Colour me impressed: exploring Lancashire's most flamboyant home with the gifted UCLan interior design student behind it all
The fireplace is yellow and the master bed is gold. The kitchen is a picture of baby pink and sea green. The free-standing bathtub is leopard-print. At the bottom of the stairs is a neon sign which reads 'she is a belter' and at the top of the stairs is a portrait of a French bulldog. There's an ornamental lightning bolt. This is Kim Yates' world and we're all just living in it.
An interior design student at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, Kim is a disciple of colours and patterns, an apostle of everything multi-chromatic and visually-arresting. She has an eye for the dramatic and the truly unique. And it's safe to say that there's likely not been a more vibrant home renovation than Kim's over the past year.
"Even as a little girl, I've always loved colour and I've always been creative," says Kim, 34. "When we found this property, we knew immediately. It was just ideal; it was screaming talent and it was just so ready to have a bit of personality injected into it. We got the keys last August, did a top-to-bottom renovation in 10 weeks, and moved in last November.
"And, since then, everything's just taken off."
Until just three years ago, Kim owned beauty salons. But, deciding on a change of career and spurred on to follow her passion by friends and family, she embarked on an interior design course at UCLan. And, with her and her husband Mark being experienced house renovators - "this is our fourth - people call us serial renovators!" - Kim's also had some blank canvases to work with, too.
"For ages, people said I should get into interior design and it's been one of the absolute best things that I've ever done," says Kim. "Me and my husband have been together for 12 years now, so we know we've got it in us to do these things together: Mark manages the money and I inject that splash of personality and colour into a property.
"We just thrive off the pressure of a renovation project," adds Kim, with the current project, a Victorian home in East Lancashire, even boasting its own Instagram page called Miss Mustard Design. "Then we sell it and move on and start all over again."
Describing the style with which she has approached the design of her home as 'eclectic modern vintage', Kim has transformed what was a relatively-circumspect property into a veritable explosion of maximalism. So striking is the end result that it landed Kim on the front cover of Home Style Magazine and, what's more, the project was completed on a budget, too.
"Working on a budget makes me more creative and I've taken to hunting through charity and vintage shops, upcycling everything, and transforming the things we've already got," says Kim. "When I'm bargain-hunting, I can spot a treasure as soon as I see it and I can immediately tell the difference between something dated and something with real potential.
"I honestly don't know where the eye for things comes from, I think it's just a natural knack," she adds. "But, when we're looking at a house as a blank canvas so to speak, Mark and me don't really find it hard to envisage the end product. We tend to know straight away what we want to do, what would suit where, and how to really enhance a space.
"That's our niche: we can picture the finished article really vividly so then we just go for it and get creative, which I love. And working with my husband is great because we're on the same page and, despite him openly admitting that the maximalist design isn't his style, he knows I know what I'm doing, so him and the kids love it just as much as I do."
Undertaking such a bold and transformational renovation of a home might be some people's idea of of a nightmare, but Kim actually says she finds getting her teeth stuck into such a project therapeutic as she allows herself to slip seamlessly into the world of bargain-hunting, charity shop-raiding, DIY-ing, and the million other things which go into her eclectic process.
But the approach is never the same for every house.
"While the bright colours reflect the fact that we're known as a happy family with bouncy personalities, we don't always do every renovation in such a bold style," says Kim. "We adapt to each property. For example, with our 1930s bungalow, we knocked through and made all open-plan and sleek. We go off what suits the property best in each case.
"Being able to adapt in that way is important and it's also a challenge I love," adds Kim. "When I'm working out what a property is about, I gather mood boards, get tactile fabrics together, get a load of colour swatches, work out pattern clashes, and then bring it all together with 3D visuals which allow me to envision everything and plan each space.
"The aim is to bring the most out of every single inch of every room," Kim continues. "I try to give everything a purpose and make it a feature in it's own way. As soon as I walk into a room, I'm immediately looking for unique features which I can emphasise. Even something like the edge of a door can be given its own personality. And it's important not to be afraid."
Along with quality furniture paint and lighting, the key to any room is to let it reflect what you love, according to Kim, who plans to start her own bona fide interior design business called Lemon Leopard when she finishes her studies. Bold show-stopping centrepieces and other standout elements are also potential stylistic goldmines to make an environment pop.
"Make things unique and they will bring the whole space together," says Kim. "People tend to be wary, but you only live once. I get asked a lot about what inspires me, but nothing really inspires me, I just go for things which I love and bring everything together. At the end of the day, you're the one who's going to live there, so you've got to love the interiors around you.
"Don't focus on somebody else's design, be brave and don't worry about what others think, put your own stamp on it," she adds. "Take something like our bed: I bought it off Facebook Marketplace and it was really dated, but I sprayed it with gold paint and it's become the main feature in our master bedroom.
"I've never had an idea and thought 'that's too bold', but everything has to be used proportionally to be effective. Light is important, too: our bathroom is painted dark green and the tiles and the grout are green too, so my husband was wary. But I'd looked at the ratio and the room has two big windows, so there was loads of natural light."
That more scientific element of striking the right balance between texture, light, colour, and depth in a room is something which Kim has relished leaning more about on her course at UCLan, during which she has explored topics as varied as the impact colours can have on mental health and the potential interior design trends of the future.
But one emotion reigns supreme for Kim.
"When I finish a room, I get this amazing feeling which is just so rewarding," she says. "Because I've made it mine."