Get the look: Dan Lovatt on turning a 19th century house into a sanctuary

Dan Lovatt’s house is more than just a home. The interiors influencer bought the early 1800s property five years ago and it set him on a new path to happiness.

Suffering with his mental health for 15 years, with depression and an anxiety disorder, his home became his sanctuary and, as he slowly renovated it, he started posting online and gained almost 30,000 followers.

Still improving the property and still posting, he now lives there with his dog Frank, a Lakeland terrier cross.

‘I have suffered with my mental health since my teenage years,’ Dan explains, ‘and unfortunately the older I got, the worse it got, which made life difficult at times. So I’ve always used my own space to make it my sanctuary where I could shut the world out.

‘When I first bought the house I painted everything black, and I had a very strict black-and-white monochromatic scheme.

‘I began to document my house on Instagram, sharing my renovation journey with others and how I did things, and it was really rewarding, especially the advice people offered, or I could offer them.’

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Dan’s home in Darlington, County Durham, has given him a new direction and freedom in life, taking him from visual merchandising manager to interior designer and decorator, as well as allowing him to work with brands to help him develop his style.

The house once belonged to botanist James Backhouse and his industrialist family, and then later the Pease family. It’s full of Darlington history but, mainly thanks to an overzealous Seventies renovation, many original features were lost.

‘As soon as I moved in, I knew that I wanted to restore the original character and charm of the house because over the years, unfortunately, this had been lost. And it was also a house I never thought I would be able to afford – it has been a labour of love ever since.’

No room reflects this sentiment better than the kitchen, which has been a work in progress for four years. Dan says: ‘I originally did it on the tiniest budget which didn’t go far enough, but then when problems arose like the plumbing, the floor joists rotting and other things, it was time to start again.

‘I began by reworking the layout and getting rid of the island and having a big dining table at the heart of the kitchen, and then started to choose the big things like new flooring and tiles.

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‘I must’ve changed my mind every week for two years but then always came back to the original things I loved, so I could have saved myself a lot of time.’

The finished room is a contemporary design that references the origins of the house but, thanks to a sense of minimalism and restraint, doesn’t overdose on nostalgia.

Porcelain tiles create a sea of deep bluey green that’s lifted by a taupe background, and the cabinets are in soft black. It is a large, open-plan, usable space that shrinks around you thanks to elements such as the warm, characterful, parquet-style tiling and vintage dining chairs.

‘I think it’s incredibly important to think about the placement of items so you have something visually pleasing at each turn point, which will hit you in your face like a piece of art or a memory of a trip,’ says Dan.

‘Also, things like lighting and placement of lamps is really crucial to help illuminate darker corners or to cast a glow over certain objects. I want my eye to read a room and bounce around, and for that you need to have things that command your attention.

‘Leading your eye through a space causes intrigue and for me it allows those moments of calm to just read the room and enjoy.’

Dan says the secret is in going with what you love and spending more time considering the bigger things such as the tiles, flooring and cabinet styles – the parts that can’t easily be changed.

Then fill it with pre-loved items, whether from everyday life or travels, to make spaces feel more personal.

‘Throughout renovating my home, the favourite things I own are mostly pre-loved, as each of them tells a story and holds a special place in my heart – so I’m always looking out for pre-loved items to add. Overall, my kitchen now feels warm, somewhat playful… but more importantly, it feels like a home.’

Here’s how to get the look of Dan’s chic yet homely abode.

Chimney breast tiles

‘They glisten like water and have the most incredible pattern used on a large scale.’

Buy for £16.25 per sheet from Capietra.

Flooring

The warming taupe tone of the floor is achieved through a smoking and oiling process, and the blocks are tumbled to give an authentic appearance.’

Buy from The Wood Floor Company, price on application.

Kitchen cabinet colour

‘The Record Store by Coat is a beautiful, soft black that feels effortless.’

Buy 2.5litres, Flat Matt for £49 from Coat Paints.

Cabinet handles

Classic Aged Brass Cupboard Handles

‘I hate hardware in the kitchen that you can catch yourself on, but these cup pulls have a beautiful shape and the bronze will patina over time.’

Buy for £10.50 from Yester Home.

Dining chairs

‘I love my vintage dining chairs – a design classic and super-comfortable.’

Alternative: (Dan’s vintage chairs are Kofod Larsen for G Plan) Elbow Chair in Light Oak, £329 from Loop and Twist.

Splashback tiles

‘The imperfectness of each tile is unique and adds texture without conflicting with the chimney breast.’

Buy for £66 a box from Ca’ Pietra.

Wall lights

‘The soft black cone compliments the cabinet colours and illuminates the objects on the shelf.’

Buy for £57.50 from Houseof.

Wall colour

‘I love a good neutral, and Good Intentions by Coat is the perfect taupe with a warm grey undertone.’

Buy 2.5litres, Flat Matt for £49 from Coat Paints.

Pedestal dining table

‘I love a pedestal table to break up the boxiness of kitchen spaces.’

Alternative: (Dan’s table was from eBay) John Lewis Pedestal 4 Seater Dining Table, £599 from John Lewis.

This article contains affiliate links. We will earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.

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