Award winning home in Scarborough's old town

This historic home in Scarborough has just won the LABC award for best refurbishment of an existing building. Sharon Dale finds out why. Pictures by Bruce Rollinson.

Room with a view on the top floor

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A sea view was top of the list when Tony and Tricia Wilson decided to move to central Scarborough and they found it through the windows of a house in the historic old town.It was love at first sight but the beautiful coastal scenery was in direct contrast to the ramshackle state of the Georgian property.“It needed a huge amount of work but the views were amazing and that’s the main reason we bought it,” says Tricia.She and Tony lived in Aislaby, near Whitby, but when Tony’s eye problems meant he could no longer drive, a move to Scarborough made sense.They wanted to be in walking distance of the town’s amenities and their portfolio of student lets.Even though they were no strangers to modernising property, the Grade II-listed townhouse took them out of their comfort zone, so they brought in the cavalry in the form of award-winning architect Ric Blenkharn.He redesigned the hall, advised on decor and came up with a plan to turn a jumble of dark rooms and an old lean-to extension in the basement into a contemporary, useful and light-filled space.“A friend who is also an architect recommended Ric and he was amazing. He began by asking how we thought we would live our lives here. So, his starting point was how the house could work for us.“He brought space and light into the basement in a way we didn’t think possible,” says Tony.

Award winner

Judges of the prestigious North and East Yorkshire Local Authority Building Control awards were also impressed. The Wilsons’ project has just won the “Best refurbishment of a listed building” award.

The front of the historic house has been restored and freshened up

Built in 1821, the property has only had a handful of owners. The previous occupant had lived there for 60 years, during which time there had been very little modernisation.The hall was a dark and narrow corridor with an old shower room off and the stairs to the basement directly next to the front door. “It was quite hazardous as you felt like you were might fall down the stairs when you opened the door,” says Tricia.Part of Ric’s plan was to move the stairway to the other end of the hall and install a wet room, which would future-proof the property for old age.“That was the biggest job but it has made a massive difference,” says Tony.The existing sitting room on the ground floor was insulated and the crumbling Georgian cornice was replicated and replaced by Scarborough-based Stylish Interiors.

The sitting room has been insulated and period features restored

The 1960s fireplace was removed to make way for a gas stove and the old window was replaced by glazed doors, which leads onto a new roof terrace. This gives Tony and Tricia even better views of Scarborough Bay.The terrace and its skylight is also the roof of the replacement, single-storey extension on the lower ground floor.What was the old kitchen, dining room and lean-to in the basement is now a dry, light-filled, open-plan living kitchen with a step down to the living/sitting area and sliding doors onto the garden. There’s also a utility room and cloakroom and the whole space is warmed by underfloor heating.

Architect's advice

“Ric wanted the dining and sitting area to be lower than the kitchen and we agreed. It meant extra work and cost as we had to dig down but the room has more height and there’s a view right down the garden,” says Tony.

The lower ground floor living space with views onto the garden

While most of the work was straightforward thanks to experienced contractors K&D Building, restricted access to the rear of the house was a problem. This was solved by using a mini digger and dumper truck that could be driven up a ramp from the basement to the front door.Another hiccup was a bend in a structural wall, which had been hidden by the old kitchen units.This had to be rectified and as the builders pick-axed their way through the foundations, they found a brick-vaulted room underneath. “It could have been cellar or water cistern and we did consider doing something with it but that would have been a huge job.“In the end we decided to fill it up and make the house more stable,” says Tricia.

A higher level

Upstairs, one of the two bedrooms on the first floor was converted into a large, statement bathroom painted in Pugin red.

A bedroom was converted onto a luxurious bathroom

On the top floor, new dormers were installed and there are two bedrooms and a bathroom. Furniture is a mix of old favourites and new buys. Among the latter are bookshelves from Ikea and a dining table from Sinclairs in Scarborough.“Ric advised us on paint colours. He’s very visual and we’re accountants who can’t visualise so we trusted him when he told us to use violet in the basement sitting area and chalk white and grey elsewhere,” says Tricia.

The contemporary kitchen from Wren and fitted by the builders

During the 10-month project, the couple stayed in one of their rental properties, and the final bill to renovate the house from top to bottom was £290,000.

The rear of the property with extension that replaced an old lean to

Those sea views have been well worth the expense and effort, and their ambition to walk everywhere has been realised.“The car can sit there for weeks without us using it,” says Tricia.

The roof of the extension doubles as a terrace with views of the bay

Tony and Tricia and the French doors leading to the roof terrace.

Tony, who grew up in Scarborough and left for university vowing never to return, has also found a new appreciation for his hometown.“When I left 42 years ago I had no intention of moving back but I’m glad I did. Scarborough has changed so much. It’s now got a great cultural offering with the Stephen Joseph Theatre, a growing artists’ community, good shops and lovely walks on the coastal path. It’s a very good place to be aged 60.”

Useful Contacts

Bramhall Blenkharn architects, Malton, www.brable.comKand D Building, main contractor, www.kdbuildingltd.comStylish Interiors , Scarborough, decorative plasterwork, 01723 369492Electrodec, light fittings, Scarborough, www.electrodec.comSinclairs furniture, Scarborough, www,