PAY a visit to a town house on one of Durham’s most exclusive streets and you might not expect to be greeted by a giraffe in a top hat.
But step inside what is soon to be the city’s quirkiest guest house, and there’s a whole treasure trove of antiques and curiosities from stuffed animals galore and unusual statues, to a shrunken head and real skeleton.
Deborah and Nigel Gadd, who have been running businesses in Durham for more than 20 years, were given planning permission this week to turn their family home in South Street into an eight-bedroom guest house.
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Formerly Grafton House hotel, which underwent a £1m refurbishment to open before closing 15 months later, the couple plan to open it as Forty Winks guest house by the summer.
The couple, who also own Zen restaurant and have recently acquired El Coto, bought it in 2009 after it went into receivership and have been living in it since.
“It was always in the back of our minds when we bought the house that we would reopen as a guesthouse,” said Mrs Gadd.
“I’m really looking forward to getting it open. We’ve really wanted to do it. It’s a big house and there’s just the two of us here now.”
“It’s totally different for Durham. We’re calling it eclectic."
Take a glace in the reception lounge and there’s a real Victorian skeleton, a pair of squirrels and a tiger rug draped over the sofa.
A stuffed turtle, nicknamed Tommy, is hiding beneath the coffee table, which is topped with a (fake) shrunken skull.
Turn the corner into the corridor between the kitchen and dining room and there’s half a Mini poking out from the wall, sitting below a zebra wearing a string of pearls and some large clown heads.
The walls are covered in dozens of antique paintings and the heads of Victorian animals, picked up from auctions all over the country.
Elsewhere there are suits of armour, a juke box from 1961, a statue of Marilyn Monroe and one of the best views of Durham Cathedral.
Mr Gadd said: "We've been in Durham for more than 20 years and we know there's a gap in the market for something special.
"It's something a bit different. There's nothing like it in Durham."
The application was approved by Durham County Council at a meeting on Tuesday.