No project has been too large or ambitious for serial renovators Emma and Mike Savage. Their previous renovations have included a one-bedroom apartment in New York, where they lived for three years, then a two-bedroom flat in south-west London, which they gave a full cosmetic overhaul before moving on once more.
Next on the list was a larger London property in need of complete refurbishment, which the couple bought as they wanted more space. ‘We had cabin fever after living in flats for so long, so we desperately wanted to buy a house,’ recalls Emma.
After finishing the project, a new job opportunity came up for Emma, which meant the couple needed to relocate to West Yorkshire, where Mike is originally from.
‘We had relocated twice already in 18 months, so we were both hesitant about completing another house purchase and starting a potential renovation,’ recalls Emma. ‘My job was in Manchester and Mike was going to be based near Leeds, so we thought it best to find somewhere in between, and Hebden Bridge was pretty much equidistant between the two cities.’
- The owners: Emma Savage, owner/director of a marketing and brand consultancy business specialising in the sports and leisure sector, and her hubsand Michael Savage, who is a chief financial officer, live here with their daughter, four
- The property: A four-bedroom 17th-century cottage
- The location: Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
- What they spent: The couple bought the house for £400,000 in 2003 and have spent around £300,000 on renovating and extending it. The house is now worth around £850,000
Finding the cottage
The couple started looking at potential rental properties, but couldn’t find anything suitable that allowed them to accommodate their large-scale furniture from New York and London. Emma had an appointment to see a rental property one day, when Mike emailed her a link to a property for sale on the other side of the valley.
‘I didn’t really want to start looking at anything to buy, but I went because Mike sounded really keen,’ she recalls. ‘It was a misty morning, and as I approached the house along its long cobbled driveway, I started to get goosebumps. Tucked away off the road and surrounded by a beautiful beech wood, it had a magical holiday hideaway feel to it. I tried not to get too excited as I walked round the property, but I fell in love with it immediately. As soon as the viewing was over, I phoned Mike, who was in London, and told him that he had to come up at the weekend to see the house.’
The 17th-century cottage Emma had fallen in love with required a lot of work. The exterior needed serious attention, especially the roof and the paintwork, while inside, damp issues needed to be resolved. The house also had a rather unusual layout – the entrance led straight into the dining area, the only shower was in a concealed cupboard in the boiler room downstairs, and there was a very small kitchen.
Planning the design
Despite this, Emma and Mike bought the house. Emma lived with her in-laws for the first eight weeks, while a damp-proof course was installed throughout the ground floor. Emma and Mike then lived in the house for a couple of years to get a feel for the space before they finalised their plans.
‘We thought we might have trouble with obtaining planning permission to modify and extend the property, as it’s in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and borders onto land owned by the National Trust,’ explains Emma. To improve their chances, they employed a local architect, in the hope that they would have a good relationship with the planning department. ‘We had to make a few revisions to our plans,’ adds Emma. ‘We’d wanted three roof gables in the new design, but the planners only allowed us one, as they wanted to retain the traditional linear proportions of the house. Thankfully, we then got the go-ahead to extend.’
The planned two-storey side extension would create a huge kitchen-diner linking to the existing utility room, with a new guest suite and a bathroom on the first floor. The bedroom of the existing suite would be enlarged and the rest of the space used to extend the corridor. Downstairs, a porch would also be added. ‘We moved to a nearby rental property for the duration of the 10-month build and took on the project management, which probably wasn’t ideal for a project of this scale,’ says Emma. ‘I’m sure that it was rather difficult for our builders at times, as we navigated the steep learning curve, but they adapted brilliantly and supported us through the process. We’re so pleased with the decisions we made together.’
One of the highlights of the build came when the builders were knocking through the wall between the kitchen and the living room to create a seamless flow between the two spaces. During the work, they found an original door frame and doorstep that had been hidden behind the blockwork and plaster. It is now a key feature of the space.
The extended open-plan kitchen is Emma’s favourite room in the house. ‘This was the easiest space for me to design, as I had a strong vision from the start and knew exactly what I wanted,’ she says. ‘After living in New York, I wanted a kitchen with wow-factor: sleek lines, gleaming granite, glass and stainless steel. I’ve also always wanted an Aga, so I had to integrate that sympathetically with conventional ovens, to give me additional cooking options during the summer, when the Aga is turned off.’
The large dining table influenced the look and feel of the kitchen. ‘I used to walk past it every day in the shop window in Clapham, London, and knew that it would be perfect for us one day,’ says Emma. ‘It was the starting point for the colour scheme and influenced my decision to go for the American black walnut kitchen units.’
The vast central island, which took six men to carry in, combined with the glass bar area, ensures that cooking in this space is always a sociable occasion. ‘Our first Christmas here was fabulous,’ says Emma. ‘We had 16 guests staying with us and it was the perfect opportunity for me to put my new kitchen through its paces!’
Bi-fold doors create a direct link with the patio outside, while maximising the views of the garden and the beautiful valley beyond. ‘The doors were costly to fit, but they’ve given us the indoor/outdoor entertaining space we wanted,’ Emma adds.
One problematic aspect of the build was working with the different ceiling heights to fit in downlighters and the audio/visual (AV) system. The integrated AV system runs throughout the house and can be operated by wall-mounted control panels, so Emma and Mike can easily switch between music, TV and DVD. ‘We have music on at home all the time,’ says Emma. ‘We can also operate the system using our phones and the Sonos app to access our music library anywhere in the house, and on the patio, where we have installed subtle speakers. At dinner parties, it’s great entertainment to pass around the phone and have your guests pick a favourite song to add to the playlist.’
The large flatscreen television in the living room has been recessed into the wall to keep it discreet. ‘The hardwiring and AV gear is hidden for a seamless look, with only the wall control pads visible,’ says Mike.
The only major dilemma that Emma and Mike faced during the final stages of the build was whether to re-paint the exterior of the house in white, as they had planned. ‘It had been white for more than 100 years, although we’re not sure why it had been painted all those years ago,’ says Emma, ‘but, when the builders sandblasted the one external wall that was going to be a feature wall in the new kitchen extension, we were astonished at how beautiful, and in what good condition, the original stonework beneath the paint was. It would have been a tragedy to hide all the stonework behind paint again, so we decided to sandblast the whole property to reveal it. As the house was nearly finished by this point, we had to cover the newly installed windows, doors, carpets and curtains, plus re-point sections of the stonework. It made a tremendous mess, but the result was amazing, and will weather much better than paint!’
In the height of summer, it is easy to see why Emma and Mike love living here so much. ‘The garden is magical, as it has lots of different areas, with beech hedging dividing the main lawn from an orchard and vegetable plot,’ says Emma. ‘Our daughter loves exploring out there, and you get the feeling of the garden blending in with the woods behind the house, so it’s like having a garden without boundaries.
‘From the moment I first saw the house, it had a feeling of privacy and serenity, and I still get the same feeling of de-stressing whenever I come home,’ adds Emma. ‘The house feels so tranquil that some of our friends call it “The Spa House”. We absolutely love this place and we are very proud of what we’ve achieved. If we ever decide to move, we know that we would struggle to find anywhere that even comes close to this house.
|Architect and professional fees||£12,000|