Meet the couple who ‘upcycled’ their home into a quirky holiday let

tuba taps
Anyone who wants to make money from their house usually rents out a spare room or tries Airbnb. Tim and Caroline Ackroyd have done one better. They have “upcycled” their garage into a gorgeous holiday let, kitting it out with quirky finds and antiques. It’s now a hot favourite for bookings on a hand-picked holiday cottage website.

The Dairy – so called because the stone garage was once the dairy to Haworth Old Hall – is part of Mill Hill Farm in the picturesque Yorkshire Pennines village of Haworth, home to the Bronte sisters. Transforming the garage into a holiday let was not part of the plan when the Ackroyds bought the three-bedroom property in 2006. “We had ambitions for the good life,” Caroline says. “The farm had lost its land but had a substantial garden to allow us some chickens and beehives. We really wanted a better work-life balance.”

Tim, 49, and Caroline, 45, both Yorkshire born, had full-time jobs in education. “We tried to come up with projects for alternative income so we could be less dependent on our jobs,” says Caroline. “But we eventually realised we’d need a better idea than selling eggs and lemon curd.”

One Friday evening in 2013, after a hectic week and a particularly strong batch of home-made rhubarb wine, they started thinking about using part of the house as a holiday let. “The front of the farmhouse dates back to the 1600s, but the back is a Victorian extension,” says Tim. “In essence, it would divide easily into two.” The idea was to turn the garage at the front into a kitchen-dining room for the rental.

Ackroyds 

As they progressed, the house began to reveal its secrets. The Ackroyds found themselves on an archaeological journey, finding mullions and stone window sills buried within the walls, resulting in a bigger project than they had planned. “At that point we acknowledged our garage conversion had turned into a renovation, so it was going to take time,” says Caroline. Around three years, in the end, with both working full time.

If they had been converting a more modern garage they would have had to insulate to make it habitable, but as it turned out to have been part of the original building, that wasn’t required. To save money they did most of the work themselves, with Tim skilled as a plumber, plasterer, carpenter and metalworker and Caroline handy with a paintbrush.

“The only things we paid someone else to do were the electrics and gas and the drystone walling outside,” says Tim. He reckons they spent £20,000 on the entire refurbishment and conversion.

The house is not a large one, and the couple had to accept they’d be giving up part of their living space, not just the garage, to create their holiday let income. They kept their own kitchen-dining room in the Victorian extension at the back, but the sitting room is now part of the holiday let.

Upstairs, they’ve turned the two front bedrooms into one, exposing ancient vertical beams, adding an en suite shower and – for the pièce de résistance – a fabulous free-standing copper bath in the bedroom, complete with taps made out of an old tuba. This is one of Tim’s many ingenious metalwork creations; he’s upcycled fireguards into mirror surrounds and a splashback for the holiday-let Aga (itself a Forties original re-enamelled in purple), a pewter bowl into a lamp and a hunting horn into a doorbell.

aga

The third bedroom and original bathroom they have kept for themselves, installing a second staircase for privacy, which leads from the sitting room directly into the holiday-let bedroom. “We found an old Victorian staircase on eBay for £20, which the seller delivered on Boxing Day,” says Caroline.

“We’ve lost living space but we honestly don’t miss it,” Tim adds. “We can always use the sitting room when we don’t have guests.” They don’t have that much time without guests, however, as their quirky cottage has proved popular since they began letting it in December. Prices start from £264 for three nights or £307 for seven nights (01244 356666; sykescottages.co.uk). “We should earn around £15,000 a year from the lettings, so even after tax and maintenance the conversion will pay for itself,” says Caroline.

The Ackroyds are delighted to have created their own source of income, and are gradually redressing the work-life balance. Tim is now working four days a week, and Caroline is able to work one day from home. They also have plans for a two-storey extension to the back of the house, which they expect to pay for from the lets.

“The house is now paying for itself,” says Tim, “and we’re able to spend more time in it together.”

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