North Wales Interiors - Pont y Mwynwr House, Llanferres
PUBLISHED: 23:25 04 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:35 20 February 2013
Cath Skates may have grown up in California but she loves nowhere more than her rural idyll in Llanferres, North Wales <br/>WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
One phone call changed everything for Cath and John Skates. Although the couple were living in Caths native California, the second she heard her dream home in Llanferres was on the market she had to have it.
I wasnt allowed to view it because I was so emotional, Cath remembered. It was a house that when we were living in the next village, Maeshafn, I used to walk past and dream about owning it.
My friend called me in the middle of the night to say it was for sale. I immediately rang the realtor and wanted to put in the asking price. John said he would go and look at it and we would take it from there. Three months after receiving that call we were back in North Wales.
It was only when the couple moved in to Pont y Mwynwr House that Cath got a proper look at her new home. Shed only ever seen the kitchen when shed visited the previous owners. Despite having to camp in borrowed sleeping bags in the lounge for two weeks because their bags had been lost at Customs, it was everything shed dreamed of.
She said: John grew up in this area but when we went back to California we thought it was forever. Id always said I would move back to this rainy country for this house though.
I walked in and said Well have it all open plan and cover up the tiles in the hallway. John looked at me and said No we wont. My head was still in California mode where all the houses are perfect. In this house I dont think theres one straight line. Once I had a proper look I realised the error of my ways.
John and Cath have spent the past decade restoring the Grade II listed, eight bedroom property which dates back to 1780. Much of the landscaping has been returned to how it would once have looked and they have sensitively restored the windows, flooring, a glasshouse and walled garden in their nine acres. They have redecorated each room combining antique furniture with art deco and contemporary styling. The result? An exquisite family home.
They have also discovered interesting features and are gradually bringing them back into use. These include a butlers bell system as well as an old oven they unearted in an outbuilding. It would once have been the bake house for the property. They are also working on restoring a water wheel that would have supplied the house and have plans to reinstate the butlers pantry.
Cath, who runs CS Fine Catering and has supplied food for high profile events attended by everyone from lords and ladies to international film producer and Miramax Films co-founder Harvey Weinstein, said: It was the history and being a part of that history that I loved about this house.
There is so much of it. It was this we really wanted to make a feature of.
The idea of bringing something back to life really excited me. I never felt that connection in the States because it is such a young country. The oldest parts of the house are just a couple of years older than my country. I still find that really weird.
The move has changed their lives remarkably. The 46-year-old went from having to stand watching over her sons in the garden to letting them roam the woods and build rafts to sail down the nearby River Alyn. She also loves to entertain - hence the catering business - and enjoys throwing parties at the house.
She said: Weve heard a silent screen film star lived here. She was a minor actress but she used to have big Great Gatsby style parties and Im trying to live up to that legacy. We have such fun dinner parties.
There have been many characters that lived here. We think it was once the home of a kept woman, connected to a larger house nearby.
A local lady has told us about when she used to be a servant girl here when she was 13. She told us about being frozen, taking cold showers. She would have to get up before anybody else and get the fires going.
The cottage next door was once part of this house too. Its fascinating listening to these stories because shes experienced it all. Im looking forward to giving her the grand tour one day.
The couple also have plenty of land where they have many animals including their own chickens, Zwartble sheep and their dogs. They did keep pigs but theyre in the freezer now!
The life Cath, John and their family have in Llanferres is all theyve ever wanted. There may not be as many alfresco dining opportunities as Cath would like, but they do eat in the glasshouse any chance they get. They also regularly enjoy the local walking and cycling routes and they have created their own rural idyll.
Cath said: Even after being here for ten years, I still think where we live and North Wales is a glorious place. Moving here was for the house but its more than that. Its the pub, its the community. When we first moved over it was so refreshing.
It is just so wonderful. The house has such wonderful vibes. Its nice to run off back to California but I have found my place here.
The print version of this article appeared in the July 2012 issue of Cheshire Life
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