A Story of Home - @shellbirch

dark decor interiors inspiration  large round mirror crystal chandelier

Welcome to the latest edition of A Story of Home, our interiors inspiration series which takes you on a tour of some of our favourite beautiful homes on Instagram.


This week we take a snoop around the home of Michelle aka @shellbirch and her dramatic dark interior. I first discovered Michelle's home on Instagram and quickly became hooked on her beautiful styling, dark decor and just wait until you see her staircase. Its not hard to see why Michelle's home has been featured in the Sunday Observer magazine and was a nominee in the 2019 UK Interior Awards for Best Dark Decor


Pop the kettle on, take five and enjoy a cuppa with this week's home story.

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House Bio:

I am Michele but get called Shell by most people, I work in a local boy's Grammar School as an Art Technician, have a degree in Fashion and am obsessed with dark interiors.  I live with my husband John, my son Redd (26) and Redd's 10 year old goldfish Rachel, I have 3 step children but Louise lives in Mallorca, Alan in Dundee and only Jack lives local.

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How long have you lived here and what type of property is it?

I have lived in this 4 bed Victorian Terraced house with 100ft garden for 25 years. It was originally my Aunt and Uncle's home and his father bought it 'new' in the early 1900's, so it has never been out of the family and I spent a lot of time here as a child. 

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The house was to be sold and had been empty for a number of years after my Aunt passed away, I was

away at Uni and planning to go to London but we decided to come back to my home town just for a few months as my son was only a year old.....however, for various reasons I never left and am still here!!!!

I love the house so much and have so many memories of it as a child and lots of photos of its various interiors particularly through the 70's and 80's . It has fabulous high ceilings and lots of original features and the garden is huge.

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Where do you seek your inspiration?

Inspiration has come from interiors magazines such as Elle Decoration (my bible) and Livingetc  as well as various others, TV shows eg. Grand Designs etc. and visiting National Trust properties. Instagram is now a big influence and my lifelong passion for decorating and creating interiors .


Also, 5 years ago I attended Abigail Ahern's design masterclass in her London home and that was the most game changing moments and took my interiors to a whole new level.... I had been using dark colours in my house and painting ceilings the same colour as the walls over the years but not quite to the extent that she does..... once I had been in hers that was when my house was transformed and I started to use the dark colours on a whole house scale to achieve a fully cohesive magical atmosphere. 

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What was the first job in your home you tackled?

The first job 25 years ago was to strip all the wallpaper that was still on the walls, nothing had been done to the house since probably the mid 80's and it was quite emotional stripping it all out and taking apart the work my uncle had done all those years ago. 

Were there any surprises during the revamp/renovation?

Surprises came when taking off the 'boxing in' on the staircase as underneath we found the original spindles which I had never seen, pulling down a false ceiling in the hall to find 2 amazing high ceilings still intact with original cornices and lastly uncovering the original stained glass panel above the French window in the back living room which had been plaster-boarded and papered over ( it actually still is!!!! it is one of the jobs still to be done).

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What do you think has been the most successful area of your interior?

Most successful area of the interior revamp has been the kitchen... previously it was 2 rooms, a tiny kitchen area and a bigger morning room. We knocked through to the small kitchen to make a large open plan kitchen with a big window that brings in lots of light and  looks down the garden to the Summer house which we added to the garden 3 years ago. 

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black metro tiles white grout kitchen ideas

Are there any failures in your design/DIY that you care to admit to?

Failures.... painting everything White when we first moved in!! !I just cannot make white or pale colour interiors work, I love them in other peoples homes, just not in mine. Also, a dodgy Orange room years ago, walls, ceiling the lot was quite something.

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Which is your favourite room?

Favourite room is probably the main living room and the first room to go fully to the dark side, it's painted out a dark grey Charcoal colour walls, ceiling, skirting, doors and window frame although I wished I had gone for Off Black  like the small back room, I probably will eventually, it's just such an onerous task that I keep putting it off!!  I also love the bathroom very much, it has the original bathroom suite from the 60's in a Blue/Green turquoise colour  and since I wallpapered it last year it has changed the whole feel of the room.

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wallpapered bathroom dark decor black tiles turquoise blue sink
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Do you have a favourite object in your home?

Favourite object is actually a piece and of furniture and it is the mid century sideboard in the front living room. It was from my Mum and Dad's house (the family home) and when Mum moved into a care home a couple of years ago I couldn't sell it, I love it and it still smells of my childhood!!

mid century sideboard modern vintage living retro furniture teak

Any golden nuggets of advice to share to anyone undertaking their own revamp/renovation, did you learn any lessons?

Advice would be to take your time if possible with decorating, let the space evolve and gather items you love rather than buy everything from the same shop. Don't be afraid to make bold choices with colour... if they don't work you can just paint over it.

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Do you have anywhere in your home that doesn’t make it onto Instagram?

Rooms that don't make Instagram are a couple of upstairs rooms which are either difficult to photograph or are used as office space/bedroom.


What’s the next project you have planned?

Next project is to finish planning the garden and the windows in the small back living room to finally expose the stained glass panel. 

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Do you run a business?

I don't have a business  but I do make Hand Felted cushions when there is time (none at the moment) and sell through Etsy, there is a link on my Instagram profile.

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Thank you Michelle for sharing your home with us. If you've followed any of my other blog posts you will I'm sure by now have realised I do love dark decor. I love Michelle's styling and all the textures & layers she has created in her home. And yes there are TWO shots of that gorgeous gold staircase because frankly its just fantastic.


To follow Michelle's home stories you can find her on Instagram as @shellbirch and check out her hand felted cushions HERE


Thanks for reading, see you soon for the next home story

Bye for now

Sharon x

Write a comment

Comments: 1
  • #1

    Penny Sommers (Monday, 09 December 2019 17:03)

    I am not only a fan of inky, moody interiors, I am a big fan of black. Not every one is though. I remember a number of years ago, I was describing to my husband the color I was going to use to repaint our dining room, when I said, "and black for the ceiling" he went, "whoa, whoa, whoa, you had me until you said black!" He's come around since then, happy to say. I've renovated an upstairs bathroom recently too, guess the vanity color, yes it's black! he loves it, as do I.