Claire and Daniel Ralph sympathetically restored their listed 1750s house over several years to create a practical family home.

When Claire and Daniel Ralph purchased their listed cottage back in 2006 it wasn’t the damp, the overgrown garden or even the dodgy electrics which troubled them most, but the colony of resident wildlife. “Insects would drop out of the taps and the previous owners had actually been feeding the rats, so the place was teeming with them,” recalls Claire.

The Ralphs had previously lived in a brand new ‘starter home’ in the same pretty Kent village, but although they had never tackled their own renovation project before, Claire had extensive experience of working on other people’s properties in a professional capacity. As an interior designer and project manager she was happy to take control and co-ordinate the work in stages, which meant that the family could remain living in the house for much of the project.

The Project

  • Name: Clare and Daniel Ralph
  • Build cost: £150,000
  • Location: Kent

“The house has fantastic views and came with two acres of land, but the previous owners lived here for 30 years and everything had become really dilapidated,” Claire explains. The rats moved out and the family moved in and began an enthusiastic programme of deep cleaning. One year later they moved out again for several months while the leaking roof was replaced and re-tiled using the existing clay Kent pegs. During this time the property was also damp-proofed and completely re-plumbed and rewired, with oil-fired central heating installed. Ceilings were replaced, walls were re-plastered using lime plaster and a new bathroom was installed upstairs. “It was all done on a low budget using trades and suppliers I already knew through my work,” explains Claire, who compiled detailed costings before each stage of the renovation.

During phase two, the ground floor layout was changed to incorporate a replacement single-storey kitchen extension with a new utility/shower room and porch to the rear of the house. An architect was then commissioned to produce drawings, as planning permission was required for this phase of the project, which involved changing the roof structure and introducing new glazed doors which connect the kitchen/breakfast room to the garden. Once the previous extension had been demolished the building contractor could prepare new foundations for the brick and block walls, and a structural steel beam was introduced to support the opening between old and new.

“We weren’t increasing the footprint, but it has opened up the ground floor and given it a greater feeling of space,” Claire explains. Wet underfloor heating has been laid in the kitchen, with electric underfloor heating in the bathroom and dining room. Further alterations included opening up a blocked doorway between the kitchen and dining room and inserting glazing between the upper beams to either side, allowing light from the kitchen to filter in.

Another sealed doorway in the first floor master bedroom revealed unused space, which made an ideal nursery when baby Oliver was born. Then, when Oliver moved into his own bedroom, the space was converted into a dressing room. “The house has evolved and changed with us as a family, and we still have plans to add another two storey side extension in the future,” says Claire. “Working with such an old building has been a real labour of love, but now we have the perfect combination of mod cons and real character.”

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