Creativity, a can-do attitude and plenty of patience will work wonders and Jo and Phil Lynas are proof of it. Looking to upsize from their cottage, a friend told them about a redundant cornmill and farm buildings for sale in a glorious spot on the edge of the Howardian Hills, near Brandsby. They came with planning permission to convert for residential use and a substantial price tag.
“We knew we didn’t have the money to do the conversion work but we decided to go for it. We bought them and moved into a caravan on the site with our four-year-old daughter while we saved up,” says Jo.
The couple bought the property in 2002 and spent five-and-a-half years living in the static caravan, during which time, they had their son, Alex. “He was four before we converted the old cornmill into a house but we didn’t mind living in the caravan because we had such a passion for bringing these buildings back to life,” says Jo.
With the old cornmill now the Lynas family home, other farm buildings have been put to good use as Phil’s workshop and HQ for the renowned family business, Old Flames. It specialises in restoring and selling antique fireplaces, particularly from the Georgian era, along with other architectural antiques. Craftsman Phil used his skills in the family home and on the latest project, converting part of an old cart shed into a super stylish holiday let.
“We had builders, plumbers and electricians but Phil did anything that involved stonework, including lintels and sills and he laid the floors, among other things,” says Jo. Creating a holiday cottage was an obvious next move given the setting and the location. The tranquil, rural site now has beautiful gardens by its mill stream and an abundance of wildlife, including a visiting kingfisher.
For those who love walking, the Howardian Hills area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is on the doorstep, while York is a short drive away.
“The cottage took us five years to convert and fit out because we were running the business and we had two children at home. We also wanted to make sure we had a garden around it that was neat and tidy,” says Jo.
The couple also went to great lengths to ensure the interiors were perfect. They are now a stunning blend of old and new and make use of architectural antiques that Jo and Phil’s business is famous for. Inside Seaves Mill cottage, there is a large open plan living space with exposed beams and trusses. The sitting area is set around a contemporary wood-burning stove. The sleek and circular Odin by Dik Geurts for Dru fires is one of the property’s stand out features and was an investment item that visitors admire and adore.
The fire is flanked by a sumptuous velvet sofa from Sofology and a vintage French mirror hangs on the wall, commanding attention and reflecting light, along with the bright red geraniums in the garden. Phil made the coffee table out of an old coffer and the antique dining table and chairs came from the Lynas’s home.
“The kitchen is modern so we wanted the dining area to be more country style,” says Jo, who adds: “Phil has a really good eye when it comes to placing furniture and accessories. I rarely disagree with his ideas because he is usually right.” The cottage has two ensuite bedrooms. One is on the ground floor and has a king-size bed with a headboard made from painted oak panelling. The other is upstairs and has twin 4ft beds and an en-suite with a free-standing claw foot tub from the Cast Iron Bath Company in York.
Buying local where possible was important to the couple, as was investing in quality, which is why Phil and Jo also bought a Mouseman cheese board from Robert Thompson’s famous workshop, which is in nearby Kilburn.
The outside area was also the focus of much of Jo’s time as she is a keen gardener and, along with the planting, there is a seating area and a barbecue for guests.
“I also clean the cottage myself when guests leave because it is such an important job. It’s hard work but I treat it as a workout,” says Jo, who adds: “We took our time to get everything right here and we are talking years but it was all worth the wait and the feedback we get is great so we don’t regret it.”
*Seaves Mill is available as a holiday let via Beautiful Escapes, www.beautifulescapes.co.uk *Old Flames, antique fireplaces and architectural antiques, near Brandsby, www.oldflames.co.uk
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