Major renovations hold no fear for Andrew Freestone. He is the archetypal “man who can”.
So when his home was reduced to four walls, with just two supporting walls inside, he felt nothing but excitement. Stripping the property back to its bones was all part of a plan to turn a cramped Victorian cottage into a family-size home.
The chance to renovate and extend came when he and wife Martine spotted the end of terrace house in a desirable village near Harrogate.
They had modernised their former vicarage, near Leeds, and were looking for a new challenge.
“The cottage used to belong to the local manor house and was staff accommodation. It was smaller than their vicarage but it needed work and there was also scope for extension.
“Best of all, there was an opportunity to buy the paddock at the back, which appealed because I had always wanted to keep pigs,” says Andrew.
A designer, builder and maker, Andrew can turn his hand to anything from sculpting and joinery to building and plumbing.
He is best known as one half of Harrogate-based interior architecture partnership Grafton Freestone. The other half is interior designer Richard Grafton. Together they tackle everything from whole house remodelling to kitchen design, bespoke cabinet making and luxury bathrooms.
His talent as a designer maker was apparent as a child, so much so that his father built him a garage, which Andrew filled with tools, lathes and welding equipment, before going off to university to study 3D Design. His first job, designing and making contemporary staircases for Helmsley-based Bisca, gave him the chance to jump on the property ladder in 1998 at the age of 22.
“It was a cottage in Sinnington and it was £62,000 in the days when you could get a mortgage for three times your income,” says Andrew. “I did it up myself for £10,000 and, five years later, I sold it for £148,000. I’ve always loved property and it suits me because while I can design and draw architectural plans, I also know how to build and make, and that really helps when you are dealing with contractors and manufacturers. They can’t pull the wool over my eyes. At work, it means that between us Richard and I are a great double act, a one-stop shop.”
His cottage, which he bought five years ago at the top of the market, reflects his spatial planning ability and his attention to detail, although he admits thinking “what the hell have I done,” when he got the key.
It has been re-roofed, re-plumbed, re-wired and packed with insulation. The plastic windows that squeaked when the wind blew have been replaced with wooden sashes. Andrew, meanwhile, lived on site throughout the renovation, while his family moved out for three months to escape the dust and rubble.
The original ground floor was once a tiny kitchen and two small sitting rooms. It is now an open-plan space with a kitchen and adjoining dining and sitting areas. The kitchen units and worktops have been designed with curved edges, which are more child-friendly for his daughters Amelia, nine, and Alexis, four.
There are also plans to add a contemporary glazed extension at the rear but, for now, a glazed stable door brings in light.
He made the dining table himself from old railway sleepers and while he retained the old fireplace, he lowered the lintel and installed a built-in TV screen above it. A cupboard hides the rest of the TV equipment.
The board and beam ceilings were plaster boarded and insulated, which also ensures that they are soundproof. Uniting the three zones is a new burnt and brushed oak floor.
“People think that’s original but it’s a bespoke one from Grafton Freestone. We manufacture them so you can have any colour you want.
“It adds character, which is what I wanted. I also got the plasterers to curve all the edges round the windows like they would have been when this place was built,” he says.
The double-height side extension was constructed from reclaimed brick and is almost indistinguishable from the original cottage thanks to extra detailing on the stone lintels.
It houses a light-filled sitting room and wider than average entrance hall that doubles as a boot room and utility room. Beautiful bespoke cabinets hide the appliances and provide storage.
A new staircase leads upstairs and what was three small bedrooms and one bathroom is now four bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The master suite is in the new extension includes a reclaimed beam to add character and a partial wall that masks the en-suite bathroom.
Furniture is a mix of their old treasures and new pieces from the Richard Grafton Interiors store, which also supplied the soft furnishings.
Andrew designed the bespoke wall unit in the new sitting room, which includes sliding doors to hide the TV and push-to-open cabinets. A keen photographer, he took most of the pictures that decorate the walls.
Outside, the old garden has been turned into a parking area, a new patio created and a summer house added.
Although he got his dream of keeping pigs in the paddock, they have been replaced with a wildflower meadow, which the children love.
“I am carving a path through and it’s like a big adventure playground for them. It’s freedom and they love it,” says Andrew.
“That outside space was one of the main reasons we bought this place. Inside, we sacrificed space for location but the house now has everything we need and it is manageable.”
• Grafton Freestone, tel: 01423 817117, www.graftonfreestone.com