Building the Business...

The Scottish Project

Whilst living here in mid-Wales and developing our business from Amy’s family home, we also took on another project in Dee’s home town of Nairn in the Scottish Highlands.  Having purchased what used to be my Grandfather’s house in May 2014, we decided to take a winter break from Gwalia and spend 3 months renovating the small house with a view to doing holiday rentals.

You can view the end results at the Sutors Hauf website here – www.sutorshauf.co.uk

It was a house with a slightly complex past in that whilst the semi-detached house has always had it’s own title deeds, the next door neighbour was and always had been a close relative.  This meant that when my Grandad was getting older the house was “knocked through” on both levels so that he could come and go from my uncle and aunt’s house.  The reason for knocking through was that his house had never been modernised so had no kitchen or bathroom and was basically just one and a half rooms both up and downstairs.  The house had really been treated as one complete detached house since my Grandad passed away 20 years ago and the electrics and central heating all ran from the house next door, which is still owned by my cousins, so whilst it was only a small house it was a rather unusual renovation!

The first job was to formally separate the properties again.  This meant boarding over the connecting doorways and sound insulating the whole dividing wall on both sides.  We also had to separate the electrics and install a new supply and meter to our half, same too with the gas for the central heating , plus a new water supply.  We contracted out this part of the work and it was a bit of a slow start to the project, so several thousands pounds later and having dug up half the garden we were eventually in a position to be able to get down to work.

It’s always very quick once you start tearing things apart!  Stripping wallpaper, lifting all the carpets and uncovering the old fireplace really got us back to the bones of the house.  Top “treasure” finds included two WW2 German coins, several combs under the floorboards and a party invitation to my grandparents from 1964 (with RSVP card) behind the mantelpiece.  There were also a couple of signatures from Ellens past on the bare walls.  It was all a very poignant reminder of my family history.  Once the floorboards were up there was much work to do repairing rotting joists and digging out damp earth.   The fireplace was still in fairly good condition and so we decided it should stay, it’s dark green tiles a reminder of the traditional colour of many of the Fishertown front doors from that era.  Before laying the boards back down Amy lay all the pipes for the new central heating system, all the new plumbing and waste pipes and also all the cables for the electrics to the new kitchen.  It was pretty major stuff and although she had talked through the plan with the plumber and electrician, the only professional help we paid for was the final connection of the pipes to the boiler and the wires to the consumer unit.

Because of the size of the house it had to be well planned and functional.  The large cupboard under the stairs was transformed from a scullery into a bright modern shower room.  Small but perfectly formed!  The only other downstairs room became a kitchen / living / dining room.  One wall was given over to kitchen units and maximised for storage and functionality with everything built-in including a dishwasher, washing machine, fridge, oven and microwave.  There’s a large corner sofa-bed, extendible dining table and corner TV unit plus super fast broadband.  All you need in your home away from home.  The house may be small but the ceilings are so high and windows so large that it still feels spacious and bright.  Upstairs too was decked out just as we would want and we tried to add in that luxurious feeling where ever we could with neutral, calming décor, a king size bed and solid wood furniture.  New carpets and flooring throughout has given the old house a fresh modern feel and of course a bit of a sea-side theme never goes a miss in a holiday cottage!

The whole family, along with many folk of the Fishertown, had a lot of memories of this house and so it felt like a very personal journey to uncover and renovate every inch of it.  It’s the house in which my Dad and his brothers grew up and where my grandparents lived for most of their lives.  My Dad past away just after we bought the house and although he knew our plans it was really sad that he could not have been a part of it.  A joiner by trade, he would have loved getting involved and bringing the place back to life.  It was however an emotional and healing experience spending so much time there.  I felt closer to him than ever, imagining the young Hughie blaring out Stones records, combing his once thick curly hair (soon to be lost!) getting ready for a night out and lifting his mum, “Winnie the Pooh”, clear up off her feet when she got angry with him!  I think and hope he’d have been pleased with the end result.

The Bed Dilemma

How many different ways can you make a bed?  As it turns out, the answer to that is a lot more than I could ever have imagined!  Now, I’m quite a neat and tidy person, like things to be done in a certain way however as long as the beds made I’m not that bothered.  That’s not really the best approach when providing luxury accommodation though.  Having carefully shopped for tasteful, soft and sumptuous bedding  (not to mention the bedspread shopping trauma when we nearly had a total meltdown), I thought there was nothing more to do than swiftly make the bed, take some nice and photos for the website and boom…done.  But no.  I made up the bed, including said offending bedspread, plumped the pillows, flattened the duvet but it just looked so…normal.  You know when you arrive in a hotel (or your sister in law’s house) and the bed is just immaculate and smooth and inviting?  Well it was nothing like that.

Amy got involved, “that doesn’t look anything like Corinna’s (said sister in law’s) beds”.  So we took everything off the bed, everything on, folded the bedspread, unfolded the bedspread, pillows on top of duvet, pillows underneath…you get the picture.  It was rubbish.  “Let’s ask Corinna” Amy said, “she’ll sort us out”.  Sure enough, within the hour, we got an email with several attachments.  Photos of Corinna’s spare  bedroom made up with several bedding arrangements plus comments on the method and failsafe tips.  Brilliant.  We picked the fav and there you have it.  Bedroom perfection.  It’s the “classic” pillows on top of duvet / folded bedspread draped over the bottom / minimal cushion arrangement…thanks Cor.

Here’s the 5 different recommended ways to make a bed!

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Heavenly Hot Tub

The wood fired hot tub is one of the main features of the new cabin which will hopefully add that bit extra when people are choosing where go on the their short break.  We’ve also been looking forward to a dip in it as well but first we had to get it off the lorry, over the field, over the stream, over the style and onto the new decking.  Not so easy when the whole thing weighs in a 190kg!  We disassembled what we could, found several strips of old carpet, tipped it on its side and then rolled.  It was quite a sight but luckily the chunky wooden tub is so substantial that we all survived in tact, despite early fears of an Indiana Jones, Temple of Doom scenario.

"Temple of Doom" removal technique

“Temple of Doom” removal technique

Once in place we quickly got it reassembled and it was all ready for filling.   Harry had helped us out with getting a fresh water supply by tapping into the spring source 50m away and so we quickly got filling the tub with beautifully clean and clear water straight from the ground.  The tub holds 1300 litres so after 2 hours we were all ready to light the flames.  It’s quite a brilliant design whereby the metal stove sits inside the wooden hot tub but is surrounded by a wooden gate so that once you’re inside it you can’t burn yourself on the stove.  The wood is fed in from the top and then once you surround the stove in water it all starts hotting up.

Lesson one is don’t leave the stove unattended.  We nipped away for some dinner and when we got back 45 minutes later the fire was nearly out.  Nonetheless, the floating thermometer was rising and once re-lit it soon got up to temperature.  The moon was really bright, the stars were out and the beers and wine were loaded into the handy drinks holder.  A quick strip off in the cold night air and we were in!WP_20140419_001

 Oh, it was sooo heavenly!  The water was so warm and soothing, it was like having a romantic bath but we both actually had room to move around!   We’ve spent so much time out by the lake getting the cabin ready but it was such a different experience at night.  There was a full moon and the sky was a bit cloudy so it made the moonlight seem all the brighter as it bounced off the clouds.  Unlike having a bath the water stays nice and hot as the heat from the stove keeps releasing slowly.  We ended up being in for at least an hour and a half.  I was nervous about being cold when we got out but the hot tub was so warm that we were actually still super warm whilst towelling down on the decking.   I kind of always thought that hot tubs were one of those things that other people raved about but were probably over-rated but I have to say I absolutely loved it.  Peaceful night air, moon and stars, glass of wine…romantic perfection!