A portrait in miniature

Carol Tyler
Carol Tyler
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Artist Carol Tyler decorated her Dales cottage on a budget and it’s now picture perfect. Sharon Dale reports.

Carol Tyler’s cottage wasn’t easy to love at first sight but what it lacked in looks in made up for in personality.

It was in desperate need of renovation but, says Carol: “I felt an affinity with it, especially the sitting room for some reason. It had a good feeling.”

She set her heart on the two bedroom property, tucked away in a market town in Upper Wensleydale, and had a struggle to win it. “I put in an offer but my house in the Midlands was still for sale and so it went to auction and a builder bought it. I told him I’d like to buy it when he’d renovated it and he was keen to sell to me.”

Though she had no formal claim on the cottage she managed to have an input on the project and persuaded the builder to preserve and re-use some of the original features.

She fished the ornate cast iron brackets from the toilet cistern out of the skip and they now support a shelf in the kitchen. The Victorian fireplace, ripped out of the bedroom, was rusting outside but she persuaded him to put it into the ground floor study. She also pleaded to keep the stone flagged floors.

“I kept an eye on the house and on the skip outside and I had a say up to a point. However, I still hadn’t sold my house so the builder was renovating half for me and half for the open market. When it was finished I was so keen to have it that I put down a deposit and rented it out for six months, after which my house finally sold,” says Carol, an artist.

Try as she might she couldn’t save the original plank doors, which needed restoring, but she has spent the last four years slowly replacing them

“I ended up with new doors, which was a big disappointment for me and so every time I sell a painting I buy an old door. I’ve become obsessed with them,” she says.

Art brought her to Yorkshire in 1996 when she got an artist’s residency in Grizedale Forest that came with a caravan to live in and a barn to paint in.

“I desperately wanted to go to art school but in the 1950s you didn’t defy your parents and they wanted me to do a shorthand typing course. I eventually went to art school in the 1980s and then I did a degree in Fine Art followed by an MA. It was wonderful, especially the last year, which really helped me develop my own abstract style.”

After securing the residency in Grizedale she put her suburban home up for let and closed the door on her old life.

Carol, who has a grown-up son, later moved to rural Wensleydale, before deciding she wanted to be closer to the shops and amenities of a market town.

She heard about her cottage from her brother Richard who lives next door.

“It’s worked out well. We help each other out and look after each other’s cat and although it is cold up here I find the landscape restful,” says Carol, who decorated the property on a tight budget.

She painted and papered the bare plaster walls and installed a kitchen that is only part fitted, with a sycamore worktop from Gayle Mill. A replica butler’s sink rests on a brick plinth hidden by a lace trim that she found in a charity shop.

The gate leg dining table cost just £20 and was discovered outside an Oxfam shop, while the exquisite antique hall table was £5 from a local sale room that has yielded some great finds. The pair of rusty Victorian fireplaces came out of an old mill and they are propped up artfully for
display purposes. There’s one in
her bedroom and another in the second bedroom that is now has Carol’s studio.

“I was going to use the second sitting room downstairs as a studio, but this room is lighter. It’s a great space,” she says.

She prefers to paint mainly in winter as she likes bare landscapes and her work is described as “poetic realism”. At the moment her main subjects are monasteries, abbeys and ruins and her picture of Guisborough Priory features on a brochure for the North York Moors Chamber Music Festival, for which she is artist in residence.

Her paintings decorate the walls along with sale room pictures and photographs by her brother. Every surface is covered with an ever-changing collection of treasures, including ornaments and interesting knick knacks picked up on her travels.

“I’m forever re-arranging everything and friends enjoy coming round and seeing what I’ve done with it,” says Carol, whose latest find is a pair of old cupboard doors thrown out of a nearby house.

She’s stripped the varnish off and is going to create a place for them as part of her effort to put some character into the modernised cottage. “It needed renovation, of course, but the house lost something in being modernised. When I first moved in I thought I’d made a terrible mistake but it’s getting easier,” she says.

Carol’s paintings can be seen at 
www.caroltylerpaintings.com and 
are also available from galleries including The Herriot Gallery, Hawes.