When Lara Fawcett and her husband James inherited his childhood home, their biggest challenge was to preserve its past while giving it a more modern look
Preserving the heritage of this Yorkshire home was a class act
When Lara and James Fawcett moved into their period home on the outskirts of Leeds, they were faced with a major challenge. Cufforth House had been in James’s family for generations, so finding a balance between preserving the integrity of the property while making their own mark was their main concern. ‘ We wanted to respect the history of the house, which held such special memories for my husband and his parents,’ says Lara, ‘ but we also wanted to make some changes that showed our individual style and ideas.’
Lara took a pragmatic approach, decorating one room at a time, introducing modern furniture and colour schemes while retaining the property’s period feel. ‘I didn’t have a grand plan,’ she says. ‘It just evolved naturally, growing with our children, Mungo, 19, Bevan, 17, and Tallulah, 15, and encompassing everything we’ve accumulated over the years. We’re a busy family, but the focus of our daily lives has always revolved around our home.’
With high ceilings and period features to contend with, making the large rooms bright, yet warm and comfortable could have proved a difficult task. But not for Lara – she had lived in a manor before and so was used to thinking on a big scale. ‘Everything has to balance,’ she says. ‘You have to use the height of the room as well as the footprint to make it work. The windows were probably the trickiest to deal with, because there are so many, and it would have cost a fortune to buy new curtains for them all, so I brought the curtains from our last house and shortened them to fit the windows here.’
Neutral hues were chosen for the walls and large pieces of furniture, along with a host of colourful accessories. ‘I like layering,’ says Lara, ‘whether it’s fabrics, photographs, paintings or heirlooms.’ She has resisted the urge to paint the wood panelling in the entrance hall or modernise the original – and in some cases ornate – fixtures and fittings. ‘I wanted to respect everything James’s family had done to the house over the years,’ she explains.
With the children now all teenagers and spending more time away from home, Lara and James want to make sure the house is used to its full potential. ‘James grew up here and loved coming back with his own brood, but as they’ve got older we find ourselves rattling around,’ says Lara. ‘This house is meant to be lived in, so we now sometimes offer it as a place for people to get together for special events. It has always been a lively home and we are so pleased to see that tradition continue.’
design tip ‘A neutral palette will bring out the best in period features and still allow you to personalise a room. So don’t feel constrained – be bold with accessories and fabrics’