Artist Gill Kirk used her creative skills to turn her summer house near Pateley Bridge into a fabulous Airbnb cabin
The pandemic brought us fear and misery but it was also a stimulus for positive change with many embracing the Latin phrase “Carpe Diem” – seize the day. For Gill Kirk, that meant converting the summer house at her home in the village of Bewerley into a holiday let and realising a dream of having her own shop in nearby Pateley Bridge.
The plan was hatched in the first lockdown when Gill and her partner Colin were looking for another income stream. “I’d retired from working at Bewerley Park outdoor education centre but was freelancing for them and Colin usually worked ski seasons, neither of which were possible, and that’s when we decided to convert the summer house into an Airbnb property to generate an income,” says Gill.
The building in the rear garden had been designed and handbuilt in 2007 with the help of local joiner Chris Prince. Colin had insulated it, a slate roof was put on and Velux windows were installed to maximise natural light so Gill, a gifted artist, could use it as a studio.
Reclaimed materials were a big feature of the build and the subsequent conversion. Much of the timber used came from the machine sales at Wharfedale Farmers auction market in Otley and Gill dipped into her hoard of salvage, antiques and collectibles, which add charm, character and interest.
She and Colin set to work in of 2020 with a plan to retain the main body of the summer house as a living/dining/sleeping space while extending onto the verandah at either side to create a shower room and a mini kitchen with a porch in the middle.
The first job was to bring running water and drainage to the building before tanking it. This proved far more difficult than anticipated and plumber Neil Mallinson had to dig six feet down to locate the main house drains so he could extend them to the summer house. “The drains were so old, there was no record of where they were and when we contacted Yorkshire Water, they said ‘when you find them can you tell us?’” says Gill. “Neil was brilliant. I don’t think anyone else would’ve persisted the way he did.”
A huge picture window was installed at the far end of the building to make the most of the idyllic view over fields and central heating was also added to ensure the structure, christened Cosy Cabin, lived up to its new name. The couple painted the exterior sage green to blend with the adjoining field, while inside Colin laid the beech floor, which came from a village hall via a salvage yard in Darlington. Gill was in charge of painting and interior design.
The tiny kitchen has everything you could want and, to preserve the peace, there is a wood shuttered opening instead of a noisy extractor, which also allows a view over the garden. Cabinetmaker David Powell made the kitchen units and shelves and ensured there was space for everything. “He is an amazing craftsman and there is somewhere to put the double induction hob, microwave, mini fridge, kettle and toaster and he made a drop down shelf to use as a work surface,” says Gill.
David also installed one of the main features in the stylish shower room, the arched window, which Gill bought 30 years ago at an auction hoping it would “come in”. The main living space includes a new sofa and TV plus a vintage dresser, while old drawers and a set of boot lockers were repurposed as shelves. A fold-down Formica table offers somewhere to dine and the bedroom area has a double bed with a single truckle bed underneath.
Art and hand-crafted items are everywhere and include hand-blown glass by Sanders & Wallace Glassmakers, Pateley Bridge, and Gill’s paintings and screen- printed cushions, which are replaced regularly as guests buy them.
Outside, Colin and Gill created a gravelled garden area filled with plants and flowers, most of which came from Arthur Bradley’s stall on Knaresborough market . Many of the pots and planters came from auctions, Facebook Marketplace or the smallholding where Gill grew up. Among them are a boiling pot for dyeing cloth, a feeding trough and a dolly tub.
The original summer house cost £3,000 to build and upgrading it to a self-contained holiday let cost £12,000. The outlay has been more than worthwhile as the cabin has had rave reviews on Airbnb. Guests love the accommodation, the views and the village, which is surrounded by beautiful countryside but is just a five-minute walk to Pateley Bridge.
As a result Gill and Colin have been run off their feet, not least because Gill’s other lockdown project was taking on a vacant retail unit in Pateley Bridge and turning it into a gallery/shop. She says: “I just thought why not give it a go. It is something I had always wanted to do and it coincided with my son Jack going to university, hence naming the shop Jack Albert & Gill 2.”
After a makeover of the interior and new signage, it now features Gill’s paintings along with work by six other local artists, plus handmade homeware and gifts and vintage and recycled items. “I love having the shop and I love meeting people who stay in the cabin,” she says. “I’m not sure we would’ve done the Airbnb or taken on the retail unit had it not been for the pandemic so some good definitely came out of it for us.”
Find the cabin in Bewerley on Airbnb.co.uk, Jack Albert & Gill 2 at 4 Kings Court, Pateley Bridge, and on Facebook, and Gill on Instagram @gillkirkartist