The incredible before and after of a 1960s coastal renovation project

picture window seat with woodburning stove
(Image credit: Mark Anthony Fox)

Simon Francis had dreamt of tackling  with a wow-factor renovation scheme for years. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that circumstances allowed him to get stuck into a major build. Simon, a self-confessed Rightmove addict, spotted a property online that immediately piqued his interest. Perched on Cornwall’s southern coastline, the 1960s flat-roof, two-storey property was ripe for an update. 

“It was one of the only properties I’d ever seen overlooking the sea that wasn’t a traditional Cornish cottage,” he says. His plan when renovating a house was to refurbish the property to a high standard so it could be let out as a holiday rental, with a view to making it his own home when he retires.

“For me, being able to look out across the water is the key to a contented life,” he says. “The house had the potential to be a fantastic property. It looked directly onto the sea, it had big picture windows and some private outdoor space. I wanted to build on that to maximise its potential.”

Crafting the renovation vision

Once the sale went through, Simon began the process of tracking down a professional designer. “I remembered a woman who’d been on the TV about 10 years ago, building her own house,” says Simon. “She was probably the only person I’ve ever seen come in on budget!” The individual in question, Kathryn Tyler of Linea Studio, just happened to be based in nearby Falmouth. 

“I’d always admired what she built so I called her up to ask if she’d be interested in my project, and thankfully she said yes.” With Kathryn on board, the house design ideas process could begin in earnest. 

Simon didn’t want to make too many structural changes to the property, beyond rejigging the internal floorplan to create an open-plan layout on the ground floor. 

The three-bed upstairs level would also be altered, establishing two bedrooms, each with its own en suite. Another major design detail was the enlargement of the picture windows, to make the most of the sea views and draw in natural light.

“The design process became a collaborative, working partnership,” says Simon. “I’d already crafted a Pinterest board to hone my ideas, so we were on a specific path from the start. Kathryn had the flair to take my initial vision further, coming up with details I wouldn’t have been able to imagine.”

Despite the property’s position within an area of outstanding natural beauty, getting planning permission wasn’t too much of a challenge. “We needed consent to widen the windows and install the cladding, but we weren’t really looking to do anything out of the ordinary,” says Simon. 

The larch timber cladding, for instance, was chosen because it would weather to a shade of silver over time, harmonising with the slate grey roofs of the surrounding cottages.

Building the team and tackling DIY

However, after sailing through the planning process, progress hit a snag when Simon put the project out to tender. “Kathryn’s preferred builders weren’t available for a while, so we decided to go out to other firms for quotes to find a builder,” says Simon. 

“Out of the seven companies we approached, only two replied — and both of those quotes were 100% over budget.” So Simon put the project on hold until Kathryn’s preferred contractors had a gap in their schedule, meaning a frustrating 10-month wait. “It really put a spanner in the works,” says Simon.

Work on the house finally began in September 2019, when Simon began the process of ripping out the interior fixtures and fittings so the builders could start from a hollow shell. 

When the contractor arrived on site soon after, they began by removing the existing windows so the apertures could be enlarged and boarded up. From there, the team tackled the interior alterations by knocking through various walls. In January, scaffolding was erected for the installation of the larch cladding. 

Despite having a busy full-time job, Simon rolled up his sleeves and helped where he could. “I was like the site lackey,” he says.

Overcoming unexpected build hurdles

A couple of obstacles arose, the biggest of which was the March 2020 lockdown, when progress ground to a frustrating halt. “At that point, we only had about four weeks left until completion,” says Simon. “Up until then, the builders had been working so hard through the wet winter weather to get everything done. It was hard going, but they did an extremely good job.”

It wasn’t until early summer that the team was able to get back on site and install the windows, a moment that Simon looks back on as being one of the high points of the build. 

“We’d had three or four months of being completely closed down, with boarding where the windows were going to be put in,” he says. “It was fantastic being able to take in the views through the big picture window. I remember sitting on a camp chair eating my lunch, enjoying the outlook with all the construction paraphernalia around me.”

large renovated bedroom with freestanding bath and view to sea through large window

(Image credit: Mark Anthony Fox)

Despite the challenges and delays involved in the build, Simon says: “I enjoyed it all — especially when you think of the stress some people go through,” he says. “It all comes down to having a good team of people on your side. Having a skilled designer and builder was worth its weight in gold.”

Rebecca Foster

Rebecca began her journalism career writing for a luxury property magazine in Bangkok, before re-locating to London and becoming a features editor for a self build magazine. She is an experienced homes and interiors journalist and has written for many homes titles including Homebuilding & Renovating, Ideal Home and Period Living.

She has expertise on a wealth of topics — from oak frame homes to kitchen extensions. She has a passion for Victorian architecture; her dream is to extend an 1800s house.

With contributions from