Designer Charlotte Deighton has created a fabulous family home from an old under dwelling in Hebden Bridge. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Tony Johnson.
You can dress your property with expensive fixtures and fittings, fancy gadgets and stylish homewares but no material possession can compete with a great view. A sensational vista is the star of the show and outshines everything, including the TV, which is why Charlotte Deighton often finds herself staring out of the windows.
Her living kitchen has panoramic views over Hebden Bridge and the countryside beyond thanks to a revamp that includes a wall of glass, bi-fold doors.
“We spend most of our time in this room. It’s incredibly relaxing just sitting and looking out over the town. It’s especially beautiful at night when the lights are twinkling,” she says.
The property’s feel-good factor and the fact she is a five-minute walk from the town centre are reasons why the quirky under dwelling is likely to be Charlotte’s forever home. She and husband Rory bought it with friends who now live next door in another part of the former chapel.
“We needed a bigger house and we saw this chapel when we were out for a walk. Rory said he’d love to buy it if it ever came up for sale. When it came on the market we couldn’t afford it so we asked around to see if anyone fancied sharing with us. Luckily, a couple of friends said ‘yes’.”
The building comprised the under dwelling that was once home to the minister, a chapel above, and a Sunday school and scout hut. Charlotte and Rory, who have two children, Joseph, 10, and Daisy, seven, opted to make the minister’s house their new home and set about a mammoth renovation. It included everything from damp-proofing to new plumbing and electrics. Like many of Hebden’s under dwellings, the layout was quirky and unconventional.
With the property set high on a hillside, the front door is below street level and opens onto the first floor, which has steps down to the lower ground floor living space.
“It is unusual and very deceptive because it is far bigger at the back than it is at the front,” says Charlotte. “When we bought it, it was really dark and dingy with plaster falling off the walls but it had lots of space and four bedrooms. We knew we could do something with it and, fortunately, Rory and his dad are great at DIY.”
On the lower ground floor, there was a kitchen, dining and sitting room with another living room to the side. It also had two sets of stairs that ate into the space.
After the initial renovation the couple decided to create one big living kitchen with bi-fold doors leading onto a terrace and garden, while keeping their other sitting room as a separate snug. This involved knocking down a dividing wall and taking out the second set of stairs, as well as replacing the window in the exterior wall with glazed doors. The project was hampered by difficult access up steep steps at the rear, and all the rubble and materials had to be carried on and off site, but the effort was well worth it.
The room is the heart of the home and doubles as a work space for Charlotte, who designs and makes bags and scarves from classic British fabrics, including tweeds, along with vintage material. Her accessories business, which retails as Made in Hebden on Folksy.com, is about to expand to include a clothing range. Her capsule collection, which features dresses, skirts and tunics, will debut at the Saltaire Makers Fair next week (September 13 and 14).
“My mum taught me to sew and I have always made my own clothes. I realised there was a market for them when friends asked where they could buy them,” says Charlotte, whose creative touch is reflected in the house. The walls, all painted white, are full of her own photographs and favourite prints featuring local scenes by Andy Pointon. The tealight lantern is by another local artist, Kate Lycett. Charlotte and Rory like to collect work by artists and makers and buy local where possible.
Luckily, there is no shortage of great, independent shops in Hebden and favourites include Radiance Lighting, the Heart Gallery and Spirals Fair Trade store, which are all on Market Street.
Much of the furniture has been inherited, while other vintage pieces were bought from the Sell It Centre in Halifax. The couple also have a passion for vintage Ercol furniture and collected most of it from eBay. Some of it was in a parlous state so Charlotte revitalised the chairs and sofa with new upholstery and cushions.
The kitchen units are from the robust, freestanding Ikea Varde range and new oak flooring tiles the kitchen and sitting area together.
Upstairs in the main bedroom, the wardrobes are from the Sell It Centre and the bedside tables came via Rory’s granddad and Charlotte’s aunt. Both the children are big collectors so Joseph’s room features an old printer’s tray that displays his favourite Lego creations, while Daisy has plenty of shelves, nooks and crannies for her soft toys.
Outside, the garden, once full of brambles, was another challenge but is now a pretty oasis with a terrace.
“We did think of moving to find a bigger garden for the children,” says Charlotte, “but we looked around at property for sale and realised that this is actually our ideal home.”
• Charlotte is showing at the Saltaire Makers Fair, www.saltireinspired.or.uk. Her work can be found at www.folksy.com/shops/MadeinHebden