Edward and Catherine Hartshorne’s country home is the picture of perfection this Christmas. The former vicarage, which is tucked away in a rural village near Malton, is cosy, stylish, festive and pretty much immaculate.
From the stunning bespoke living kitchen to the dancing flames in fireplaces decked with garlands, it is easy to be envious unless you know the story behind this beautiful family house.
“If Kevin McCloud had known about it he would have been here like a shot,” says Edward, who is managing director of the Blenkin and Co estate agency, which serves the higher end property market in North and East Yorkshire, selling everything from chocolate box cottages to multi-million pound houses while also helping buyers find their dream home.
The Grand Designs team would certainly have relished the drama and sleepless nights that were all part of the renovation process. The Hartshornes bought the house three years ago after unwittingly putting themselves in a prime position by selling their North Yorkshire cottage.
“We had both fallen in love with a property that we ended up losing. We didn’t want to let our own buyers down so we moved into rented accommodation,” says Edward.
“It isn’t what we wanted but it put us in a good position to buy and it also sharpened my awareness as an estate agent as to what some people go through when buying and selling a home.”
Honouring their side of the bargain was rewarded when the old vicarage came on the market. It had been a much-loved family home but was in need of renovation.
“The Georgian frontage was beautiful but the house was damp with dry and wet rot and needed a lot of work plus the back of the property, which was built in the 1700s, was seven steps lower than the front,” says Catherine, a doctor.
Others were also deterred by the work but Edward followed his own advice: “I tell prospective buyers to look round a property and then look round again bearing in mind that no house will be a 10 out 10.”
A subsequent viewing shed new light on the house, which the Hartshornes realised could be their forever home if they sold a small London flat that was Catherine’s first rung on the property ladder. This gave them the chance to transform the vicarage by levelling it up, fixing what was wrong and creating a large, light-filled living kitchen while making the rest of the building work for modern day needs.
Architectural designer Simon Mitchell helped them come up with a plan to improve the flow of the house while rebuilding and extending the rear and taking the eight bedrooms to five larger rooms. With a main contractor on board, all was going swimmingly until part way through when the contractor’s business went bust, along with the building inspection company the Hartshornes had hired.
“It was awful. Work came to a sudden halt and if it hadn’t been for the kindness of some former clients and some of the professionals I work with, I’m not sure what we would have done. They helped us keep the show on the road,” says Edward.
Among those who helped were a surveyor, a client who turned up with a cement mixer and developer Andy Hague, who sent over a couple of bricklayers. Thanks to employing a quantity surveyor, the Hartshornes had effectively protected their budget and paid the builder only for the work he had done and the materials he had bought, no more.
“If it wasn’t for that I’m not sure we would be here,” says Catherine, who stepped in to project manage. She and Edward, who juggled full-time jobs with the renovation, bought an old pick-up truck so they could collect materials and were on site early every morning, at lunchtime and in the evening.
"We took on some of the builder’s old team and had help finding labourers and a stonemason and we both have a strong work ethic so we were happy to get stuck in,” adds Edward.
They moved in last December but it has taken another year to finish off the interiors. These include a fabulous kitchen-dining room with 12ft high, floor-to-ceiling larder unit and bespoke cabinetry elsewhere by FloCoe Interiors.
Georgian features that had long gone were reinstated, including fireplaces, cornicing and ceiling roses. “My work as an estate agent specialising in period properties really helped with this as I knew what we needed, including 12-inch skirting boards. I also insisted on slotted screws on all the doors,” says Edward, who revived the original parquet floor in the hall and library by scraping off the 1970s varnish by hand.
The walls are painted with Farrow & Ball neutrals and the furniture, furnishings and paintings are a mix of new and old thanks to the couple’s love of antiques.
From buying to moving in took two years but the wait, the stress and the hard work were worthwhile.
The house is finally finished and they are looking forward to spending what will be their most special Christmas ever. It is the first with their baby daughter, Clementine. “We are really looking forward to Christmas,” says Edward. “What I do means working at weekends and being on call most of the time. It’s not a job, it’s a way of life and I love it but at Christmas I can switch off for a couple of days and enjoy time with my family.”
Useful Contacts Blenkin and Co estate agents, www.blenkinandco.com
FloCoe Interiors, kitchen and joinery, www.flocoe.co.uk; Fabric & Flora, www.manorfarmthixendale.co.uk; Peter Curry Specialist Decorating, tel: 07773 817 497
E&S Gott, staircase, www.eandsgott.com; R&E Falkingham, windows, www.falkinghamjoinery.co.uk ; Alan Brisby joinery and building, www.alanbrisby.co.uk
Limestone flooring, www.naturalstone.co.uk; External render, www.yorkshirespecialistrendering.co.uk; Vertigrow, landscaping, www.vertigrow.co.uk ; Kitchen worktops, www.fjones.com
Antique fireplaces, www.oldflames.co.uk; Pond by tunnelaquatics.co.uk; Surveying and sustainability services, www.sassuk.com; Hayes & Co, Helmsley, wwwold-english-leather.com
Stylish Interiors decorative plasterwork, tel: 07876 742431; Simon Mitchell Design Consultancy, www.mitchelldesignconsultancy.com
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