Following the sale of their award-winning restoration of a pair of miner’s cottages in Bath, Lawrence Grigg and Lydia Robinson of Design Storey had been on the hunt for their next renovation project when they came across a Grade II-listed farmhouse in the Cotswolds. They immediately saw the potential to transform the run-down building into a forever home.
“It had previously been owned by the council and had no real basic services,” explains Lydia, “but we saw the potential and felt it was the right opportunity. The building is Grade II-listed as well as being in a Conservation Area and in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so we have three constraints that will drive the planning process. However, our approach to the house is going to be sensitive and so we hope to work collaboratively with the conservation officer to talk about our programme of repair and the short-term goals to make it a liveable building.”
“When we purchased the house, we knew it needed a lot of work,” says Lawrence. “Being an 18th-century building, it had no foundations and there has been some movement. We believe it previously had a thatched roof which was later changed to heavier concrete tiles.”
A series of alterations had already been done to the building, with the council changing the roof and renewing rainwater goods with unsympathetic PVCu that is not appropriate for the age of the building. “There’s some really beautiful original features but obviously there’s issues with damp, plasterwork, condensation, heave, and a host of other challenges,” says Lydia.
“The first things we will be dealing with are the structural issues,” says Lydia, “then it will be getting heating, electrics and hot water into the building, and the rainwater goods changed back to cast iron. Hopefully in the summer we will be able to get jobs like the underpinning done while we still have good weather. In autumn we can start to reintroduce the central heating.
“We’re planning on moving into the shell shortly and camping out in the house — spending a bit of time living in it to get a feel for things. Until you’ve lived in the space you can’t get a real sense of what it’s like to be there and the value of certain features. At certain points, we will have to move out for a month or two to allow certain works to happen without us being there holding work up.”
While the couple are not looking to radically change the interior by knocking down walls, they are keen to integrate the lean-to on the side of the house into the kitchen for more flexible space. Other than that, the plan is to keep the original configurations of the house.
So what advice do they have for homeowners taking on similar renovation projects? “Especially with listed buildings, one of the most important things to do is to love it for what it is and not try to transform it into something completely different,” says Lydia. “The reason it is listed is because of what it is, so if you want to change it you may not be able to get permission.”