Another country

Sunnyside Farm in Lothersdale.
Sunnyside Farm in Lothersdale.
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Country living has never been easier than in this hi-tech farmhouse and barn conversion. Sharon Dale reports.

When we dream of escaping to the country most of us envisage a simple life and that’s just what Jane Gibson and her family got after buying a farmhouse on a remote hillside.

But they didn’t go back to basics. Instead, they have employed electronic wizardry and the latest smart home technology to make their lives much easier.

Almost everything in the house is controllable via Jane’s iPad and iPhone from which she can open and close the gates, keep an eye on the security system, turn the central heating and lights on and off and operate the Velux blinds. She can do this remotely when she is at work or even abroad on holiday.

“It’s very useful especially from a security point of view. If someone rings the bell and no-one’s in, my iPhone will ring and I’ll see live footage from the CCTV of someone standing outside the gate. If it’s a friend or delivery man I can let them in. If it’s someone I don’t know I can ask them what they want,” she says.

There’s also a sound and vision system with a huge library of dvds and computer games, which they can play in their automated home cinema with its seven foot screen.

The house has eight TVs but Jane and Russell are careful not to let their sons Thomas, 12, and Ryan, 14, succumb to screen addiction. “We can actually see by looking at the iPad whether they have their TVs on when they should be going to sleep or doing homework,” says Jane, who points out that the boys spend plenty of time outdoors, while she is happy to switch everything off and enjoy the view.

The outlook is breathtaking and was one of the main reasons for buying the farmhouse, which came with an attached barn and outbuildings. They bought it four years ago after searching for a renovation project.

“We’d always wanted to do a house up or build our own and so when this came up for auction we went to view it and that was it. We fell in love. The views are amazing, though at that time you couldn’t see them from the house because there were outbuildings in the way,” says Jane.

The former working farm had been empty for a few years but the potential was enormous and the couple got permission to make the farmhouse, barn and outbuilding into one large family home. It was an enormous undertaking that took far longer than they anticipated thanks to planning and conservation rules.

“We bought in June but we had to have bat and owl surveys in October and in July the year after, so that set us back almost a year because we could not start until we’d had those done. As a result we lost the builder because he had to move on to something else,” says Jane.

They finally started on site in January 2010 and finished in April last year, but it has been well worth the wait. The old farm is now energy efficient with insulation and a ground source heat pump and it is perfect for modern living.

It’s a stunning country home and most spectacular is the former barn, now an enormous kitchen dining room whose glazed frontage makes the most of those stunning views. Its green colour scheme links perfectly to the landscape and family friend Haley Bevan, an interior designer, helped choose it, while Skipton-based Oldfield helped with ideas for the lighting.

“Haley was really helpful because although I knew I wanted a contemporary scheme, doing such a big house all at once was quite daunting. The lighting was another challenge. Oldfield came up with the idea of putting a track system in the kitchen because we couldn’t have inset spotlights and they suggested the lights on the stairs, which create a wonderful effect at night,” says Jane.

Although they used modern colours, materials and furnishings, they were keen to keep the character of the original buildings and so they retained the old fireplace from the farmhouse and used stone from the outbuildings to create feature walls. They also got a joiner to make decorative trusses in the barn, which look authentic.

“We are really pleased with how it all turned out and although it was stressful, we were lucky that we had a good builder who project managed and was really helpful,” says Jane, who is delighted she agreed to Russell’s plan to install the latest technology.

They used Leeds-based Finite Solutions to design and install the system, which includes four kilometres of hidden cabling and a central hub.

The company has a reputation for making smart homes user-friendly. “Russell is into gadgets and this house gave us the opportunity to install a full system and it’s been really useful in so many ways.

“You don’t have to use machines like the Playstation, wii, dvd player and cd player. It’s all controlled from the iPad,” says Jane.

“When you go to bed and you’ve left a light on downstairs, you don’t have to go down and switch it off. You can do it from wherever you are in the house. All this is part of everyday life for us now and it really does make things easier.”

Useful contacts

Finite Solutions, smart house technology, www.Finite Solutions

Builder: A M Bowdin, Gisburn, 07801 108442

Architect: Gary Sorsby Lothersdale,

Light fittings from Oldfield Lighting, Skipton,

Kitchen and bespoke dining table from Mowlem and Co, Knutsford,

Carpets from Hansons, Cross Hills,

Stone flooring from Plan It Earth, Addingham,

Interiors designer: Haley Bevan, Eldwick, near Bingley,

Fabrics from Inspired Interiors, Colne,

Fitted furniture by Daedalian, Oxenhope,