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.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

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...

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).

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