Converting an old woollen mill in Netherton into a modern family home.
22 years on from the completion of our Clients modern family home, Halliday Clark look back on the Heleine House residential project. The property received the RIBA White Rose Architecture Award in 2001 and was featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs.
The derelict building was a former mill and workshop which lay in the Netherton conservation area close to the Huddersfield Conurbation. An early decision was taken by the Client to create an ultra-modern and fully plastered interior to the building shell. Not falling into the trap of exposing stone and timber which would have diluted the clean, modern aesthetic.
The dwelling needed to be a series of spaces, rather than rooms, which flowed into each other. Creating an openness within, whilst maintaining a constant link with the garden beyond. The central area provides the visual and physical link between the spaces. A theatrical space, brought to life by the roof light above, casting shadows in varying patterns. Creating an ever-changing stage set for contemporary living with bespoke interiors, artwork, and furniture.
Reviving History: Transforming a 200-Year-Old Mill into a Modern Family Home
Imagine stumbling upon a dilapidated, centuries-old textile mill and seeing it as your future dream home. That’s precisely what Chris and Jill did when they discovered a 200-year-old abandoned building in Huddersfield. Their plan was to create a modernist masterpiece within the concealed shell of the historic structure. The story of how they brought this old mill back to life and infused it with a sleek, high-tech, modern interior is nothing short of inspiring.
A Neglected Relic with a Rich Past
The building, originally constructed as a textile mill, had witnessed decades of industrial history. Over the years, it served as a warehouse and workshop, but as time passed, it fell into disrepair and was eventually abandoned. For four years, it remained vacant, a forgotten relic of the past. However, Chris and Jill saw the potential in this forgotten gem.
They drove past the old mill one day and fell in love with its character and unique history. The couple were drawn to the idea of combining the charm of an old property with the functionality of a modern family home. “An old property always gives you more character than a new build, so we’re having the best of both worlds,” Chris remarked when asked about their motivation to transform the site.
A Vision for the Modern Family Home
Chris and Jill had a clear vision for the property: to create a modern interior inside the aged mill, effectively merging the 19th-century exterior with cutting-edge interior design. The project involved stripping the interior to create an expansive open plan living, dining, and cooking area on the ground floor.
The key to this transformation was a steel frame that would support the first floor and feature prominently throughout the building. Perhaps the most striking element of the renovation was a curved wall shower, visible from nearly every corner of the structure. Upstairs, bedrooms were arranged around a central full-height atrium, designed to flood the space with light by replacing a part of the old roof with a glazed opening.
A Meticulously Planned Transformation
To embark on this ambitious journey, Chris and Jill allocated £200,000 for the mill and land acquisition and set a £150,000 budget for the construction. Work began in February 2000 with the restoration of the building’s original shell, including the reconstruction of an unsafe road-facing wall. Each stone removed was carefully cleaned and reused in the new wall. The roof also required a complete rebuild, using the original slate tiles to maintain the building’s historical authenticity.
In Huddersfield, where hundreds of disused mills stood as relics of the town’s textile industry heyday, finding a mill suitable for conversion into a single residence was a rare opportunity. This blank canvas allowed Chris and Jill to indulge their imaginations fully, as they took control of every detail in creating their dream home.
The Steel Frame Dilemma
One of the pivotal moments in the renovation was the installation of the custom-made steel frame, a feature central to the interior design. This task was closely supervised by architect Adam Clark. Initially, the plan was to fit the steel beams while leaving the existing wooden beams intact, as they were crucial for maintaining the building’s stability. However, only two beams could be installed without disturbing the old wooden beams.
After much deliberation, Chris and Jill decided to take the risk and remove the old beams, hoping the 200-year-old walls wouldn’t collapse. Their mill didn’t crumble, but the experience left them shaken. Their passion for perfection, attention to detail, and high standards pushed them to go to great lengths to ensure the steelwork met their expectations.
The Dream Home Takes Shape
Once the shell of the building was watertight, Chris and Jill’s new interior design began to take shape. Their meticulous planning and close supervision allowed them to bring their vision to life. Their dedication to perfection extended to every aspect, from the polished granite countertops in the kitchen to the unique shower unit, designed to the nearest millimetre.
The restoration was marked by the deliberate concealment of original features behind plasterboard, giving the space a clean, sleek look. This transformation was so remarkable that even Chris and Jill had to get used to the idea of everything being pure white. To enhance the atmosphere and maximize natural light, full-length windows were installed, and elements like the door from another shower had to be adapted to fit their curved tray design.
A High-Tech Finish
As the final touches neared completion, the house took on a distinctly modern flair. Chris and Jill incorporated a state-of-the-art lighting system that could be controlled with a digital screen. As well as flat-panelled speakers for surround sound, and a meticulously designed stereo system. Everything was planned before plastering, ensuring that the final look would align with their vision.
The final elements of the house, including the staircase and balustrade, were delivered. These pieces were essential in realising their design dreams. The staircase, a particularly challenging part of the project, had to blend seamlessly with the overall aesthetic while meeting safety and practicality requirements. Chris and Jill used a limited colour palette and repeated the materials; black granite, stainless steel and maple, throughout the property.
The Perfect Imperfection
The journey took ten months, adhering to both schedule and budget, but the true test lay in whether the finished product met Chris and Jill’s exacting standards. The result was nothing short of breathtaking. The couple had turned a dilapidated textile mill into a modernist masterpiece. Their attention to detail and passion for perfection shone through in every corner of the house.
“It’s like walking into a television commercial,” remarked one visitor.
The property was valued at £425,000-£475,000 in 2001, but a house price calculator now suggests that its value has skyrocketed to £1,318,426—a remarkable 192.98% change in price. This incredible transformation not only preserves history but also serves as a testament to the power of a clear vision and unwavering dedication to perfection.
A Modern Dream Realised
For Chris and Jill, this old mill is more than a modern family home. It’s a testament to what can be achieved with a combination of vision, meticulous planning, and relentless determination. Their journey from a dilapidated textile mill to a modernist dream home is a testament to the possibilities that lie within the walls of even the most neglected historic buildings. Every corner of this space tells a story, and as the couple gazes upon their creation, they see not just the culmination of their hard work, but a testament to the power of striving for perfection.
Watch the full episode about this modern family home here and keep an eye out for the appearance of Adam Clark, one of Halliday Clark’s Founding Directors.