A former farm worker's cottage in Lamesley, near Gateshead has been transformed into a homely bed and breakfast

PUBLISHED: 00:34 09 May 2013

NEL May Keyhole

NEL May Keyhole

Helen Johnson

Janet McPherson's home has had several incarnations. Originally a farm worker's cottage, it has been re-modelled as a luxurious family home and, more recently, has been transformed again, into a homely B&B.

The first conversion created Janet’s dream home, the second allowed her to follow her dream of catering for guests.

‘When we bought it, it was a one-up-one-down farm worker’s cottage and derelict outbuildings, so effectively we knocked the whole thing down and rebuild it, in stages.’

The early stages of work on the house at Lamesley, near Gateshead were filmed by the TV show Grand Designs, but it was never screened. Perhaps there wasn’t enough drama for TV, as Janet added: ‘I was an interior designer, and my business partner, Gary Steel, was a heating engineer. We thought we’d pool our talents, and it worked well.

‘Gary has great vision. He has the ability – which a lot of people don’t have – to walk through a derelict building and visualise what it could be. Then he project managed contractors to make it happen. I had the artistic view and gave it the finishing details.

‘We converted it to be a family home, but then found it was quite big. I’d always fancied having a go at B&B, so we did it. What’s nice about the B&B is that locals come and stay too. I think they like it because we’ve got hot tubs, spa bath and sauna, and I pamper them a bit – deli nibbles, sweet treats, and so on.’

Although rebuilt with new interior timbers, the house has an air of antiquity, created, says Janet, by burning the surface of the woodwork. ‘The dark wood suggested a hunting lodge theme, with rich colours, tartans, and dramatic accessories. The kitchen has an Aga and handmade kitchen units, with a big table. When we have guests, everyone ends up in the kitchen, with candles on the table – it’s a nice relaxed atmosphere.’

Janet has deftly mixed many colours and she added: ‘We have five tartans. They work well with the dark wood because they give a rustic but luxurious feel. The strong colours pull it all together and create a warm, mellow, soothing atmosphere. It’s cosy.

‘I like to think that everything here blends so well that it’s not until you examine the scheme in detail that all the links come out.’

When she designed for clients, she says: ‘When the couple look, then hug each other, you know that you’ve given them something special – and it makes it all worthwhile.’

As for her own home, when Janet decided to open it to guests, she’d assumed that most of them would be tourists. She hadn’t considered, she says, that business people would come – and she certainly hadn’t expected that locals would come.

‘When we started, I think some people visited out of curiosity – then word of mouth spread rapidly. The locals who come say that it’s not too far to travel, it’s a break from the kids, and they often come for a celebration, perhaps a wedding anniversary.

‘We’re obviously not a hotel, but we give them individual attention, while at the same time, allowing them a lot of space. Our aim is offer a special experience to our guests.’

Guests enjoy treats such as deli nibbles while watching TV, and can opt to have breakfast served in their rooms. Two rooms boast large sofas and TVs, one has an en-suite with a sauna and a spa bath and the Garden Room has a private hot tub.

Business guests rarely use the hot tub, but Janet added: ‘It’s nice when a business guest comes, but then says that he must bring his wife, because she’d like it here.’

Janet enjoys making her guests comfortable, and also values the convenience of her location. ‘We’re in a valley that nestles under the wings of the Angel of the North,’ she said. ‘It’s semi-rural, Lamesley Pastures across the road is a wildlife area, with fields and birds, but we’re only moments away from the A1, Gateshead and Newcastle.’

Much as she loves her home and her guests, Janet is now itching for a new project. ‘I’d like to have a new chapter in life,’ she said. ‘I’ve seen so many styles,

so many lovely things to decorate a house. The next project we have in mind is a complete contrast: clean lines and minimalist, in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright.’

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