) there were plenty of pre-war, colonial, and victorian-style buildings that oozed with character. But then we moved West, and a love affair with all things mid-century modern began. Clean lines, stripped down spaces with bright white walls, an abundance of natural light, and a focus on indoor/outdoor living. Who could resist that vibe?

design influences


boston colonial

beacon hill, boston

new york prewar

design by Nicholas Kilne from Architectural Digest


california midcentury

home in Long Beach, CA

Well here I am, nearly 2 years into my interior design business living 5,000 miles away from where I began - which was 3,000 miles away from where I grew up…. and this mashup of design influence is starting to come together into something I really enjoy.

Welcome to out Harrogate Victorian:


The only design ‘rule’ I follow is balance.

Balance is everything.

Balance vintage with modern, light with dark, hard edges with soft curves, lights with darks, patterns with solids, large with small, tall with short - you cannot go wrong. Further to the aesthetic, I truly believe creating visual balance sets the stage for mental and physical balance. I don’t function well in a space where everything is competing for your eye and attention. Visual clutter is not my friend.

When it comes to walls I have nothing against color or wallpaper - I actually love both - but for main living spaces, I just like white. I feel fairly unapologetic about this, even here in the land of jewel tones and dark walls. I don’t think it boring or stark. I find white walls calming and striking at the same time. I love way light bounces around a white room on even the gloomiest of days (and we have quite a few here in England).

Our flat was covered in Farrow & Ball bone when we rented it. I have to be honest, I hated it when I first saw it. So the first order of business was WHITE PAINT. With all the period mouldings and trims, a crisp coat of white paint doesn’t feel stark or cold - it creates a blank canvas with lots of texture. The gorgeous millwork and doors are a painted in 100 layers of old high-gloss off-white which creates just enough contrast to feel interesting. In the end, I did keep two of the bedrooms F&B bone and it has actually really grown on me.

Farrow & Ball Bone

Farrow & Ball Bone

get the look : master bedroom

When we moved in we had no furniture. None. Nuthin. I did an IKEA run for necessities and kids furniture. Yes, I secretly love IKEA and for kids rooms. And for bits to fill in a rental flat - IKEA is perfect.

Other than the kids furniture, I had a short list of bigger ticket items that we needed to purchase (master bed frame, sofa, dining table, media cabinet) and none of these were coming from IKEA! The new purchases would have to mix and mingle with the few beloved pieces of furniture sent from California that were still on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic.

After about a month of living in our flat I had purchased 9 house plants, a small vintage rug, some antique oil paintings, a plethora of candle stick holders… aaaaaand we were still sitting on the floor. I had purchase paralysis. The things I fell in love with were 8-12 week lead times, the quick ship items weren’t what I wanted, my dreams were twice as big as my budget - and all the while I had to consider if these items would work in a variety of spaces because we are renting and unsure how long we will be in this flat!
That’s a lot to digest.
Even for a designer.

IKEA bed and console

IKEA bed and console

get the look : kids room

The dining table and bed for the master bedroom were the first purchases and the sofa decision took F O R E V E R. In the U.K. pretty much any upholstery worth buying is made to order and 10-12 weeks out. This was not ideal when you are piling bed pillows on the floor to make a nook for the kids to watch movies on a computer this is propped up on a borrowed folding chair (our T.V. was also on the boat……). So I got creative and stalked a number of shops for ex-displays and finally found a very neutral and somewhat modern chaise sofa at Redbrick Mill which is a great little design center up here in Yorkshire. It wasn;t the dream sofa and it was over budget but they could deliver next day and that. was. that.


get the look : living

Once our shipment from the states arrived (minus two of my beloved Eames dining chairs. devastating. ) things seemed to slot right into place as if they were purchased for this home. It was magic. Of course pieces like the ottoman (a client purchase that didn’t work out and I happily kept it for myself ;-) were considered when working out the floorplan and new items that needed to be purchased. So it wasn’t all magic. I really enjoyed ‘remerchandising’ all of our furniture and making it work in such a different setting. From a mid-century modern home in Northern California to an 1800’s Victorian in the North of England. A testament to buying items that you truly love because you will happily make room for them in any home.

Our black Eames eiffel chairs looking right as home in this victorian

Our black Eames eiffel chairs looking right as home in this victorian

get the look : dining


In the end, I am really happy with our little home here in Harrogate and I am trying desperately not to go overboard buying things to fill it. And since it is a rental there is only so much I can customize and the temporary nature makes hard to invest in items that feel specific to this space so I am trying my best to refrain. Overall I love the way it came together and despite the drastic change in architecture from our California home, it really feels like ‘us’. Of course I would love to rip up all the carpet and lay hardwoods, add builtins on the sides of the fireplaces, remodel the bathrooms and kitchens, get new double glazed windows, paint the front door….. okay fine, I’ll stop…

xx Katie

Katie MonkhouseComment