Dyffryn House

Undertaking a renovation is a hugely daunting task for any person, but if you've never done one before, it becomes even more so.

From structural work to design considerations, it's a time when decision-making is at its peak. You may feel like you should have all the answers ready to go, but the good news is, that is contrary to popular opinion. Whether it's taking your time with decision making, trusting your instincts or working out which jobs to tackle and which to leave to the professionals, these renovations are wonderful (as is their brilliant advice!)

 

Rona Renovation

Having bought their 2-bedroom Victorian terrace house in South London during the first lockdown, Nadine and Juls opted for a fixer-upper as an affordable way to get on the ladder, knowing they'd do a lot of the work themselves to save money.

What have been the best and worst decisions you've made when renovating?

We took the chimney breast out of the bathroom so we could fit a shower enclosure and freestanding bath. Though it stung to pay Building Control to approve the work (grrr!), it was a painless process that was way less scary than we thought. We knocked it out ourselves, then our builder reinforced it with steel supports. We now have a wonderfully spacious bathroom! We've been lucky that none of our mistakes have been catastrophic and renovating has been good to us!


What is the most valuable piece of advice you've learnt about renovating?

The best thing I've learned and would advise is for DIY renovators to really take stock of what jobs should probably be left to the professionals. We took on seemingly 'innocent' tasks like sanding the floors and painting ceilings that turned out to be brutal, backbreaking work! A professional won't make silly mistakes plus can work quickly and tidily. Some of the jobs we took ourselves just dragged and dragged because we didn't know what we were doing! Thankfully it worked out in the end, but looking back the stress wasn't worth the financial saving we made.


Rona Renovations
Rona Renovations

 

Good Bones

Currently at stage one of their renovations, but having already undergone a ground floor and 1st-floor landing refurbishment and two extensions to the existing kitchen, this beautiful Victorian house's renovations took eight months.


What have been the best and worst decisions you've made when renovating?
Good Bones Kitchen
Good Bones Kitchen

The best decisions we made all had to do with sticking to our guns, having a vision for how we wanted the space to feel and how we needed it to function. We were told along the way that certain things were not possible, for example, fitting in a walk-in pantry. But I spent many late nights sketching and re-sketching, moving a door or tweaking dimensions in the plans, asking my parents, asking anyone who would listen to me, until I finally convinced myself that our plans would work.


Even the things I wouldn't do again have taught us so much as first-time renovators. The first thing that comes to mind is probably the decision to paint the hallway and reception rooms in an ultra-matt finish. Every single fingerprint is visible and with three young kids, the hallway already looks really shabby after just six months. Next time, I'll do every single wall in a scrubbable eggshell! We did this in the kitchen and it's been a dream.


Good Bones Dining Room
Good Bones Dining Room

What is the most valuable piece of advice you've learnt about renovating?


I learned that it's helpful to really love the process - constant excitement helps mitigate the stress, the disappointments, the dust and the looming bankruptcy. I would also tell everyone that no matter what you do, no matter how many spreadsheets you have, add a 30% buffer on top of whatever you think everything will cost. And to not be afraid to ask for advice from those who inspire and challenge you.





 

Overdale House

Almost two years into the renovation of Overdale, a Victorian villa built around 1870 for a local silk mill owner in the Cheshire countryside, Yasamin opted for reclaimed tiles for her recent roofing project, along with antique, upcycled or sustainable pieces for her home.


What have been the best and worst decisions you've made when renovating?


I try and buy second-hand where possible. As well as preferring the overall look, it also helps to keep costs down, and most importantly goes some way to reduce the environmental impact of our purchases. Local antique stores, charity shops, auctions and Instagram shops have been brilliant for sourcing one-off pieces.

Overdale House
Overdale House

Worst decision - jute carpets. I love the look and the fact they are made from natural materials, but after the children's bedroom had a roof leak and permanently stained the carpet, I wouldn't choose them again.


Fortunately, we have lots of large Persian carpets in most of our rooms, which are very forgiving and cover up any mishaps!




What is the most valuable piece of advice you've learnt about renovating?

I did the Create Academy Rita Konig course which taught me 3 important lessons:

1. Put all your lights on dimmers 2. Where there is a seat you need a lamp and a table 3. Plan your bathroom to feel like any other room in the house. Just because it's a bathroom it doesn't need to feel like it has come straight out of a bathroom showroom. Put up artwork, put up wall lights, and bring in a chair or a stool to make it feel more homely.

Overdale House
Overdale House

 

Pembroke Lodge & No. 19

Having only recently begun their most recent renovation project nine weeks ago at No. 9 in Richmond, London, Pembroke Lodge in Cornwall was the first restoration project Bianca undertook. Works have already begun at their newest project in Richmond. The photos below are of Pembroke Lodge in Newlyn, Cornwall.


What have been the best and worst decisions you've made when renovating?
Pembroke Lodge
Pembroke Lodge

The best decision was the flooring. Taking it back to the original pine boards and sanding and oiling them. The floorboards, plus the carpet upstairs make the house feel almost finished.


Worst decision was moving the boiler before we’d knocked down the internal wall separating the kitchen from a makeshift shower room so now the boiler is located in the middle of our dining room and it’s going to be another £1k to move it again.



What is the most valuable piece of advice you've learnt about renovating?


Best bit of advice is to live in it first. Our process took a year to buy the house and we had no idea it was happening until we exchanged and our completion date was one week later, so we had no time to book in trades, which meant everything was rushed.


Pembroke Lodge
Pembroke Lodge

 

Richmond Reno Project


Relocating to the opposite end of the country is a big leap for anyone, but add in a renovation to that new property and you've got a real project on your hands.


What have been the best and worst decisions you've made when renovating?
Richmond Reno Project
Richmond Reno Project

The best decision we made was taking on quite a big scary project in the first place. We moved up from a flat in London so it was a big change and very overwhelming as the house needed a lot of work. Now that we have done all the major work it was definitely worth it.


I don't think we have made any particularly bad decisions but if we were to start again I would ignore the man in the paint shop who told me that paint with a sheen is better as it's more durable. It might be, but in a very old house it doesn't work on the uneven walls, so we had to re-paint. I also rushed a couple of paint colour choices and had to repaint.

Richmond Reno Project
Richmond Reno Project

What is the most valuable piece of advice you've learnt about renovating?


Richmond Reno Project
Richmond Reno Project

If you can, get a project manager in. My brother-in-law owns Browson Design and Build and he project managed ours. It saves money as you do everything in the correct order and the labour costs end up less as the tradesmen's time is used more efficiently.


Oh, and believe the builders when they say "it will look good in the end". Our house was pulled apart and I started regretting the whole thing. But it all came good!





 

Dyffryn House

With dead crows, disintegrating lime walls, frogs and collapsing ceilings to greet them when they first bought Dyffryn House in 2011, it's a wonder Helen and John have created a beautiful retreat in the Welsh countryside.

What have been the best and worst decisions you've made when renovating?

The best decision we made was to limewash the outside of Dyffryn in Copperas lime tint from Ty Mawr. We had originally been drawn to the dark red you occasionally see around west Wales but snaffled the orange-y Copperas from a visit to Ty Mawr’s place in Llangorse, where one of their buildings is resplendent in burnished gold. It’s really made the house really stand out, even if people do ask why we’ve only done half the house in orange and the rest in off-white. The simple answer is, the Copperas bit is the original 1790 house and the white bit an 1850 annexe.

Of course, we’ve made a bunch of mistakes along the way; the first woodshed that looked like it might take off and a garden table made from the slate of a full sized snooker table complete with pockets, it was too big by a long way! But you won’t know til you do it, and for us at least Dyffryn remains a work in progress.



What is the most valuable piece of advice you've learnt about renovating?


We arranged to meet a local plumber at Dyffryn the day we got in. Sadly - or not as it turned out - he came in, took one look at state of the place (dead crows, frogs, disintegrating lime walls, collapsing ceilings) and walked straight back out the door. Though luckily we met Barry, our near neighbour, who has taken on many onerous tasks, like installing the massive, old cast iron radiators that really should be moved by three men and stripping the ancient polystyrene/foil “insulation” from the original wooden tongue-and-groove bedroom ceiling. If there is one piece of advice we could give anyone lucky enough to have a doer-upper elsewhere, it's find 'Barry'.



 

Townley Terrace


Built in 1826, this house is one of just a few whole houses left in a seaside terrace in Ramsgate. Set over five floors with views of the coast, and on a clear day, to France. The previous owners had done significant work to get some of the rooms in working order, but lots of the work had stopped half way through and so much more was in terrible disrepair.


What have been the best and worst decisions you've made when renovating?

The best decision was to not rush in and do everything at once (there was no way we could afford that anyway!) though I do think we are taking slow renovations to another level of slow.


The worst isn't that terrible but I regret sanding the floors as much as we did. I wish we could have found a way to clean them more gently as I think they look a bit too pristine. We still have a lot of them left to do and I will be taking it even more gently this time.



What is the most valuable piece of advice you've learnt about renovating?


My friend's mum said, just be careful not to lose the romance of the dilapidated house. And somehow, retaining that character and romance is actually more time consuming than coming in and making it all look new again, which we absolutely don't want to do.