Behind the Palette with Siobhan Doherty

29 Apr 2024

Known to her legions of followers on Instagram as @home_stead, Siobhan Doherty’s 1890s mid-terrace home in Edinburgh is a marriage of pared-back sensibility with warm neutral tones that invite followers into a world of sublime calm.

Siobhan is refreshingly open about the feat of serious hard graft that has gone into creating such a considered world, since she and her husband Rory moved in with their then-one-year-old daughter back in 2017, and its subsequent unfolding story as they’ve added two more little girls to their family in the intervening years.

“There is no way we would have the home we have without mucking in and doing the hard work ourselves. We undertook most of it, apart from electrics and plumbing,” she explains. “When it finally all comes together, the hardship is soon forgotten about but there have also been many lows! It’s difficult to be productive with DIY when you have three littles who need all of you. We’ve sacrificed a lot of time and money to get the house looking the way it does now. We haven’t had many family holidays and we haven’t had much family time. We still have lots to do but we hope to be able to kick back and enjoy it soon.”

It is, then, an intense labour of deep-seated passion, and much of the graft has Rory in sourcing and reinstating the original features, many of which had been removed. The couple tirelessly salvaged the cast iron radiators and mantlepieces that sing so beautifully through Siobhan’s imagery, inch by inch redeeming the house and its lovely bones.

And yet it has also been an exercise in making an older house operative for contemporary family life: as such, one of the very first jobs was to take down the wall between the small dining room and the kitchen at the rear of the house.

“The house is quite small, so opening up these main reception rooms made the space feel so much brighter and bigger,” says Siobhan. ‘As a young family, we really wanted an open plan space so that we could be prepping food while supervising the children.”

Now, seven years after installing the kitchen, Siobhan has given the space a refresh. “The original pine floorboards were in a state of disrepair due to wear and tear so we decided to replace them like for like with reclaimed cheese floorboards. Replacing these made us rethink the whole space,” she explains. “We weren’t using the island to its full capacity because it wasn’t big enough and the square shape was wrong for the rectangle room. It also had a granite worktop that felt cold and therefore didn’t invite you to sit there. So, we decided to have a new island custom made by a local kitchen maker. It now feels like a lovely focal point.”
Grove Pull Handle, Antique Brass featured left. Edwin Table Lamp and Nora Pleated Lampshade featured right. 

The details have been paramount, the diminutive touches lifting the look disproportionately. “We choose an oak worktop and painted it in a lovely colour called Truffle by Paint & Paper Library,” explains Siobhan. “The Rowen & Wren antiqued brass hardware looks lovely – it is this attention to detail that elevates the whole space. I had a clear vision of the style I wanted, and the Grove Pull Handle in antique brass really makes the bespoke joinery look very high end. I adore how every piece is so considered and looks like an antique.” 

And while the choice of joinery has been transformative in the kitchen, so too has another detail that keen followers of @home_stead perennially revel in. The abiding thread that weaves its way through the whole house is an emphasis on undemonstrative yet deeply warm, inviting tones – a fact that is hardly surprising given Siobhan’s work as a colour consultant for the likes of Farrow & Ball, Little Greene, Paint & Paper Library, Edward Bulmer and Atelier Ellis via which she has dispensed advice to scores of home improvers up and down the land.

“I began my journey into the world of colour at art college in Belfast where I honed my skills in silk screen printing,” she explains. “I spent a bit of time in London working for print designers and then moved north to Edinburgh and worked for a decade as showroom manager for Farrow & Ball.” A promotion to colour consultant for Scotland followed, and she has been working across the whole country through virtual appointments ever since.

Unsurprisingly, Siobhan has garnered a reputation for the kinds of colours that she showcases so beautifully in her own home along the way. As she says, “My signature is creating homes that feel light, humble and characterful through skilful use of colour accents and threads. No matter the age, style, size of the property, I firmly believe that every home deserves thoughtful consideration. Guiding people towards falling in love with their spaces is nothing short of a dream job for me. Through sharing glimpse of my own home on Instagram I think I have fostered a reputation for choosing elegant neutrals. Most of my clients come to me because they want a warm, light homely feel with accents of colour.”

Amongst the neutrals, there are judiciously chosen pops of colour too. As Siobhan says, “Dirty straw-like yellows and green undertones make for very comforting spaces. Greens and blues are soothing and calm, while pink is a very flattering colour on the skin tone.” Comfort, warm conviviality and real life, after all, reign supreme through everything Siobhan touches. And while the colour and the nuts and bolts provide the scaffolding, it is the finishing touches make a home. 

“I have a bit of an obsession with table lamps,” she laughs. “And without realising, I have accumulated a lot of shades that are scalloped or pleated. I am very drawn to these organic shapes. I absolutely adore the lightly oiled Rowen & Wren Edwin Oak base and love it with the Nora pleated lampshade. The ditsy olive print really suits my home and I also have a daughter called Nora, so it felt like it was made for me! The Turner bench turned my eye immediately too. It is a thing of beauty and even more gorgeous in real life. I envisaged it at our dining table with a lovely, quilted mattress on top – the perfect spot for my three girls to sit at mealtimes.”

Turner Oak Dining Bench featured left. 

Siobhan's journey with her home reflects not just her expertise but her dedication to creating a sanctuary for her growing family. And while the journey has been filled with challenges and sacrifices, it's also been a labour of love - a testament to the power of perseverance and vision. As she looks ahead, there's a sense of anticipation for the moments of relaxation and enjoyment that await, where the hard work will fade into the background. In the end, it's not just about the colours or the furnishings; it's about crafting a space that embodies the essence of home - a place where every detail tells a story of love and belonging.

Interview by Nancy Alsop

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