Sheep are your only neighbours, the starry skies your evening’s entertainment and the views framed by gothic windows better than a work of art on the walls.
This is the Chapel on the Hill, a funky bolthole in the middle of nowhere. But a nowhere that’s near enough to all of us in the North East.
Walk from the front door to the extravagant High Force waterfall if you really want to ramble, but a stay in this place might just make you want to sit tight.
The boutique conversion at Forest-in-Teesdale perches amid the dramatic landscape of the North Pennines.
It matches historic building and modern interior design to perfection to create very stylish accommodation. The original windows of the nineteenth century building have been reopened to create a spacious and luxurious self-catering holiday house for seven.
The reconstruction, designed by Swiss award-winning architects Evolution Design, was finished late last year and has transformed the Ebenezer Methodist Chapel, which was built in 1880 and used as a place of worship until the 1970s.
The chapel was a windowless shell when architect Stefan Camenzind and his brother-in-law Rob Broomby stumbled across this historic building while exploring Teesdale one spring morning.
“I was captivated by the panoramic views and the wild beauty of the place and I fell in love with it immediately. We decided there and then that we would love to buy this old chapel and turn it into a beautiful holiday accommodation,” says Stefan. Soon after the property, formerly in the ownership of Lord Barnard, was sold to the pair by the Raby Estates.
The initial brief was to provide three guest bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen/dining area and a living room on the ground floor. However, it was soon clear it would reduce the space, so they decided on a mezzanine.
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“One of the main elements of the chapel is the Gothic-style arched windows that elegantly frame the beautiful views and allow the space to fill with light. Before the mezzanine floor could be considered, we had to ensure that the new ceiling line would not obstruct any of the windows,” says designer Paul King.
“The main hall was the core element that gives the chapel its feel of space and with its detailed simplicity it became the heart of the proposed design,” says Paul.
“Once the new level had been installed, all new bespoke timber frame windows and shutters were installed to complement the unique style and details of the chapel.
Of course, in true ‘Grand Design’ tradition, the gremlins arrived – in the shape of Pipistrelle bats. An ecology survey revealed the bats were using the roof space as a permanent home, which meant installing four bat access slates so that they could continue using the chapel as their home.
The interiors had to be stylish but reflective of the chapel’s age and character.
“We wanted to create a space that was modern and yet had a traditional language that would complement the historic nature of the chapel and appeal to a wide range of guests.
“This was reflected in our choice of furniture and finishes,” explains Paul.
“All materials and design had been considered in the context of the character and appearance of the existing building and the Teesdale vernacular. Traditional materials were proposed to ensure the scheme respects the character of the landscape and the existing buildings.”
The kitchen and dining space was intended to be open and bright, taking advantage of the gothic windows and the beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. The kitchen units were styled to keep a homely rural feel, framed by the feature wall tiles.
“People built chapels on hills for a reason; they wanted to be alone with nature, but not controlled by it. And that idea underlies everything we have tried to do here,” says Stefan. “We have sought to create a place of warmth and contemplation; a place where you can be immersed in the landscape or enjoy it in comfort framed by the chapel’s gothic style windows. I hope our guests will love the place as much as we do.”