A couple has spoken about the joy and despair they experienced during the renovation of a 19th-century estate in north Warwickshire.
Dean Poulton, 35, an architect, and Borja De Maqua, 33, a former estate agent and surveyor, bought the 2.5-acre property in Coleshill, a town near Birmingham, in 2019 and have spent the last three years working on it.
They've documented their progress renovating a house on their popular Instagram account, My Tiny Estate, which has garnered 140k followers to date. Now the renovation is the focus of Discovery+ TV show Saving the Manor, which follows Dean and Borja’s renovation journey.
Here, the couple share the highs and lows of their renovation project.
Who are Saving the Manor's Dean and Borja?
Dean, from Castle Bromwich, and Borja, from Malaga in Spain, met on a dating app soon after Borja moved to the UK.
The couple has renovated a 1950s semi, converted a brick workshop, and transformed a five-bedroom apartment in the heart of Malaga that dates back to the 1900s. As such, they're well accustomed to taking on a renovation project.
They settled on the Coleshill property because they feel it is their “forever home”.
Dean said: “We were originally looking for a cottage. That fell through but we’d sold our previous home and were living with my parents.
“This one came up as a commercial listing for redevelopment. We liked the building and wanted to restore it to its original glory — killing ourselves doing it!"
What does the 'Tiny Estate' contain?
The high street property features an array of different buildings and gardens, including a caretaker’s cottage, servants’ quarters, the main Georgian residence, stables, a gardener’s cottage, and a piggery.
The land had been held by the family of the previous owner since the 1400s when it was gifted to them by King Henry VII. It was a local library for many years until the early 2000s.
Currently, only the caretaker’s cottage, the oldest building which dates back to the 16th century, and servants’ quarters are complete and are available to rent.
Dean said: “We started with the caretaker’s cottage in April 2019 and got it liveable by December.
“We decided to do it a room at a time and set ourselves a five-year goal. I think it’s our lifestyle now.
“We still have servants’ cottage and main manor house to do. We’re hoping that by the time we get to the manor we will have improved our renovation skills.”
The property is listed but the couple fortunately have a good connection with the conservation officer. Dean says the officer likes being able to see the progress they make on a stage-by-stage basis.
He added: “Locals have a strong connection to it, they have fond memories of the library.”
The piggery contains an interesting link to history, as Dean explains: “They actually had pigs for meat when it was an active estate. We found writing on our wall in the stables showing how much it cost to feed them and how much they sold them for. It dates back to 1860.”
How did the TV show come about?
“The TV programme added another layer of pressure. It was tricky to get it all done to their schedule. We managed to achieve so much in such a short space of time.”
An Instagram account, My Tiny Estate, the pair set up to chronicle the renovation attracted a lot of followers and interest from TV production companies.
“It just boomed and we had a lot of followers,” Dean said. “Quite a few producers contacted us."
The next installment of the series airs on Friday 18 November on Discovery+ and HGTV.
What has been the most challenging aspect of the renovation?
Dean and Borja ordered 216 old sleepers for the garden’s planters which were meant to be hauled over the walls. Instead, it was delivered to a neighbour’s field.
The neighbour was understanding and allowed them time to move the sleepers to the Victorian walled garden.
Dean said: “It was during the Covid lockdown so we couldn’t get anyone to help us. We had to move more than 200 oak sleepers in a couple of days. We took another two years before we installed them because we couldn’t bear to look at them.”
Despite how hard it’s been, Dean and Borja don’t regret embarking on the massive project. Dean said: “Sometimes we take a step back. If we’re not enjoying it we down tools and move on to another job.
“We were overwhelmed at the start but we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. We’re a lot closer to the end.”
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Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world. As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.