Doing up a house is something most of us will have done at some stage in our lives. If you’re the optimistic sort, you won’t shy away from challenges. If you’re really brave you’ll take on a project that most other people wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. Yes, you know there’ll be problems to face but, because you’re confident that you’ve got either the financial or mental resources to overcome these challenges, you’ll throw yourself into the project and tough it out. Sometimes though, the heart can rule the head. We’ll fall in love with a property and just know deep down that it’s the one for us, in spite of the fact that all our rational senses tell us to forget it and move on. It might be a disaster waiting to happen, but we sign on the dotted line none the less. This is exactly what happened to TV property developer Sarah Beeney and her artist husband Graham swift. They fell in love with an old pile in the East Riding of Yorkshire and were well and truly smitten. What they didn’t appreciate is just how difficult it is to renovate a Grade 2 listed building. Sitting on one of their traditional chesterfield sofas they explained that it had seemed like a bargain at the time, but for all of their expertise, they could never have comprehended the challenges and frustrations that they were about to face.
You might wonder why we said ‘one’ of their chesterfield sofas. Well, it’s simply because they have three, or at least that’s the number we’ve seen so far. Now that might sound a little excessive, but the old pile, Rise Hall in East Yorkshire, can certainly accommodate them. In fact, with 97 rooms in total, Rise Hall could probably take another 50 chesterfield settees at least. The building was derelict and in need of more than a little TLC. That’s probably why it sold for a lowly £200,000. Now that may appear to be a substantial amount, but when you consider the number of rooms, not to mention the farmland, the grounds and the outbuildings, then the sale price really was bargain basement. However, that was for a reason: the renovation would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. The logical thing to do would be to demolish it and start again. However, as this was a listed building, that was out of the question. Besides, as Beeney has said herself, that wasn’t an option as far as they were concerned. They’d rather strip back the layers and renovate, as you would with a battered old chesterfield sofa. You wouldn’t scrap it and buy a new one: you strip it back to basics and loving restore it to its ‘original’ glory.
So, did they manage to pull it off? Is Rise Hall now the pride of the East Riding again? Well, yes and no. They’ve managed to do an incredible amount of painstaking work on the property and restore some of its former grandeur, in spite of the best efforts of the local District Council to frustrate and irritate at every stage of the build. It’s taken 10 years so far, and they’re perhaps a third of the way through the renovation. It’s cost them not just every penny they have, but nearly their sanity. In fact they nearly sold the property at one stage because of red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy, but they persevered in the end. Now, whatever you might think of their sense of judgement in taking on such a mammoth project, you can’t but help admire their resolution and stoicism. They’re obviously made of sterner stuff than you or I: they’re built to last and withstand whatever pressures life throws at them, in many ways like their leather chesterfield sofas. Battered and weathered on the outside they may appear, but they’re tough and resilient on the inside.