Many of us have a Rightmove addiction but idle window shopping can have unexpected consequences, as Wendy Simpson discovered. She and her husband Dean had no intention of moving until he spotted a beautiful Georgian house in a hamlet three miles from their home in Swanland, near Hull.
“We arranged a viewing, fell in love with it and put our house on the market. We had lived in our new-build for 11 years and had no experience of period properties and the commitment they take, though finding it was serendipitous because we had become tired of living on a housing development and wanted a change,” she says.
The sensational renovation of the house has been documented on Wendy’s Instagram page, which also led to her becoming one of the fab four instagram friends who are celebrating the launch of their new interiors book.
Wendy, aka the_yorkshire_homestead on Instagram, Jack, aka jackdmark, Joanne Hardcastle, aka hardcastletowers and Marie-Claire Jackson, aka thegingerhareofyorkshire, were spotted by a top publisher after gathering a huge following for their Instagram hashtag collaboration “The Story of my Home”.
The result is a brilliant new book, Story of My Home, published by Studio Press. It is full of inspiring photographs, advice and ideas on how to make a property look and feel great and attracted a huge number of pre-orders on Amazon ahead of its publication date.
“Meeting Joanne, Jack and Maz and seeing Story of My Home taking off and leading to a book has been amazing. I have loved writing the book with them,” says Wendy, who has completed her mission to restore her Grade II listed Georgian home with a harmonious blend of period and modern elements. She cheerfully admits that she and Dean are not DIY’ers and so the “massive renovation”, was done by professionals.
“It was pretty terrifying when we first moved here because the wiring was so bad that you couldn’t turn the kettle on if the tumble dryer was on. That was one of the numerous occasions we said: ‘what have we done?”
Finding woodworm in the ceiling joists was another, though there were also pleasant surprises, including finding the original York flagstones under the carpet in the hall. One of the biggest projects was creating a new, light-filled kitchen with French doors, larger windows and a roof lantern in what had been a dark, Victorian extension. It turned out to have no footings so had to be taken down and rebuilt with a combination of old bricks and others sourced to match.
The stress and expense was worthwhile and Peter Thompson of York pulled out all the stops to craft and install a bespoke kitchen ready for Christmas. The range cooker is a Lacanche and the units are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Strong White, while the island is in Paean Black with the lights above from Industville.
“I can’t recommend Peter Thompson highly enough. We are really sociable, love cooking and enjoy having people round. They took time to understand how we would use the space and got it just right.”
“Cosy” was the starting point when planning the sitting room decor. Interlined curtains to keep out draughts were top of the shopping list and the fabric chosen was Sanderson’s Jamila. The dining room has a table from West Elm, while the wallpaper on the chimney breast is Family Tree by Ferm Living to match with the Delft tiles in the original fireplace, whose surround was painted in Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue.
The stunning staircase has been treated to a runner from Crucial Trading attached to the original stair rods and the chandelier on the first floor is from The White Company. The main bedroom proved problematic as the original Georgian wall panelling had to be carefully restored.
The walls were painted in Farrow & Ball’s Skimming Stone and Strong White because “Those neutrals stand the test of time and are soothing,” says Wendy, who took a more playful approach to her daughter’s bedroom which features a faux taxidermy zebra on the chimney breast, bought from fellow Instagrammer Siobhan Murphy, aka @Interiorcurve.
The main bathroom features marble flooring and a freestanding Victoria, & Albert bath, which resulted in the floor having to be strengthened. Accessories include lots of houseplants. “I learned that I was over caring for them so now I water them when they look like they are about to die and that seems to work,” laughs Wendy.
She and Dean also revived the swimming pool in the grounds and turned the annexe into a one bedroom cottage. “It went about three times over budget and it was testing but doing a renovation like this teaches you to be resilient and now it’s done I feel so very lucky to live here,” says Wendy.
Story of My Home is available now at £14.99 from Studio Press.
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