Adele Ottinger made an impulse decision to buy a disused Victorian house attached to an old waterworks at auction. The subsequent project to restore it was beyond her expectations — but has resulted in her dream home.

When Adele first saw the derelict building which was to become her home, she could barely bring herself to step inside. Originally built in 1855 for the supervisor of the Hampton waterworks, and attached to the old pump tower, the brick house was completely hidden in trees and undergrowth with thick ivy covering doors and windows.

The Project

  • Name: Adele Ottinger
  • Build cost: £130,000 (£548/m²)
  • Build time: 7 months
  • Location: Middlesex

“I’d driven along the road many times before but had never realised the house was there because you needed a machete to get anywhere near it,” recalls Adele, who was initially interested in purchasing one of the two smaller adjoining cottages. “Thames Water was selling all three houses in February 2010, and this one was so dark and creepy it would have made a perfect haunted house film set.” she continues.

Despite this unpromising start Adele found herself drawn to the idea of rescuing the Georgian-style building, which had been empty since the early 1990s. “I’m a serial renovator, and the idea of taking on such a big project was very tempting,” she admits. “I went to the auction intending to bid on the smaller cottage next-door, but in a crazy moment I ended up bidding for the bigger house instead.”

The property was pitch black inside and it was only once she owned the building that Adele discovered it was actually twice the size of the cottage next-door. Disused entrances to the neighbouring listed tower did not appear on any plans, and have now been converted into a useful utility room and a wetroom-style shower.

A contemporary working kitchen has been created on the ground floor of the building, which forms an L-shape with the open plan family area. The house was originally a two-up, two-down cottage, and some of the doors and windows had been covered over with plasterboard, which were reinstated without any major structural work to bring additional natural light into the kitchen. Adele drew the layout plans herself, removing some modern partition walls to open up the spaces.

Work started in May 2010, and Adele continued to live in her previous flat during the seven-month renovation. She employed tradespeople who had been recommended to her, and was involved with virtually every stage of the build — including tiling, carpentry, removing damaged plaster from the walls and taking down ceilings.

Brickwork needed re-pointing and the whole house was rewired and plumbed, with underfloor heating laid beneath tiles in the kitchen and radiators introduced in other rooms. “Sometimes the place would be full of tradespeople working, but then I’d run out of money and it would just be me here,” she says.

There were times when Adele feared she may have to sell the house, as she could no longer afford to finance the project, and at one stage she even placed the property on the market. But her perseverance and hard work finally paid off and she was eventually able to move in and live in the house she had invested so much time, emotion and money in rescuing. “It’s given me plenty of sleepless nights,” she states, “but I’m glad I took the risk and went with my heart and not my head, because for me it’s now a dream home.”

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