New Victorian: the parkside home with a double identity
Architect Chris Jones has given one of city’s most prestigious homes a 21st century facelift. Sharon Dale reports.
WHEN The Ellers was advertised for sale seven years ago it was described as “the finest Victorian house” in Roundhay, Leeds, but when architect Chris Jones saw it, he knew it would benefit from a 21st century makeover.
Bringing the period property up to date was a challenge he couldn’t resist, though his wife Sharon wasn’t so sure at first.
“She nearly killed me when she saw it because it needed a lot of work. There had been some alterations in the 1960s and 70s but that was it and I saw it very much as a blank canvas for us to redesign and remodel into our perfect family home.
“We’d done a lot of work on our old house in Roundhay and I was looking for another project. This place was perfect. It is very private, set back from the road and is in the most amazing position overlooking Roundhay Park.”
Although most architects dream of building their own home, Chris, a founder and director at Carey Jones, prefers working with existing buildings and adapting the space to suit a modern lifestyle.
“That’s what I did with The Ellers, so it’s now like a new house within a Victorian shell, though we recreated a lot of the cornice work and we made sure that the new windows at the front were the same pattern as the original ones.”
It took almost a year to transform the four-storey, stonebuilt house on Park Lane and it was done with entertaining at the heart of the plans.
The Jones’s developed the lower ground floor, which was used as a garage, into an entertainment space with a games room, sun lounge, gym and a stylish and well stocked “pub”, which is firm favourite with visitors.
“I stopped short of putting draft beer and pythons in because each barrel is nine gallons and you have to drink it in three weeks or it goes off and I didn’t think we could get through that much, but we have a good selection of bottled beer and we have Sky TV and a tropical fish tank. We’ve had some good lads nights in there,” says Chris.
The biggest change to the 19th century property is the stunning two storey, glazed extension adjacent to a new single story extension at the rear of the property. These lead onto a sunken patio.
The ground floor has three elegant reception rooms and a kitchen that now opens onto a breakfast deck with a spectacular glazed wall. The rooms all interlink via four feet wide, floorto-ceiling “slot” openings cut through the walls.
“We’ve always tried to make our properties party houses and in fact we’ve had 100 people here comfortably,” says Chris.
A spiral staircase leads upstairs, where the master bedroom takes up half of the first floor and has a separate dressing room and bathroom. The Jones could’ve had a sixth bedroom on the floor above but chose to have a cathedral ceiling in the master suite instead. The first floor has two more bedrooms and a shower room, while the second floor has two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
“We also tried to create lovely spaces throughout the building in which to sit and relax such as private sun terraces accessed from our ‘red room’ on the ground floor and from our master bedroom on the first,” says Chris, who had the house rewired, replumbed and replastered. He also designed new fireplaces and bespoke shelves and cupboards for the house that now has 36 new feature radiators.
Unlike many architects, who prefer white walls and a minimal interior, Chris and Sharon like colour and prefer each room to have its own theme.
“Sharon wanted the house to feel homely. We like a separate colour scheme for each space,” says Chris, who says there were a few setbacks with the project, including a distressing period when Sharon suffered a heart attack and was forced to convalescence in a half-finished house. They rushed to get the bedroom suite finished so she could recuperate there.
Now, after enjoying the fruits of their labour for the last six years, the couple are downsizing and planning to tackle another project in Roundhay.
Chris says: “Our children have grown up and we want to downsize, but we’re very excited about the new house, which is a 1970s property we can extend.
“We’ll miss this house. We have loved it so much and it has given the whole family an amazing quality of life. The location by the park is great. I always say we’ve got a 365-acre front garden.”
The house has ben extended to the rear and now has a stunning glazed rear elevation that allows light to flood into the house. Chris and Sharon like to give each room its own identity and colour scheme.