Yorkshire Interiors - a historic riverside home in Knaresborough

Michael swapped a bedroom window with a door to create access onto a rooftop terrace which is over t

Michael swapped a bedroom window with a door to create access onto a rooftop terrace which is over the kitchen. He laid decking and bought a table and chairs set from a local garden centre so he can enjoy the wonderful view of Knaresboroughs historic viaduct in comfort. - Credit: Archant

Warm colours, layers of fabrics and a very personal mix of furniture and accessories help to create a special North Yorkshire home, says Heather Dixon. Photographs by Colin Poole

A ‘touch of magic’ brought Michael Collingwood to his historic riverside home in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. The former fashion designer and supplier was looking for a permanent home in the region after years of commuting in London and was ‘inexplicably drawn’ to the one-time cafe and birthplace of acclaimed British artist Barrington Bramley.

‘There is no other way to describe it,’ said Michael ‘I walked through the door and it felt magical. I loved its chequered past, but I also liked the fact that the whole area is steeped in history and mystery.’ Perhaps it was also the fact that the legendary prophet, Mother Shipton, once lived in a cave on the other side of the river, but Michael knew instantly that his own future lay within the thick stone walls of the 300-year-old property.

‘I lived in the house while I did it up,’ said Michael. ‘When I bought it every wall was painted white and it was quite unremarkable inside, so I wanted to introduce lots of warm colours, layers of fabrics and a very personal mix of furniture and accessories. First and foremost I wanted it to be a really comfortable place to live.’

But it wasn’t until fate took another turn that Michael decided to go through the house for a second time and launch a stylish bed and breakfast business from home. ‘I was no longer enjoying my work in the fashion business yet I love people and I love design, so I decided to combine the two by sharing my home and its fabulous location,’ said Michael. ‘The fashion business can be quite lonely, even though you are surrounded by people, but here it’s like having one big family who come to stay.’

The cottage has been through many transformations in its long history. As well as being the one-time home of nationally acclaimed artist Barrington Bramley, who was born there in 1950, it was also a bustling tearoom, called Teardrop Café, a pottery and then another cafe which was linked to a restaurant next door.

It was eventually turned back into a home and when Michael bought it very little of its history remained. ‘It was rather bland and lacked personality,’ said Michael. ‘It’s such a lovely cottage I knew I could make it really comfortable and welcoming.’

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Since moving in, Michael has created a sheltered patio at the back of the property where there used to be a number of dilapidated outbuildings. He also swapped a bedroom window for a door to create access to a roof terrace over the kitchen, so he could enjoy the spectacular view across Knaresborough viaduct and the River Nidd.

‘I didn’t do much to the structure because I like the cottage just as it is,’ he said. ‘If I had started to take out walls and change the layout I could have created all sorts of problems for myself – and it would have spoilt its character.’

So Michael made an impact by launching into the decorating, starting with the sitting room and the downstairs bedroom, which he painted black. ‘I wanted it to look like Ozzy Osbourne’s den but with shabby chic furniture,’ said Michael. ‘When I worked for Diesel I learned that you could put anything together – all sorts of colours, patterns and textures – and it would look fantastic. I also realised that you could put junk shop furniture against designer pieces and create something really fabulous. The main thing is that you like it.’

Michael tends to avoid anything considered to be ‘in’ and trusts his instincts to create a look he is happy with. As a result, the cottage is a colourful combination of traditional, modern classic and shabby chic. He worked room by room to develop styles which are personal and individual, but he made sure the sitting room would be a room in which everyone would feel at home.

‘I love the exposed stone wall which reminds me of the cottage’s interesting history and makes the sitting room really warm and cosy,’ said Michael. ‘It was quite a difficult room to furnish because the open stairs take up one whole wall. I also wanted to arrange the sofas around the fireplace without blocking access to the stairs. After a lot of furniture moving I eventually positioned the sofas in such a way that they created a walkway between the entrance hall and stairs.’

Although Michael brought some furniture with him from his last house, he bought most of it specifically for the cottage. The rooms are not particularly big so he chose a few large statement pieces for each and kept extra furniture to a minimum to avoid cluttering the rooms. He used large flamboyant wallpaper patterns and strong colours to achieve a theatrical effect and mixed old and new fabrics, ornaments and pictures in random style to complete the home.

‘There was no great plan,’ he said. ‘Each room evolved. I would see something I like and build a room around it; if you buy what you like everything seems to fall into place and click together.’

And it seems as though others appreciate the magic of his peaceful riverside cottage. ‘I had no intention of running a B&B when I moved here,’ said Michael. ‘But when I left the fashion industry I realised I could work from home. After all the commuting it was a complete change of lifestyle and I love every minute of it. It is still my home first and foremost but I love the fact that people can come here and share a touch of magic at Teardrop Cottage.’


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