What was a former Yorkshire cattle farm is now an incredible res
Sonia and Matt Whiteley-Guest were home improvement veterans, but buying a 16-acre old Yorkshire farmhouse really put their courage to the test. The sheer scale of work involved was daunting enough, but they also had to deal with the global financial crisis and its effects on mortgages, which posed an unforeseen hurdle for them.
Their ability to keep calm and keep going has helped them overcome the inevitable lows that come with big plans and the reward for their hard work and perseverance is a beautiful converted barn and a separate holiday cottage.
The properties also generate income as the barn is available for photography and filming through Yorkshire-based Lifestyle Locations and the chalet is rented out through Airbnb.
The adventure began when they spotted an old cattle farm for sale near Baildon, with 90 acres, a barn, three outbuildings and a cottage.
“Matt had always wanted to do a barn conversion so we went to look at it,” says Sonia. “It had been in the same family for 70 years and the chalet was damp and the only heat was from a two bar electric fire but the barn was huge and we could see the potential of it. The only problem was the 90 acres of land which was too much for us.
The couple left, but a year later the property returned to the market with just 16 acres and a building permit to convert the barn. They jumped at this second chance to buy it. “We sold our own house, bought a static trailer for me, Matt, our two children and our dog and moved to the farm,” says Sonia.
Their first job was to renovate the chalet so they could move in and leave the caravan and its rudimentary outhouse behind before turning to the barn. The work on the old house lasted only four and a half months. The old electric fire has been replaced by underfloor heating and the coal shed has become a kitchen. The property, heated by a biomass boiler, now includes two reception rooms, three en-suite bedrooms, a kitchen and a laundry room.
There were, as always, some shocks, including the purchase of a new septic tank, the replacement of single-phase electricity by three-phase and the assumption of the water supply via lead pipes, considered dangerous.
“The new water lines as well as a filtration system cost £ 7,000, although the benefit is that our moor water is now so pure it looks like premium mineral water,” explains Sonia.
While the barn and outbuildings to the rear had planning permission for the conversion, the creative couple had their own ideas on the layout, so they had the plans redrawn and adopted by the local authority. This included permission to demolish an old storage shed attached to the barn and replace it with a double garage with guest accommodation above it.
“We were all ready to start work on the barn when the mortgage affordability rules changed and it took us a year to find a lender. At one point we thought we had to sell, but Swedish bank Handelsbanken agreed to give us a mortgage and they were brilliant, ”says Sonia.
The Whiteley-Guests started working on the barn in August 2016 and moved in a year later which then allowed them to market Ash House Cottage as a vacation rental and generate income.
The Bingley-based Sherlock Building Company carried out the conversion, which includes a series of interconnected and bright areas on the ground floor.
These include a gym, office and hall to the front of the barn and a spectacular kitchen area leading to dining and living areas to the rear. What used to be the outhouse and a lean-to has given way to a contemporary extension with a zinc roof that now houses the games room.
“The builders were fantastic,” says Sonia. “The only problem we had was with the company that provided us with the concrete floor at the back of the barn. We poured 120 square meters, but when it was diamond polished it started to crumble.
We couldn’t remove it because the underfloor heating pipes were underneath so we had to trowel a layer of the good concrete on top. We paid the bill for this mistake, ”explains Sonia, a born optimist who quickly switched to decorating and furnishing, which is a mix of contemporary, salvaged and vintage finds.
The kitchen was done by Eastburn Country Furniture using reclaimed wood from a cheese factory in Holland and there is a separate butler’s kitchen which doubles as a bar.
The dining table and chairs are from Calligaris at Redbrick Mill and the blown glass lamps with fringes above the dining table are from Rothschild and Bickers via eBay. The blue sofa is from Made.com.
“We spent a lot of money on some things and cut down on others, so the bar stools are from Ikea and I bought parts from charity shops and recycled them,” says Sonia, who also saved money on the stairs, which come from a Lithuanian company, Laiptu Fabrikas, and cost half the price offered by another company. The grand piano was free from a Cheshire lady who was looking for someone to pick it up.
One of the biggest costs was the ground source heat pump, which provides heating and hot water. “The cost of the biomass boiler for the chalet and the geothermal heating system for the barn was £ 110,000 but that means we don’t have a gas bill for both properties and the energy produced is green, ”explains Sonia, who adds:“ It was the most difficult thing we have done emotionally and financially, but it was worth it. We love living here and there is still potential to convert the outbuildings into gites.
*Ash House Cottage, Baildon, is available for vacations and stays through Airbnb
* The Yorkshire Post would like to thank Lifestyle Locations for their assistance in finding this Real Home. Lifestyle Locations is an agency dedicated to providing a wide range of locations available for hire in Yorkshire and the North West. All of them can be hired for advertising, filming, photography, TV sets. www.lifestylelocations.co.uk/
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