Real home: a masterclass in light and space

The sitting room in white and billiard room green. The sofa and chair are from Bo Concept and the rug is from York's Handmade Rug Company.
The sitting room in white and billiard room green. The sofa and chair are from Bo Concept and the rug is from York's Handmade Rug Company.
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This newly-built home in York is small but thanks to good design and a developer open to ideas, it is perfectly formed. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.

Serendipity played a big part in the purchase if Deborah Dufton’s newly-built house.

The dining kitchen is roomy enough for storage. The rug is from York's Handmade Rug Company.

The dining kitchen is roomy enough for storage. The rug is from York's Handmade Rug Company.

Determined to buy a period property, her search for a home had proved fruitless until she popped into an estate agency to browse what they had on the books.

One member of staff managed to persuade her to look at a new-build that was under construction

“I knew straight away it was the right house for me. It’s a one-off, completely unique and everything about it said ‘buy me’,” says Deborah, who bought it at just the right time.

As it was not quite complete, she was able to have a say in the interior fit-out of the building.

The dining table and chairs by Danetti.

The dining table and chairs by Danetti.

With a keen interest in design, she has renovated and made beautiful multiple homes both in America, where she used to work, and in Britain.

She wanted to make sure this one suited her needs and Richard Elam, a director of Evora Construction, was happy to listen to Deborah’s ideas and act on them.

“I was lucky he was great and very open what I suggested,” she says.

She bought the bijou, detached house a year ago. It is tucked away close to the city walls just ten minutes walk from the heart of York.

Deborah Dufton who has a gift for styling.

Deborah Dufton who has a gift for styling.

The plot where her house now stands was a storage yard that belonged to a decorating firm and came with planning permission for a one-bedroom house.

Thanks to a clever and sensitive reworking of the plans by Arkle Boyce architects, York City Council agreed to allow a proposed cycle storage area to be turned into a second bedroom with ensuite.

Non-negotiable was the high and historic red brick wall surrounding the yard. While it caused a few headaches for the construction team, it remains and is one of the property’s best features.

“It’s beautiful and it makes this house very private. In fact most people don’t realise that there’s a house here,” says Deborah, who has turned the outside space into a stylish courtyard.

The house was built on the site of an old decorator's yard.

The house was built on the site of an old decorator's yard.

Indoors, the ground floor includes a single storey kitchen dining area at the rear, leading to a large sitting room and the guest bedroom with ensuite. Upstairs is the main bedroom and a bathroom.

“It’s compact, which is why the flow and the storage was really important,” says Deborah.

The flat-roofed kitchen/diner is set against the old brick wall and so there was no option to put conventional windows in.

The solution to getting natural light into the room came from Arkle Boyce who suggested a glazed roof lantern. They also included a long, vertical slit window to light the stairs.

Evora had planned to put in a kitchen with a breakfast bar but, keen to maximise storage but Deborah suggested that they incorporate a dishwasher, wine rack and cupboards into the island.

“We were happy to do that and it works really well. Deborah had some great ideas, including the pink wall in the kitchen, which I didn’t think would work,” says Richard. “It looks good and it really softens the room.”

The historic red brick wall surrounding the new-build had to stay and adds character while providing privacy.

The historic red brick wall surrounding the new-build had to stay and adds character while providing privacy.

The pink is Nancy’s Blushes by Farrow and Ball and Deborah added more colour and warmth with the rug from the Handmade Rug Company in York.

“The rug was one of my best buys. I loved it so much I bought one for the sitting room. The colours and the quality are amazing and the service in the shop was excellent,” she says.

The sitting room is painted in white and billiard table green and includes a navy Bo Concept sofa and chairs, along with a pink chair soured from Anthropologie.

Her antique bridge table is from Wombles auctions in York and regularly used for its original purpose while the lamp on top is from Oliver Bonas.

Deborah sold most of her furniture and furnishings to the buyers of her previous home and was happy to start again.

While she splashed out on key pieces, she is adept at bargain hunting.

Auctions and antique shops, particularly West Park Antiques in Harrogate, are favourite shopping haunts as is HomeSense, where she found her Ralph Lauren lamp.

Her main baggage when moving was her collection of art.

“I’ve moved a lot and my artwork has always come with me. I buy what I like and I’ve got fairly eclectic tastes with a fondness for impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.

“Most of my pictures feature people rather than landscapes,” she says.

The problem of finding bedroom furniture was solved by having built-in wardrobes.

She also managed to squeeze in a walk-in closet after persuading Richard and his team to take out the separate shower in the bathroom upstairs.

Now, the only thing left to do is add sedum to the flat kitchen roof, making it green and nature-friendly.

“I’m glad I went into the estate agency that day,” says Deborah. “Otherwise I may never have considered this house. I love it and it’s perfect for me.”

Evora Construction has built another new home on the site of the decorating company office. It is on the market for £450,000 with Churchill’s estate agency, tel: 01904 646622.

Evora Construction, www.evoraconstruction.com

Arkle Boyce, www.arkleboyce.co.uk

Handmade Rug Company, York, www.thehandmaderugcompany.com

West Park Antiques Harrogate, www.27westpark.co.uk

Anthropologie, Victoria Quarter, Leeds, www.anthropologie.com

Bo Concept, Redbrick Mill, Batley, www.redbrickmill.co.uk

*Deborah’s favourite places in York

“Moving to the city after living for many years in the countryside was a big lifestyle change.

“However, I knew from the very start it was the right thing to do. I needed a shot in the arm, the vibrancy of city life and York has it all.

“I enjoy walking along the river bank to Clifton or beyond. I could be out all day if wanted a long walk.

“Of course, The Minster, is magnificent. I never fail to admire its splendour as I walk into the city.

“York has a lot of bars and restaurants. Pairings is somewhere I meet friends for drinks, a lovely wine bar with a great vibe. It has a knowledgeable sommelier serving lovely wines, with small accompaniments, hence the name.

“For lunch, my favourite has always been Mannion & Co.

“If I’m on Bishopthorpe Road, then it would be Robinsons Cafe, run by a lovely young couple.”