Lake District Interiors - a stunning boathouse on Windermere
PUBLISHED: 17:10 26 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:21 05 April 2013
A run down boathouse on Windermere has been transformed into a stunning holiday home. Roger Borrell reports
Every now and then someone with nothing better to do stages a poll for people to vote for Britains most beautiful view. It is impossible to believe the panorama from the balcony at The Ark wouldnt come in the top three.
On the day Lancashire Life visited, the late winter sky was an almost uninterrupted ultramarine and the tops of the Langdales were brushed with snow like an extravagantly iced cake.
The Ark is on the outskirts of Windermere, situated down a long winding lane that you are unlikely to travel along unless you are lucky enough to live here. At its very end, beside the lake, is a stunning stone boathouse complete with wet dock beneath living accommodation. It was built around 1910 and if you wanted to live out your own private version of Swallows and Amazons this would be the place to do it.
Most people agree it has all the hallmarks of G.H. Pattinson, the Lakeland builder of the Edwardian era who designed and constructed many of the most famous and distinctive properties in this region.
It was built as the boathouse to go with a large adjacent property, currently owned by former publisher David Booth.
Years ago, it was split from the house but it rarely came onto the market. In fact, there have only been four owners in the last 100 years. Currently, its Mr Booth.
It had been lived in for many years by one family and was often used by their two sons. A breeze-block extension had been built on the side but in recent years it had become a little shabby.
During a particularly bad flood a decade or so back, the water reached a phenomenal height and the boys had to be rescued. At that point the owner decided to sell, much to the disappointment of his sons.
Mr Booth had tried to buy it several times in the past but had never succeeded. This time he secured The Ark. Of course, we then sat back and wondered what on earth we were going to do with it, he says. It was in a very poor condition a bit of a eyesore.
At this point, Mr Booth teamed up with two people who helped him to come up with a plan that would transform an eyesore into what must be one of the most luxurious boathouses anywhere in the UK. It is currently available as a holiday let through Unique Home Stays.
Two people were the driving forces behind the project. Sarah Jane Nielson, of Nielson House interior design at Staveley Mill, and Peter Harris, of Preston architects Cassidy & Ashton, have strong local connections. Both live in Windermere and Sarahs house is on the same road as The Ark. It meant I could walk to work, she laughs. Wed always admired the building but it had the air of a shabby shack.
The higher level of the boathouse always had two bedrooms but the rest of the facilities, for washing and cooking, were fairly primitive. At first David said he wanted a bit of maintenance doing to it, adds Sarah. It didnt turn out that way.
Something like 400,000 down the line, The Ark is now a remarkable property. Gone is the breeze-block annex, and in has come a striking pitched roof kitchen and dining room which floods the property with light and the entrance has been reconfigured so the outside stairway has moved away from the bedrooms and to the side of the boathouse.
The two bedrooms are now en-suite and have the trademark Sarah Jane Nielson elegance, with beautiful furnishing and decorations. The living room is bright and exhilarating in summer and cosy in winter and the newly created kitchen/dining room is cool and modern. The views from every window are such that you could sit and gaze for hours.
The Ark would not look out of place in some sophisticated resort on the American east coast. New England with a Windermere twist, maybe, says Sarah. While Peter has created a brilliant space, Sarah has used subtle greys interspersed with dashes of vivid colour, especially with her use of paintings by Lakes artist Libby Edmonson. The furnishing are wool and oak and the theme is extended to the luxurious bathrooms with grey limestone.
Ash Barn Construction, based at Woodplumpton, near Preston, carried out much of the work as well as building the new kitchen/dining room all the windows and doors needed replacing, cedar cladding was put on the exterior and the ceiling over the dock required attention.
As I live next door I really bought The Ark as a defensive move. I wanted some control over what happened here, says David Booth.
But as the project went on, I realised that what we were really doing was restoring a piece of Lakeland history.
And his reaction when it was all finished? I wanted to live here! And who knows, one day that may happen.