It’s rare to find a self-build home that hasn’t involved a large helping of stress, but Pauline Stephenson has provided one thanks to hiring a dream team. Her single-storey property is fabulous in every way, though this “grand design” would have been a big disappointment to Kevin McCloud, as it threw up no drama and no disappointment.
“It was such a privilege to be able to build my own house and I can honestly say that I loved every minute of it and didn’t find it stressful at all,” says Pauline, who credits architect Ric Blenkharn, of Bramhall Blenkharn Leonard, and builder George Moody, of MasterBuild, near Pickering, with the success of the project.
Her self-build odyssey began with a decision to downsize from her family-size, period house in Helmsley, which regular visitors to the town may remember was also once her antique shop. “I had lived there for 40 years but I wanted a change and I got the idea of building a house in my rear garden. I found Ric through recommendation and after coming to see the plot, he thought we could do something with it,” she says.
It helped that the garden was large and tucked away but it was also in a conservation area so extreme sensitivity was required to ensure success when applying for planning permission.
Pauline and Bramhall Blenkharn worked alongside planning expert Mark Newby, of Yew Tree Associates, and, together, they managed to gain consent to build from the North York Moors National Park Authority.
“We worked with the planning authority by putting in a pre-planning application and inviting them round and asking them what they thought of the design and the materials we were going to use. They were very helpful,” says Pauline.
The design of the new home began with her wish for a contemporary home that felt comfortable, relaxed and future-proofed for older age. She also wanted room for family and friends to stay, plenty of natural light, high ceilings, and a Mediterranean-style feel of the house and courtyard garden being connected.
Ric Blenkharn says: “The older dwellings in that area are on burgage plots, which are long, narrow strips of land. To reflect this, I designed the new property as two linear buildings running north-south. As the house is single-storey, I wanted to exploit the volume as much as possible, hence the vaulted living spaces and the ability to create mezzanine areas.
“We worked hard to ensure that the house felt private and the windows and the planting outside were arranged to enhance this privacy. George Moody did an excellent job and Pauline was a great client to work with and when planning to fit out, she chose everything with great care to respond to the architecture of the house. The result is a lovely, peaceful home and garden.”
Pauline is equally delighted and adds: “It was great working with Ric because he has such a great sense of dimension and space. I knew what I wanted from the property and he translated that perfectly. George and his team are craftsmen and their attention to detail was also incredible.”
The house, which took 10 months to build, is constructed of the honey-coloured stone that characterises many of the historic buildings in Helmsley. The beams are French oak and there are large areas of glazing, cleverly placed to make the most of light and views. An air source heat pump runs the underfloor heating. Inside, there is a large, open-plan living/kitchen/dining space with a hidden-away utility room. Sliding glass doors lead onto the courtyard garden.
A wide corridor leads to two guest bedrooms with ensuites and stairs leading to mezzanines, which can act as a home office or sleeping and play areas for grandchildren. At the far end, is a large bedroom suite with built-in storage and a luxurious ensuite bathroom. “The height of the rooms make them feel much more spacious than they are,” says Pauline, who sold her house and rented while her new home was built.
It was worth the wait as the finished property has a wonderful flow and feeling of serenity, helped by Pauline’s flair for interior design. When she moved from her period home, she had a fresh start and jettisoned almost everything, including most of her antiques. “I brought a few pieces that I thought would work here but the rest went to auction and charity shops. It was very cathartic,” she says.
The light-filled, open-plan living space is painted in Farrow and Ball’s Elephant’s Breath and features a kitchen from Pickering Handmade Kitchens with pendant lights above from Heal’s. The dining table was made by the builders and glass cabinets either side of the log-burning fire from Robert Aagards can swing open to reveal storage areas.
The only problem Pauline had was finding a casing for the automatic blinds, which usually come in black or white. Take a Seat, Northallerton, solved that by having a casing powder-coated to match the walls.
Finding art to suit the rooms was tricky until Pauline came up with the idea of framing vintage French posters, which add interest and colour. She has become so entranced with them that she now sources them and has them framed to sell via Court House Framers in Helmsley. “Once a dealer, always a dealer,” she says.
The final touch was the garden and landscaping by Andrew Williamson, of Vertigrow, known for his flair and double quick planting. “I enjoyed self-building and I’d like to do it again but I know I won’t,” says Pauline. “I love this house and I like living in Helmsley.”
Useful Contacts: Bramhall Blenkarn Leonard architects: www.brable.com; Yew Tree Associates: www.yewtreeassociates.co.uk; Framed vintage French posters: Court House Framers, 7 Meeting House Court, Helmsley; Pickering Handmade Kitchens: www.handmadekitchencompany.co.uk; Robert Aagaard fireplaces: www.robertaagaard.co.uk; Bespoke glazing from; Gressons: www.gresson.co.uk; Take a Seat: www.takeaseat.co; Vertigrow plant nursery and landscaping, York: www.vertigrow.co.uk.
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