A retro-mad couple have become modern-day time travellers – skipping between the 19th century and the 1960s simply by leaving their living room to go to bed, as each room in their house reflects a different era.

Since marrying postman Stuart Tighe, 47, in a 1930s-themed wedding in 2014, Emma Tighe, 43, has let her love of all things vintage run riot inside their Edwardian terrace – now home to everything from a Victorian lounge to a 1980s bar.

Owner of retro emporium Vintage Dolly, mum-of-one Emma, of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, said: “History and vintage have been lifelong loves for me.”

She added: “I love historical programmes and period dramas, like Downton Abbey. I would have loved to have been alive then.

“Our house is the ultimate time warp home – we can time travel between the rooms.

“I’m like a period interior designer. I love to help people share my passion for the past.”

Luckily, Stuart happily embraces her love of vintage kitsch, which is at its most prolific in their Cadbury’s themed kitchen and Victorian hallway, which boasts touches like taxidermy and sepia family photos.

Also proudly creating a Victorian living room and Edwardian dining room, Emma, whose web designer son, James, 22, lives in Epsom, Surrey, said: “We’ve spent between £35,000 and £40,000 doing up the house over 10 years.

“But, to me, it feels like I’ve nipped to a few car boots and spent a couple of hundred quid.”

She added: “You can never put a price on it as it’s stuff you love.

“We joke with my son that there’s no money in the bank, as it’s all in antiques.”

Growing up in Bournville, Birmingham – within sniffing distance of the Cadbury’s chocolate factory – Emma’s love for bygone eras was inspired by regular visits to her nearby great aunt and uncle’s 1940s-style home.



Emma dressed up for VE Day
Emma dressed up for VE Day

She said: “My great uncle was my absolute hero. All my happy childhood memories are there.

“He and my aunt lived as if they were still in the 1940s.

“I used to stay with them and come home to egg and chips for tea, followed by peaches and custard. I’d wash in a basin with a towel heating by the gas fire and sleep in a bedroom with antique furniture.”

She added: “Everything was like it would have been in the 1940s. It’s stayed with me and that’s why our house is the way it is now.”

Sadly, her first marriage ended in 2001 and in 2005 she relocated to Kidderminster with James to be closer to her mum – moving in two doors down from now-husband Stuart.

After his own marriage ended in 2010, they started dating – visiting an auction for their first date, where love blossomed.

“It was quite magical,” Emma said. “I joke that I’m either Mrs Tighe the Third, as Stuart’s been married twice before, or the girl next door.”

In 2012, Emma moved in, insisting on whitewashing the property’s brown-painted walls and, after accepting Stuart’s marriage proposal, she planned the ultimate vintage wedding.

In tribute to her beloved stepdad, Kenneth Clarke, 73, a steam train fanatic, who died of terminal bone and prostate cancer in 2013, she decided they should tie-the-knot at the nearby Severn Valley Railway.

“Before he died, I promised we would marry there in his memory,” she said.

True to her word, on June 20, 2014, she became Mrs Tighe, celebrating in a hired carriage on the historical line, with everything – including the bride, groom and guests – kitted out from the 1930s.



Emma's Edwardian-style dining room
Emma’s Edwardian-style dining room

Emma said: “Everything matched the vintage railway setting.”

She added: “I wore a 1930s-style dress and we decorated the tables with a 1930s-style newspaper all about our family, called The Daily Tighe.

“We had to search high and low for a top hat and tails for Stuart, like Fred Astaire.

“I even insisted he take dance lessons, so we could give our guests the picture-perfect waltz.”

And the wedding fuelled her determination to transform their marital home into a retro wonderland.



Emma and Stuart married in a 1930s steam train themed wedding in honour of Emma's late stepdad
Emma and Stuart married in a 1930s steam train themed wedding in honour of Emma’s late stepdad

Visiting car boot sales, fetes and auctions hunting for cool kitsch, she said: “We’d put everything from the wedding in the cellar and I sold it all on Facebook Marketplace, which made a profit and fuelled our desire to decorate the house.”

So, in early 2015, she quit her job as an autism specialist to run Vintage Dolly – driving a black cab embossed with the business name in pink lettering on the side.

She said: “I started out running the business in our shed, but now I’m even holding vintage events for the Black Country Museum.”

First based in an industrial-sized, 600sq ft unit just down the road in Kidderminster, which Stuart found, initially, she only sold stuff online but she opened it as a proper shop this year – moving to a 4,000sq ft unit on the same estate.

Parting company with her beloved retro items can be tough for Emma.

She said: “Often, I can’t bear to part with pieces I find. I have to bring them home to love them for a little bit longer, and they never leave!”

This is evident the moment you step inside the couple’s uniquely decorated home – which began with Emma’s ‘gentleman’s club-style’ Victorian living room, which she put together in 2014, after finding a cabinet from the era at an auction.

She said: “We found vintage Chesterfields and wingback chairs, too. The cabinet is full of old tea sets, books and vintage children’s shoes.”



The drinks fridge in the 1980s-style bar
The drinks fridge in the 1980s-style bar

Also restoring skirting boards, ceiling roses and cornicing – to capture the house’s history – it is like stepping back in time.

She said: “The hallway came next. We’ve got taxidermy, old family photos, and Stuart loves mechanical things, so we’ve got a Victorian lift pulley and a World War One era telephone.

“The dining room took five years to do. We had a huge leak from the bathroom – a pipe burst and we came home to half a ceiling.”

Undeterred, Emma found the perfect pieces – from embossed green wallpaper to a copper bar cart.

Two years ago, they put together a 1960s-style upstairs bedroom, with Love Heart sweets wall art.

One of Emma’s favourite rooms is her Cadbury’s themed kitchen, a nod to her Bournville origins and love of chocolate.

The cupboards are stocked with Cadbury tins and the walls are covered with vintage signage.

Seeing lockdown as an opportunity to get creative, the couple then built the ultimate man cave – a 1980s bar in the garden shed.

Emma said: “We both love the 80s and with pubs closed in lockdown, we decided to do it.”

She added: “The bar is from a 1980s nightclub and was Stuart’s birthday present in March 2020 from me.

“We spend more time in there than anywhere!”



Emma's 1960s-style room
Emma’s 1960s-style room

They also celebrated VE Day during the pandemic by inviting neighbours to a 1940s street party – complete with Union Jack bunting, 40s gramophone hits, tea and cucumber sandwiches.

Emma said: “History is such a big thing in my life and I’m a huge royalist. I’m so proud of winning the Second World War – it just had to be celebrated.”

Her love of history extends to her wardrobe and she dons vintage dresses, uses classic red lipstick shades and sets her hair into 1940s rolls, with an authentic 1930s comb.

She said: “My favourite era is Victorian. I love the beautiful sewing boxes full of gorgeous silks, the clothes the women wore and how smart the men were.”

She added: “They did so much inventing and put the UK on the map as an industrial powerhouse and a fantastic country.”

Emma and Stuart are now designing a 1930s bedroom, inspired by the romance of their wedding.

“Everyone should try going retro,” said Emma.



Emma was inspired by her aunt and uncle's 1940s home as a child
Emma was inspired by her aunt and uncle’s 1940s home as a child

She added: “If you’ve got a 1970s house, you’ll feel so much more at home if you decorate it in keeping with the era.

“These things are so special and I love to see people value and enjoy them.

“Who needs a Tardis when you can be time travellers in your own home?”

For more stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.

By OngkyF