A part from its colour, the aptly named Black House is barely noticeable to passersby. No wider than a garage door and tucked between period houses, it’s easy to drive past without giving it a second glance. Yet this modest frontage disguises one of York’s best kept secrets. Through a cobbled enclosed ‘street’ and past a compact carturning circle is a door – barely noticeable in the wall - which opens into an ingenious, and very private, four-bedroom family home. Over three storeys of open plan living spaces, extraordinary design ideas and industrial build materials, Michael has managed to link the building’s history as a commercial mechanical garage to its new identity as a unique living space. Most people would never have had the vision, or the imagination, to take it on board. Before Michael and Erica took the plunge and bought it as an empty shell, the property was dark, cold and damp with parts of the roof missing, oppressive steel beams spanning the former workshops and pigeon droppings congealed on the floors. Hardly the stuff of dream homes. Yet Michael was undeterred. ‘I could visualise almost straight away how it could look,’ he says. ‘There were so many aspects of it that we liked, including cobbled floors, huge timber A-frames and beautiful old brick walls. It was rotten and falling down in places but the essence was all there.’ The property, which had been empty for ten years, was being sold by a developer who had his plans to carve it up into a multi-accommodation block firmly rejected. He did, however, eventually achieve planning permission to turn it into a family home with the living rooms downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. Michael, however, saw this traditional layout as a missed opportunity. He applied for planning permission to convert the garage into a more forward-thinking home in which he flipped the plan on its head, bringing the kitchen, dining and sitting areas onto the first floor and into the heart of the property. It took nine months to get planning permission for the new design, which came with around 20 conditions attached that included a bat survey and permitted development restrictions. ‘To me it just made complete sense to have the main living area where there was most natural light, the best views, and the most interesting architectural features,’ he said. ‘I loved its character, which really whet my appetite – although that’s not a sensible way to approach something like this because it’s easy to get carried away. As a result, I slightly under-estimated the cost. I hadn’t taken into account things like the repointing which, on a building of this size and industrial nature, is a BELOW: Exposed brick walls and huge timber roof trusses give the space, warmth and character The floor of the property was ‘all over the place’ 134 Yorkshire Life: October 2020
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