This coastal cottage is now one of the best in Staithes after a major renovation. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Tony Johnson.
Staggering up the steep and winding hill to her cottage in Staithes with a kitchen table on her shoulder and her two young children at her side, Sophie Beatty was almost at breaking point.
The table was destined for the dilapidated property that everyone thought would be too much work, even for a seasoned renovator like herself.
They also warned her about the challenging logistical problems presented by the coastal village, which has restricted access for vehicles, hence her Herculean efforts with furniture.
What they failed to take into account was that love can conquer all and Sophie loved the cottage from the moment she saw it.
Smugglers Den, which is now a holiday let and second home, is one of the best-located properties in Staithes.
Detached, elevated and hidden away along a tiny alley above the harbour, all of its three bedrooms have exceptional sea views.
Unusually for Staithes, the house also has a tiered garden with terraces carved out of the hillside. “I call it the wine terrace,” says Sophie, who can relax there while also lap up those amazing views.
She has certainly earned a drink or two after taking on a property that other buyers shunned owing to its long list of issues.
Among them was a large crack running down the outside of a bowed wall, a half- collapsed chimney, a window that had half fallen out, no heating, condemned electrics and carpets wet with damp.
Another major problem was that the house wasn’t listed with the Land Registry so, all told, it took over a year from Sophie putting in the offer to getting the keys.
“I knew it would be hard work but I wanted to buy in Staithes and I knew I’d never get a chance to own a house like this if I didn’t go for it there and then,” she says.
“It belonged to a man in his eighties who had used it as a holiday home but he hadn’t visited it for a long time and it was in a very poor state.”
Before Sophie settled on a price, she got a detailed report from surveyors at Eddisons, who also assessed the cost of renovation.
“That was really useful because it gave me a bargaining tool. Eddisons estimated the work would cost £100,000, so I was able to negotiate. In the end, the owner reduced the asking price based on a quote he got from local builder Gordon Ward and I agreed to it as long as Gordon did the work and he was great,” says Sophie, a former estate agent, who also had to spend time and effort getting planning permissions from the North York Moors National Park.
“That was time-consuming as I had to do separate applications for all the changes, including replacing windows that had been installed in the 1980s with sliding sashes and changing the plastic gutters and downpipes to cast iron,” she says.
Inside, changing the layout was a priority. What was a tiny bathroom and kitchen downstairs is now one kitchen, which leads to the sitting/dining room.
The bathroom has been relocated to the first floor into what was a bedroom and there’s a large bedroom next door to it.
The top floor is home to a smaller bedroom with bunk beds, a separate loo and a large double bedroom.
Financially, Sophie’s gargantuan efforts have paid off. She paid £175,000 for Smugglers Den in 2014 and spent over £50,000 on the building work. The property is now worth more than double thanks, in part, to spiralling prices in the village, which is popular with second-home owners.
The gain also reflects the year-long renovation and her own hard work and creative ideas.
She brought the cost of the interior decor down by hunting down bargains, refurbishing and upcycling.
The kitchen is new from Howdens and Sophie splashed out on a wood-burning stove but much of the furniture is vintage and sourced from auctions and eBay. She has used her upholstery skills to recover chairs and also make soft furnishings.
“I really wanted the interiors to look like they had been this way for years, so it felt homely and cosy. Buying vintage helped with that and with the budget,” she says.
The lack of access for vehicles in Staithes is something that Sophie has got used to. There is a large car park at the top of the village and one at the bottom for deliveries only, which means everything has to be carried up or down.
“It’s why using local companies and tradespeople who know the village is vital. They know what to do. I bought everything with that in mind, though carrying that kitchen table up to the cottage was the straw that almost broke the camel’s back.
“To cap it all, I ended up breaking the door to get it in because it wouldn’t fit through.”
All the effort she put in has been worthwhile. She and her children visit Staithes regularly and guests who rent the cottage love staying there.
“It is an amazing house with incredible views and Staithes is also a great place to be,” says Sophie, whose main home is near Wetherby.
“It’s changed a lot, even in the five years since I’ve been here. There’s now a deli, a gallery and lots of artists.
“I get here and immediately feel more relaxed. I can’t imagine ever wanting to sell this cottage.”
For details on the Smugglers Den holiday let visit www.smugglersdenstaithes.co.uk