Practicality, style and comfort are the main starting points for most interior schemes and they were certainly high on Fiona and Tim Gardham’s list when they were updating their newly bought B&B in Hawes, but their number one priority was to make people smile.
Their mission in mirth making has ended in success thanks to clever and thoughtful sourcing and inspired DIY ideas. A super-size chair is the first thing you see as you walk through the front door. “I spotted that in the office of Henderson estate agents in Whitby and asked if we could buy it. The owner, Nick, said ‘yes’. It’s fun and I can just imagine people sitting in it and having their picture taken there, which is why I’m thinking of getting a box of hats to put next to it to add a bit more fun,” says Fiona.
Other standout pieces that raise a smile, along with oohs and aahs, include the bespoke bedside lights in the music-themed guest room. They are made from brass cornets by Sheffield-based maker Frankie Farrar, who trades as Stirring Silver. She also created an “udderly brilliant” chandelier from an old milking cluster usually found on a farm.
With Yorkshire Dales heritage very much in mind, the Gardhams also commissioned Frankie to make a “James Herriot light”, which comprises four of the author’s books as a base. “By a stroke of luck, we also found an old milk churn in the garden, so we put an oak top on and made that into a table,” says Fiona, who stood her Hetty Hare lamp from Graham & Green on it.
The major makeover has been a challenge as the couple got the keys to the property at the end of September, last year, just before the second lockdown. While sourcing everything they needed during the pandemic was a headache and opening for business wasn’t an option, there have been positives. “It meant we were able to get to know the area better and we were able to spend more time on the house,” says Fiona.
“This was a much-loved B&B but we wanted to put our own stamp on it. We did a lot of work ourselves as Tim can turn his hand to just about anything." Along with rewiring and new heating and pressurised water systems, the couple have completely redecorated and themed the guest bedrooms.
The Music Room was inspired by the Swaledale anthem and the cornet lights honour the Muker silver band and the Reeth brass band, while old sheet music has been used to paper above the picture rail. The Library bedroom has wood panelling made by Tim, book wallpaper in the recesses and a James Herriot theme with a map of the Herriot Way and the Herriot lamp.
The Parlour, which has views towards Buttertubs Pass, is a glamorous room with a super-king brass bed from the Original Bedstead Company, velvet curtains and walls painted in Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room pink with a rim of embossed Anaglypta in metallic gold at the top. The dressing table is from Nicky Cornell. The Snug features more wall panelling by Tim and has a country theme with tweeds and a faux stag’s head and antler light.
Down in the breakfast room, there are bespoke tables made by Peppermill Interiors, which have been painted in Farrow & Ball’s Downpipe topped with Osmo wax. The brass chandelier that came with the property has been sprayed in a pewter colour and the moose head on the wall is from Homebird House in Scarborough and is a nod to one that starred in Fawlty Towers. The Great Yorkshire Breakfast picture on the wall is a montage put together by the couple and photographed by Tim.
The Gardhams are B&B veterans. Their lives as guest house owners began in 2009 when Fiona left her job in logistics for a new life, free from the shackles of a hectic corporate career. “I used to fly 30,000 miles a year and spent a lot of time sitting round boardroom tables and I decided it was time for a change,” she says.
She and Tim, a commercial photographer, bought a Whitby guest house and created what was the town’s first boutique B&B. After three years, they sold up and set off on a long tour around the coast of Britain in a motorhome before buying another property in Goathland and turning it into 1897, another luxurious boutique B&B.
“We ran that for six years but it only had three rooms and we wanted a property with more letting rooms so that we could benefit from the economies of scale,” says Fiona.
They snapped up the long-established guest house in Hawes after being bowled over by the location and size of the property, which has eight bedrooms.
“We have four double rooms for guests, two rooms on the top floor and we will eventually have another two single rooms to let,” adds Fiona. To mark the fresh start, they renamed the property the House at Hawes and already have bookings, thanks in part to a loyal band of followers who have stayed at their previous properties and who are still on their newsletter list.
The decor is a draw but so are Fiona’s legendary breakfast menus. A full English is always available, along with vegetarian and vegan options, but she likes to add something different so guests may find breakfast burritos and Mexican eggs on offer.
While they have flitted from the coast and from the North York Moors, they think Hawes will be a keeper. “Hawes is such a lovely market town and it’s the highest in England, which means it has glorious views over Wensleydale,” says Fiona. “The town also has an array of shops and pubs and people here are so friendly. We love it and we are planning to stay at least until we retire.”
Useful Contacts: The House at Hawes, www.thehouseathawes.co.uk; Stirring Silver, custom-made lamps, www.stirringsilver.co.uk; Peppermill Interiors, www.peppermillinteriors.com;
Homebird House, Scarborough, www.homebirdhouse.com; Curtains made by Elland-based www.curtainsandblinds4homes.co.uk; Nicky Cornell, French-style furniture, www.nickycornell.com; Redcliffe Imaging, custom-printed wallpaper, www.redcliffe.co.uk
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