The toss of a coin decided which half of a rundown cotton mill in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, Louise Lockhart and her husband Paul Slade would make their home. Unable to afford the whole building, they joined forces with another couple and bought the mill together, with the aim of bisecting it to create two separate homes.
The couples made joint decisions on the architectural plans, fixed the roof and decided on paint colours for the exterior window frames. Builders laid the foundations for a wall to split the mill in two. “As soon as it was divided, we got on with our own thing,” says Slade, a joiner. He knocked down and rebuilt internal walls, replaced windows and doors, and added skylights. He replaced joists, took up the old wood floors, and hired tradesmen for the work he couldn’t do, including curved plasterwork around the windows.
The three-floor house has an upside-down layout: on the top floor is an open-plan kitchen and living space; bedrooms and a bathroom are on the darker first floor; and Lockhart, an illustrator, theprintedpeanut.co.uk, has a studio at ground level. A curved wooden staircase winds up through the house. The top floor has views across the town, framed by the Pennine hills behind. “Todmorden has an artistic side,” Lockhart says. “Hebden Bridge has become so desirable and expensive that a lot of people who grew up there, like me, can’t afford it now, so they live in cheaper ‘Tod’.”
The bright living space has full-height glazed doors, skylights, and a ceiling clad in pale plywood. Colour is everywhere: in the lemon-yellow Formica kitchen, built by Slade and inspired by Lockhart’s grandmother’s house; in a teal wall (Inchyra Blue, farrow-ball.com) in the dining area – the shade also appears in the couple’s bedroom; and in a pair of blue sofas. “I really wanted a yellow kitchen,” Lockhart says. “It’s a sunny colour, and you need a bit of sunshine in Yorkshire sometimes.” The wooden flooring is dotted with strips of red, blue, black and white, from its days as a gym floor with basketball court markings.
The couple’s bedroom is a smaller cosy space; the teal walls create a dark backdrop, brightened with framed posters and prints. The patterned bedspread was designed and printed by Lockhart in India, inspired by the flora and fauna in Rajasthan, in collaboration with London-based design studio, To & From (toandfrom.co).
The bathroom floor and walls are covered in forest green marble tiles; the couple found the marble in Jaipur and had it cut into tiles and shipped back. The ground-floor entryway features mustard walls and geometric floor tiles from zelart.com. Heirloom pieces of furniture, like an original 1963 String shelving unit that Lockhart inherited from her grandmother, combine with trinkets found in charity shops and vintage gems sourced on eBay, like the couple’s 675 chairs by Robin Day for Heal’s. Prints by her favourite artists – including Tom Pigeon and Léa Maupetit – fill the walls. Lockhart’s own homewares are inspired by 1960s colours, much like their interior. “My granny’s house is a huge influence,” she says.
The pair’s limited budget meant juggling day jobs and saving up to complete the renovation as they went. It took three years. “It was a lot more work than we envisaged,” Lockhart says. In September 2018, the couple moved in; their son Frankie was born four months later. His nursery combines Lockhart’s designs with vintage children’s books and vivid textiles.
Located in the centre of town, the mill’s exterior appears little changed. The building could still be in industrial use. “Delivery men just walk in through the front door. I have to say, ‘This is my home’,” Lockhart says. Only the bright yellow front door nods to the transformation inside.