Last of the summer twine

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This award-winning weaver’s cottage in Holmfirth has been greatly enhanced by 21st century architecture. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Simon Hulme.

Move or improve is a dilemma faced by many, although for Malcolm and Kathleen Hargreaves it was no contest.

The home of Malcolm and Kathleen Hargreaves

The home of Malcolm and Kathleen Hargreaves

They bought their semi-detached weaver’s cottage in Holmfirth 45 years ago and the location and the potential were just too good to leave behind. Thanks to clever use of space and a keen eye for design, the couple turned the three-bedroom property into a stunning family home. But it’s their most daring project to date that has attracted most attention.

Their new garden room is small but it has had a big impact in the world of architecture after winning the RIBA Yorkshire Regional Award for Best Small Project. It has also been long-listed for the prestigious Manser Medal.

The contemporary addition is a stunning example of how to blend old and new buildings together to create the perfect union. The build began after Malcolm and Kathleen decided they wanted to replace a dated old garden room with something bigger and better.

“The old room was too small but we could see the potential of creating something more usable,” says Kathleen. They hired Prue Chiles Architects in Sheffield, which has just won the RIBA Yorkshire Emerging Architect award. Howard Evans came up with the idea of a room made from reclaimed stone and with a living roof and Kirklees Council approved the plans.

The home of Malcolm and Kathleen Hargreaves

The home of Malcolm and Kathleen Hargreaves

Howard says: “We had the idea that the building should not look new but should almost appear to be ‘found’ within the landscape. The stone roof is made with fissures of stone, plants and gravel and the roof lights reflect the sky in the same way that water sits in the moorland gritstone. The stone cobbles of the roof mimic the historic stone slates of the traditional houses, while the walls are laid to look like ancient dry stone walls.

“Importantly, the material has all been reclaimed from local sites and has the added benefit of instantly ageing the building.”

The front of the garden room has oversized glazed doors to link the interior with the garden and give views across the Holme Valley. Outside, there is a patio edged with timber posts and trellis wire that will soon be covered with wisteria. Howard had never tackled anything like it before and the steep terraced garden that stretches 30 metres up from the road to the house made it difficult to get materials on site. But builder David Lyles accepted the challenge.

“Getting the machinery and the materials up the garden was a physical challenge but luckily we have a parking space at the bottom. We had everything delivered there and then the builder used a little truck, like a wheelbarrow with a diesel engine and caterpillar tyres, to bring them up the hill,” says Malcolm.

The home of Malcolm and Kathleen Hargreaves

The home of Malcolm and Kathleen Hargreaves

The 25 tonnes of concrete for the foundations were pumped up the slope via a pipe connected to the lorry at the bottom.

“The garden looked like a ploughed field by the time we had finished but it was worth it,” says Malcolm. “We were lucky because we had a great team. The builder, stonemason and joiner were brilliant and the workmanship is unbelievable.”

The reclaimed stone was back-pointed to make it look like dry stone walling but the roof presented issues because of the weight of the cobbles. The builder shaved them down to make them lighter, and the rest of the area was filled with pea shingle and plants. Inside, there is an entrance lined with oak to create a feeling of warmth, and a concealed door leading into a store room that incorporates an existing outbuilding.

A sliding door leads into the garden room, which is filled with natural light thanks to two roof lights and the glazed front. Although it is packed with insulation and has the sandstone tiles to hide underfloor heating, Malcolm wanted a woodburning stove for winter cosiness. The furniture, meanwhile, is a work in progress as the couple don’t want to rush and buy wrong.

“We are using our old garden furniture for now while we look for something suitable. We want to get the detail just right, although we took the architect’s advice and had bespoke shelving built in,” says Kathleen.

This approach has paid dividends. The light they spent months looking for is perfect. It is by Artemide and cost just over £400 from David Village in Sheffield. Beautifully designed, discreet and interesting, it complements but doesn’t overwhelm the space. It’s a tribute to the benefits of taking your time.

The project, too, took longer than anticipated. It was three years from inception to completion, although the main build took a year. The cost was also more than they initially had in mind.

“It took longer and it cost more but that’s fine,” says Malcolm. “We have always tried not to compromise on design even if that means saving up and waiting till we can afford what we want.”

Kathleen, who is planning a sitting room makeover, adds: “We have updated and changed the house a lot over the years as our two daughters grew up then left home. And we’ve done some fairly major projects, including making the sitting room and dining room one big space. There’s always something we want to make better.

“The garden room is our biggest indulgence and we love it. It’s the only place where I can really switch off and it was worth every penny.”