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.