“No, no, no” was the continual refrain when Dr Deborah Wallis and her husband, Simon, were house hunting on property portals in an effort to find the perfect home in Yorkshire. Having lived in a tall, dark and narrow townhouse in London, they were determined to find something lighter and brighter in a great location.
Their patience and refusal to compromise paid off when they spotted The Cyphers in the sought-after Leeds suburb of Alwoodley. “The first picture of it popped up and we both said ‘yes’ immediately,” says Deborah. “We knew it was the one.”
Built in the early 1960s, the property, which is now on the market for £1.395m, was filled with light thanks to an abundance of large picture windows and it was clear that the one-off, mid-century property had been thoughtfully designed by an architect.
Simon, who works for a public art gallery, says: “In London we lived in a Victorian terraced house that was dark and often felt claustrophobic. There was only a small garden and its 19th-century layout wasn’t compatible with the life we wanted to lead. We always seemed to be trudging up or down stairs.
“We spent a year renting in Leeds, researching the location that would suit our needs and inspire us. We saw many amazing homes but we didn’t want to live in a period house again, and we didn’t want to be so far out into the countryside that using the city became difficult.”
Just as compelling was that The Cyphers was ready for an update, which meant Deborah and Simon were able to modernise and tailor the building to suit them and their two children. After buying the house just over 10 years ago, they have sensitively extended, restored and modernised it within the spirit of the original 1960 design.
This makes putting the “For Sale” sign up on what is now their perfect home a huge wrench for the Wallis’s who are moving back to London to be closer to family and work. The five-bedroom property is for sale with The Modern House, which specialises in interesting homes with architectural merit.
Deborah describes their first impression of the property as being “a pleasing hybrid of a ranch house and a ski-lodge” and was bowled over by the distinctive roof and the beautiful 1960s staircase in the double-height space. “The house is a bold statement and must have looked so radical at the time, set against the attractive 19th-century homes that are its neighbours,” she says. “We also loved that there was land around the house and the gardens had huge potential. We also had the space to breathe while not being isolated.”
The Wallis family lived in the house for a year to get to know it and then moved out for a year while the major work took place. Simon says: “Fortunately, the house has only ever had two owners before us, so most changes to the original design were just superficial. We stripped everything back, fully rewired, replumbed, clad the inside walls, put in triple A-rated windows, a wood burner, a Bulthaup kitchen and new wood cladding in cedar to match what was originally there.”
Keen to improve the environmental efficiency of the property, the couple installed solar panels. They generate a £2,400 annual income from a feed-in tariff payment and keep energy bills low while charging the family’s electric car.
The new extension has created a large kitchen/diner and a large study was built above one of the bedrooms. “It all works perfectly for us,” says Deborah. “We now live largely in the kitchen/diner, which has enough space to cook, eat and watch TV as a family. “What was once our children’s playroom is now mostly used for table tennis and piano practice and the living room we use for relaxing with the papers and movie nights or for when we have family and friends over.”
The Wallis family was especially grateful for the house and its garden during the first lockdown. “It is large enough for us all to work quietly and separately, but then come together when we want to,” says Deborah. “It is also uplifting because every room in this house has huge windows so it is bright at all times of the day and there is always this joyful sense of spaciousness inside and out. On a clear day, we can see the white horse etched into the hillside at Kilburn 40 miles away.”
All the walls in the house are painted white and the floors are solid oak as the couple wanted a neutral backdrop so they could best display their art and ceramics.“We’re both passionate modernists. We like simple white walls that offer a sense of calm and a neutral backdrop to our collection that we’ve acquired over many years,” says Simon, who has also been able to add to his collection of design classics.
He adds: “This house is so much bigger than our previous home so we have been able to buy more generous furniture, like the Fritz Hansen table that comfortably seats 10 people, our large bedroom storage cabinet and Vitsoe shelving.”
Outside, the Wallis’s have transformed the garden with new paths, a fountain, patios, a pond and thousands of perennials and bulbs. There are also raised vegetable beds and apple, pear and cherry trees. “We definitely want another home like this,” says Deborah. “We could never return to a small garden and a dark house. We will miss the peacefulness here, waking up and seeing rabbits or deer in the field and watching the sun rise from the bedroom. We have loved it and we hope whoever buys it will feel as safe, secure, inspired and nurtured as we have.”
The Cyphers, £1.395m, is in a secluded spot on a private road in Alwoodley close to countryside with Leeds city centre five miles away. It has electric gates, large gardens, a double garage and inside there is a sunroom, double-height entrance hall, a kitchen, pantry, utility room, open-plan dining area, two studies, a lounge, games room, four double ensuite bedrooms and consent to turn the third floor into a fifth bedroom. Contact: www.themodernhouse.com
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