Ren­o­va­tion leaves cou­ple with a warm glow in wildest weather

He­lena and Joseph Ar­can­gelo turned a draughty old farm­house into a cosy coun­try home. Heather Dixon re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

IT is a freez­ing au­tumn day and an east­erly wind is gust­ing across the moor, bat­ter­ing the thick stone walls of He­lena and Joseph Ar­can­gelo’s York­shire farm­house. Even the sheep out­side their door, hardy to the bit­ter Jan­uary gales, press against the stone wall that sep­a­rates the Ar­can­ge­los’ hal­facre gar­den from the breath­tak­ing West York­shire moor­lands.

Yet He­lena and Joseph are as warm as toast. They spent a year mak­ing sure that the 200-yearold farm cot­tage and ad­join­ing barn was so well heated and in­su­lated that not even the icy blast of win­ter would pen­e­trate its thick walls. And friends who ever doubted their choice of lo­ca­tion – tucked against an ex­posed hill­side – now un­der­stand why the cou­ple fell in love with what was lit­tle more than a cold, stone shell when they bought it.

“The pre­vi­ous own­ers lived in it for 10 years but had done noth­ing in­side,” said He­lena. “The struc­ture was solid and he’d put a new roof on at some stage, but in­side there were breeze­block walls and con­crete floors. His kitchen con­tained just a sink and stove and there was one log fire to heat the whole house. It was go­ing to take a lot time and money to get it how we wanted it, but at least we were start­ing with a blank can­vas in­side.”

The cou­ple al­ready owned two ad­join­ing prop­er­ties in a nearby vil­lage, so they sold one and lived in the other to fund the ren­o­va­tion.

“We knew that if we bought this house it was likely to be our last move so we wanted to get it right,” said Joseph. “We had drawn up a wish-list and it ticked all the right boxes – in­clud­ing fab­u­lous views, space for a garage, a good-sized gar­den and a large din­ing kitchen. We love older prop­er­ties but there was scope for us to cre­ate a mod­ern look in­side.”

But the cou­ple might never have seen the house, near El­land, if they hadn’t got lost look­ing for an­other prop­erty they wanted to view.

“We were driv­ing down the road try­ing to get our bear­ings when I sud­denly shouted: ‘Stop the car, we must get out’,” says He­lena. “As soon as I saw it I knew it was the one. There was no-one in but we stood out­side and took in the views and knew we had to live there. It was in­cred­i­bly quiet and the land­scape was stun­ning.”

The ne­go­ti­a­tions that fol­lowed were tough and nail-bit­ing, but the prop­erty was fi­nally theirs in Jan­uary 2008 af­ter pay­ing the full ask­ing price of £420,000 – plus £100 for a stone bird bath in the gar­den.

Work be­gan im­me­di­ately. The first job was to de­mol­ish a wall which di­vided the farm­house from the ad­join­ing barn, sup­port the open­ing with steel lin­tels and cre­ate the din­ing kitchen in the mid­dle of the house. A wall at the bot­tom of the stairs was knocked down to cre­ate a larger en­trance hall and the ground floor lev­elled ready for un­der­floor heat­ing.

“The most im­por­tant thing was for the house to be warm,” said

Westood out­side and took in the views and we knew we had to live there.

Joseph. “Win­ters are ex­tremely cold up here and the wind buf­fets the side of the house. We didn’t want to be sit­ting here shiv­er­ing.”

Al­though He­lena and Joseph sought the ad­vice of an ar­chi­tect, they knew from the out­set the way they wanted the house to work.

The kitchen area would be the heart of the house with a two­s­torey high sit­ting room, fea­tur­ing glass doors over­look­ing the coun­try­side, in the area that used to be the barn. The en­trance hall at the other end of the house fea­tures a be­spoke oak stair­case lead­ing to three large bed­rooms, a dress­ing area, en suite and house bath­room.

“The views in­flu­enced the lay­out,” says Joseph. “I do all the cook­ing so I spent hours try­ing to de­cide where I wanted to stand when I was in the kitchen – look­ing down the room or through the win­dows.”

He­lena also faced tough de­ci­sions. “I am gen­er­ally a very de­ci­sive per­son – Joseph and I are di­rec­tors of a re­cruit­ment busi­ness so we make tough de­ci­sions ev­ery day – but by the end of the ren­o­va­tion I couldn’t even de­cide which door han­dles I wanted. There’s huge pres­sure to get it ab­so­lutely per­fect when you’re go­ing to live with the re­sults, but you reach sat­u­ra­tion point.”

Al­though Joseph project man­aged the ren­o­va­tion, he wasn’t averse to tak­ing a hand­son ap­proach – some­times to his re­gret. “To save money I de­cided to seal the flag­stone floor my­self,” he says.

“More than 200 flag­stones, each wrapped in brown paper, were duly de­liv­ered and stacked up out­side, so I had to carry ev­ery sin­gle one in­side and give them two coats of sealant. I don’t know how long it took me, but I got very de­pressed!”

The re­sults were worth ev­ery back-break­ing hour. “I love the floor now,” he says. “We wanted to use nat­u­ral, lo­cal ma­te­ri­als wher­ever we could so ev­ery­thing was in keep­ing with the style of the build­ing.”

To this end, orig­i­nal beams were shot-blasted and var­nished, a stone fire­place in the kitchen was raised with a block and tackle to ac­com­mo­date a range cooker, and the orig­i­nal kitchen was turned into a prac­ti­cal boot and util­ity room com­plete with dog shower.

The ren­o­va­tion was com­pleted in Au­gust 2008 and He­lena and Joseph moved in a month later. Last year they added an oak pan­elled open porch to the front and this year they fi­nally got plan­ning per­mis­sion to build a dou­ble garage in York­shire stone, which was com­pleted two months ago, along with a gravel drive­way.

“The house is ev­ery­thing we’d hoped for and more,” says He­lena. “Al­though we wanted a mod­ern in­te­rior, we also wanted the house to be warm and com­fort­able and lived in. We’ve man­aged to use a lot of fur­ni­ture from our last house and we’ve kept the colour scheme neu­tral so that the nat­u­ral tones and tex­tures of the build­ing speak for them­selves.”

But to some ex­tent, the in­te­rior dé­cor is sec­ondary to the 180de­gree views that sold the house to them in the first place.

“We had oak seats built un­der­neath the kitchen win­dows and we spend hours just sit­ting there, tak­ing it all in,” says He­lena. “We get the most in­cred­i­ble sun­sets and the scenery is con­stantly chang­ing ac­cord­ing to the weather, the sea­son and the time of the day.

“Some­times we have to pinch our­selves to re­mind our­selves that it’s real.”

Pic­tures: Dave Bur­ton.

DREAM HOME: He­lena and Joseph Ar­can­gelo live at the ren­o­vated farm­house with their two dogs.

The farm­house is well-in­su­lated against the weather and boasts a mod­ern in­te­rior.


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