Real Home: Going Underground

The kitchen is by Twenty 5 Design and the table is from Christopher Pratt
The kitchen is by Twenty 5 Design and the table is from Christopher Pratt
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This period house in Wakefield has been turned into a modern family home thanks to great architecture and engineering. Sharon Dale reports.

After making the decision to move and maybe self-build, Kate Hullah and her husband Paul spent months looking at houses and land but nothing was quite right.

It was only when the “For Sale” sign went up on a property they often walked past that they realised the perfect home had been right under their noses all along.

“Every time we walked into town we went by this house and we both commented on how much we liked it. It looks quite inconspicuous from the front but it’s big inside and has a large garden that’s hidden from the road,” says Kate.

They were the first people to view it and snapped it up two-and-a-half years ago after falling in love with its location, charm, character and potential.

Built in 1896, it is in a sought-after area on the edge of Wakefield city centre and they are only the fifth set of owners. “It has a lovely, calm feeling, which is another reason we liked it,” says Kate.

She and Paul, both structural engineers at ARC Engineers in Morley, were keen to modernise the house, which was in need of updating. They brought architect James Butterworth, of LStudio J in Leeds, on board to help with the redesign.

“The key aspect of the project was to remove a former garden room and replace it with a large extension,” says James. “The existing kitchen in the house was relatively small so the new extension was aimed at providing a large living kitchen with sitting and dining areas where family and friends could all congregate, while providing a large ensuite bathroom above.”

Thanks to their knowledge of structural engineering, Kate and Paul also realised that the new extension would allow them to create a basement level underneath, giving space for a cinema room, games room and a gym.

“The old house has a cellar so we knew could dig down and stabilise the ground to make a basement, though we had to dig down further and do more underpinning than we originally thought,” says Kate. We knew we’d lose money in the ground by doing it but creating that space was really important to us and it was worth it because it gave us three extra rooms.”

Alongside this ambitious plan, parts of the existing house were remodelled to suit modern living and a dilapidated garage was replaced with a new-build double garage. “The exterior of the house is very characterful and we wanted to complement that with the materials used on the extension and garage,” says James.

Planning permission for the extension was straightforward thanks to the design and the sensitive use of materials, including brick to match the main house.

The extension has created an enormous room with a German kitchen in duck egg blue and grey from Twenty 5 Design in Wakefield, which also supplied the porcelain tiles for the floor.

There’s a dining area with a table from Christopher Pratts, one of the couple’s favourite shops.

The sitting area features a contemporary wood-burning stove from Artisan Fireplaces in Brighouse that adds cosiness, while the lights are from Litecraft in Leeds.

“It’s a huge room, which is great because I can seat 17 for Sunday lunch. The only issue is that it can be echoey so we are planning to buy some acoustic art for the walls that will absorb sound,” says Kate.

The old kitchen is now part of the hallway and provides valuable storage, while a bespoke staircase made by Alan Geoffrey Joiners in nearby Wrenthorpe leads to the basement rooms.

The property has also been rewired and smart home technology introduced by Ashway Smart Homes, of Horbury, which also installed the cinema room and the lighting system.

Elsewhere downstairs, the sitting room was restyled in mustard and blue by Kate and decorated with wallpaper from the Decorating Depot in Wakefield.

The formal dining room features a bold striped paper with a black, silver, white and purple colour scheme while the snug is cosy and traditional with Harris tweed upholstery.

Upstairs, there were four bedrooms. Now there are rooms for their son, Luca, and Paul’s daughters, Emily and Charlotte, plus a large, first-floor master bedroom with his and hers dressing room and an en-suite bathroom. There’s also an office and a playroom.

“Paul really wanted a games room with a pinball machine and I really wanted a walk-in wardrobe. We blocked up the old house bathroom to make it and I love it,” says Kate.

The whole house project took a year to complete. “We spent more than we should have done because we got carried away with the finishes, including the carpets and curtains,” says Kate, who adds: “That’s because we plan to stay here so it’s really a good investment.”

Useful Contacts

Studio J Architects, Leeds,

ARC engineers, structural engineering, Morley,

Ashway Smart Homes, Horbury, Wakefield,

Alan Geoffrey Joinery, Wrenthorpe,

Twenty 5 design, kitchens and bathrooms,

Craig Bridges roofing, Barnsley,

Christopher Pratts, furniture,

Artisan Fireplaces, Brighouse,

Decorating Depot, 257 Kirkgate, Wakefield

The Curtain Shop, Ossett,

Litecraft, Leeds,