11 Sep 2020

A Labour of Love

Nestled between the Yorkshire Dales and the Lancashire border, in the tranquil village of Bracewell, approximately 11 miles from the market town of Skipton, lies a former barn that has been extensively renovated to create a fabulous home.

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Old Crook Carr Farm now offers more than 5000ft2 of luxurious living space, with five bedrooms, a stunning swimming pool, stables and menage after the painstaking work by current owners, the Harper family.

The couple are now selling the property with estate agent Dacre, Son & Hartley’s Skipton office. The home is on the market for £1.475m, and further information is available by getting in touch via the contact details at the end of this feature.

Here, i-Build talks to the family about their renovated home and the inspiration behind the project.

RK: What inspired you to take on this project?
We had always dreamed of owning our own house in the countryside and love the location, which is very rural, but is well located for the market town of Skipton, the motorway, and it’s also fairly easy to get to Manchester Piccadilly, which offers two-hour trains to London.

RK: Had you always wanted to pursue your own project?
We always wanted a fabulous home in an idyllic location, but we were not in a financial position to buy a completed house that was ready to move straight in to, so pursuing a project was an obvious way of achieving our goal.

RK: How and why did you choose this property to renovate?
We were looking for the right property and spotted this. It was a large, derelict barn in a good location, that offered far-reaching views, and we could immediately see its potential. The property had previous planning issues relating to visibility splays, and at the time we knew this would impact its value, but we also felt confident, rather naively, that we could overcome these problems. In 1991, we approached the owner to see if they would sell and managed to agree on a deal.

RK: What style and age is the original building?
Originally, it was a barn that dated back several hundred years, but when we bought it, it was little more than a large pile of stone in two acres of land. The original farmhouse had been demolished. The barn was a ruin with no roof and only parts of the walls left standing.

RK: How did you combine the original building’s style with the extension?
We had to rebuild it out of similar materials to the original barn, so it sat comfortably in its surroundings. The property was stone-built with mullion windows, which; of course, we kept. It originally had a stone slate roof, but we used artificial roof slates from Greys Art Stone near Huddersfield. The product has an original visual effect without the substantial weight and cost of natural stone slates.

RK: What was the vision and inspiration behind your new home?
It was important to respect the original barn, so we wanted to restore its traditional features like the exposed timber beams and attractive stone masonry, but marry them with a contemporary interior.

RK: How did you approach finalising your design brief?
We always had a vision for the layout of the home, how it should flow and the room orientation, which we were able to put into a clear plan. It was also important that everything was uniformed, so the outbuildings we added would be built using the same materials as the main house. Everything followed this ethos.

RK: How long did it take to gain planning permission?
We didn’t have any experience of planning permission and initially thought the planning people were there to help, but quickly realised this isn’t the case! We had to agree on the visibility splays, which wasn’t easy, and in total it took four years to secure planning permission, which was initially to convert half the barn into a three-bedroom residence.

RK: Were there any challenging aspects to the project and build?
In the years it took to secure planning permission, we were unable to start work on the house, so this was clearly a problem. However, we used the time as best we could and laid out the garden, sorted the stone and built a perimeter dry stone wall.

RK: Did you project manage the build yourself?
Yes, we project managed most of it ourselves, but we made sure we always had support from relevant professionals, who we could call on for help and advice.

RK: Did you work with an architect at any point in the process?
Although we used an architect to help with the basic design, we were happy to create the layout and flow of the home ourselves.

RK: How did you approach material and product specification?
Achieving a quality, premium finish was always vitally important to us, so we always used the best materials available. We also looked at lots of other properties for inspiration and trawled through hundreds of magazines for ideas to incorporate into our design.

RK: Are there any particular materials that you would recommend to others?
Introducing efficient, green technology is very worthwhile, and it’s often easier to do when you’re carrying out a full renovation. For example, our swimming pool extension, which we recently completed, is heated with an air source heat pump, with underfloor heating and a heat exchanger to heat the water.

We also fully tiled the swimming room and the pool using a local company called Harp Ceramics. We were very happy with the workmanship and overall quality, so we upgraded the bathrooms and en-suites through them as well.

RK: How long did the project take?
The main build took about 15 years, but getting everything to meet our exact requirements has taken us most of our working life to complete, which is certainly longer than we originally anticipated! We also made a lot of sacrifices to achieve the finished property, but it’s all been worth it.

RK: When was it completed and how long before you moved in?
We moved in during the early 2000s and then got planning permission to convert the other half of the barn. We could have divided the whole thing into two houses, but we always wanted to build one, large stunning country property. We also went on to build three stone stables, a storage barn and a double garage with workshop, in the same materials as the main house, which is another reason the project has taken so long. We’ve also constructed a 40 x 20ft all-weather horse menage with a sand/fibre surface. Then in 2016, we applied for planning permission for an indoor swimming pool extension, so that’s been our latest phase of the build.

RK: Did you remain within the original budget?
We must have blown the budget 10 times, if not more! This is especially true when it became an ongoing project, and as technology has evolved so much. We’ve now just completed the cinema room with overhead projector, surround sound and a 10ft retractable screen – that was never in the original budget!

RK: Please provide an overview of the finished space.
The property is an ideal ‘lifestyle’ home, with five bedrooms, three of which are en-suite and a grandmaster bathroom with a double jacuzzi bath and walk-in shower. There’s a beautiful kitchen with AGA cooker and large island, a lovely spacious living room with wood burner and a fabulous formal room with a marble floor. The entrance hall is another standout feature, with oak staircase and panelling leading to gallery landing. Plus there’s a cinema room, utility room with fitted kitchen, downstairs cloakroom with shower and sauna, as well as the swimming pool with jacuzzi hot tub.

RK: How does the building respond to its surrounding landscape?
We think the finish blends in very well with the surrounding countryside, and the interior is in keeping with the style of the building, which is important.

RK: What does the local community think of the refurbishment?
We get lots of positive feedback and considering we’ve been working on it since the 1990s; everyone is definitely used to it.

RK: Is the finished space everything that you hoped it would be?
Absolutely, the house has everything you could want; location, swimming pool, sauna, cinema room, marble floors, oak hallway and the list goes on! Plus, there are stone stables and a barn that could be converted into guest accommodation or offices, which was a key part of our thinking.

RK: What do you love most about your new home?
It is truly like living in a five-star hotel; it has everything you need, and the views are exceptional.

RK: What’s your favourite room?
The swimming pool is a real highlight. On a warm day, the pool doors open fully, and it offers fantastic views over the surrounding countryside, so it is a wonderful place to be.

RK: Is there anything that you would have done differently?
Not really, and there is still lots of potential to continue developing the property. Creating guest accommodation, office suites, studio space, or even a heliport are all possibilities.

RK: Would you do the whole thing again?
If we were in our 30s, we would definitely do the whole project again, but; unfortunately, our age would probably be against us now!

RK: What advice would you offer to anyone looking to renovate?
Our advice to anybody wanting to renovate is buy the best location you can afford. Ultimately, it costs the same to build a house on a very good plot, as it does on a lesser site, but when it comes to selling, location is everything.

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