Even before taking a step inside Unnamed House, you’re forced to stop in your tracks.
The gate that leads to the courtyard of the former school has its heritage carved within.
Blacksmith Adrian Wood worked with Julie to design the gates and railings to feature references to the building’s past and to some of Julie’s favourite things.
“It was definitely a meeting of minds,” says Julie.
“If you look closely you will see some of my favourite books inscribed with a particularly lovely paragraph. A brolly is a reference to mums and dads waiting in the rain on a windy day – the brolly has blown inside out!”
Intricate ironwork exposes the essence of a school’s life: satchels, books and footballs, all hinting at the young lives that passed through the building.
Its unusual name is the result of a classroom competition devised by Julie. She asked local pupils to come up with a name for the property. Julie loved Caitlin’s idea – and now her name is there for future generations too, inscribed on a book that is part of the blacksmith’s design.
The Victorian school is in the village of Middleton Tyas on the outskirts of Darlington and Richmond. A modern school was built to replace it.
These days it’s a much more fun-filled place than its history hints at. Owner Julie Trelease has a passion for hunting down fabulous pieces of furniture and art and the house has huge ‘look-at-me’ appeal.
Julie and her husband are no strangers to a ‘project’, having masterminded several in the past. They run a successful roofing company, have a building force on tap and are fascinated by design, build, craftsmanship – and a challenge.
Julie is a bundle of chatter and fun, a mine of information and incredible memory, she can reference writers, designers, artists and her inspirations as she walks you through what is simply a remarkable property.
The word eclectic is perhaps overused these days: but it is rightly attributed here.
From the old schoolyard you walk into the kitchen, dominated by a wide arched ceiling and dramatic gothic windows which overlook a country garden.
They flood light into an open-plan kitchen, living and dining area.
The focus is a beautiful walnut table and striking iconic Cherner chairs.
Almost everything in this house demands to be touched, stroked, or gazed at. Everything has a story to tell and your eyes dart about the place stopping at delicious details at every turn.
Take the kitchen units. These are handmade from Macassar ebony and oak. But they are interspersed with panels made up from vintage printers’ blocks and within these, Julie has added significant names and sayings to reflect her family.
There is an aubergine coloured AGA, fridge freezer and a central island of oak and granite with a built-in integral wine fridge.
There are small snug rooms off the walkway from front to back each with their own character but a variety of uses: reading room, snug, sunroom and book-lined lavatory. On every surface collector Julie has her own ‘curated’ pieces, each with their tales to tell.
A stone wall near the front hall is dominated by a row of cinema seats by designer Lisa Whatmough of Squint. She creates furniture with patchwork textures and the cinema chairs are covered in sections of old French quilts. Julie asked her to line the underside of the seats with bus sign canvases.
A curved wall stops you in your tracks as you spy a life-sized wire sculpture of a figure embracing the wall.
Then a glass and wood split staircase leads from the dais up to a mezzanine living area and first floor accommodation.
The mezzanine level with bespoke smoked oak fittings is a restful quiet space – or >> maybe the ultimate by-yourself dance floor beneath the exposed timbers and stone arches of the original school building. Julie commissioned Whitby-based stained glass window artist Alan Davis to create a striking focal point for this space and his work features elsewhere in the property.
A raft of esteemed local artisan craftspeople worked on aspects of the house to create bespoke original pieces, including stonework, contemporary furniture and fittings and inspiring individual murals which reflect Julie’s passions and reference the history of the houses.
Says Julie: “It is a cavernous place so the challenge was to make it cosy and inviting and I think we have.
“When the big fire is lit you see reflections of the flames flicker on the glass of the stairway.
“There are aspects of the house that are just not practical – like the mezzanine which overlooks the rooms so it does not lend itself to conventional living but they are ‘living’ rooms.”
A modern extension to the side of the Unnamed House is sympathetic in character to the original building, with exposed stonework and arched windows. It leads to
a patio that’s perfect for summer wine-drinking or morning coffee.
A castellated wall, trained Aspalier apple trees and contemporary raised beds and bespoke seating are all hand built from Westmorland slate. Steps made of slate chips and railway sleepers, with terraced borders lead down to the lower walled garden with generous lawn area and raised vegetable beds.
There are views and spaces on many levels and little symmetry, which Julie likes.
Every window and space offers up a vision of its own.
“I can see a rookery from my favourite chair in the kitchen/dining room. The big gothic window frames this beautifully. My favourite time is dusk and especially when you get a lilac sky – the black witchy fingers of the trees and the black crows’ nests. Pot of coffee and a great book… suits me sir!”
A snug or fourth bedroom has a striking original mural in the style of Gustav Klimt, arched window and oak flooring. The cloakroom is rich in individual character with contemporary fitted display and storage units, an unusual coloured glass sink and a unique ceiling mural.
The ground floor bedroom is painted as a soft woodland glade, designed once again to reflect the curves of the original architecture with a full height curved wall creating a unique en-suite shower room with Bisazza mosaic tiles and fixtures and fittings imported from Italy.
On the first floor, the master bedroom has a range of bespoke handmade fitted wardrobes in Zebrano wood and skylights ensuring that this room is bathed in natural light. Julie’s ‘bubble bed’ creates more drama still with carved oak balls.
The dramatic en-suite bathroom has a massive impact with a large egg-shaped bath which was imported from Italy with a mosaic-style slate splash back. There’s also a bespoke built-in vanity area made of Zebrano wood and a wet shower area with unusual black glass tiles.
A further mezzanine level to the far end of the house has another commissioned stained glass window and is a space for a study or reading area.
An unusual curved glass and oak staircase leads down into the third en-suite bedroom, with an arched window with views across the gardens and rooftops of the village.
Julie loves the craftsmanship of Anthony Nixon Bespoke Furniture of Barnard Castle, and much of the cabinetry in the house is from the company, including woodland designs for Julie’s grandchildren Saffron and Liberty’s room.
It is like walking into an enchanted woodland. Carved leaves twist along drawers and wardrobes against a woodland mural on the wall. Lucky girls.
Julie’s Little Black Book >>
• Peter Coverdale stonemason
• Alan Davis architectural glass artist
• Adrian Wood blacksmith artist
• Sam Ford Murals textile artist
• Anthony Nixon furniture
• Andrew Marxby specialist paint techniques
• RE, Corbridge
• Redhouse, Bedale
• Ruby & Dee, Barnard Castle
• Mission Hall, Barnard Castle
Unnamed house is for sale at £750,000 at ww.gscgrays.co.uk