How this couple achieved the property wow factor with their Yorkshire home

Mark and Jan Mackaness took a brave approach to refurbishing this period house and it paid off. Sharon Dale reports.

It would have been easier and much less expensive to do a simple refurbishment of the former gamekeeper's house on the Rudding Park estate but owners Mark and Jan Mackaness never do anything by halves when it comes their property and land portfolio.

The couple are adventurous when it comes to architecture and have form for commissioning fabulous buildings.

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One of their best-known projects is an old steel-framed grain store on their 1,500-acre estate, near Harrogate, which was converted into an award-winning country home.

Keepers Cottage, which is part of the estate's rental portfolio, also looks set to win plaudits after a courageous makeover that marries historic and modern architecture.

“The house needed some updating but we saw it as a property with potential as the rooms downstairs were large and spacious but the rooms upstairs were not.

“We decided to make it into a lovely family home for the 21st century,” says Jan.

Another major consideration was the energy efficiency. The Victorian house was in danger of failing minimum EPC – energy performance certificate – standards for rental property, so insulating the walls, upgrading the glazing and finding an alternative for the inefficient oil boiler were a priority.

Delighted with their work on converting the grain store, she and Mark hired Merrell O'Flaherty Dormer architects to come up with ideas on how to extend the house and asked respected craftsman builders AJ Hawkridge to undertake the construction and fit-out.

The scheme included replacing a former gunroom and coal shed with a two-storey extension on one side of the house, while adding a single storey extension on the other side to create a large kitchen/dining room.

“The two-storey extension came under permitted development but we had to apply for planning permission for the single-storey extension,” says Jan.

Both additions to the original stone building are unashamedly modern.

“It is our belief that Keepers Cottage is an extraordinary example of what can be achieved when an ethos of respect and care is shown to the host dwelling while adding a layer that is distinctly of our time,” says architect Nick Dormer.

“Contemporary design will always be subjective. However, planning policy does allow for this. Harrogate Borough Council's Residential Design Guide states that ‘contemporary design, reinterpreting traditional forms and using traditional materials creatively can add to the richness and interest of an area. A sensitive design can produce a modern extension which respects the original house and neighbouring buildings'.”

He adds: “Our philosophy was to sympathetically remodel the cottage but to retain and respect its significance. Our immediate notion was to add a subtle extension of dark tones to the north side with a lightweight pavilion-style extension to the south. This has allowed the original, light toned stone-faced cottage to maintain its dominance.”

Blue-black brick was used for the double-height extension.

“Our contemporary interpretation strips out the intricate detail of the 19th century dwelling to leave a silhouetted form that highlights the original house,” says Nick, who added a striking glazed roof light leading to a glazed link that marks the boundary between the new addition and the old building.

Inside, the existing stone face of the cottage has been retained and extends imposingly up to the ridge providing a constant reminder of the original architecture.

The glazed pavilion on the south side looks more straightforward but it was, in fact, quite involved as the corner of the existing building was removed and a steel and cedar brise soleil was added o diffuse the light and create shadow patterns that animate the kitchen/dining room.

The pavilion roof also provides a balcony area for the master bedroom suite with far reaching views across open countryside. A sweeping dry stone wall that now surrounds the house was added “to focus the aspect of the building to the expansive meadow views, and southern light.”

Other clever touches include the new oak and glass staircase and the large wall-to-wall gable end window to the new first-floor bedroom. The latter gives a painterly view of the treetops.

“On entering the room, the first impression is of a leafy green and tranquil space, transforming what would otherwise be a fairly regular bedroom,” says Nick, who adds that this a good example of how good, contemporary architecture doesn't have to cost a fortune to have a major impact.

Graham Hawkridge, of AJ Hawkridge, believes it amounts to about 10 per cent extra when compared to a bog-standard build.

Significant savings were made replacing the old oil boiler with an air source heat pump, which, along with new insulation and glazing, has made the house much less expensive to run.

Jan and Mark were hands on throughout the build with Jan taking a lead on the interiors and sourcing. She eschews internet shopping to support local businesses. The concrete-effect kitchen cabinets are from Interiors of Harrogate.

“We could have done something cheaper but we wanted the house to have wow factor and we wanted to future-proof the property. This is a beautiful estate. It deserves the best,” says Jan, who adds that it has already paid dividend.

What was a four-bedroom property now has five bedrooms and four bathrooms and was let immediately through FSS Property for £4,500 per month.

Useful Contacts

Architects,; AJ Hawkridge builders, email:; Fabric and poles,; Kitchen by Interiors of Harrogate,; Bathrooms and tiles,; Lighting,; Carpets,; wardrobes,; Curtains and blinds by Julie Keogh, tel: 07774472473. Blinds,

Stone Walling by Ashley Walker, awdrystonewalling on Facebook; Gardens and landscaping,; Surfacing Works,

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