Real Home: the house that dad built

Harriet Cockcroft knew exactly what she wanted from her modern cottage – and knew just the right person to make it happen. Heather Dixon reports. Pictures by Dave BurtonWhen events manager Harriet Cockcroft started looking for a modern starter home closer to her work in Brighouse, West Yorkshire, she knew exactly who to turn to for help.Her father Paul Cockcroft, chairman of a development company, had just finished building 10 contemporary cottages next to a renovated Georgian mansion – and one of them ticked all the boxes for Harriet.

“I had been looking for a while and the answer was staring me in the face,” she says. “I remember dad’s company, the PCP Group, turning the mansion into apartments when I was growing up so I was already very familiar with the area.”

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Harriet and her partner Mark, an executive chef, looked round the three- bedroom cottage and sealed the deal for the full asking price. “Dad insists on high- quality workmanship and finishes, and he also gave me flexibility over the choice of fittings and fixtures. It was win-win all round,” says Harriet.The-three storey house, which has a garden overlooking a valley, features a spacious, open-plan living-kitchen and arched windows built of tapered blocks from a local quarry. “I like the fact this house feels light and open from the moment you walk into the main room,” adds Harriet. “With windows at both ends, your eye is drawn right through the room and out to the countryside beyond.”

The main bedroom, which includes a large en suite bathroom linked by a dressing area, is on the first floor, leaving the two guest rooms and shower room on the top floor.“When it’s just Mark and I, we can effectively close off the top floor,” says Harriet. ‘‘We did, however, turn the smallest bedroom into a flexible living space with a desk and fold-out bed. Mark’s children, Jack and Sophie, stay with us at weekends and they love sleeping on the top floor. For them it’s a big adventure.”Harriet wanted to make the in-built features of the modern cottage stand out, particularly the arched windows which her father designed to be in sympathy with the listed mansion house.

“The house not only has lots of character but also plenty of storage, which is rare in a modern new-build,” says Harriet.Her dad was already working with Leeds-based designer Christine Yorath by the time Harriet bought the house, so Christine was able to advise her on the fittings and fixtures, particularly the floor and wall tiles, carpet and large L-shaped sofa which separates the sitting area from the dining-kitchen.They chose the same Macpherson white emulsion throughout the property to link the rooms and reflect light around the house.

“It’s a soft shade of white which adds a bit of warmth to the scheme,” says Harriet. “Christine calls the colour palette ‘greige’ – a modern mix of white, blush pink, taupe and mushroom – which I build up with layers of bright colours that can be swapped and changed around throughout the seasons.”Harriet wanted to create a stylish, uncluttered feel with warm colourful layers and home comforts. “I wanted carpet to make it homely, but it also had to be practical. We both work long hours so I didn’t want it to be high maintenance.”Harriet achieved this by keeping furniture to a minimum, but choosing extra-large key pieces such as beds and sofas.“Less is more and large furniture looks really striking in a simple setting, specially when layered with lots of throws and cushions,” she says. ‘The challenge was getting the beds and sofas up the narrow stairs. It took three of us to do it without making great gouges in the paintwork.”Harriet also likes symmetry and balance, taking her time to build up the look and being prepared to wait until she finds exactly what she wants for a given space.“Christine suggested that when I see a lamp I really like I should always buy two because so they can be used in pairs,” she says.

“It’s good advice which has worked really well in the main bedroom and also in the sitting room, where I have matching lamps either side of the sofa.”Buying a house from her father could have been fraught with problems, yet it turned out to be anything but.“I love dad’s attention to detail and he thought of everything – from the subtle theme of oak doors and stair details, which add warmth to the house, to the style of the windows, the in-built cupboards and the practical layout,” says Harriet.“It’s hard to make decisions when you are starting with nothing but working with dad and Christine made it much easier. I love the fact that I’m actually living in a house my dad built.”

Good Ideas

The unusually-shaped windows posed the biggest challenge. Harriet wasn’t sure how to create privacy without losing natural light, so Christine suggested hanging 50mm-slat wooden Venetian blinds from the bottom of the curve, which complement rather than disguise the feature.A floating shelf unit for the bathroom basins includes a wide, deep shelf underneath to store towels.■ A false wall has been built next to the bath to hide the pipes, but it is fitted with a tiled inset to create an easy-reach shelf for toiletries.■ Paul designed and built a wooden side table that slots neatly into the arm of the sofa and creates a natural divide between the two areas of theopen-plan room.