Bunglalow that illuminates how to break with tradition in style
From playing field to perfect home. Brenda and Keith Nicholson’s self-build is a great success. Heather Dixon reports.
WHEN Brenda and Keith Nicholson wanted more space for their growing family, they didn’t have to look far for inspiration.
Their one-time vegetable patch-turned playing field, which they bought 20 years ago from Brenda’s mum and dad to prevent it being snapped up by developers, presented them with a golden opportunity to build a bigger house without having to move to away from family and friends.
“We were struggling for space in our last house, which we’d also built, and we liked the idea of being able to design a home specifically for our needs,” says Brenda.
To finance the build, they sold their last house and moved into a rented property nearby. They then designed a home which would be divided into three sections, with a spacious lightfilled kitchen in the middle.
“We wanted the boys’ bedrooms, a bathroom and a sitting room to be at one end of the bungalow and our bedroom and en suite at the other, so we all had our privacy as they were growing up,” says Brenda. “The family kitchen and sitting room is in the middle of the house because they are the rooms we all share. The attic area comprises a suite of rooms for guests which can be used a self-contained studio, or a home office.”
What they didn’t want was a conventional bungalow.
“Although it looks quite ordinary from the roadside, we wanted plenty of light, height and space inside,” says Brenda, who sketched her ideas on a piece of paper which she then handed to an architect to decipher. “I wanted it to look like a barn conversion even though it was a new build.”
Brenda particularly liked the idea of bringing lots of light in the kitchen area so that it gave the hub of the home an allyear-round feel-good factor. To achieve this, she included a bank of skylights in the two-storey kitchen space which flood the kitchen with natural light. The couple also wanted exposed brickwork in the sitting room to accentuate the steep angle of the ceiling; a bespoke staircase leading from the kitchen to the studio, and a star-effect inverted ceiling in the main bedroom.
With so many high, open spaces, the bungalow could have looked stark inside, so Brenda introduced plenty of colour and New England style features to make each room homely and welcoming.
“The starting point was my collection of jugs,” says Brenda. “I’ve collected them for years. Most of them only cost a few pounds from car boot sales and antique shops, but they are all in pretty pastel colours. I have a similar collection of miniature beach huts. Every time I go to the coast I buy one to bring home and they are all displayed in the kitchen.”
Brenda believes in creating her own style on a sensible budget and shops around to find things which give the house its personal touch. Old sofas have been reupholstered and recovered rather than buying expensive new ones and Brenda buys secondhand chairs which she paints or transforms with new seat covers. She also makes cushions with remnant fabrics and buttons, and buys quality fabric at bargain prices which a friend turns into curtains.
The height of the rooms could have been an issue by making some of the furniture look lost, but Brenda created balance and proportion by introducing features to link the space between floor and ceiling.
In the sitting room, for example, exposed brick columns emphasise the rustic elements of the build and break up the large expanses of wall. Furniture scaled up to work with the size of the room also helps to create balance. In the main bedroom, Brenda has used strong colour to draw the eye from the apex of the unusual ceiling to the bed.
‘The kitchen was probably the most challenging because it’s such a large room,’ said Brenda. ‘By having the open staircase and roof lights, we’ve developed the converted barn theme, while the tongue and groove panelling and wall cupboards break up the expanses of wall and help to balance the space. I think people are genuinely surprised when they walk into the kitchen and everything opens up in front of them.’
The result is a conventional bungalow from the roadside which has an unexpected “wow” factor inside. But after all the hard work to achieve the home of their dreams, Brenda and Keith are reluctantly having to sell the house and move to somewhere smaller now the family has grown up and moved on.
“Keith and I are rattling around in here so we are looking for another place we can put our own stamp on,” said Brenda, who is selling the house through Sweet Move in Pocklington for around £465,000.
“Most people think of bungalows as being square and boring,” she said. “We didn’t want that, but we couldn’t create anything too dramatic on the outside otherwise it would never have got through planning. So we conformed on the external design but created a very contemporary look inside by opening up roof spaces and making the best use of light. It’s not until people come through the door that they realize it’s much more than just another bungalow.”
The 24ft high ceiling and roof lights draw natural light into the kitchen. The staircase leads to the attic studio. The table and some of the chairs were bought at an auction in York, while the high-backed chairs are from the Banana Warehouse in York (01904 621405). They are covered in Cath Kidston fabric by Ryedale Upholstery in Elvington 01904 608600; The light fitting is from Hull Lighting and Equipment (01482 320864) and the floor cost £50 psm from Ian Reddy (01757 288068). The panelling, fitted by Keith, is painted in Farrow & Ball Blue Grey.
The bedside tables are from Blossom and Walker in York (01904 655 736, www.blossomandwalker.co.uk) and the lamp shades are from Dunelm Mill (0845 165 6565 www.dunelm-mill.com).