Yorkshire Interiors - Edwardian house in Thackley

PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 March 2014

Andys favourite item in the house is his reproduction 1990s juke box. I had just bought my first house and I had an £8 wardrobe, a bed, a deck chair  and my juke box, said Andy

Andys favourite item in the house is his reproduction 1990s juke box. I had just bought my first house and I had an £8 wardrobe, a bed, a deck chair  and my juke box, said Andy


It was a property worth fighting for even though it left the new owners in something of a dilemma as Heather Dixon reports

Jan Shillito and her husband Andy had to fight long and hard to save their Edwardian house in Thackley, West Yorkshire from a developer who wanted to knock it down and start again. ‘We got into a bidding war which dragged on for 10 months,’ said Jan. ‘We were determined to buy the house. It has so much character with lovely high ceilings, great proportions and original wooden floors. It would have been a tragedy to demolish it.’

But Jan and Andy had to raise enough money to fend off the opposition. They had each sold Victorian terraced properties and were combining their profits to invest in their first home together. As bidding reached the asking price of £330,000 Jan decided to throw in every last penny of a £1,500 work bonus to pip the developer to the post. The tactic worked and the house was theirs – although it left them with nothing to spend on the property.

‘We had to start saving again to do basic improvements,’ said Jan. ‘But first we turned our attention to our wedding ceremony. We were getting married shortly after moving in and we wanted to hold the ceremony and reception in the garden to make it a really personal occasion. It was the first of hundreds of special memories we now associate with this house and which gave me the idea of starting the memorybox.com website business.’

While they saved, Jan and Andy had plenty of time to work out what they wanted to do to the house to make it work for their family lifestyle. It was structurally sound but they wanted to replace the predominantly brown kitchen units and tiles with a modern white gloss kitchen, turn a store room into a utility and convert the attic into a spacious home office.

‘We did a lot of the work ourselves to keep costs down,’ said Jan. ‘We reused materials where we could and shopped around to find the best prices for new things we had to buy.’ One of the first jobs was to replace the boiler which broke down during their first winter in the house, leaving them with just two log fires for heating. The kitchen was next on the list. Jan and Andy took out the old units, tiled worktops and floor, the brown sink and cooker, and chipped the plaster off the walls to take the room back to bare brick. They swapped a sliding door with a reclaimed oak door and then fitted IKEA units and a new SMEG cooker, adding a free standing SMEG fridge freezer and a breakfast table to create two distinct areas in the long, narrow room.

‘We wanted to create a feature out of the fireplace at the end,’ said Jan. ‘There had been a cooker in the chimney breast and the stone lintel was boxed in, so we exposed it and turned it into a focal point of the room.’

Jan and Andy were keen to preserve as many original features as possible, including the golden wooden floors which were originally rolling stock from the Great Northern Railway Company. They took up old carpets before sanding and sealing the boards, then replaced a fire surround in the sitting room and fitted a new shower in the bathroom where there had previously been an airing cupboard.

The next major job was to turn the attic into a spacious office. ‘We both work from home and needed somewhere which was separate from the rest of the house,’ said Jan. First they installed sound insulation under the suspended floorboards, added Velux and Dorma windows and insulated with the thinnest materials possible to retain head height. They then reduced the size of their en suite bathroom to create space for a small spiral staircase into the attic, adding a specially made door at the bottom so the home office could be closed off from the rest of the house.

Furnishing their home has been a gradual process as Andy and Jan chose favourite things they brought from their old homes, sold off any surplus items and gradually added new furniture as they went along.

‘We don’t follow a particular style because we like to choose things which are very personal to us and represent great memories,’ said Jan. ‘As well as getting married here, we used my experience as a celebrant to hold naming ceremonies for both our children at home, so we started filling the house with special memories from the moment we moved in. Since then we’ve continued to fill our house with treasured family furniture, photographs, things bought on our travels and pictures or ceramics which hold special significance. It was this accumulation of personal treasures, and searches into our family histories, that gave me the idea of setting up a new social media platform where people could save, share and celebrate their own memories by creating their own on-line memory boxes that could be passed from one generation to another. Memories of where we live and how we live can sometimes get lost over time, yet these are the special things which turn a house into a home.’


The Memory Box 07745 385981 thememorybox.com and thememorybox.com/ceremonies

Ceramics: Matthew Lyndon Harrison 07954 357144

Kimpton Flooring 0292 086 2086 kimpton flooring.co.uk

Johnson Tiles 01782 524000 johnson-tiles.com

Plumbs 0800 019 0505 plumbs.co.uk

B&M Stores bmstores.co.uk

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