Size matters and that's why Sue and Tom Kenny are preparing to bid a tearful goodbye to Croft House, their beautiful self-build home and its truly magnificent views. After planning to downsize from their previous home, they ended up with a 2,000 sq ft property that is simply too big for their needs. The house is now on the market with Dacre, Son and Hartley for £550,000.
“The plan was to build somewhere smaller but it didn't quite work out that way,” laughs Sue.
Finding land with planning permission is hard enough without being extra picky about the potential square footage, so when the Kennys spotted a garden plot in the village of Fairburn they couldn't say no.
The number one selling point was the view across the Fairburn Ings nature reserve and beyond.
“The land was sloping and overgrown but we knew exactly what we wanted to do with it. We also knew the area well as our old house was in a village close by and the transport links are amazing. It takes five minutes to drive to the A1 and M62, and it takes 15 minutes to get to Wetherby and half an hour to Leeds and York,” says Sue.
The couple were well equipped for the task of self-building as they had all the necessary experience. They had built their previous home from scratch in 1994 and Tom is a lecturer in construction, while Sue is a dab hand at design and has great organisational skills.
The plot came with outline planning permission for a bog-standard house but the Kennys wanted something special that would maximise the magnificent views and submitted detailed plans to Selby Council. The design was a collaboration between them and Tom Robbins, of Pearce Bottomley Architects.
At the front it appears to be single storey with rooms in the roof and has a subtle, modern, white rendered exterior. At the back it's a chalet-style home set over three floors with an overhanging roof that gives shelter to the first-floor balcony.
Large areas of glazing fill the home with natural light and optimise the outlook across the neighbouring RSPB reserve, which recently featured on the BBC's Springwatch.
The house has a double-height reception hall with guest cloakroom that leads to an open-plan living space with sitting room/kitchen and dining areas. Bi-fold doors open on to the large balcony overlooking the Ings.
A galleried top-floor landing leads to two double bedrooms and the house bathroom. Most of the lower ground floor is given over to a master bedroom suite with a walk-in dressing room and large en-suite bathroom. The suite also features full-height glazed doors overlooking the lakes and leading on to a terrace.
The build went smoothly thanks to the couple's experience and an excellent working relationship with builder Robert Barker. “We all got on really well and respected each other's opinion and that was the secret of success,” says Tom.
The first job was clearing the site and digging out the slope so that work could begin on the foundations and the construction, which is brick and block topped with render and Siberian larch cladding. “I looked at timber-framed construction but our builder wasn't happy with that method, so we went for a traditional build and I am pleased we did,” says Tom.
Enormous amounts of insulation, LED lighting, gas-fired underfloor heating controlled via an app and an eco-friendly sewage system that wipes a chunk off the water bill ensures that the property is inexpensive to run.
The interiors are cosy and uncluttered with lots of clever features, such as space-saving pocket doors that slide into the wall cavity rather than swinging out from their hinges. The kitchen appliances are all silent so they don't disturb the peace in the open-plan living space and there's a Quooker instant boiling water tap instead of a noisy kettle.
“I also had a pantry designed in because I didn't want wall cupboards and I didn't want any kitchen paraphernalia on display in the open-plan living space,” says Sue.
The couple also made sure there is space to install a lift to future-proof the property against old age. The decor is stylish and restful with neutral walls and touches of colour from artwork they have brought back from their travels and from paintings by one of their favourite artists, Pateley Bridge-based Alister Colley.
“We kept the interiors quite neutral because we didn't want anything to compete with the view,” says Sue, who designed much of the bespoke furniture including the headboard in the main bedroom, which was inspired by one she had seen in a Venice hotel.
The build took eight months and came in on budget but the couple added to that spend by splashing out on a professional to design and landscape the south-west facing garden
Michael Palmer came up with a low maintenance space with block and render walls, raised beds, decking, a fire pit, water feature, seating areas and garden lighting. “It was well worth the extra spend. It's a wonderful space,” says Sue.
She and Tom moved into the house in April 2015 and despite knowing it was too big for the next phase of their life plan, they have been unable to tear themselves away until now.
“We want to downsize to a smaller property but it will be hard to say goodbye to this house,” she says.
“It's so calm and the views are amazing. There's lots of wildlife on the Ings and the sunsets are fabulous. On New Year's Eve we get a free display because we can see the fireworks for miles.”
Croft House, Fairburn, is for sale for £550,000 through Dacre, Son and Hartley, Wetherby, www.dacres.co.uk
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Tom Robbins of Pearce Bottomley Architects, www.pbarchitects.co.uk
Robert Barker Builders, Leeds, email: [email protected], tel 07967 650989
Michael Palmer, MP Garden Design, www.mpgardendesigns.co.uk.
Express Bi-folding Doors, Leeds, www.expressbifolds.co.uk
Compass Lighting, Leeds, tel: 0113 278 4772
Alister Colley, artist, Pateley Bridge, www.alistercolleyfineart.com