Yorkshire Interiors - a renovation project in Helmsley

PUBLISHED: 13:27 28 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:22 05 April 2013

The old, dated kitchen was stripped out and replaced with units from Howdens, and the beams were painted to 'lift' the ceiling and make the north-facing room as light as possible. The table and chairs are from Millers Tale

The old, dated kitchen was stripped out and replaced with units from Howdens, and the beams were painted to 'lift' the ceiling and make the north-facing room as light as possible. The table and chairs are from Millers Tale

Mother and daughter share a renovation project that has literally brought them closer together. Heather Dixon reports. Photographs by Dave Burton

Carolyn Miller couldnt turn down the chance to buy the cottage next door to her mother Joyce when it came up for sale in Helmsley, North Yorkshire.

She had been looking for a small place of her own close to Joyce but didnt expect to live next door to each other. Period properties in Helmsley are like gold dust and there were lots of people after it, said Carolyn. In the end it went to sealed bids, which was nerve-wracking to say the least. We were over the moon when the bid was successful.

The 300-year-old cottage was in a poor state of repair after years of long term letting, but together Carolyn and Joyce set about transforming the dated interior.

The Grade II listed property is in a conservation area as well as in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty so they had to work closely with the North York Moors National Park to make sure any changes they made were sympathetic to the building and its surroundings.

This wasnt an issue because we wanted to keep all the lovely features, said Joyce. Carolyn and I have always loved old properties with history and character. We think at one time this would have belonged to an estate farm worker and there would have been livestock out at the back.

The first task was to restore the exterior. The road-side cottage was rendered so Carolyn employed a local builder to carefully chip it all off and re-point the beautiful golden stone underneath with lime mortar, which would allow the thick walls to breathe.

A kitchen extension had been built at the back of the house in the 1970s but Carolyn wanted to make sure all the rooms new and old - worked well together. She knocked down a wall between a small bathroom and even smaller third bedroom to create a two-bedroom cottage with a large family bathroom.

The kitchen and the bathroom above it still lacked character so we put in beams and then stripped out the old kitchen and put in country style units to complement the rest of the house, she said.

The kitchen floor was lino-covered concrete, so the lino came up and the floor was re-skimmed to create a smooth surface for tiles. The sitting room still had its original fireplace which had been covered up over the years, so it was re-opened and a chimney liner fed into the flue. The old flue was crumbling away because it wasnt fully lined and smoke was filtering up through the floorboards into the main bedroom above, said Carolyn. Everything had been neglected and the cottage was suffering.

The final and possibly most difficult job was to strip some of the oldest beams of several layers of paint which had to be removed by hand. I painted the beams in the kitchen because they were relatively new and didnt look particularly attractive, said Carolyn. But the original beams, which are lovely old oak with bags of character, had been painted over and we wanted to restore them to their original state.

With all the structural work out the way, Carolyn and Joyce painted the interior with neutral shades from Fired Earth before furnishing with a mix of antiques, sale bargains and new pieces. I sell furniture and home accessories through my shop in Scotland so I am always finding lovely things which sometimes filter their way into my home, said Carolyn. I wanted the furniture to reflect the style of the cottage - quite eclectic and lived in but with quality in mind.

One of her favourite pieces of furniture is the French bed which takes up almost half of the main bedroom.

I did wonder how we were going to get it upstairs because the stairs are very narrow particularly as you get into the attic room but we managed to dismantle all the beds and take them up in sections, said Carolyn.

I like anything which is classically stylish but with a twist. I spend a lot of time looking round antique shops and auction rooms to find things I really like.

Most of the furniture is small to complement the dimensions of the rooms with their low, beamed ceilings, but Carolyn likes to think the character of the cottage speaks for itself.

If you overcrowd it with furniture it starts to look cluttered and you end up losing the impact of all the lovely original features, like the fireplace, beams, uneven walls and quirky cupboards.

Even the extras, like the framed prints, antique wall cupboards and pretty soft furnishings, reflect the simplicity and comfort of Millers Nook cottage. Living next door to mum is perfect because she looks after it while I am in Scotland, said Carolyn. When I am not at home we sometimes let it to holidaymakers to help cover the costs, but I would much rather share it than leave it empty.

And Carolyn and Joyce havent ruled out the possibility of one day knocking the two cottages into one, given the opportunity. Apparently they used to be one large house and there is now a flying freehold between the two, said Carolyn. Our mission is to find out more about its history and how it has evolved over the years. Whatever we discover, we know it has been well loved. Its the kind of place which wraps itself around you the minute you walk through the door.


Millers Tale
01334 474848 millers-tale.co.uk

Green Oak Furniture
01635 281786 greenoakfurniture.co.uk

Calverts Carpets
01287 634397 calverts-carpets.co.uk

Watermark Plumbing, Malton
01653 696433 watermarkplumbing.co.uk

01227 833333 jail.co.uk

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