Picture perfect: photographer Makiko Hall’s York home

Photographer Makiko Hall’s historic home in central York is picture-perfect after a stylish redesign. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.

She was born and raised in Japan but Makiko Hall has spent much of her life on the move.

A former investment banker turned photographer and author, she has flitted between continents, living and working everywhere from New York, London and Paris to Switzerland and Bermuda and now Yorkshire.

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Evidence of her travels will soon be on display in her home in central York, which is she turning into a temporary gallery for the city’s Open Studios.

One of the reception rooms has been tarnsformed into a library/study. Makiko is pictured on the library ladder.

The free event runs over two weekends, April 6 and 7 and April 13 and 14, and will see 149 artists and makers open their work spaces to the public .

Best known for her black and white images, Makiko, who studied at the International Center of Photography in New York, is mentored by Magnum Photos member Alex Majoli .

Spotting her talent, he suggested she concentrate on monochrome pictures and this has led to success.

Along with having one of her photographs accepted for the Venice Biennale, she has also exhibited in Japan, North America and Europe.

What was a dark, cramped kitchen and separate utility room is now a large, light dining kitchen. The table is by Saarinen and the chairs are by Philippe Starck.

Her subjects are diverse, ranging from landscapes and cityscapes to portraits, mostly taken with her Leica Monochrom camera

Her books include Battleship Island. She secured a rare permission to visit the abandoned coal mining settlement off the coast of Nagasaki. This eerie, desolate place featured in the Bond film Skyfall.

Beautifully Different: Autism – Viewing the world through a different lens is more personal. The photographic book is about gifted children with high-functioning autism who attended a programme run by Dr Rebecca Landa at the renowned Kennedy Krieger Institute in America.

The clinic offers some of the best early intervention therapy in the world and Makiko credits it with helping her eldest son.

The Barcelona chairs with one of Makiko's photographs on the far wall.

“He went there for a short time and after lots of therapy he started talking and improved enough to go to mainstream school,” she says.

Since moving to York, she has added photographs of the city to her archive, including many of the Minster.

She is in prime position to record it as it is just a few steps from her front door.

Makiko moved to York in 2013 as her son was keen to go to one of the private schools there.

Tilting Tree by Makiko Hall

“We struggled to find a property we liked but this one had potential. It is in the heart of the city but yet it’s really quiet and peaceful inside,” she says.

The two-storey home is part of a conversion of the Minster’s probate office but while the location and square footage appealed, the layout and decor did not.

“It was too fussy. Every room was a different colour. I like a more minimal, Japanese style,” explains Makiko.

She and her husband engaged Native Architects to help them reconfigure the interiors to make them lighter, brighter and more family-friendly. The work won a York Design Award for Conservation.

What was a dark kitchen with separate utility room is now one large space. It is filled with natural light after the wall between the kitchen and sitting room was replaced with glazed doors.

The new kitchen units are white and contemporary and are complemented by a table by Saarinen and chairs by Philippe Starck.

A refreshed bathroom in marble

The sitting room features more of the family’s collection of design classics, including the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs and an Eileen Gray side table.

“They have been with us wherever we have moved,” says Makiko, who added an orange Ligne Roset sofa for a pop of colour.

The second reception room is home to their Noguchi glass-topped coffee table and is fitted with library shelves, along with a ladder to access the highest books.

The walls feature a collection of woodblock prints by Japanese artist Shiko Munakata.

Upstairs, Native Architects made use of a window and double height space on the landing by adding a small glass and steel staircase and a platform to create a studio for Makiko, which has views of the Minster.

What was a deep alcove with dead space on the landing was converted into a linen cupboard, while the principal bedroom is now a restful, minimalist haven with a new marble ensuite.

Almost all the walls in the home have been painted white to create uniformity. The window dressings are white voile blinds that ensure privacy but allow light to shine through.

The attention to detail is impressive and even extends to the skirting boards.

“They were all different heights before and so we replaced them all,” says Makiko, who hopes to do a photographic book of York.

If she and the family move on, it will be a memento of their time in the city.

“I’ve moved a lot but I like it here and so do the boys,” she says. “The people in Yorkshire are nice and I am very privileged to have a beautiful view of the Minster but I love to travel and we may move again when we are empty nesters.”

* Makiko is taking part in the York Open Studios, April 5-7 and 13-14, 10am-5pm

It is a free event and allows visitors to look behind the studio doors of artists, craftspeople and designers. You can plan a route with the help of the free event guide or online via www.yorkopenstudios.co.uk

This is the view from the loo in Makiko's home.