Lucy Saggers says her idyllic house in Ampleforth is a work in progress but it feels like perfection. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Simon Hulme.
Finding a good builder is difficult, so when Lucy Saggers met one she married him and assumed all her DIY worries would be over.
The problem is that the best builders are always busy and so their own properties are often last on a never-ending to do list.
So as I swoon over her beautiful, country home, she apologises for the rotten window frames, the hole in the wall and the missing door handles. The jobs are all eclipsed by the overall picture, “which is just as well,” says Lucy.
“It’s a work in progress and probably always will be. The problem is that Will is very busy and he does our house in his spare time. He is also a perfectionist and so he won’t let me get anyone else in to do the work.”
She and Will, who have three children, Molly, 11, Kit, 10, and Albert, eight, bought their home in Ampleforth 10 years ago after moving from their rented cottage on the Duncombe Park estate. It is one of the oldest houses in the village and was a tearoom in the 1930s, but Lucy first fell in love with the location and the windows.
“I drove by to look at it and the first thing I said when I called Will was ‘it’s got lovely windows’. For me they are the eyes of the house and that’s what sold it to me,” she says.
The 300-year-old property needed some updating and they began by rewiring, replumbing and reconfiguring the space. They turned the kitchen and a corridor into a large kitchen with a cosy Aga. This leads into a new extension at the rear, which overlooks the garden and acts as a dining room and an office.
Will, a joiner and furniture maker by trade, made the kitchen island and the units, which he shaped to mirror an enormous antique dresser on the opposite wall.
“The dresser belonged to my mother and it’s turned out to be very useful,” says Lucy.
Will, who trades as Saggers and Gold, and who has just won an LABC award for his work, also replaced the pine floor with oak boards and painted the walls off white and the woodwork in a soft colour, which is his trademark style. The enormous table was fashioned in a make do and mend attempt to accommodate all their guests one Christmas. It features the legs of an old table topped with an eight foot long stretch of MDF, which is concealed with oilcloth. The chairs were being thrown out by Will’s mum but Lucy rescued them and reupholstered them with Orla Kiely fabric.
Upstairs, they converted a bedroom into a family bathroom and what was a separate loo and bathroom is now a shower room. It boasts an old Belfast sink they found in the garden along with one the most striking works of art in the house. The loo seat is hand-painted with guinea fowl and was a wedding gift from friends in Uganda, where Lucy worked as a wildlife conservationist. They have a bath on a plinth in the master bedroom. The room is big enough for it since they took out a shower and loo and a spiral staircase that led to the playroom.
Although they had plenty of space in the main house, they bought the stables and barn next door to create an annexe where they offer B&B and a holiday let that they are busy decorating. It means they now have a property with income that Lucy manages alongside her photography work. She decided to pursue her lifelong interest and is now an accomplished photographer, who specialises in atmospheric black and white images, many of which document life in the village and the surrounding countryside. They feature in exhibitions, including one at Priestley’s in York, and at fairs, including this weekend’s Saltaire Makers Fair.
Her work is on the walls of the house and is framed in oak, which sets it off perfectly. Alongside it are favourite paintings by other artists, including Fiona Scott, who also lives locally, and Julia Burns. There’s also a series of monkey prints, a present from her mother, to remind Lucy of her time working on a monkey rehabilitation project in Nigeria.
Furniture is a mix of inherited, collected and new items. The sofa and chair in the sitting room were Lucy’s grandmother’s, while a new chair in the kitchen is from Made.com. Other pieces are from eBay, Cox and Cox and Graham and Green. The White House reclamation yard in Easingwold yielded shelves and a fireplace.
“It’s all a mish mash but we like it and nothing is too precious,” says Lucy.
This approach is reflected in the relaxed, happy feel of the house, which is also home to lurchers, Dizzy and Peggy, and their friends, Sarah and Cuckoo, a couple of cheeky chickens. “The hens wander into the kitchen all the time,” says Lucy. “But they are very friendly and the children love them. It’s all part of family life.”
• Lucy is at Saltaire Makers Fair, Victoria Hall, Saltaire, this weekend. Her work is also at Priestleys, Bootham, York, and October 6 to November 1 and at Rural Arts, Thirsk. www.lucysaggers.com; www.fordendbedandbreakfast.co.uk