Riverside home with a bed that can be floated up to the ceiling
Transforming a tiny pumping station into a stunning riverside home took time and ingenuity. Sharon Dale reports.
WHEN Muriel and Ray Tate announced they were downsizing from their converted barn, noone anticipated their next move.
Instead of a cottage or bungalow, they opted for a minuscule, dilapidated pump station with a single room measuring 5m x 6m and a windowless 3m x 3m basement.
“People thought we’d gone mad,” says Muriel.
“It was tiny. We could’ve fit the whole place into one of the bedrooms at our old house.”
But the Tates knew the derelict building could be a dream home and thanks to ingenious design and their attention to detail it has proved to be just that.
Part of its success is down to its sensational location. The pump station, now renamed The Boathouse, overlooks the River Wharfe in a peaceful, private spot close to Wetherby that is teeming with wildlife.
The rest is down to a clever conversion and extensions carried out with the help of Leeds-based Beechwood Builders.
“We’d never done anything on this scale, though we’d always modified houses to get them how we wanted and we are both quite practical,” says Muriel.
“We hadn’t planned on downsizing quite so much either, but we knew we wanted something up to date with all mod cons and this gave us the chance of getting exactly what we wanted.”
At first, they created a living space on the ground floor and slept down in the basement. They later added an extension that virtually doubled the size of the property and this was followed by a stunning, oak-framed garden room.
Ray, who sourced the oak from Wales, designed the frame. The result is a large, light-filled sitting area with views over the river.
The biggest challenge they faced when they bought the Boathouse in 1998 was flooding, which they overcame after waking up to find the basement covered in two inches of water.
They had the room tanked, sealed and painted with a polymer sealant to provide a waterproof skin. There is a water pump under the floor and they replaced the door on to the riverbank with a submarine-style door.
“We found that at a marine specialists in Norwich,” says Ray. “We are the first people to use it for a domestic application. It’s usually used in boats.”
The thick rubber seal has ensured that the room withstands the worst the Wharfe has to offer.
The door isn’t the only inspired touch.
The house is filled with Ray’s ideas and inventions, including the fire door to the well disguised shower room off the living area, which is also soundproof.
He also packed the property with insulation and two wood burning stoves, which means it costs very little to heat.
His greatest creation is the “bed in a box” in the dining room. It is lowered into position at night with yachting cables and marine blocks. During the day it is winched to ceiling height and secured with bolts that connect to downlighters in the base of the bed. “We thought of a bed in the floor or in the wall, but a bed in the roof was the best idea, though people said it couldn’t be done. We worked out a way,” says Muriel.
There is a sliding wardrobe to hide clothes and clutter and concealed storage above the tongue and groove ceiling boards built into the pitch of the roof.
Ray also created an internal air circulation system to keep the house warm. It ensures that heat created by the log burning stoves moves efficiently round the space, while the air stays fresh.
The use of colonial-style shutter doors, neutral decor and concealed lighting also means that the three rooms upstairs can be separated or opened to create one huge area that is perfect for parties. Furniture is also multi- functional and includes a tiny console table that folds out to seat eight.
“The space is very flexible and there is a great sense of space. The dining room can be a bedroom and so can the garden room thanks to a sofa bed, which is good when people come to stay and, of course, there is a bedroom downstairs,” says Ray.
The last project was to set out the garden.
To the rear is Grange Park, originally the site of a grand country mansion. The mansion was demolished in the 1960s but the outbuildings were converted in the late 1990s into individual houses, apartments and parkland.
At the front, there are terraces and seating areas overlooking the river.
“We love this place more than anywhere we’ve lived. There’s something very soothing about living by the water. I stand on the decking with a cup of coffee and watch the kingfishers and I think how wonderful it is to be here,” says Muriel.
“We’ve also had otters recently, which is amazing.”
The location makes it doubly difficult for the couple to embark on another downsizing exercise.
“We are selling to free up some equity so we can travel more and, as we are getting older, we feel this is the time to do it while we still can,” says Muriel.
Family and friends won’t be surprised to hear that they still aren’t quite ready to take the easy option.
“We’d quite like another project,” says Muriel. “We enjoyed this one, we’re still pretty fit and it will stop us getting lazy.”
Beechwood Builders, tel: 07774 668090.
RIVER VIEWS: The Boathouse overlooks a peaceful stretch of the River Wharfe, near Wetherby, top. Inside, the property has flexible living space, above centre, and a host of clever design solutions which include a bed that can be winched up to the ceiling to give more room, above left. The garden room, above right, can become a bedroom thanks to the sofa bed.