Altogether heavenly 21st century update to Georgian rectory

The contemporary, two-storey extension was designed by Brierley Groom and constructed by York Builder
The contemporary, two-storey extension was designed by Brierley Groom and constructed by York Builder
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Two contemporary extensions have added 21st century style to this Grade II-listed Georgian rectory. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

It’s easy to see why Mary and David Benton fell in love with their home. It’s Britain’s favourite property type – a quintessential Georgian rectory, the kind you find in Jane Austen novels and it sits in a substantial garden on the edge of a pretty village near Easingwold.

The kitchen, which was sourced from Halcyon Interiors,

The kitchen, which was sourced from Halcyon Interiors,

New visitors often linger before ringing the front doorbell so they can take in more of its perfect symmetry and historic good looks, little realising that the conventional front facade hides some big surprises.

“Wow” is the word most uttered when they see the glazed and copper-clad extension at the rear. There’s a matching one on the side too. The 21st century statements blend perfectly with the original brick and bring light and garden views into the house. Ms Austen, a rector’s daughter, would no doubt approve of the bold additions.

“The house is Georgian with a Victorian extension and we wanted our extensions to reflect this era,” says Mary, a university lecturer.

The brief was to design a contemporary two-storey extension to replace an existing timber conservatory. The extension had to incorporate a garden room on the ground floor, leading off a newly-remodelled kitchen area and a new bedroom suite above.

The reading room with chairs from Skandium and a Tom Dixon lamp.

The reading room with chairs from Skandium and a Tom Dixon lamp.

A smaller single-storey extension was also required on the side of the house to accommodate an office for David. It was a considerable challenge, especially as the rectory is Grade II listed, which brings extra constraints when it comes to planning permission. It took two years of negotiation and a planning consultant to get the go-ahead but architect Greg Groom, of York-based Brierley Groom Architects, eventually satisfied the council planning department with his thoughtful designs.

“The concept we adopted was to design an extension that appeared independent, both structurally and visually,” says Greg. “This was achieved by using a steel frame, which allowed any disturbance to the existing walls and roof to be avoided. This is a significant factor when working with buildings of historical importance.”

Existing window and door openings were used to gain access to the new accommodation at ground and first-floor level. The separation between the existing structure and new extension was further enhanced by full-height glazed links, giving the appearance of a disassociation between old and new.

Greg adds: “A simple palette of materials was chosen. We appreciate the clean, crisp lines that copper provides and feel that it is in harmony with the fabric of the existing dwelling. Rendered walls were introduced to give the appearance of floating metal-clad panels at the upper level and to ensure privacy, the bedroom windows incorporate electronically controlled blinds within the double-glazed units.”

The new garden room, which leads into the kitchen

The new garden room, which leads into the kitchen

The new garden room also has two large sliding doors which allows full enjoyment of the grounds.

The second copper-clad extension replaced another conservatory on the side of the property and provides office space and a new glass link to a courtyard garden created by Mike Addis. Mike also made a walled garden from a plot of derelict land on the other side of the property.

“One of my favourite things is the copper cladding,” says Mary. “It’s been treated so it doesn’t go green and when the sun hits it, it shines red, and 
matches the red brick of the original building.”

Greg Groom project managed, while York Builder constructed the new extensions and implemented Brierley Groom’s plans to remodel and update the existing accommodation. The whole scheme took a year to complete.

The bedroom in the new two-storey extension. The red chair is by Cassina.

The bedroom in the new two-storey extension. The red chair is by Cassina.

One of the first jobs inside the original house was to create a large kitchen diner from a small kitchen, pantry, cloakroom and boot room with a glazed link to a utility room. The only compromise was leaving an old fireplace between the kitchen and dining area when combining them.

“The conservation officer wanted us to make the original footprint of the building clear. I wasn’t happy with that at the time but, in fact, it’s turned out really well,” says Mary, who sourced her kitchen from Halcyon Interiors.

Elsewhere, all the period features have been retained, including the old clergy key cupboard. Carpets were swapped for dark wood floors and curtains abandoned in favour of the original shutters. Most of the walls were redecorated in Farrow & Ball’s Wimborne White and Clunch and new light fittings installed, including some from Tom Dixon and John Lewis.

The interiors now match the exterior and are a mix of old and new. While purists may raise their eyebrows at the very thought, it works brilliantly.

“A lot of our furniture is modern but we also bought furniture from the previous owners of the house so it’s an eclectic mix,” says Mary, whose favourite stores include the Cassina showroom and Skandium, both in London.

She and David, who have two children, Louise, 22, and Tom, 20, moved from the capital to make Yorkshire their main home and much of their contemporary artwork was collected there.

The vicarage from the front elevation

The vicarage from the front elevation

Adding 21st century touches to the historic building has had the ultimate seal of approval. The combined efforts of forward-thinking owners, a gifted architect and a great builder resulted in a coveted award for best extension/alteration to an existing building at this year’s North and East Yorkshire LABC (Local Authority Building Control) Awards.

Mary says: “This is now the perfect home for us. I love Georgian architecture and David loves modern houses and this is a combination of the two.

“We’re also pleased it tells the story of how this property has evolved over the centuries.”

*Useful contacts

Brierley Groom Architects, York, brierleygroom.com

York Builder, yorkbuilder.com

Garden and landscaping by Addis Garden Design, addis-garden design.co.uk

Kitchen cabinets by Halcyon Interiors, halcyoninteriors.com

Cassina, Brompton Road, London, cassina.com

Fireplaces converted back to open fires by Old Flames in Easingwold, oldflames.co.uk