A move to the other side of the world and back led Alex Harrison and Steve White to make a surprising correlation between the fashionable Paddington area of Sydney and central York.
The couple, who had lived and worked in Australia for 10 years before giving into the pull of family and friends back in the UK, made the observation when they were looking for a home here.
“We could have gone anywhere with rail links to London but York just felt right. It reminded us of where we lived in Paddington, which is the old part of Sydney with lovely Victorian houses and lots of cafes and restaurants and a cinema,” says Alex, who is originally from Leeds.
The only compromise was the weather and the fact that they wouldn’t have Bondi Beach on the doorstep, though they have conceded that Whitby is a good substitute. “We narrowed our search area to three streets in central York and we wanted a garden and parking, so we decided to rent until the right property came on the market,” says Alex, who was prepared for a long wait until someone suggested that he and Steve take a look at a row of new-build town houses near Bootham.
They reluctantly agreed to the viewing, certain that they had no intention of buying new but within 24 hours of seeing the property, they had put an offer in. “It had the garden and parking we wanted and we were really attracted by it being a complete blank canvas,” says Alex.
The three-storey, five-bedroom house is a sympathetic addition to the Georgian and Victorian properties nearby and has a sitting room, a 26ft-long, open-plan living/kitchen/dining space with glazed doors onto the garden, a utility room and cloakroom. The upper two floors are home to a large bedroom suite, bathrooms and four further bedrooms, one of which is an office, while another is now an art room to accommodate Steve’s love of painting.
Both men had strong views on what should be done to turn the blank canvas into a home. “We’ll have a difference of opinion but it’s more creative tension and not enough to file for divorce,” laughs Alex.
One thing they agreed on was to hire talented young duo FloCoe to fit out the property with everything from built-in cabinetry to a new kitchen. Joiner/cabinetmaker Philip Coe and his partner, designer Flo Cooper, are well known for their own fabulous, award-winning home, which they built and fitted out themselves. “Phil and Flo were recommended but what really swung it was the story and pictures of their own house on their website,” says Alex.
He and Steve were in Sydney when they asked Flo and Phil to come up with designs that fitted their brief. The four communicated via Facetime and emails but that didn’t impede progress.
The couple have spared no expense on the fit-out of what they believe will be their forever home. They wanted the kitchen to be eclectic, colourful and practical rather than ultra modern and sleek.
Flo designed units running along one wall, with the fridge freezer hidden behind the wood doors. Centre stage is a curved island made from walnut, which is lit from underneath so it gives the impression of floating.
“It’s fantastic. Steve wasn’t keen on having an island but when he saw this design, he said ‘I take it all back’,” says Alex, who was also impressed with the way the walnut theme was carried into the open-plan dining area by adding a walnut ladder to reach the top of the bespoke walnut-trimmed shelves, which also have a glass whisky cabinet. The oak Habitat dining table that they took to Australia and brought back again has been oiled and looks good as new. “We’ve had it for 20 years and it has moved house with us four times,” says Alex.
By the glass doors onto the garden is one of their favourite buys from down under – a mid-century chair by Australian designer Grant Featherston. By its side is a beautiful Tom Raffield lamp. The wall-hung stove in the sitting area is from HotBox, in Wiggington. The painting next to it is by Dan Cimmerman.
To ensure the house looks its best, clever storage solutions were vital so Flo and Philip designed a hidden place for shoes and coats under the stairs fronted by Art Deco-style panelling. Flo also helped source the quirky hexagonal sink in the ground-floor cloakroom.
Upstairs, there are built-in cupboards, wardrobes and shelves in all rooms, along with racking for the art room. There is also an extra special bathroom with walls and sink finished in Venetian-style plaster with shades of gold running through thanks to Leeds-based Rendone.
“We are so happy with the way the house looks that I don’t think we could ever bear to sell it,” says Alex. “This really is our forever home.”
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