WHEN Geoff and Nuala Milner were given the chance to expand their Birchencliffe home they knew they had their work cut out to give it the real pick-me-up it deserved.
In fact Geoff was literally relying on caffeine to keep going – as he launched his coffee supply business at the same time as creating his dream family home.
The former engineer had just found premises for his company when he and his Irish-born wife were given an opportunity too good to turn down.
They had been renting a small cottage that formed part of a row of three in the village’s Burn Road.
Geoff says the 100-year-old cottages were initially kept in the same family.
He said: “An elderly man and his wife lived in number four for years, while his daughter and grandchildren had number two.
“I believe one of his sisters lived in number six before we rented it off the family.
“It really was a family affair!
The gentleman, who I believe was a joiner, did a lot of work in the gardens and even dug a swimming pool which is no longer in use.”
It is believed that the house Geoff and Nuala lived in was the first to be built on the site. The way in which the walls are joined suggests that the other two cottages were added at a later date.
When the old man died, his family put the cottages up for sale and Geoff and Nuala jumped at the chance when they were given first refusal on the whole lot.
The couple decided to convert all three into one big home and kept much of the project in the family by enlisting various relatives to help with the work.
Geoff explained: “We thought it would be a shame to see it split up so we decided to live a little and just go for it.
“Each cottage had a separate entrance and the layout had to be stripped out and altered, but it was all a relatively straightforward process.
“We had to do more alterations to the other two cottages than ours. We had to take windows out, join together and build some walls up and move around the floors,” said Geoff.
“But we did have a lot of help to make sure we got the job done.
“I was an engineer, so I was quite handy putting in the central heating and plumbing. My brother was a bricklayer and my son came back from America to help out.
“And my wife comes from a very large Irish family, which fortunately for us includes a tiler, plasterer and painter!”
The couple kept the kitchen and bathroom in their original home, number six, but completely gutted the other two, with layout changes including adding a dining kitchen to number four and garden and sitting rooms to the final property.
Geoff says: “We wanted more space and we’ve definitely got that – we’ve got our own east wing, south wing and north wing!
“At the front the house looks like it has four storeys. It can look like separate houses from the roadside, but I think they’ve come together very well.
“It’s a very quirky house with the different floors and three lots of stairs, but we loved it that way.
“There’s a lot of space, but rooms like the sitting room feel lovely and cosy. I love the fact that you can just sit and look at these lovely views down Grimescar Valley all the way to Kirkheaton.”
It took a long time for the couple to perfect their home, not helped by the fact that Geoff was trying to build up a different kind of empire elsewhere.
Geoff had been working as an engineer for 36 years when he decided he wanted his career to take a new direction.
He found himself in his early-50s and struggling to find work when he spotted a newspaper advert for new coffee distributors.
Geoff retrained, travelling to Southern Italy to find the best espresso beans, and set up Garraway’s coffee company in Marsh.
But he found juggling work life with building his family home quite a challenge.
He says: “The opportunity of creating this great home for us was too good to miss, but I was trying to build my coffee business up at the same time.
“This wasn’t easy. I had long working days and would sometimes go out on deliveries at night, so I had to fit work on the house in when I could.”
But the hard work paid off and the couple how been living in their one-of-a-kind home for over 30 years.
They have now decided to put in on the market as they are looking for somewhere a bit smaller.
Geoff says: “I think my wife doesn’t want to leave because she likes being able to lose me for days in the house!
“It’s been a lovely, peaceful home and we will miss the fact that we’ve done so much to make it our own.”
Burn Road, Birchencliffe
An unusual stone-built detached house.
Flexible accommodation arranged over three floors with four bedrooms.
Overlooking established gardens and bordering open fields.
Burn Road, Birchencliffe, is on the market with Simon Blyth estate agents. Call 01484 651878.