How to turn a very normal home into an arty hangout with bags of personality

The couple behind the Artist Residence hotels added artworks, vintage furniture and lots of clashing patterns

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the dining room
The couple gave new life to the conservatory on a budget

From the outside, Justin and Charlie Salisbury’s Fifties terrace home in west London doesn’t stand out.

But as soon as you step inside their front door, into a tiny but brightly painted kitchen, along a wood-clad hallway and into a light-filled lounge packed with art and colourful prints, it is ­obvious that this is a home stuffed with personality.

The Salisburys have experience of doing up places. They are the hoteliers behind the hip boutique hotel chain, Artist Residence, which is known for its stand-out style and as an antidote to bland hotel rooms.

The couple started their chain, which will soon number five hotels, in 2008, by accident rather than design. When they were both students at Leeds University, Justin’s mother, who ran a guesthouse in Brighton, was badly injured in an accident.

Justin left his accountancy degree to look after the business and, realising that the rooms needed refurbishing, put out an advert asking local artists to decorate the rooms in return for board. It was the start of a brilliant hotel proposition, and one that set the tone for future properties, as well as their own home.

Justin and Charlie Salisbury with their dog

They bought their current house five years ago and called in builders for a four-month renovation. They soon realised Charlie was pregnant; when she came back from hospital with baby Blake, now four, the builders were still there for a couple more weeks. “I was pretty desperate for them to leave,” says Charlie.

The inside hasn’t been knocked around too much. The largest job was moving the kitchen from the back of the property, in the conservatory, to the front of the house in what was an office-cum-spare bedroom. “It really bothered me where it was,” Charlie says. “It was very cold in winter and it made the living room quite dark. Moving it to the front of the house has enabled us to open up the space.”

They painted the cabinets – which Justin designed and got built at a fraction of the cost of a designer kitchen – a dark bluey-green, and the walls were cream. “But I decided we needed more colour,” Justin says. “So I came home one day and painted the walls pink.”

The brightly painted kitchen

In an ideal world they would have upgraded the PVC conservatory installed by the previous owners with glass, but budget and time constraints forced them to be resourceful. “We had loads of wood cladding in storage, so I just decided to use that,” Justin says. (Charlie notes archly that her husband is a hoarder.) The effect is warm and rustic, with houseplants hung at different levels. It’s much more characterful than a modern renovation.

Unearthing the character in their hotels is usually easy in the period properties they find and do up – their latest, which is due to open this year in ­Bristol, is a converted boot factory and Georgian townhouse.

“We strip things back and let the features shine,” Charlie says. “But in our home, it was different. There weren’t many features here to start with, apart from a rather modern brick wall in the dining room that we did expose and paint.”

Vintage touches are all over the house

To add personality to the house, they had to layer it up with accessories, ­textiles, and most importantly for the couple, art. There is a Connor Brothers print in the living room, fox and rabbit prints above the sofa by Dave White, a piece by Pure Evil in their bedroom, and work by Stephen Anthony Davids that Charlie says “looks like our cat”, as well as a neon sign by Andy Doig which is a feature in every one of their hotels. “We couldn’t have a neon sign and it not be by Andy,” Charlie adds.

Buying art, they say, is about finding a “personal connection”. But even more simply than that, “start with what you like”. It doesn’t need to be ­expensive – along with the prints and original pieces that they have built up in their personal collection are also eBay finds that fill the walls, such as a large American flag that Justin says he “just fancied”.

The layered approach extends to the floors, too. While the downstairs has hardwood flooring that they inherited with the house, they have added colourful, textured rugs, layering them in places. “Rugs are so important for ­making your home feel comfortable because you’re often barefoot a lot of the time,” Charlie says.

Clashing patterns bring the living room to life

On the stairs, landing and bedrooms they have opted for carpets for warmth and sound ­prevention, choosing bold patterns from spots to check.

Their home is full of decoration, such as in the living room, where jazzy cushions sit on a zig-zag white couch from Anthropologie. “It doesn’t matter if the patterns clash,” Charlie says, “but I think you have to be careful with the colours. So, the sofa and the cushions both have white undertones, and that’s why it works. Otherwise, it might be too overpowering.”

Another way they’ve added texture to their modern house is by changing the internal doors to reclaimed ones. The living room didn’t actually have a door to begin with, “and as much as I like the open-plan look, I do think it’s nice to have zones,” Charlie says. They added a door and frame from the reclamation company English Salvage. Meanwhile, their en suite has a sliding door, which as well as being a design staple in some of their hotels, helps to maximise the small available space.

A colourful bedroom

Their son Blake has added his own touch. “We’ve accumulated so many toys,” Justin says, despairingly. “It’s not something we had to consider before.” Compromises to personal style have had to be made as he’s grown. “We had a beautiful mini bar cabinet in the conservatory before, which we loved, but now we’ve had to turn it into a toy cupboard,” Charlie says. Meanwhile Justin added a fabric skirt to an open-fronted sideboard in the dining room to hide yet more playthings.

Nothing is ever permanent for them: pieces of art are moved, and furniture might end up in a hotel – or vice versa. “We were trying to find a table for our Cornwall hotel, looked at our own ­dining room table and realised that it would make a good fit,” Charlie says. The luxe red mohair sofa in their conservatory used to be in their London hotel lounge – until they decided it was too big.

They find it hard to pin down their style, because, they say, nothing is too over-thought. “If we like it, we just get it or do it,” Charlie says. “A lot of that comes from having learned about ­design as we went along – we tried things out and if they didn’t work, we tried again. We don’t tend to overthink things.”

artistresidence.co.uk