Victorian country house with an award-winning new look
This home near Scarborough has benefited from an architect’s hand and an artist’s touch. Sharon Dale reports.
ALTHOUGH the property brochure for Lebberston Hall stated “in need of modernisation”, neither the estate agent nor the vendor could have imagined just how far the new owners would go.
“The idea was to build a very modern house from scratch, but this has turned out better,” says Shirley Vauvelle. “It’s now very contemporary, but it has that sense of history.”
She and her family swapped their rustic farmhouse in Huddersfield for the Victorian country house, near Scarborough, even though it ticked all the wrong boxes.
Their search area was Leeds and they wanted a building plot not a renovation, but estate agent Simon Blyth, who sold their old home, persuaded them to view after spotting the hall’s charms.
“I fell in love with the feel of it. It needed a lot of work, but the house and the garden had amazing potential,” says Shirley, an artist.
They had already identified architect Ric Blenkharn, of Bramhall Blenkharm in Malton, as the right man to create their dream home. He came up with a radical plan to turn the gloomy rabbit warren of rooms into an ultra-contemporary, light-filled home.
This involved reconfiguring all the internal space and creating two extensions to the house, which Scarborough Council planning officials agreed to. Two existing garages and a stable were converted into a spacious, open kitchen with a glass wall overlooking a courtyard on one side and a feature pond on the other.
On the other side of the house, a two-storey high room was created where the original lean-to kitchen had been. An outdated conservatory was replaced with a glass orangery and the bay windows, which they discovered weren’t supporting the house at all, were replaced with large floor to ceiling versions.
The work started in May 2004 and ended in October 2005 and the property, which is now almost double its original size, has six bedrooms and five bathrooms, two enormous sitting rooms, the orangery, a games room, study and the kitchen dining area downstairs.
“At one point there were just four walls left,” says Shirley, a mixed media artist, who has added some of her own touches, including her paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
“I was also very keen to introduce a lot of textures. I trained and worked in textiles so creating a tactile element to the house was very important.”
The enormous concrete fireplace in the sitting room was her idea, refined by Ric.
“The windows in the extension really brought the light and the views of the garden into the house,” says Shirley.
“But it still looked like a large box in there, so I suggested creating a fireplace which stretched right up through the two storeys. It was Ric who suggested using concrete, but it had to be done in sections to prevent it cracking.”
The kitchen units were imported from Belgium and the work top is sections of Basaltino (lava rock), which weighed more than two tonnes.
“Originally the kitchen was going to be on one level, until a friend said it would end up looking like a community centre,” says Shirley. “That was when I decided to include a step, to break up the space and define the areas.”
There weren’t many period features left in the early 19th century property when they bought it, but they salvaged what they could, including the main staircase. The old cellar steps were left exposed, along with a safe in the hallway. The pantry underneath the main staircase was converted into a snug with rough stone steps and curved walls.
The build and decoration costs for the property were slightly more than expected, not least because Whitby herringbone stone had to be used to build the extension at the back, but it has been worth every penny according to Shirley.
The light-filled home, which won “Best One-Off House” at the national LABC awards, has helped inspire her work and prompted greater success.
“I turned the family room into a studio and the light is just amazing. I use the plants in the garden in my work and I also collect drift wood and other pieces from the beach, which is close by,” she says.
After eight years, she is selling to downsize now her two eldest sons have grown-up, but it is with much sadness.
“I know I’ll never have another studio like this but I’m hoping to find something smaller and I’d like to do something similar to this. I’d like to take an old house and make it lighter and more modern. I can definitely see myself knocking a few walls down.”
www.shirleyvauvelle.co.uk; Bramhall Blenkharn, www. brable.com*Lebberston Hall is for sale for £995,000 with Carter Jonas, tel: 01904 558200, www. carterjonas.co.uk. It has an entrance hall, sitting room , family room, games room, study, kitchen breakfast room, garden room, master bedroom with en suite bathroom and walk-in wardrobe, five further bedrooms, three with en suites, a bathroom, basement, workshop, gardens with pond three acres.
ULTRA-CONTEMPORARY: This stunning transformation of a Victorian country house has created a light-filled, modern home full of character. The gardens include a large pond that adds to the tranquility of the surroundings.
LIGHT FANTASTIC: The house, and its studio filled with natural light, has helped inform and inspire Shirley Vauvelle’s work.