This former schoolhouse in Howsham hides a sensational contemporary extension

To the untrained eye, the converted former school in a small Ryedale village appeared to have reached its full potential. Architect James Arkle was, perhaps, the only person who saw it very differently. His mind’s eye pictured the tiny, chocolate box property with a contemporary extension at the rear.

The schoolhouse hides a contemporary extension to the rear

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Creating the perfect juxtaposition between old and new in a beautiful, rural location was the next best thing to finding a self-build plot for James, who had been hunting for a forever home for over two years.He and his wife, Gail, who have three young sons, had been desperate to swap suburbia for the country so they took the plunge and bought the schoolhouse in the hope that planners would accept the idea of a 21st century addition.“It was built in 1852 and was converted about 30 years ago. It is also Grade II-listed, which impacts on planning permission, but there was an unsympathetic extension and a uPVC conservatory at the back so I knew there was scope to improve on that,” says James.Busy setting up his own architecture practice, Arkle Boyce, which is based in Leeds, his ambitions to create a Grand Designs-style extension were put on hold.Instead, he and Gail lived in the house and took time to consider what they wanted from a new extension and how it would link to the existing house. “Doing it that way also gave us time to save up for work we wanted to do,” says James.The schoolhouse had a double-height sitting room, a small kitchen, dining room and conservatory on the ground floor while upstairs were two bedrooms and a bathroom. James’s first idea was to extend across the back of the property but he and Gail dismissed this in favour of a linear, rectangular extension that would allow them to see down the L-shaped garden. This was important so they could keep an eye on their children while they played outside.

James at the rear of the house with the new extension

The long-range rural views would still be on show through a floor-to-ceiling glazed window at the end of what was to be a new kitchen/dining room with a utility room.The planning authority agreed and was pleased with the design and the decision to clad the extension with dry stone walling to reflect the local vernacular.However, the planners were not keen on the idea of a double-height extension in what is a conservation area.Instead, they compromised and allowed James and Gail to have a reduced first floor, which houses a new master bedroom with en-suite and a dressing room. It links to the existing first floor in the schoolhouse and features a picture window overlooking the countryside.

The new master bedroom suite that sits on top of the new kitchen extension

The box-style structure is timber clad in frake, a hardwood that weathers to an unobtrusive silvery grey to match the colour of Northern skies.“Ryedale planning authority were really good to deal with and the conservation officer was very engaged with what we were doing,” says James.“We had to reduce the size of the new first floor and there were quite a lot of conditions because the schoolhouse is a listed building but we understood the reasoning and it was a really positive process.”The conservation officer also wanted a clear articulation between old and new so the old exterior wall of the schoolhouse has been left exposed and a huge skylight ensures the two buildings do not touch.This has created an entrance space, which leads to a corridor lined with full-height storage cupboards made from Howdens kitchen units and into the extension where the kitchen is by York’s Studio35. The old kitchen and dining room have been combined to make a playroom.

The extension with extensive glazing that brings light and beautiful rural views into the home

The eight-month build went relatively smoothly thanks to a detailed set of drawings, where everything from footings and Cat5 cabling to the placement of switches and sockets were specified.“I’d always recommend doing this as then the contractor has everything they need to know and there is less scope for them to try and interpret what you want,” says James, who opted for large areas of glass from Fineline Aluminium Windows. “We went for high-performance glazing with very thin frames to make the most of the views,” he says.The only thing James would change is the biomass boiler that he and Gail had installed. “We get the renewable heat incentive payments so it is much cheaper than the old oil boiler but we didn’t realise how labour-intensive it would be filling to feed the hopper with wood pellets,” he says.“I think I’d have probably opted for an air source pump if I had realised how much work it is.”

The existing sitting room in what was an old school house is a contrast to the new, contemporary extension

The old house cost £300,000 and the new extension just over £200,000. The property has since been revalued at £700,000.

Room to play. The extension was devised so that James and his wife can keep an eye on the children as they play in the garden

With the project complete, James and Gail are delighted. “The original house is very characterful and the new part if very minimal and contemporary so we feel we’ve got the best of both worlds. I can’t see us ever moving,” says James. “We feel really invested in the community and we love the village. We wanted a forever home and I don’t think we could find anything better than this. It’s our dream house.”

*Pictures by Nicholas Worley and Gary Longbottom.

Useful Contacts

Architect and interior designer: ArkleBoyce Architects, contractor: Fairway Contracts, North EastDry stone walling: Powell and Blaker Construction, engineer: Alan Wood & Partners, Deltalight, www.deltalight.comKitchen by Studio 35, York, by Duravit, Fineline Aluminium, flooring: CDS Tiles, www.cdstiles.comArtwork in kitchen by Millie McCallum,