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Industrial inspiration

Apart from its colour, the aptly named Black House is barely noticeable to passers-by. No wider than a garage door and tucked between period houses, it’s easy to drive past without giving the property a second glance. Yet, this modest frontage disguises one of York’s best kept secrets. Through an enclosed, cobbled street and past a compact car-turning circle is a door that opens into an ingenious and very private four-bedroom family home. With accommodation spread over three storeys, Michael and Erica Hammill have used extraordinary design and industrial materials to link the building’s history as a commercial mechanical garage to its new identity.

Th e couple initially spotted the old garage in an advert placed by a local estate agent. It’d been empty for 10 years and another developer had tried to buy it and turn it into student accommodation. These plans had been rejected, largely due to the fact that the property was positioned in the middle of many single, private houses. Many people would not have had the vision or the imagination to take on this project, but with Michael having done up and lived in around 30 homes, he saw the potential. Before the Hammills took the plunge and bought the garage as an empty shell, it was dark, cold and damp. Parts of the roof were missing, there were oppressive steel beams spanning the former workshops and pigeon droppings congealed on the floors – yet Michael was undeterred. “I could visualise how it could look,” he says. “There were so many aspects of it that Erica and I liked, including cobbled floors, huge timber A-frames and beautiful old brick walls. It was rotten and falling down in places, but the essence was all there.”

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Build It
September 2019

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