When we moved into this house, we vowed not to spend a penny on it until we started renovation work. Three years later, we’re still living with the rather unedifying sight of paint flaking off timber, flawed room arrangements, a gloomy hallway, and poor temperature control. Worse than that, we have become comfortable with these problems we are intending to fix.
Outside, the house has gone from ‘presented for sale’ to ‘terminally ill’ — so much so that people occasionally stop and point. I presume they are cursing the current owners, too lazy to keep up the maintenance. Well, pointers, here’s the thing — we start work in a month or two, and here’s the latest.
Regular readers of this magazine will know that we have spent the last couple of years honing the design to improve this 1960s ‘one off’ and turn it into a modern, yet in no way clinical, family home. We have used three very talented designers to pitch in with conceptual work, amending our plans when the builders’ quotes came back too high. This will be the most important home we’ll ever have – it’s where our children will grow up – so we felt it was worth investing the time, and money, in getting it right.
Our plan involves extending to create a new bedroom suite for my wife Sarah and I, rebuilding and extending another poorly built bedroom, a remodel of the ground floor to give us a bigger family kitchen diner and rejigging other spaces, as well as adding a new tower on the front to bring in lots of light and hopefully make this elevation more attractive.
We’ll also be adding new high-performance windows and recladding the main elevations with brick and timber. It’s a complicated project and we’ve tried to avoid building space for the sake of it, focusing instead on quality.
While spending time messing around with the design, we managed to carry out some much-needed improvements to the general comfort factor. First of all, being on oil and inheriting a 15-year-old boiler, we decided to invest in a new wood pellet biomass heating system from Windhager. It was a large investment but it’s cheaper to run than oil and we benefit from significant quarterly payments under the Renewable Heat Incentive.
Likewise, the home had an open fire which, having endured through two winters, seemed to be based on the premise that unless you burnt extravagant amounts of coal and wood to keep the chimney warm (but not the inside of the house, alas) you would suffer from cold air coming straight into the house. We couldn’t face another winter like that and so decided to install a multi-fuel stove, which we’ve very much enjoyed over this last winter season.
So, with spring around the corner and three years’ worth of planning and design behind us, we’re ready to make a start. As with all building work, we have no idea of the real difficulties to come in terms of upheaval. That’s the best thing about the unexpected — if you expected it, you wouldn’t do it in the first place.