When we drove away from the viewing of our now home we were both rather quiet. We exchanged comments about how stunning the large garden was and how amazing it would be to live in a thatched cottage. Having already placed offers on two houses, we were hoping this one might turn out to be third time lucky but the elephant in the room (or car!) was the bedroom. Eventually Myles said it, the upstairs just isn't going to work. This tiny cottage consisted of a living space in the downstairs of the 17th century building with two bedrooms squeezed into what was essentially the roof space - a small bedroom and box room. When we were shown around Myles had to walk along the mini corridor with his head bent at an angle and we could see that whoever was landed with the side of the bed nearest the window would have to duck every time they got in and out! It was so dark upstairs and a fresh, light space was high on our criteria for our home.
I was so disappointed and had felt so sure this was going to be 'the one'. A few days passed and we heard from the estate agent that all of the other viewers had the same feelings about the upstairs bedroom space. We loved everything this cottage had to offer us apart from the bedrooms, so we started thinking... A few evenings later and after many scribbled over floor plans we decided to return with our tape measures! We left the second time with huge grins on our faces. We had a plan, we could turn the two bedrooms into one master bedroom, open up the stairway and flood both the stairs and bedroom with light that had previously been blocked. Four months later we moved in and our project began.
We intended to remove the stud walls, build a low balustrade unit at the top of the stairs and decorate. A 'quick' job to get a bedroom space we were happy with. What we didn't anticipate was the emotional pull discovering some original beams would have on our bedroom plans.
It was whilst retrieving our most curious cat from a 'just smaller than cat sized' gap in the wall that we realised the void behind was larger than we thought and we caught a glimpse of some beam work. By removing the lower plasterboard we could take the room back to its original size, gaining a good foot either side and reveal the original walls, or at least what remained from years worth of tampering.
I remember sitting eating our lunch staring at the end wall of our cottage with our legs hanging down into the stairway. We were both silently contemplating what we should do with the beam work around the windows when a thought suddenly hit me. Who had sat there before us, looking at the same place, pondering how to construct this wall from the original materials. Their feat was so much greater than ours. What would have at that time been a workers cottage for the village mill, we now treasured as our beautiful home. We decided then, whatever we did with this building we needed to do the original craftsmen and their work justice.
After removing the existing walls, we found an old window which had been rendered over from the outside and a section of the original cross beam which had simply been cut off! No input from a structural engineer back then! Presumably the cottage was once a single room with a fireplace and when the 1st floor was added this beam was just seen as inconvenient. Fortunately, others had been added so there is no risk of the roof falling in on us.
We were keen to somehow retain the small section of what was left of this 17th century beam and tried to see if it was possible to make a feature out of it. In the end it was reluctantly cut back to the level of the wall and we carefully managed to steam bend two coat hooks out of it which now sit proudly on the wall of the renovated bedroom. A nod the the original building which we are thrilled to have been able to use our craft and knowledge to include.
Anyone having undergone the renovation or restoration process will know how physically and mentally exhausting it is but we certainly felt the immense reward you get at the point of completion makes it all worth while. To see your vision slowly appearing before your eyes is an experience like no other.
We had a short break after completing the bedroom and then moved onto building our workshop, thinking that building from scratch would be much easier than repairing and working around something that already exists...we were sort of right! We will be putting together our story of the workshop build soon in a separate blog so keep an eye out for that over the next few months. If you want a preview now you can watch the time-lapse of our construction here.
As with any home project, there are always things you wish you had known before you started. But as long as you can learn from the process and use that knowledge next time the experience is valuable. If you are looking to undertake your own home decorating or renovation project the one piece of advice we would give is to plan as thoroughly as you can before starting (think about everything from where the pipework will go, position of light switches and plug sockets, depth of window ledges for your favourite accessories and making sure there is a surface for your cup of tea). But also accept that not everything goes to plan and you may have to be flexible if it is necessary for the project to be a success.
We are continuing to work on the rest of our cottage and gardens so do let us know via the contact form or on Instagram if you would be interested to hear our progress.
If our story has inspired you then here is a pin for you to come back to it later: