Downstairs, in the basement of the Baker family’s home, an old cast iron range cooker stands proud and intact. It reminds the family of what their double-fronted Victorian house in Burley-in-Wharfedale, West Yorkshire must have been like in its heyday. Much has changed since then, but the old-time charm remains. “I’ve always loved houses from that era for their large rooms, high ceilings, and period features,” Sandra Baker says.
Sandra and her husband Chris, both lawyers, have lived in their historic four-story house for five years, transforming it bit by bit into the forever-home of their dreams and the perfect place to raise their two daughters, Kitty and Polly. The couple never actually intended to house hunt in the area where they now live. “The picture of the exterior of the house on the estate agent’s website intrigued me enough to book a viewing,” Sandra explains. “It wasn’t a slow burn — as soon as we walked through the front door we were smitten! It had a happy feeling. I even shed a tear!”
Sandra, who calls herself a frustrated creative given her career choice, was excited to have a fixer-upper on her hands. While the house offered the space that the family needed and was in good structural shape, there were plenty of opportunities to make much-desired changes. The family couldn’t afford to update the home in the first year — feeling things out and seeing how each space worked for them ultimately allowed for better and more tailored design choices. “I wanted to make each room exactly right for us, and I was prepared to wait until we could afford to do that,” Sandra explains.
When redoing the hallway, the family tore out the dirty old carpet to find beautiful solid oak flooring underneath. The monk’s bench belonged to Sandra’s great aunt, and is great for throwing the kids’ shoes into.
While making the house ideal for their family’s needs, Sandra and Chris have kept the best bits of the Victorian era in mind — maximalism, heavily patterned wallpaper and lots of trinkets add even more character to this family’s historic home. The house has gone through major transformations, which isn’t to say it’s all completed — in fact, the biggest changes are yet to come. Sandra and Chris have plans to move the kitchen into another space, leaving the existing kitchen as a dining and living area with doors out to the garden. Sandra shares, “it’s a big project, but once this is done, it will make a huge difference to the way we eat, live and hang out as a family.”