Yorkshire Interiors - Garris House, Yorkshire Dales

PUBLISHED: 01:16 10 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:07 20 February 2013

Yorkshire Interiors - Garris House, Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Interiors - Garris House, Yorkshire Dales

A couple reveal how they renovated and still kept the character of a 300 year-old house in the Yorkshire Dales. Heather Dixon reports Photographs by Colin Poole

Running a business from an office half-buried under a cloud of dust was just another challenge for Andy Hamer and his wife Claire when they renovated Garris House in the Yorkshire Dales.

I was running my business from a make-shift office and carrying on conversations with clients while the house was falling down around my ears, he says. was often covered in dust and plaster, carrying on as though everything was normal.

n reality, though, the house was upside-down as he and Claire juggled the mammoth tasks of renovating their new home, launching a business and looking after two very young children, all at the same time.

Looking back it was very stressful but we just treated it as one big adventure, says Claire. It took two years to finish all the major work. For six months of that we were all sleeping in one bedroom, so it wasnt ideal. But once you get started on a project of this size theres no going back.

Claire and Andy certainly had their reservations about taking on such a big project but after spending eight months looking for a property in the Yorkshire Dales they finally stumbled across the pretty stone house by a river. They moved in on a Saturday, Andy started work on Sunday and the builders began on Monday.

The first job was to install a damp proof course down stairs and repair cracked and sagging ceilings. We had a few buckets dotted around the house for a while, says Claire. On the first day, after dinner, rain started to pour through a skylight, so we had a very early taste of what we were up against.

A new Velux window put paid to that problem, but it was only the beginning. New electrics and plumbing quickly followed and the roof was taken off in two stages, felted and replaced. A full structural survey had revealed slight movement in one wall, so they stabilised it with ties.

Skirting boards were sandblasted by a man dressed like a spaceman and the asphalt kitchen floor was taken up to reveal the original flagstone flooring, which had been painted white around the edges and had to be sandblasted clean again.

Work then began upstairs, but they soon discovered another rotten ceiling and an unsafe wall that separated two bedrooms. It all had to come out, along with 300 years of muck and dust, says Andy. We did a lot of the wrecking, as call it, ourselves because it was easy to knock out the bad parts. Although we live in a conservation area, the house isnt listed so we could do whatever we liked inside.

Not that Claire and Andy had plans to create an urban-style property in the middle of the Dales. We wanted to bring out the character of Garris House, not disguise it, said Claire. And they refused to cut corners.

Instead of replacing the windows with new, Andy took out the original ones at the front, sanded and repainted them, re-glazed them and realigned the sashes before putting them back in.

As the renovation progressed, it was clear that the house was falling into two distinct sections, with the main living rooms at one end of the house and the office, along with a bedroom and bathroom accessed by a separate staircase, at the other.

Claire and Andy wanted a dining room directly off the kitchen, so they built an extension at the back of the house, overlooking the steep garden. The garden literally butted up to the back of the house so we had to excavate the area to create a patio and space for the extension, says Andy.

A stone retainer wall was built, then the extension, using local stone to match the original.

Unfortunately, a land drain was damaged by the foundations and it wasnt until water started seeping through the floor during a particularly violent storm that they realised there was a problem.

We had just finished decorating, says Claire. It took days to pump out the water and then we had to re-plaster the lower section of wall inside.
Eventually, a friend in the village helped me to dig, by hand, a 70ft long drainage channel to allow hill water to bypass the house and get away. It was all character-building stuff.

With so much time and energy spent on the renovation, Claire and Andy had little left for the interior, but one final push was enough to transform the revamped cottage into a comfortable family home. Using the age-old character of the property as their backdrop including original wooden floors and old oak beams they decorated in neutral colours to allow the wood to stand out and furnished the rooms with a mixture of old and new.

Neither of us wanted a really modern look, says Claire. would have been out of keeping with the style of the house and we would have had to buy everything new. We prefer to look for furniture which has character. If we find a bargain but want to give it a different look, we just paint it like the dining room table which we bought for 50 from a salvage yard, where it was about to be cut into pieces.

Claire chose Laura Ashley fabrics for the curtains and blinds, and Laura Ashley sofas for the sitting room, pairing them with smaller pieces of furniture found in antique shops. The overall look is stylishly neutral with the emphasis on practicality, particularly while the couples four sons Jack, Harry, Max and Charlie are at home. But when it came to the guest bedroom, Claire was adamant that it should look as feminine as possible.

I wanted one room which was soft, pretty and pink, so Im gradually taking over the guest bedroom with accessories that really like, which are really girly, says Claire. love the whole house, but this is definitely my favourite room.


The Hedgerow 01756 752293

James Brindley of Harrogate 01423 560 757 jamesbrindley.com

Renovating tips

When renovating a house start at the top and work down. Only decorate when all the structural mess is finished.

Decorate and furnish an old house in a style which works with the property rather than choosing colours and furniture just because they are fashionable.

If you work from home, create an office in a room which is as separate as possible from the rest of the house so you can close the door and forget about work at the end of the day.

The print version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Yorkshire Life

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