Furniture maker transforms former presbytery and nuns’ house in Windermere into their ideal home

La Sargesse
Photograph by Phil Rigby

Donna Smith knew exactly what she wanted for the kitchen in her family’s Windermere home.
“I just wanted a nice Shaker painted kitchen and an island with an oak top and a Belfast sink,” she says. 

Thankfully Donna’s ideal kitchen is exactly the type of project undertaken by her furniture-maker husband, Andrew, through his business, Lakeland Fells Furniture. 

Andrew set up Lakeland Fells Furniture 14 years ago and carries out both domestic and commercial jobs. For his own home, called La Sagesse – which means wisdom – Andrew drew on his experience of building handcrafted kitchens.  

Donna says the kitchen is an ideal space for entertaining and is where everyone tends to congregate: “I love it, I love everything about it. This is probably my favourite room.” 

The kitchen is undoubtedly the heart of the home which Donna and Andrew have created for themselves and their daughters, Betsy, eight and Molly, five.
It’s the first time, however, that La Sagesse has been used as traditional family accommodation. 

Built in the late 1890s or early 1900s, La Sagesse was originally the presbytery for Our Lady of Windermere and St Herbert RC Church.  

It was adapted over the years and extended from three bedrooms to nine. The property is often known as Convent La Sagesse and many local people can remember visiting the sisters as pupils at the neighbouring St Cuthbert’s School or calling at the house for meetings. 

Donna says that people often stop and chat to her about their memories of visiting La Sagesse, when they were sent from school to see the sisters or were attending an event or meeting. 

“When I’m out in the garden, people go past and say, ‘I’ve been in that building’.” 

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