City man­sion’s re­turn to its for­mer glory be­gan with a chance meet­ing

They’re an un­likely cou­ple, but Kim Gon­salves and Jonathan Graves have the per­fect prop­erty mar­riage. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

KISMET can be strange, as Kim Gon­salves dis­cov­ered when a lost BT ca­ble in her home led to a brand new ca­reer in bricks and mor­tar.

A chat with builder and ar­chi­tec­tural re­storer Jonathan Graves, who came to fix the prob­lem, re­sulted in an un­likely part­ner­ship and a mam­moth project to re­store an early Vic­to­rian man­sion house in York.

She was a house­wife with money while he had the spe­cial­ist construction skills and they both have lots of ideas.

Now, af­ter al­most two years of work­ing to­gether, Ash­field House in York is near­ing com­ple­tion and the re­sult is a stun­ning and metic­u­lous con­ver­sion of the for­mer York Col­lege head­quar­ters into four lux­ury town­houses.

“I couldn’t find the ca­ble and he built the house, so he came to show me where it was.

“We got chat­ting about prop­erty and that was it.

“I had some funds but at that time the mar­ket was dodgy so I didn’t fancy putting the money in the bank and there wasn’t a lot of work around for builders be­cause of the re­ces­sion,” says Kent-born Kim, who set­tled in York af­ter work­ing as head of an IT depart­ment in Jo­han­nes­burg.

“I had ab­so­lutely no ex­pe­ri­ence in de­vel­op­ing at all but I am in­ter­ested in ar­chi­tec­ture and how peo­ple re­act with their en­vi­ron­ment and I had ideas. Jonathan had the know-how and his own ideas.”

The re­ces­sion worked in their favour. Ash­field was bought for a good price in July 2008 and Jonathan, who al­ready had a team of crafts­men join­ers, had his pick of the best brick­ies and trades­peo­ple.

“At one point, I’d get about 24 calls a day from peo­ple ask­ing if we had any work. It was a ter­ri­ble time for the in­dus­try and a lot of peo­ple were out of work,” he says.

They set up their own work­shop on site and have helped recre­ate pe­riod fea­tures for the prop­er­ties.

Ash­field House, which backs on to Tad­caster Road close to the race­course and is at the edge of new de­vel­op­ment, was built in 1841 in a Ge­or­gian style for the Lycett Green bank­ing fam­ily, be­fore be­ing req­ui­si­tioned by the RAF and then used as col­lege offices. It had few fea­tures left.

There was an orig­i­nal ma­hogany stair­case, which has been ren­o­vated, as have the sash win­dows.

“There wasn’t much in the way of orig­i­nal fea­tures but we man­aged to repli­cate the bits of cor­nic­ing and ar­chi­traves we found.

“We found the orig­i­nal tiles in the hall­way but they were cov­ered in self-lev­el­ling con­crete and had vinyl on top so we couldn’t res­cue them. We repli­cated them in­stead,” says Kim.

They’ve also re­placed win­dows and doors, cre­ated deep skirt­ing boards and have bought tra­di­tional an­thracite ra­di­a­tors and Ge­or­gian-style fire­places. The copies aren’t cheap. The fire­place in the sit­ting room of num­ber six is made in York from mar­ble they had im­ported from Italy.

The in­ter­nal doors are all hung on pe­riod-style cast hinges and have full mor­tice locks with solid bronze rather than brass han­dles. Few would no­tice the dif­fer­ence, but Jon in­sisted that the rail­ings sur­round­ing the prop­erty were made to Vic­to­rian stan­dards, so they were cast in Lon­don and welded to­gether rather than bolted on.

They are both ex­act­ing as one trades­man found when he bet Jonathan a pound that Kim wouldn’t no­tice a bath­room tile that didn’t look quite right.

“She no­ticed im­me­di­ately and he had to do it again,” says Jonathan, who ad­mits there have been “mar­i­tal” rows.

We­could’ve done it cheaper but it’s not just about profit. We want some­thing we can be proud of.

“We’re both strong per­son­al­i­ties and we are both emo­tion­ally in­volved in the project, but we work well to­gether and we’ve learnt a lot from each other.

“He is very tra­di­tional and a real crafts­man and I bring more con­tem­po­rary de­sign ideas,” says Kim, who is very hands-on.

She has been in­volved in ev­ery­thing from the kitchen de­sign to choos­ing the socket plates with no vis­i­ble screws, which cost £18.99 each (com­pared to the £1.99 plas­tic ver­sions).

They have over­spent but the re­sults are im­pres­sive and com­bine Ge­or­gian-style el­e­gance with the best of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy in­clud­ing state-of-the-art in­su­la­tion and ul­tra-thin dou­ble glaz­ing in the wooden sash win­dows.

“We could’ve done it cheaper and we could’ve di­vided this house into flats, which would’ve been more prof­itable, but it’s not just about profit. We want to spe­cialise in this area of restora­tion and we want some­thing we can be proud of,” says Kim, who has called her com­pany Hes­tia (af­ter the Greek god­dess of hearth and home).

She adds: “In­vest­ing money in prop­erty is far more ex­cit­ing than hav­ing it in the bank.”

Num­ber 6 Ash­field House, one of the four town houses, has a hall, sit­ting room, din­ing room, kitchen and cloak­room plus four bed­rooms, three bath­rooms and a large base­ment room. Out­side there is a garage, a court­yard and a gar­den. It is on sale for £725,000. Con­tact RM English on 01904 697900. www.rmenglish.co.uk

CON­VER­SION: Front view of Ash­field House in York, for­merly part of York Col­lege, now re­stored to lux­ury town­houses.

PART­NER­SHIP: Jonathan Graves and Kim Gon­salves.

RECRE­ATED: No ex­pense was spared on the in­te­rior of the house.

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