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Space, light and handy for the city
11:37am Thursday 28th June 2012
This modern town house, in a tranquil spot but just a stroll away from the city centre, provides the best of all worlds, says Brian Page.
BEFORE Alan and Liz Whitehouse moved to York they lived in a house they built themselves in the West Yorkshire town of Holmfirth.
“When I say built ourselves I didn’t actually do the building bit,” Alan laughs. “I am just about the most unhandy person you could imagine.”
Nevertheless it was a self-build project and with lots of space and light, was very much to the couple’s taste.
And, says Alan, the really great thing was that it was close to the centre of town, with all the amenities just a two-minute stroll away.
So when Liz was offered the job of chief executive to the Quiltmakers’ Guild at its headquarters in York, they knew their next home would have to be somewhere similarly special – and that most of all it would need to be close to the city centre and all its riches.
“And after a long, hard search, this is where we landed,” says Alan, widening his arms as if to emphasise the space on offer in the living room of their present property, a delightful modern town house tucked away in Orchard Court, a tranquil corner off Monkgate.
“We thought that living close to everything in York would be a bigger and better version of Holmfirth. And we were right.”
Certainly this is a home with the location, location factor. Orchard Court is a quiet cul-de-sac with a select community of seven houses, built just over a year ago. And while the city is on the doorstep, it’s a remarkably peaceful spot.
But the house has so much more in its favour than simple geography, as I discovered when I turned up to take the tour – which began with me being greeted by a very familiar face.
“Ah,” I said, “you’re that Alan Whitehouse.” “Well, I hope so,” Alan replied with a twinkle of mischievous South Yorkshire humour.
Alan, you see, is him off the telly – the BBC Look North transport correspondent, a journalist whose features are familiar to thousands. Or at least they were.
Alan, after a distinguished career not just with the BBC but with the Yorkshire Post before that, has decided to take early retirement (very early, I would have thought, looking at his fit, young ooking features and, as it turns out, he’s still a few years off 60).
The decision, however, will give him more time to spend with one of the great loves of his life – the North Yorkshire Moors Railway where, after an arduous four years of volunteer training, he has qualified for a prestigious fireman’s role and now does two days a week on the engines.
Which may or may not mean he and Liz moving closer to the NYMR base – but wherever they go, Alan insists, he will still be looking for somewhere with plenty to offer on the doorstep.
“I think the days of people wanting to live in very remote places where you have to get in the car for everything are gone,” he says. “Or they certainly are for us.”
But then they’ve been spoilt, I suggest, living on the doorstep of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. “Exactly,” Alan replies. “This is a house which is ideally placed.
You are just five minutes from the Minster and ten minutes from everything that matters.”
And, he having mentioned the house, perhaps it’s time to get on with that tour...
We start in the living room. “I think they’ve called it a lounge in the brochure but I am from South Yorkshire so it’s a living room,” Alan says.
Whatever your call it, it’s a smashing spot. It’s light and bright – thanks in no part to the French doors that open out to the trim and tidy garden beyond. In fact light and bright applies to all of this house.
I turned up on a day when it was raining stair rods, as they say, and electric lights were still not needed.
(It’s also worth mentioning at this point that the houses in Orchard Court were built to high-energy performance standards and so heating and lighting bills are low).
From the living room you meander through to a beautifully laid-out Smith Brothers fitted kitchen, an area with a wonderfully-warm feeling, with warm wood contemporary wall and base units over engineered solid beech flooring and with smart contrasting granite work surfaces.
“One of the nice things about this house, and that attracted us to it, was the high standard of the fixtures and fittings,” Alan says.
The kitchen opens out into a dining room which looks out over the front, again a cosy room, with beech flooring and with – sitting pride of place in the centre – an impressive dining table. This, it transpires, came from the house in Holmfirth.
“It was a bespoke-built table designed for a house which had a very large open-plan area,” Alan says, “yet it fits nicely into the space in this room.”
From here it is up the stairs to the first floor where there is master bedroom which comfortably holds a king-size bed and which has – an addition to the original spec – a range of quality Sharps-designed built-in wardrobes. There is then the first of the house’s three bathrooms, this one a modern en-suite shower room.
Traipsing down the landing, we pass another contemporary house bathroom, and then it’s into the second bedroom which, at the moment, is not a bedroom but a hobbies room (and given Alan’s passion for trains it’s not hard to work out which hobby).
It’s another big room and one which would easily accommodate a double bed and wardrobes and more...
Next, it’s up another flight of stairs to the second floor where there are two further double bedrooms (both almost 17ft long) serviced by a smart shower room. Both of these bedrooms are delightfully light (one so much so that it is the ideal place for Liz to enjoy a hobby of her own – sewing).
The other is a brilliant room – I absolutely loved it – a combination of bedroom and office/study, with bookcase-lined walls and ‘his and hers’ workdesks, yet still big enough to hold a double bed to one side. It also has enticing rooftop views of the city beyond.
“There’s certainly plenty of bedroom space,” Alan says. “And that’s good because when you live close to the centre of York you are always going to have visitors. It’s nice that they can not only come for dinner but can stay over and then go off and explore York the next day.” (He’s speaking from experience, I suspect!) And that really is the joy of this house. It’s got plenty of light and bright rooms, lots of space for guests, space for home-working, space for relaxing and it’s all done with contemporary chic.
And then, of course, there’s that little matter of having the city centre literally just around the corner. What more could you possibly want?
4 Orchard Court, York
Reception rooms: 2.
Gardens: Parking area to front, small but pleasant lawned and flagstoned, fenced garden to the rear.
Wow factor: Light and bright spacious house – a stroll away from the city centre but in a tranquil culde- sac.
Phone: 01904 659222.