When she suggested a weekend break on the Isle of Wight to her husband Simon, Julia Waters had no idea that the holiday would end with them buying a dilapidated Georgian villa beside the sea.
Incongruously sandwiched between a seaside amusement arcade and a block of holiday flats, the once-stately house had been thickly rendered and was painted in garish shades of orange and yellow. An internal inspection revealed a number of original features, including a stunning curved stone staircase, tiled floors and decorative mouldings — some of which were damaged or missing.
Windows were rotten and the roof was leaking, with water literally pouring into the building when it rained, but the Waters were able to see past the damage and the tired décor to imagine how the stone house would once have looked. They purchased the neglected property there and then. Skip to the remainder of the story.
- Name: Julia and Simon Waters
- Build cost: £750,000 (£2,315/m²)
- Build time: 4 years 6 months
- Location: Isle of Wight
Restoration of the banded cut stone front façade included refurbishing the original Regency stone cornice on the first floor balcony, as well as the balcony itself and the quoins and corbels
All interior features, including plaster mouldings, cornices, shutters, skirtings and doors, were either repaired or handmade to match — often using old photographs of the house for guidance
Simon designed the solid oak cabinets which have been paired with Silestone counters from Stoneshop and limestone flooring
A complete new slate roof – which now features Victorian-style rainwater goods – was constructed, and a steel ring-beam inserted on the third floor to provide structural support for this work
Flooring has been beautifully replaced and renovated. The tiles in the hall have been cleaned up and restored and a new oak floor from Goldman Harrison has been fitted in the drawing room
The stunning cantilevered stone staircase has also been restored to former glory
The cleverly designed shower room behind the bed shares the views and light from the master bedroom
The folding sliding doors from Lomax+Wood offer a wide view of the sea
As film designers, Julia and Simon are accomplished at visualising sets and conjuring up schemes from their imaginations. They had also previously converted a barn and were used to working remotely — a talent which proved to be a distinct advantage, as the Georgian house would not be habitable during the extensive renovation they had planned.
This meant that – following the sale of their barn – building work needed to be organised by the couple from their holiday home in France, using photographs emailed by the builders as a guide. Julia and Simon would visit the villa every few weeks, staying in rented accommodation on the island.
They took responsibility for purchasing all the materials necessary for the renovation too. “We didn’t know any local builders and hadn’t realised quite how difficult it would be to buy the materials, as many companies only deliver to the mainland,” explains Julia.
Phase one of the work involved gaining planning permission to remove and replace the entire roof, which presented the opportunity to insert a steel ring-beam and raise the height of the building. A contemporary master bedroom suite within the new roof space opens onto a decked balcony through folding sliding glass doors.
One of the most labour-intensive tasks involved carefully removing, by hand, the multiple layers of painted cement render which encased the house. This revealed the original sandstone on a flint plinth to the north, east and west façades, with a front façade of banded cut stone.
This was repaired, cleaned and repointed using lime mortar, and is now restored to its original grandeur. “We had no idea what we’d find under all the render, but we were keeping our fingers crossed,” says Simon.
The couple’s artistic skills are evident throughout the four storey house, which has been tastefully decorated in soft shades of muted grey. Original fireplaces were restored and the lower ground floor has been insulated and fitted with underfloor heating to create additional accommodation.
“The renovations to the house meant that by the time we moved in, we already knew a number of people in the area,” says Julia. “Ventnor is such a friendly place; we love living so close to the sea and being able to walk our dog on the beach. Receiving letters through our front door thanking us for restoring the villa was a real pleasure after so many years spent working on the house.”
The property was granted a conservation award by the Isle of Wight Society. “It’s been a real pleasure to have been part of the history of this house,” says Julia, “and to see it regain much of its original character.”