This house was fashioned from old garages to create the ultimate first home for a young designer. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by James Hardisty.
Getting on the property ladder is impossible for many young people, which is why Stephanie Bertenshaw decided to take matters into her own hands.
The young graphic designer enlisted the help of family and friends to create the ultimate handmade house fashioned from three old garages.
The conversion took a year and the total cost of her fabulous first home was £12,000 thanks to a lot of DIY and some creative thinking. It’s now worth £150,000.
“I came back to live with my mum and dad after travelling and was doing low paid jobs so there was no way I could afford to buy anything or even rent,” says Steph, 24. “There was a set of old garages next to my parents’ home and I thought they’d make a great little house. My dad loves a building project so he agreed to give it go,” says Steph, 24.
Her parents, Chris and Sue, bought their old coach house and land nine years ago, and run a healing centre from there. It is tucked away on a large plot by the river in Marsden, near Huddersfield. Steph’s grandparents live in a timber chalet on the site. At first, the idea was to convert the old garages into a bedroom and sitting room but after deciding she wanted her own kitchen, she applied for planning permission to change the use from annexe to separate dwelling.
The foundations were deep enough for a single storey home, though the walls at the back needed support and now have a double skin. The old doors were bricked up and windows and a new, arched front door installed. The sloping garage roof was retained but it was insulated and plaster boarded inside.
Tradespeople were brought in to help where needed but the family did most of the work themselves. Granddad Michael is a handyman and painter and decorator so his skills were put to great use, especially in the kitchen, where he put up the retro wallpaper that Steph found at B&Q. He also had the job of scraping the moss off the old roof.
Steph’s former boyfriend, Gareth Cotter, is a carpenter so did most of the joinery and her grandma and mum made sure everywhere was rubble and dust free.
Steph used her creative talents to decide on design and décor and took inspiration from pictures on Pinterest. She wanted a villa-style look outside. Inside, the layout was a challenge as the space is small. At one end is a bedroom with a mezzanine level for a tiny bathroom. It is screened by an internal wall with wardrobe space under the mezzanine.
Then there is a small sitting room with a gallery above, which doubles as a spare bedroom. This leads through to the kitchen, which has a store room and cloakroom at the back. The kitchen units were made by Gareth and the pot sink was £20.
The latest addition is a studio for Steph, who says: “I did think the gallery above the sitting room work as a studio but it’s too dark and the head height isn’t great, but this is perfect.”
The live-work aspect has helped her to grow her design business, Felt Mountain Studios. She specialises in creating prints for greetings cards, gift tags, stationery and wedding invitations, along with logos for businesses.
She sells online and at The Emporium in Slaithwaite, which is a community interest company that she helps to run. It is full of art and vintage and handmade products, which have been a big hit with shoppers.
Her own work features throughout the house along with that of other artists. She buys cheap frames and customises them with coloured paint from tester pots.
Furniture is what she has been given, bought in Ikea or in charity shops. The bathroom sink stand is an old cupboard, the trestle table in the kitchen donated by a friend and the 1960s dining chairs were £12 from the Emmaus shop.
She’s done a great job of mending and making do but is planning to refine the interior when budget allows.
“It is a work in progress and there are things I’d like to change. I’d definitely put more skylights in and I’d have put vinyl in the bathroom rather than floorboards because the water sometimes drips onto my clothes in the wardrobe underneath,” she says.
Hand-building her home has given her independence and is also allowing her to save.
“The building belongs to my parents and we all chipped in for the conversion costs. The idea is that I can live here for free as long as I like. It means I can build my business and save up to buy my own place, maybe even a holiday home somewhere warm,” says Steph.
“For now though I am really happy living here. My grandma pops across to water my flowers and I can hear my granddad singing when he’s working outside, which is great unless it’s early in the morning. That’s when I wish my bedroom was at the back of the house.”
• See Steph’s work at www.feltmountainstudios.co.uk
The Old Coach House Healing Centre,www.coachhousehealing.co.uk