A Victorian home filled with Seventies design
Claire and Kevin Christie’s Victorian home in Dunfermline is a celebration of 1970s design and bold colour combinations. Feature & Styling Alison Gibb. Photographs Douglas Gibb
'People often believe you have to be a slave to the architecture of a property, but I don’t agree,’ says Claire Christie, textile designer and avid collector of all things Sixties and Seventies. A firm believer that vintage pieces can make a statement in a modern home, she’s also a keen advocate of using Modernist and contemporary furniture in a period property. ‘If you love a particular style, just indulge in it!’ she says.
And Claire certainly practises what she preaches: the Victorian semi that she shares with her husband, Kevin, and their children, Gracie and Joe, is a shrine to the eras she loves. From the Peacock chairs, G-Plan coffee table and sculptural vases in the sitting room, to the McIntosh sideboards in the dining room, her home is furnished with classic British designs from the 1960s and 1970s. ‘I’ve always loved the shapes of Sixties and Seventies furniture,’ she says. ‘It feels futuristic and optimistic in a “we’re all going to Mars!” kind of way.’
Her passion for collecting started when she was a teenager and Glasgow’s famous antiques market, The Barras, became a regular haunt. ‘The first piece I bought was a large, red glass decanter with a teardrop stopper. I think I was about 13 at the time. I used to go with my brothers and sisters and it became a bit of sport between us. We all got into collecting glass and we’d try to outdo each other and see who could get the best piece.’ The decanter has now been joined by many more that crowd the top of a G-Plan sideboard in the dining room.
Claire’s compulsion to collect continues to this day, which is no surprise, as it was her love of antiques and vintage shops and their treasures that awoke a latent interest in surface pattern and design. This eventually led to Claire studying textiles at Glasgow School of Art.
Kitsch bird ornaments are her current obsession. ‘I bought a couple to use as props when I was photographing some of my work,’ she says. The collection grows each time she comes across an interesting one. ‘I call it my desktop aviary. I think they’re mostly from the 1980s; that’s the era of the ornament to me.’ But her biggest collection is of carved wooden gazelles. ‘I have a whole herd,’ she laughs, admitting there were well over 20 at the last count, arranged in groups all over the house.
Although he doesn’t share her magpie tendencies, Claire’s husband, Kevin, does appreciate the results. ‘He has quite reserved tastes,’ she says, and leaves most of the interior decisions up to her. ‘But he secretly loves it all.’
There is one area where his opinion held sway: Peacock chairs. ‘I love them,’ she says, ‘and I had this idea that they would be great around the dining table, but Kevin just said, “They’re ridiculous, Claire,” and put his foot down.’ In the end, she was allowed to give two of them house-room and a third has been relegated to her studio. But apart from this small intervention, it’s Claire’s aesthetic that dominates.
‘All the rooms in our house are led by my collections,’ she explains. The plan for the sitting room began with a group of gilt-framed convex mirrors, which fills one wall. Dating from the 1870s to the 1930s, they reflect the ease with which she happily mixes different eras. The bold grey and yellow colour scheme was inspired by a favourite yellow vase, which sits on the mantelpiece.
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In the dining room, the collection of red vases and decanters was the starting point. ‘I began with red and added shades of orange and so on,’ she explains. Strips of Orla Kiely’s classic ‘Multi Stem’ wallpaper completed the look, complementing the mid-century furniture, the decorative glass and the current trend for pale grey walls. ‘We chose the design soon after we moved in,’ says Claire. ‘It was hand-printed then, so it has a lovely texture. It’s ubiquitous now, but I still love it.’
Although she doesn’t usually customise things, Claire went to town with an impressive G-Plan sideboard, which now appears to have been designed specifically for the room. ‘It was all scratched up,’ she explains, ‘but I really loved the shape, particularly the scooped side panels and the handles, so I decided to jazz it up a bit.’
Her use of wallpaper offcuts inspired a similar approach to the hall wall, which is covered with a collage of wallpaper samples in shades of grey and yellow. ‘Pattern on pattern is huge for me,’ she says, and layering colour and contrasting motifs plays a significant role not just in her home, but also in her design work, which she produces under the Clarabella Christie label.
Claire set up her interiors business 10 years ago, and the initial idea was to make small collections of homewares using vintage fabrics. ‘I was really keen to recycle all the fabrics I’d collected over the years,’ she says, adding that before long, she was running sewing workshops and teaching people how to revamp their furniture with vintage textiles.
‘I mostly worked with fabrics from the 1960s and 1970s, and I was really into the nostalgia of it all.’ But as more people began to do the same, Claire decided to return to her roots as a textile designer and has recently fulfilled a long-held ambition to design her own range of fabrics.
The windows of her studio look out across Dunfermline’s rooftops and this view and ‘the patterns, shapes and rhythms of the city’s skyline’ have inspired her new collection. As much of Dunfermline’s wealth grew out of linen production, it feels fitting that she’s celebrating its architectural heritage through her fabric designs, which will be used to make a variety of home accessories.
Claire’s range, called ‘Hometown’, features repeat motifs based on her favourite buildings and the city’s best-known landmarks. Unsurprisingly, the colourways and designs have a distinctly Sixties and Seventies feel, and consequently the range fits seamlessly into her home – a bold 21st-century addition to the magpie mix.
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