Challenge at the Crescent

Kim Finer’s home was part of a two-year project to make a landmark building habitable once more. Sharon Dale reports.

Kim Finer in her flat in Prospect Crescent Harrogate.

With its elegant curves and columns, Prospect Crescent is one off Harrogate’s architectural highlights.

The Georgian beauty, which was once the town’s Post Office, reflects 21st-century commerce on its ground floor, while most upper floors are a mix of offices and apartments.

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Behind the beautiful 18th-century windows of 1, 2 and 3 Prospect Crescent, it was a different story until owner Alyson Finer was forced to make a big decision.

Most of the upper floor space, above a bank and a shop, was empty but when the roof started to leak and the staircase began to collapse, Alyson had to choose whether to patch up her investment or embark on a major makeover.

Clearly, she is a woman who enjoys a challenge, as she plumped for the latter and persuaded her daughter Kim to come on board for what was always going to be a bumpy ride.

The building, designed by JH Hirst and constructed between 1873 and 1880 by George Dawson, is grade two listed, which makes planning permission problematic.

The town centre site, opposite the cenotaph, also has accessibility issues for builders’ vans and deliveries, especially during the day when the spa town is packed with shoppers.

“Mum bought this as a commercial investment but when she looked at what it was going to cost to repair, she decided she might as well go the whole hog. It wasn’t an easy decision because we were in a recession at that time.

“She applied to create six apartments over the three upper floors with a view to using them for holiday lets and short term rentals,” says Kim, who had a double incentive to make the project a success. One of the flats was ear-marked for her, though it took almost two years before she could call it home.

The listed status meant that care had to be taken to preserve original features and permission had to be sought for reconfiguring the layout.

“We had to have steel supports in everywhere and that was really challenging because of the access issues. Getting materials to site was so difficult,” says Kim, who joined the team towards the end of construction to oversee the décor and to market and manage the serviced apartments.

She left her marketing job in London to work in the family business and had lots of research to do.

“I was lucky that my mum has a huge back catalogue of World of Interiors magazines, so I looked through those and I also got some inspiration from, an American architecture and interior design website.

“I wanted a classic contemporary look for the apartments and I wanted them all to be different.”

She worked with Kate Osborne from Farrow and Ball in Harrogate to choose paint colours and when it came to 
soft furnishings, she called in Lucy Gill 
and Daniel Thompson, who own Fabric and Co.

They helped her choose colours, and patterns and created bespoke sofas, chairs, headboards and footstools.

“They were amazing. I spent a morning with them and by the end we had schemes for every apartment and some really practical solutions,” says Kim.

Accessories were bought locally from James Brindley with lamps from Laura Ashley and throws from M&S. Other items were sourced via the internet.

“I now know have be so careful what you choose when you shop online. It’s very hard to really judge the size and the TV cabinet in my flat is a good example. It’s far too low. I also bought the mattresses online. They were delivered on the hottest day of the year by just one man. I had to help him lug them all up the stairs and there are a lot of stairs.”

Living on site has helped her manage the project and the apartment bookings.

“I love it here and it’s really handy for shops and bars,” says Kim, whose home is on the top floor with magnificent views over the roof tops.

“Unlike the other apartments, it is a more modern loft apartment style and I painted it all in Farrow and Ball’s Pavilion Grey.

“My taste isn’t girly or feminine and my flat reflects that. I also wanted something that felt light and restful, which is why I chose this place. Although it is in the town centre, it is so high up you don’t hear any noise. It’s really peaceful.”

She is preparing to tackle the sixth and final flat. “It’s taken two years to get to this point and we’re delighted. I’ve also learned a lot, which will help when I come to do the next project.

“One of the most important things is to plan absolutely everything before the contractors are on site, including where to place sockets,” she says.

“I’ll also be giving instructions about the height of the showers.

“They were put in at 5ft10ins in one apartment, which is not good for someone who is tall.”

Useful contacts

3-4 Prospect Crescent, Harrogate, serviced apartments for holiday lets or short term rentals,

Fabric & Co, Cold Bath Road, Harrogate,

Whitaker and Leach Builders, Bradford,

Aedas Architects, Huddersfield,

Robinson’s Lighting, Knaresborough,

Paint from Farrow & Ball, Harrogate,

Carpets from H. Morgan, Harrogate,