May 13, 2022
When lockdown hit, York-based interior writer and content creator Lisa Dawson started to rethink how she and her family used the space in their Grade II Listed Georgian home. One of the first things she did was turn a guest bedroom into a home office, a move that not only proved useful but also prompted her to consider how other areas in the property could be transformed, too...
Lisa’s attentions turned to a pretty but gloomy exterior courtyard that just wasn’t being used to its full potential. Instead of merely giving the space an aesthetic upgrade, however, she chose to turn it on its head completely and bring the outdoors, indoors - quite literally.
The result is a take-your-breath-away garden room that not just looks fantastic but is also incredibly liveable and has been designed with sustainability at its very core. We caught up with Lisa to find out all about it…
Full name: Lisa Dawson
Occupation: Interior writer and content creator
How would you describe your interior style?
A mix of well thought out investment pieces combined with a LOT of personally sourced vintage! And plenty of art and colour.
Your home is beautiful - can you tell us a bit more about it…
We moved to this property in 2015 after leaving our home in Caversham, Reading when my husband was offered a job in York. The house is Georgian and was built in 1759, with an extension on the end dating from mid last century. I live here with my husband Joe, our children Ella, Max and Leo and our dog, a Lhasa Apso called Buddy. The house is Grade II Listed which means that any big changes need to be approved.
Did you totally overhaul the property when you first moved in? How long has it taken you to get to a point where you’re happy with your decor or is it ever evolving?!
The property had been renovated by a builder who lived in the house before us but still retained many original features. He had carefully reinstated much of the coving on the landing and kept any changes in keeping with the house. When we moved in, it was a complete blank canvas which is perfect for me as I love to update and move things around. I tend to keep the base palette neutral so that I can swap up the rooms and multitask my furniture and art in all the spaces, which means that I can reinvent a room without any major changes should the urge take me - which it does, a lot!
You’ve recently turned an outdoor space into an indoor one - what was your motivation for the project and how did you go about it?
Lockdown made me re-evaluate the space that we had in the house and how we use it. One of the first things that we did was change the guest bedroom into a home office and this inspired us to look at the other areas of our home to see how we could utilise them to best effect.
The courtyard space is in the centre of the house, surrounded by four walls with a passageway leading to the garden. It's a really great square space but it doesn't get much sun and as a result, tends to be a bit dank and gloomy. I had struggled for a long time with how best to use it - as we live in Yorkshire we are not generally blessed with tropical weather, so it wasn't used much. It was alongside the kitchen, but the dining room was at the other end of the house which wasn't very sociable, so we decided to build a wood and glass frame over the top of the courtyard to create another dining space which was more connected to the kitchen. Listed building regulations stopped us from knocking it through but with the window open, it makes both areas feel much more usable and sociable. My builder, Mike, designed the glass 'hat' to sit on the top and we put our plans into action.
Are you pleased with the finished space?
Yes, so pleased! It is so fantastic to be able to sit ‘outside’ in natural daylight whatever the weather. It's particularly good now the weather is getting warmer as it needs no heating thanks to the double-glazed glass that we installed. It really does feel as if we've brought the outside in.
Which Bert & May products did you use and why did you choose them?
I had already used the blue Pals tiles on an outdoor bench in the space so we took that a step further to add a tiled top. This works really well as it's great for storage and for displaying dinnerware and plants. The patterned blue is the perfect contrast to the natural elements in the space. For the floor, I chose Reclaimed Terracotta Herringbone - the whole ethos of the project was to incorporate as many repurposed products as possible so this not only looked great but added an element of sustainability to the room too.
What do they add to the space?
First of all, they look great! But the best thing is they are sympathetic to the age of the property and are a timeless style which will transcend any trend, thus making them a long-term investment.
What first led you to use Bert & May?
I have always loved Bert & May for its innovative tile designs and the knowledge that whichever tile you choose, you will know the background and provenance of that design. I like the fact that the company collaborates with other designers too, which means there is a broad range of products to suit whatever sort of project you are embarking on.
Your book, Resourceful Living, offers tips and ideas for creative repurposing. Why is repurposing what you already have in your home such a good idea?
We are all working hard towards living in an eco-friendlier way and our homes are the first place to start. Editing what you have in your home is the first stop - do you really love it? If you don't, then do something about it - sell it, donate it, even upcycle it. What we choose to add to our rooms should be able to be multi tasked and be a long-term addition rather than a temporary trend. Carefully considering what you already own and what you bring into your space will ensure flexibility in every room.
Can you share any tips on revamping homes in a way that’s sustainable?
- Assess and edit your space - only have what you really love in your home.
- Don't buy for a particular space - you want your purchases to be long term and that means they need to work in any room, not just one room.
- Make vintage and second hand your first stop. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and what doesn't suit someone else could well be perfect for you.
- Consider reusing what you've got before adding to your home with new pieces. A side table that looks a little boring in your living room could be ideal for your bedside. Multitask your furniture.
- Invest in the best that you can when it comes to the core areas of your home, such as flooring, tiling, and hardware. These are the bones of your space and once installed won't be changed.
What’s next on your to-do list? Any exciting projects coming up?
I'm currently updating my bedroom and dressing room with wallpaper which is a new area for me! I love pattern but I find it quite difficult to incorporate in my own home, so I have to plan it out well in advance. I'm teaming the wallpaper with plains and neutral textures so I'm hoping it will look great.
To find out more about Lisa's new course - Introduction to Resourceful Interior Styling follow this link: