The Fabulous Czainskis put art and soul in their historic home
An artist husband and wife team have left their mark on this historic house and the result is sensational. Sharon Dale reports.
RUSSIAN oligarchs, rock stars and royalty have all paid Paul and Chris Czainski to turn their walls into works of art.
The Yorkshire-based artists specialise in decorative techniques that include handpainting, murals, frescos, graining, gilding, stencilling and marbling along with many of their own innovations.
Often commissioned by well-known interior designer Nicky Haslam, they have created stunning decor for everyone from Roman Abramovich and Ringo Starr to Mick Jagger and the Rothschilds.
The cost of their labour intensive artistic endeavour doesn’t come cheap but the buyers of their 17th century home, in a hamlet near Hebden Bridge, will find it included in the £595,000 price of the property at no extra charge.
The hall, stairs and landing walls are painted to resemble Victorian encaustic tiles, while the steps to the second floor are trimmed with trompe l’oeil tassels. The bedrooms walls are hand-painted and stencilled and the closer you get the more exquisite they are.
“Someone may decorate over them and, of course, that’s up to them, but we hope they don’t,” says Chris, a recently elected member of the Eccentric Club.
Also included in the price is a folly in their enormous one acre garden. It is made from oak and millstone grit and contains a heated room with glass doors allowing views over their land.
“We’ve used it for all sorts of things, including dining, sleeping and we even spent the first night of our honeymoon in there,” says Paul.
Sadly, their furniture, much of which is hand made by local craftsmen, is going with them when they move.
The four-poster bed is a copy of one at Temple Newsam house in Leeds and features painted cranes, symbolising faithfulness in marriage. The wardrobe is a copy of one in the Vatican Museums and the grandfather clock is a convincing fake, whose case opens to reveal a spice cupboard.
The five-bedroom house is also full of Paul’s figurative paintings along with Chris’s sculptures and pictures. Her “off the wall” pieces are often made from found objects and recycled materials, including egg shells, though the showstoppers in the dining hall are her shop dummies. One bottom half is dressed in leopard print leggings and topped with wood, making a table. Next to it is a mannequin from Mumbai found discarded in London’s Brick Lane, demurely dressed to hide sexy curves that get male guests hot and bothered.
This modern art is perfectly compatible with the architecture of the historic house adding warmth and colour to the solid stone fabric.
Paul bought Old Oats Royd in Luddenden in 1988 after deciding to move from London, where he trained in Fine Art at Goldsmiths.
“The fax had been invented and suddenly we didn’t have to be in London any more. We decided we could do business from anywhere,” he says.
He was working at the Duke of Westminster’s property in Cheshire when he spotted an advert for the grade two listed house in the Yorkshire Post.
“I loved the location and it reminded me of Oakwell Hall in Birstall, where I grew up.
“There’s something very romantic about 16th and 17th century houses,” he says.
Built in 1645 for the Murgatroyd family, the semi-detached property needed work so Paul rewired, renovated and dug out the vaulted cellar that had been filled in. He took care to preserve the period features, which include mullions, fireplaces and an elaborate wrought iron staircase.
The only historic element he removed was the gothic Victorian fireplace in the sitting room, which was “too Dracula”. It was replaced with an exact copy of a stone fireplace in one of the bedrooms.
“Although it’s not stone. It’s plaster and resin. It was an experiment but it looks authentic,” he says.
Teamed with a wood burning stove it adds cosiness to a house they are sorry to sell.
The couple, who have been married for seven years, want to buy their first home together and need a smaller garden so they can concentrate on new artistic ventures.
They are also scaling down the interiors projects to concentrate on solo and collaborative work.
“It’s good to do a painting and put your name to it. I want to do more of that,” says Paul.
“Plus when I first started with the decorative work it was all old money. The client would shake your hand, pay you and express appreciation. Now it’s all about product. If they could buy it off the shelf they would as long as it’s different from what everyone else has.”
When he and Chris work together – they are billed as The Fabulous Czainskis, a title coined by the owners of Staithes Gallery, which stocks their art.
They have a second home in the coastal village, near Whitby, and they are opening the doors of the cottage to the public this weekend for the Pop Up Gallery event at Staithes Festival.
Visitors are warned that there’s no need to watch out for the seagull above their front door. It’s one of Paul’s life-like trompe l’oeils.
“It’s fooled quite a few photographers into thinking it’s real,” he says.
www. staithesfestival. com; www.czainski.com; wwwczainski.co.uk.
The house features hand-painted walls and trompe l’oeils together with a host of 17th century and Victorian features. It also has a separate studio and a garden room.