Kate and Stewart Bankier have always enjoyed DIY, but nothing could have prepared them for the challenge of converting a ramshackle old village school – which had stood empty for years – into a home. “The most ambitious thing we’d done was a loft conversion,” says Kate. “But we had always dreamt of buying a pile of rubble and turning it into a home for the family.”

Armed with blind faith and bags of enthusiasm, the couple and their two children returned from a three-year work-led stint in Australia to search for a suitable project in Kate’s home area of North Yorkshire.

They searched long and hard for the right property, but it was pure chance which led them to the door of the run-down school. “We were coming back from a car boot sale and took the scenic route back to our rented property,” explains Kate. “We spotted the house next door for sale, then realised this old school was also on the market. It was dilapidated and looked really sad, but I was so excited because it was exactly what we had been looking for. It was different and in a great location. I loved it.”

The couple put in an offer for the building, subject to planning permission being granted for a change of use. An application to increase the size of the school with two extensions was granted, but Kate and Stewart made a further application to link the two with a conservatory. All of the couple’s plans received consent.

The project itself turned out to be a real family affair with everyone – including their teenage children Grace and Angus – involved in the design and build. The Bankiers stripped back the building and excavated the existing ground floor ready to install underfloor heating. This provided ample opportunity to introduce insulation to the floors, walls and roof. “We wanted a very heat-efficient house and ensured that our insulation plan/materials complemented the use of a heat pump,” explains Stewart. “We did look at other renewables such as solar, but felt that an air-source heat pump was the most suitable and economically viable choice for the property.”

Once the underfloor heating was laid and the new interiors began to take shape, the couple turned their attention to the finishing touches. “One of the last things to be done was the staircase,” says Kate. “We used a temporary ladder until the very last minute, but it was worth the wait. The staircase was made by local craftsman Mark Wilkinson and it’s become the centrepiece of the house.”

The family can now sit back and enjoy the fruits of their considerable labours. “As build projects go it wasn’t particularly stressful. It was very hard work but hugely rewarding and very satisfying to see it all come together,” Kate smiles. Whether they’ll be sitting back for long is, however, up for debate. “Would we do it again? Most definitely — and possibly sooner rather than later. If we don’t renovate another old property, we may self-build. I think we’ve got the building bug,” concludes Kate.

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