5 innovative Yorkshire retreats
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 July 2020
Backyard cinema, garden folly or canalside narrowboat; we’ve all had to make the most of our living spaces whatever their size or shape. Welcome to the Yorkshire boltholes.
The rural haven
Jane Cooper Watson has created a luxurious and very enviable outside dining area that she calls ‘the ‘hut’. Some hut.
It’s a very grand covered eating area which perches at the end of her garden in Liversidge, West Yorkshire with views over fields to countryside beyond. It was made by her builder husband, Mel, as part of a project to build their own home and outbuildings which began in 2014. Jane’s love of interiors and styling came to the fore in the new property and led to her starting her own accessories business, Forage & Style, last October. Her home has featured in many interiors magazines and she describes the ‘hut’ as the ultimate retreat.
‘It’s been the perfect lockdown pad. We have heaters in it so we use it all year round and in all weathers but it has been a lovely escape in the hot weather.’
The centrepiece is a robust oak table.
‘It’s made from a pallet which Mel saw and realised was oak. We built a bench around it and cover it with big cushions and throws, and lots of baskets, jugs of flowers and candles on the table’, she adds. It’s a stylish showcase for products she sells, but also the ultimate restful getaway at the bottom of the garden. Mel has also built similar boltholes for their two sons and a friend.
The cinema space
Lisa Dawson is full of imagination when it comes to making magic in outdoor spaces. As an interiors stylist she is an expert at sprinkling style over unloved rooms and gardens.
The courtyard at her Georgian home in Gate Helmsley on the outskirts of York was a spring/summer project all its own, requiring some hard graft to clean algae-swamped walls, jetwash the patio and clear the weeds from the borders.
She made an area that was perfectly suited to life as an outdoor cinema for their family of five, and it’s an easy project to try yourself. ‘Obviously the big thing is the projector’ she says. ‘We have the Epson EB-WO5 Projector (around £350 – but you can buy at lower or higher price points), it’s a good investment and equally perfect for use inside. We wanted a really large screen so I went on to Amazon and found the Exapor Outdoor Screen. It was really simple to put together and the screen itself is almost like a duvet cover, zipping at the bottom to keep it in place. But it’s easy enough to attach a white sheet to the wall as a screen if you’re on a budget. We added a really old speaker which plugged in to the projector and used the Sky box cable to attach it directly so we could watch everything al fresco.’
Movie seats came in the form of a weatherproof corner sofa, a firepit (tip: ‘I’ve started using those one block logs which come in paper bags. They’re smokeless which means you don’t smell like you’ve been in a bonfire and also they last about four hours which is ideal for movie watching – and you don’t worry that you’re going to set the house on fire when you go to bed’).
An outdoor rug, lots of plants and festoon lights add the finishing touches. ‘I’m super happy with the result. We’ve had family film evenings – and football watching. It’s really exciting to be able to sit outside when the weather’s warm. I love the fact that both the projector and screen are totally portable and can be used basically anywhere. It’s a flexible investment I think, which are always the best ones.’
The ‘clocktower man cave’
Stephen and Kathryn Hazell live in The Mount, York, a beautiful 1830s Georgian property just a short walk from the city centre.
Their back garden is a treasure, where, hidden in the trees, you find a hideaway where Stephen has a unique ‘man cave’, which started life as a clocktower, originally on a woollen mill in West Yorkshire. The assembly of the clocktower required careful handling to respect its fragile nature.
The original buildings were demolished years ago but the tower has been given a new lease of life by Stephen and Kathryn, who are experts in reclamation work – they run The French House which boasts one of the most extensive collections of French antiques in the UK.
In their large tiered garden they have created a covered dining area using reclaimed cast iron columns that came from the Yearsley Bridge Fever Hospital in York, which were bought from an architectural salvage dealer in Yorkshire. ‘In the summer it’s the perfect coffee and crossword spot,’ says Kathryn.
The garden has a wide lawn where there once was a tennis court and at the far end of the garden, almost hidden behind trees and hedging, is a productive allotment: a fantastic surprise in this city centre home. u
Interior design consultant Natalie Davies is based in Boroughbridge where her lockdown has meant combining home schooling her three children and working from home.
Hence the need for a hideaway in the hedge.
At the bottom of her garden she’s created a neat and peaceful retreat; a sitting space in a covered wooden seat which she’s filled with pretty cushions and throws for her own ‘time out’.
‘A little wooden seat hidden away right at the bottom of my garden is where I go to escape from my three children’.
‘I’ve spent a lot of time down there during lockdown!’
Photographer Tracey Welch lives on a narrowboat in Leeds. Her waterborne life started when she decided to buy a boat to live on while she studied at university.
‘I had enough money to buy a boat and not have a house with a mortgage, I just got into that way of living,’ she says.
Lockdown on a narrowboat could be the stuff of nightmares for some but Tracey has turned the time and slower pace into a creative project as she chronicles life in lockdown.
‘The bonus of living on a boat is that we tend to be surrounded by nature, greenery and wildlife and, of course, water which in itself makes the lockdown easier. For a breath of fresh air and mindfulness, all I need to do is pop a chair up on my deck and I’m there, surrounded by it. And being a photographer, there are still plenty of opportunities to take pictures,’ she says.
The waterways are always a source of inspiration for Tracey but the current pandemic is feeding into the imagery.
‘Covid-19 has changed our body clocks, interrupted our sleep patterns, shifted the rhythm of normal life on the water. So, the images I’m now capturing are reflecting all of that. Silent smoke curling up from a wood burning stove; mist on the water in the early hours of the day; blue skies intensified in reflection; a deserted towpath at dusk in golden hour light. It’s peaceful with no one cruising or otherwise passing by.’
Inside the boat, space is at a premium and every object is carefully chosen for both functional space saving and aesthetic appeal.
‘There’s a feeling of time standing still. Reflected roses, vintage pieces, shadows, glimpses of light and painted panelling all hang together in that still life frame.
‘For me personally this is, in a sense, all golden time. It’s not often you get an opportunity to really breathe and reflect, and once you’ve got over the shock of no work and no physical contact with friends and family it’s actually quite liberating. I’m enjoying getting through all those jobs that would normally be a chore and an effort to cram into the usual routine. There is always repainting to be done, ongoing repairs and miscellaneous boxes that need sorting through. But this is also an opportunity to spend more time doing the things I love and that, of course, includes photography.’