Interiors: The art of downsizing

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Compact and bijou: this tiny cottage is a lesson in the art of small space living. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gerard Binks.

It’s unusual for a growing family to downsize but Kate and Nick Bentley decided to sacrifice square footage for location.

The walls are painted in Farrow and Ball's arsenic and reflect Kate's love of colour.

The walls are painted in Farrow and Ball's arsenic and reflect Kate's love of colour.

They swapped their large, three bedroom home in Settrington for a tiny, two bedroom cottage in the pretty village of Nunnington in the heart of Ryedale.

“Actually it is more like one-and-a-half bedrooms and it is half the size of the old house but we really wanted to live in Nunnington so we made the compromise,” says Kate.

The move has been a valuable lesson in small space living and has also helped them fulfil an ambition to open their own gallery.

The couple, who have two daughters, Issie, seven, and Hattie, two, launched Bils and Rye just over a year ago and it has become a magnet for those who love to buy originals by artists and designer makers. It specialises in three-dimensional design, including glass, ceramics and sculpture.

The walls are painted in Farrow and Ball's arsenic and reflect Kate's love of colour.

The walls are painted in Farrow and Ball's arsenic and reflect Kate's love of colour.

The gallery is a hop and a skip away from their home and is rented from the same landlord, Charlie Clive. It is based in Nunnington Studios, former workplace of Henry Moore’s protégé, the sculptor John Bunting.

“Charlie decided to re-open Nunnington Studios and asked if I wanted to rent space there,” says Kate, an artist specialising in animals and land and seascapes.

“It was ideal as a studio for my painting but we realised it was big enough for a gallery and that’s something we’d talked about for years. We wanted to specialise in 3D work as we loved ceramics and sculpture. Every time I sold a painting I used to buy ceramics. It was karmic, a way of giving another artist the kick I got from selling something.”

Nick, who worked in events management and as a chef in a Michelin starred restaurant, was looking for a return to work after a broken neck left him with long-term health issues.

The walls are painted in Farrow and Ball's arsenic and reflect Kate's love of colour.

The walls are painted in Farrow and Ball's arsenic and reflect Kate's love of colour.

“Being self-employed was the obvious thing as there are days when I really struggle. Running the gallery is perfect. I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else,” he says.

The couple’s own collections and favourite makers feature heavily in their home. They are a fan of Adam Buick, whose moon jars sit on the mantelpiece, and they adore Welsh sculptress Helen Sinclair.

The painting above the fireplace is by Steve Slimm, from Cornwall , while in the dining room, the sculpture of a motorcycle helmet is by Andrew Cooke.

David Wood, from Bradford, made the acacia bowl that is perfect for storing fruit and veg.

The walls are painted in Farrow and Ball's arsenic and reflect Kate's love of colour.

The walls are painted in Farrow and Ball's arsenic and reflect Kate's love of colour.

The landing is a family affair as Kate comes from a long line of artists, so there are portraits and paintings by grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Her inherited artistic talent was spotted early and she was destined to be full-time artist until she staged a minor rebellion and went to study a degree in hospitality. She met Nick while working in a London hotel.

“I eventually came back to painting seven years ago. It’s my passion,” she says.

The art work has helped personalise the rented property, though Charlie has also allowed them to re-decorate, which makes the house feel more homely.

Kate loves colour and has painted the sitting room wall in Arsenic, a bright green by Farrow and Ball, which adds interest and helps show off their pictures.

“The problem with white and magnolia is that art falls into them. Using colour makes them stand out,” she says.

The space also doubles a play room for the girls and their toys fit neatly in the area under the stairs. The dining room also offers fantastic storage thanks to an old 2ft deep cupboard which hides everything from paperwork to board games. The table is an antique and the wirework chickens are prototypes created by Kate.

Upstairs, the children’s bedroom is painted in Farrow and Ball’s Cook’s Blue and has stencilled gold stars all over it for a touch of magic.

The main bedroom is in the off-white Blackened and Rectory Red with a Carne Griffiths painting above the bed.

Furniture is a mix of inherited pieces, bits from Ikea and auction buys. The fabulous leather sofa was £110 from Thompsons sale rooms in Killinghall, near Harrogate. Anything that doesn’t fit in the cottage is stored at the gallery, including a leather and wood 1920s sofa that cost them £70 at auction.

There is an abundance of space that is perfect for their children to run round in, and for their dog Remy, who is a big hit with customers. Kate and Nick source work from all over the country and recently took the children on a two- week tour that encompassed 30 studios between London to St Ives.

Established artists, like Helen Sinclair and Michael Thacker, have been very supportive, and Bils and Rye have also championed emerging talent. Rosy Hammersley, who makes sculptures from the pages of books has been a big hit, as has glass maker Stuart Akroyd.

Susan Holliday was an unknown amateur until Kate and Nick discovered her work. Her paintings are now best-sellers.

The gallery décor is rustic and is aimed at creating a relaxed atmosphere for everyone from serious collectors to cyclists and walkers who often pop in for a browse. “It’s a wonderful space and we now have work by over 100 artists and the biggest ceramics collection in Yorkshire,” says Nick.

“It works brilliantly being so close to the cottage. We are waiting for a bigger house to come up for rent in the village but that might take a long time as once people move here they don’t want to leave.”

• Bils and Rye is at Nunnington Studios, www.bilsandrye.com.