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The Old Forge York – A Holiday Let with a Difference

This blog has been a long time coming but I’m so pleased to eventually be able to tell the tale of Next Door at The Old Forge in York. It’s a fantastic project that I’ve been incredibly proud to be involved in, but hasn’t always been straightforward and certainly not a standard sort of project.

It all started last September when Karen Knox of Making Spaces gave me a call to ask me to pop over and chat about a project. It all sounded quite ominous and I was a little apprehensive of what she wanted to speak about if I’m honest. But once I got over there it all became clear.

She’d been working with Karen Griggs (yes, there are two Karen’s involved in this one, just to make it even more complex!) on her properties in York and I’d already seen the work she’d done on the main home with the kitchen revamp. However, what I hadn’t known was that there was a two-bed holiday let next door which she’d also been working on the design concepts for.

The project had been ‘stop start’, with multiple issues with builders and delays at various points. The building work had recommenced and Karen G needed help to implement the design concepts that had been agreed but Karen K had too many other projects that she’d committed to at the time to be able to fit it in. So, she wanted to see if I’d be interested in joining the team and helping it all come together.

At this point it’s worth noting how supportive Karen K has been since I met her in January 2019. I attended a workshop at her home for people looking to start or grow their interior design business and we hit it off from there. We’ve kept in touch since and when she’s been too busy to take on new clients, she has always recommended us and we’ve worked with a few clients since then who were sent our way by Karen. She’s always been about collaboration, not competition, something I’ll always be very grateful for.

Sorry, I digress, back to The Old Forge!

I felt very privileged to have been asked to implement Karen’s designs. I’ve admired her work for a while and was excited about the prospect of bringing the concepts to life. However, I did feel a sense of trepidation. Would I be able to do the designs justice? Would it feel odd bringing someone else’s designs to life? Would I get on with Karen, the client, or would it feel like I was an imposter? After chatting with Jon and mulling it over for a little while, I decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss and to step up to the challenge, rather than shy away from it.

But it wasn’t just about whether I was willing to take it on, Karen G also needed to feel comfortable that I was the right person for the job. After a couple of long phone calls, where we hit it off immediately, we all agreed that this was going to work and that we were all determined to make this happen.

So, with that I made my first visit to The Old Forge to spend the day with Karen G, understanding the build, the site and the vision. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was greeted with open arms into their home. The building site was a hive of activity and it was clear that there was a sense of urgency about getting this project moving again.

I was fed local produce all day, I met Bobbi and Boris (the dogs) and the Barbara’s (all the chickens are named Barbara). And most importantly I really got a feel for what Karen was looking to achieve, not only with the holiday let but with the overall space (including holiday cottages and two acres of garden).

The main goal for the day was to get a first fix plan for the electrics and plumbing. This included agreeing the positions of all the lights, switches and sockets. As well as the bathroom fittings including toilets, sinks and showers.

These decisions always need to be made far earlier in the build that you imagine and when the walls aren’t fully formed yet it can be quite daunting to making these decisions so early in the process. But armed with the design concepts and layout plans from Making Spaces I was confident of ensuring everything was in the correct and most appropriate positions for the final layout and design.

Whilst I was there, we also discussed glazing requirements including roof windows for the corridor from the living space to the bedrooms as well as the external doors to the courtyard. We also started to plan some of the fixtures and fittings. It was a productive day and I came away buzzing with excitement. I could see what this building was going to become and felt positive about the role I could play in making it happen.

Over the next few weeks and months there was a lot of meetings, phone calls and decisions made. Karen G was very much in control of the project, especially since she was on site every day and knew the designs inside out as well as having a good relationship with the new team of builders. My role was really one of a consultant, providing advice, guidance and reassurance as well as being there to challenge when needed.

The biggest challenges facing the project were budget and time. The project had already been delayed due to unforeseen issues. Restarting the build with a new team and correcting issues from the first stage of the build meant the budget was getting tight for the final finishes. Karen needed to get it open for business to start recouping the money spent on it so far, but we needed to complete the project to a good quality without cutting corners, so certain elements couldn’t be rushed.

It would have been easy to say “let’s not bother with the more complex design elements”, or “let’s just paint it all neutral”. And believe me, there were times when it was close to being the case. But Karen’s dedication to her original brief and my need to honour Karen’s designs meant that what we’ve ended up with is a space that’s pretty close to the original vision.

Here are the key elements that we just couldn’t lose from those design concepts:

- Industrial pendant light x 3 in main living space by E2 Contract Lighting

- Industrial wall lights by Dowsing & Reynolds

- The Orange pencil canvas by Rockett St George

- Rusted steel panels by Flaxton Forge

- Knox brackets in the kitchen by Dowsing & Reynolds

- Pheasant wallpaper by Woodchip & Magnolia

This project is definitely not like any other project I’ve worked on. It’s been one of the most challenging, but ultimately one of the most rewarding. I’m so proud of how Karen G has stuck to it through all the ups and downs (most recently a global pandemic, of course). And what’s she’s ended up with is a space that’s genuinely unique. It feels homely and cosy, but never boring or predictable. And it’s really all down to her hard work and dedication.

I’m so pleased that people will get to sample Karen’s hospitality as she really is a fantastic host. I can’t wait to visit myself for a few child-free nights soon. But feel free to beat me to it by booking your own stay here.

If you do you’ll also get to see the master bedroom and en-suite, which I’ve purposefully left out of this blog. That’s because the design concepts for that space had not been agreed before the build commenced. So, I was able to stamp my own design ideas on that part of the project. And I will share that story in a separate blog, coming soon.

Original design concepts: Karen Knox, Making Spaces

Furniture and styling: Karen Griggs, The Old Forge York

Photography: Polly Baldwin

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