Room swapping and a makeover turned this grade II-listed house into the perfect family home. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Built to impress, this handsome Georgian house was well endowed with square footage, although not where it mattered most for 21st century families. The original kitchen was created with servants in mind and was small and dark compared with the spacious formal reception rooms.
Even after a major renovation, it still felt cramped when Nick and his family, including his grown-up daughters, his partner and their baby son, congregated there. “It was crazy. We got to the point where we had a big house but we were struggling for space in the room we used most. I thought about extending out to make the kitchen bigger but that would’ve been difficult from a planning perspective as the house is grade II listed,” says Nick.
The solution turned out to be far more simple thanks to some lateral thinking by interior designer Ben Huckerby.
He came up with a clever room swapping scheme, which saw the kitchen moved from the back of the house into the large and light-filled formal sitting room at the front of the property.
The old kitchen was then turned into a cinema room. What was a TV room was designated as the drawing room, while the formal dining room retained its identity.
“It’s amazing how many kitchens are in the wrong place. A lot of people think it’s going to be a big job to move them so just put up with them but relocating them is usually pretty straightforward,” says Ben.
The extra expense and effort was well worthwhile for Nick and his partner, Amye, as the new living kitchen is now a bright and spacious hub with room for all the family.
Planned by Ben, it features a working area that reused the old kitchen cabinets, which were supplemented by new ones along with an Aga. Amye came up with the idea of replacing the black granite worktops with white ones, while Ben created a dining area with his own design banquet seating upholstered in faux suede that is washable and wipeable.
“We spend most of our time in here now whereas when it was the formal lounge it rarely got used. It wasn’t that expensive to refit either as we managed to use the fixtures, fittings and the curtains from the old kitchen,” says businessman Nick, who bought the house in 2008 just before the recession sent property values into a downward spiral.
In a pretty village near Huddersfield, it was built for a local mill owner in 1830 and no expense was spared. Just over a century later, it was bought by the local council and became the town hall before being turned back into a house in the early 1980s. By the time Nick bought it, it was in need of modernisation and some of its features had been lost.
“I initially bought it with a plan to turn it into a restaurant and possibly a hotel because it is very accessible but it sits in a really attractive oasis,” he says. “Then the recession hit, circumstances changed and it was empty for a few years. That’s when I started thinking about making it into a home for myself,” he says.
The house was treated to a full renovation and Clay Construction was brought in as main contractor. “I’ve used them on other properties and I’ve always been really happy with the work,” adds Nick.
One of the most important parts of phase one of the project was replacing and restoring the building’s period features, including the original sash windows, suspended staircase and the decorative plasterwork.
Adding mod cons like smart lighting and sound systems, along with structured cabling, was also a must, as was reconfiguring the upstairs space. What was five bedrooms and one bathroom is now four bedrooms and three bathrooms, including a large master suite.
Extra living space was created by converting the old coach house into a two-bedroom home and Nick also got permission to build a separate garage.
The decor, designed by Ben, reflects his trademark style: opulent with an emphasis on texture and practicality.
“I love taking a tired building and transforming it and the key to success is employing the best people for the job. Ben’s a genius. I trust him completely even down to choosing accessories. He bought most of the pictures and the knick-knacks as I’m not much of a shopper,” says Nick.
It was agreed that the original grandeur of the building had to be accentuated and that the interiors should reflect both its Georgian roots and contemporary design.
One of the big challenges was the hall, which was dark and gloomy. Rather than using light colours, Ben has played to its strengths with a dusky, dramatic scheme brightened by an enormous chandelier and pale, marble-look porcelain floors.
The sitting room, which benefits from natural light, is warmed with shades of purple, Nick’s favourite colour, and Cole and Son’s Albermarle Byron wallpaper.
Upstairs, Ben has used another trademark: his supersize, bespoke headboards. He also commissioned an artist to paint a mural for Nick and Amye’s baby son, Rex Valentine, using one of their favourite sayings: “You are my sun, my moon and all my stars”, a quote by the poet EE Cummings.
“I am really pleased I went ahead and made this place my home,” says Nick. “It works well for my extended family and the decor makes it feel really cosy, calm and homely, which is exactly what I wanted.”
Ben Huckerby Design, tel: 0113 244 5446, benhuckerbydesign.co.uk; Clay Construction, tel: 01484 767271, clayconstruction.co.uk