Everyone wants to play the renovation game thanks to property programmes that deliver a before, during and after, all in the space of an hour.
TV series like Grand Designs and Restoration Man have showcased the rewards and dispelled the fear of taking on a big project.
But when Gill and Gary Broadley bought their period home in the village of Aberford, near Wetherby, 21 years ago, most buyers were frightened to tackle a property with “money pit” written all over it.
“The house hadn’t been touched for over 30 years and it had been empty for eight, apart from the occasional tenant. It needed everything doing, including all the major stuff, and that scared most people. If we hadn’t been in the building business ourselves there is no way we would’ve taken it on,” says Gill.
The couple, who run Leeds-based Broadley Group, fell in love with the location, period features and the idea of fulfilling a long-held dream.
“We enjoyed walking in the area and we used to say, ‘One day we’d like to live in a house like that’. When it first came on the market it was out of our price range, so we viewed but had to forget about it. Then the owners asked if we were interested in a part-exchange and six weeks later we were in,” says Gill.
“I can remember sitting down on the packing boxes and thinking, ‘What have we done?’ But then we just got on with it. We were young and gung-ho and we didn’t stop to think how much it would all cost.”
The 200-year-old, Grade II listed house, built for the Gascoigne estate, needed a sensitive touch. The couple started by repairing the fabric and the sash windows, and put in new plumbing, heating and electrics.
The magnificent hall, which has Minton floor tiles, was restored, as was the oak staircase, which boasts posts carved by Henry Newel while he was working at Temple Newsam House. There were pleasant surprises along the way. What they thought were painted stone pillars outside the house, turned out to be granite. The fireplace in one of the sitting rooms, which was painted to look like wood, was found to be alabaster.
The solid pine kitchen cupboards and drawers are also original features and have been revamped and topped with new work surfaces. Upstairs, the four bedrooms and study were remodelled and new bathrooms installed.
The vast cellars have also been converted and now include a games room, snooker room, wine cellar, storage rooms and a contemporary, light-filled space that serves as a gallery for one of their favourite artists – Les Packham. He and Gary met through their love of motorbikes and his work features around the home and includes a painting he did of the house.
The décor they inherited was dark and gloomy, so Gill has brightened it with paint and wallpapers from Cole and Son, Zoffany and Osborne and Little. Her favourites include Trees in the entrance lobby and Mole Park in the utility room, both by Cole and Son. She and a friend even painted a sky scene mural on the landing ceiling.
Furnishing was another challenge as the house was four times bigger than their previous home.
“The furniture we’d brought with us was like a pea on a drum, so we have had fun filling the rooms. There are 15 sofas in the house altogether,” says Gill.
Aberford Interiors supplied the kitchen and dining tables and there are pieces from sale rooms and antique shops.
“I try and buy well as I’d rather pay out for something that’s going to last,” says Gill, who has added some modern lighting, including the contemporary chandelier in the hall and Philippe Starck lights in the master bedroom.
Just outside the kitchen is a huge log basket overflowing with 14,000 corks all collected from bottles of wine they have opened at parties and get-togethers.
“It’s a great party house. We have had lots, starting with a moving in party when friends and family stripped the walls for us,” says Gill.
One of the biggest feats was transforming the acre of muddy field outside into beautifully landscaped gardens with everything from ornamental pond and lawns to fruit and vegetable gardens.
They also created a courtyard and a large rear terrace, which now has an orangery underneath. More recently, they added another three acres and put in a trout lake, so Gary can enjoy fishing there.
“We thought the work might take us ten years, but it took a lot longer and cost a lot more than we thought, but it has been worth it,” says Gill, who has just put the property up for sale. “A lot of love has gone into the house and we have a lot of happy memories but it’s time to let another family live here.”
For details on the sale of Sydenham House, Aberford, contact Paul Baxter at Dacre Son & Hartley’s Wetherby office on 01937 586177, email: [email protected] For details of Les Packham’s paintings visit www.lespackham.co.uk