Artist Lesley Seeger has brought this cottage back to life with colour and fascinating finds. Sharon Dale reports.
The pink front door of Lesley Seeger’s pretty cottage is a big clue that she is a woman completely unafraid of colour. Step inside and the evidence is clear. This is a home that features every shade on the RAL chart and more besides.
It would be “queen of taupe” Kelly Hoppen’s idea of hell but thanks to Lesley’s expert eye it works beautifully. The interior is an unusual blend of excitement and calm, the sort that invites you to chill out while stimulating your senses.
“I can’t do minimalism and I don’t like things matching. I prefer everything to be quite random,” says Lesley, an artist. “But there is usually a dominant colour that holds it all together in each room, so in the sitting room it is blue, which is my favourite.”
Her paintings, which brighten the walls, are also multi-coloured and vibrant.
Lesley worked in publishing and illustration before becoming a full-time artist after the birth of her son 20 years ago. She has also practised art therapy, helping patients at York Hospital create large mosaics for the building, and she runs painting courses.
Her latest pictures reflect a recent move from the city to the country. Her abstracts have become more figurative and representative of the stunning landscape that surrounds her home in Huttons Ambo, near Malton.
She lived in York until her husband, Michael Sessions, who owns Quacks Printers, persuaded her to look at a cottage he owned.
“We married four years ago and he already owned the cottage, which needed renovation. I went to have a look at it, loved the location and agreed to give it a go, even though I enjoyed living in York,” she says. “It’s fronted by this exquisite landscape and that has changed the way I paint.”
The property was built for bargees, who worked on the River Derwent, which runs close to the house.
It was a two up two down with no modern amenities so Lesley and Michael hired builder Eddie Hull, from Sheriff Hutton, to restore and extend it. It is now a larger, more comfortable home packed with insulation and warmed by underfloor heating run by an air source heat pump.
The new kitchen is spacious and extra cosy thanks to the Everhot Aga. The units include cupboards made by the Main Furniture Company in Green Hammerton, where Lesley also sourced her large Irish dresser.
There are also antique shop finds and two sinks, his and hers. Lesley wanted a new butler’s sink and Michael wanted to keep the old stone one and didn’t want to argue the toss.
A collection of pottery, including charity shop bargains and teapots by Lisa Denyer and Peter Dick, reveals Lesley’s love of ceramics.
The kitchen leads to a red dining room, which runs through to a large, light sitting room and a music room. Upstairs there are bedrooms and a bathroom. The latter is open plan with no door at the top of the stairs, so the loo is the first thing that you see.
“We are used to it,” says Lesley. “If we had put a wall and door there it would’ve made the bathroom much smaller.”
Furniture is a mix of the couple’s accumulated pieces that have been edited down to fit the space.
Michael insisted on bringing two pianos and an organ, which Lesley says gave her leverage for bringing more of her finds and for installing a wood burning stove.
She loves antique and second-hand ornaments, which are displayed along with treasures she has found on her travels. “I like anything with a story,” she says.
The most recent project is Lesley’s studio in the garden. The light-filled space is heated by another wood burning stove .
“I worked in the house at first, which was difficult as I had to be careful not to get paint on the furniture. In here, I can be as messy as I like and I can work at night, which I do quite a lot. I sometimes come in here at 3am and paint,” she says.
“I usually have about five paintings on the go in various stages of development.” The studio overlooks the garden and a field, which came with the house. “We call it the wedding field as friends of ours had their wedding reception there,” adds Lesley.
“I like to sketch there. It’s one of the reasons why I am pleased I made the move from the city.”
Lesley’s work is on show at The Pyramid Gallery, York, until June 10 and she is running painting courses at Helmsley Walled Garden on August 16 and 17 and 23 and 24, www.lesleyseeger.com.
Lesley is also taking part in the North Yorkshire Open Studios event. She is one of over 100 artists and makers who will be opening up their workplaces to the public.
The event runs over two weekends, on June 7 and 8 and June 14 and 15. Those taking part include everyone from painters, basket makers, blacksmiths and jewellery designers to potters, photographers and printmakers,
There is a map to help guide visitors to the studios, which are in towns, villages and off the beaten track from coast to country, and in a variety of properties from barns, farms, and stables to country cottages, period homes and suburban apartments.
• The free event guide is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or can be found online at www.nyos.org.uk