Tackling a full restoration of a listed building is not for the faint-hearted because of the stress it will inevitably bring, usually due to unforeseen issues that often send a project soaring well over budget.
It takes a certain personality type to weather the storms and remain upbeat, which is why Wendy Walker proved to be the perfect fit for a Grade II-listed former yeoman’s house that was in a very sorry state.
She and her fiancé, Thomas French, bought the property three-and-a-half years ago and were excited rather than fearful at the prospect of bringing it back to life.
“I grew up with building projects because my parents renovated properties and Thomas and I had done renovations before this one. I’m not daunted by them. It’s something I enjoy,” says Wendy, a sunny-natured and unflappable mental health nurse with a passion for interior design.
The 16th century, stone-built house is close to Hebden Bridge and captured the couple’s hearts thanks to its period features and long-range views over Hardcastle Crags.
“It needed a lot of work because it hadn’t been touched since the 1960s and it hadn’t been lived in for 10 years when we bought it,” says Wendy.
“It needed everything from a new roof down but I wanted that because taking the building back to a shell allowed me to start completely from scratch when designing the interiors.”
Knowing the spend would have to be substantial and keen to be on site to be hands-on with the work, Wendy and Thomas lived in a static caravan in the garden with their two children in order to cut costs.
“In winter it got down to minus 5 degrees and we lived in the caravan for a year until the house was habitable,” says Wendy.
Knowing that the historic house would be their long-term home, she and Thomas have invested heavily in getting everything just right and in future-proofing the property.
That included digging out the concrete floors and a foot of clay beneath so they could install a damp-proof course, underfloor heating and insulation.
Everything has been beautifully restored or replicated with loving attention to detail.
Wendy’s gift for design is evident throughout the house and all the rooms look sensational but the pièce de résistance is the bespoke kitchen, a major investment that has paid off.
“In my first house the kitchen cost £1,500 and this was an awful lot more but I really wanted handmade wood cabinetry because it’s what the house deserved,” she says.
“It has been a great investment because the quality is so good and the design is timeless so it will last a lifetime.”
The kitchen is by Hebden Bridge-based family firm Drew Forsyth, which is respected for its craftsmanship and attention to detail.
“We also wanted to support a local business and they are competitively priced,” says Wendy, who worked with the firm’s kitchen designer Leigh Topping on the layout and on her wish list, which included a circular breakfast table and a small island.
“Leigh was great because at the beginning I was stuck in the mentality of the flat-pack kitchens I’d been used to but he showed me that so much more was possible design wise with bespoke cabinets and that I didn’t have constraints because uneven walls and beams weren’t a problem,” says Wendy, who sourced the olive-coloured limestone flooring, the natural granite worktops, appliances and glass splashbacks herself.
She also invested in good quality appliances, including a Rangemaster Elise 110 dual fuel range cooker, an Adobe hot water tap, a Montpellier wine cooler and a Fisher & Paykel integrated fridge freezer. The latter was £3,000 but deemed well worth it as it looks unobtrusive behind cabinet doors and holds enough to feed the couple and their family.
Adept at painting, Wendy got Drew Forsyth to prime, undercoat and fit the cabinetry while she applied the top coats. She also sourced the heritage brass handles.
“I was nervous because the kitchen is the most valuable thing I have ever painted but it worked out thanks to a lot of practice,” she says.
The units are painted in a mix of Farrow & Ball’s Paean Black, which looks aubergine in the day and black at night, and Preference Red, a deep cerise. “I wanted something bold and striking and I’ve learned not to be held back by fear when it comes to colours because you can always paint over them and that’s the beauty of a bespoke wood kitchen, you can easily change the look,” adds Wendy.
One of the stand-out features in the kitchen is the circular booth with fixed bench seating and a round, oak-topped table, a fabulous collaboration between Leigh and Wendy.
Lighting is a mix of budget and investment buys with glass pendants above the island from Ikea and a ManoMano light, £96, over the breakfast table.
The success of the kitchen and that incredible view have helped cement Wendy and Thomas’s decision to stay in the house long term.
The couple also now have four children.
“We love it here and it was worth the commitment and the sacrifices we made to get the house just right,” says Wendy. “Rather than spending time renovating, we are now planning to have lots of family fun time.”
Drew Forsyth, handmade kitchens, Hebden Bridge, www.drewforsyth.co.ukSupport The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.