Photography for client Jessica of Seals Bakes
When we moved last August, I just felt instant relief and gratitude. I wasn’t happy to leave ‘home’ I was happy to leave our little flat (you can see it here). Living and working in that space had become a little soul destroying. We had been sleeping on a sofa for about 6 months and lets just say the sofa wasn’t quite long enough to keep your feet on. Trying to work around two energetic little things, trying to afford nursery fees to work and standing up for hours at a computer perched on a chest of drawers to edit was just no fun. We had tried desperately to find a property in London but anything with the space we wanted was just out of our price range and I had a want list that probably would make Kirstie off of Location, Location, Location, pretty mad. (Things like, you know, being able to park near your home, a garden and a separate space to work)
So we widened our search from Cheltenham to Bristol to all the home counties and eventually we found THE house, well part of a house, a 1850s manor house that has been split into four properties in West Sussex, with a direct train to Victoria in less than an hour. So we moved and last August was glorious.
We enjoyed the overgrown but established garden with it’s hazelnut and plum trees, the wild strawberries vying for light in the overgrown borders, picking our own blackberries that were entwined within the giant hydrangea (there’s a giant hydrangea!) And a washing line. And the swings and tree house obviously won over Eden & Haven. The house is surrounded by trees, trees so tall it would take a four year old a week to climb (with safety harness and full PPE obvs.)
There was space for our things to rest, instead of being piled up, squashed in or forgotten in boxes and bags. A space to work, what a luxury to have a place to create. And bedrooms for everyone, no more sofa surfing. There’s even parking!
There was an overlap of about a month where Michael pretty much tried to make the house decent before we came. Whilst on viewing, things looked in pretty good condition, lots of things were hidden and didn’t come up on survey (what is the point of a survey?!) also the sale took about 9 months and the sellers pretty much stopped taking care or doing any upkeep so the carpets which had looked ok, needed to be taken out (pets!) and no amount of bleaching and scrubbing could get rid of the built up grime in the bathrooms, the ensuite in the master bedroom was so revolting we just shut the door and hoped it would go away!
So our original plan had been to gut it and start again, adding a new kitchen and replacing floors and bathrooms. However with quotes and inspection, things came up that ate our budget, like holes in the roof, the boiler needing replacing, radiators broken, electrics, wiring, the water pressure needing to be corrected.. the windows, as the house is on high ground, south facing, with views of Christopher Robin’s 100 Acre Forest (Ashdown Forest) the back of the house and all the windows, take the full brunt of the elements and there was a lot of specialised work needed to repair the original window frames.
So rethinking our budget we did what we could and have left the rest for phase two which will commence I hope in the next few years (!)
So all the boring things that take up so much money but leave things looking exactly like they were; roof, boiler, radiators, electrics, water, wiring and 4 of the worst windows (because they are original and it cost an incredible amount of money to repair them!) And then we started on the bathrooms because they made you feel dirtier after using them.
The master bedroom had an ensuite (the one we had locked up never to be used) that you entered from the side of the room. As the room felt so huge (it was possibly bigger than our entire London flat) Michael’s vision was to use the bay window area of the room and create an ensuite in that space.
He thought the bay was an awkward space you couldn’t put a wardrobe or a bed in it without it blocking the light, it was a nice vista but, I guess living in and converting 3 tiny flats from one bed to two beds, he saw it as prime real estate!
I really couldn’t envision the end result but knowing what Michael can do I left it up to him entirely. My grand plan was a dressing table would have used the space adequately but when you see the after pictures, what did I know?!
So our builders gutted the old ensuite, blocked the entrance and created a new entrance on the other side (we’ll get to this extra bathroom later), then following Michael’s design built a room divider of wardrobes – one for each of us! (I haven’t had my own wardrobe since I left home!) And within the bay created this, I guess, showstopper bathroom complete with copper bath, a his and her sink (ok, ok it's a basin) and a walk in shower. (I will list all the supplier details at the end)
We went for a dark blue colour because, it seemed the time to try something new. Although we are not quite sold on the colour…
The final part was to sand the original floorboards and stain them. These too, we feel, are not quite the right colour but our plan is to eventually sand and stain the rest of upstairs (there are just Ikea rugs hiding the bare boards at the moment) but we can’t quite decide what to do, as 50% of the floor boards need replacing, should we replace them or lay a wood on top and if so what wood?! But those are decisions are for the future.
Back to bathrooms.
Next to our bedroom is the family bathroom, it was originally, we think, one long room encompassing the ensuite (which has the window) but a long time ago it was split to create the ensuite and the family bathroom is accessed by the hallway. We moved (I mean the builders) moved the dividing wall back 3 feet or so, which meant we could fit in a separate bath and shower. This space is now a joy to bath the kids in each night. We used the same floor tiles as the ensuite but kept this room light in colour and the walls free of clutter so that it feels as open and as spacious as possible. There was a lot of debate trying to squeeze things in just so and our builders were driven a little mad by Michael’s niche obsession. All the bathrooms have built in niches instead of having shelving or things hanging just to try keep things streamlined and create a nice flow.
So by using the bay of the bedroom as the ensuite, this enabled us to create a completely new third bathroom. It’s an almost exact replica of our bathroom in our London flat, same wall tiles (slightly lighter green) and shower over bath idea but the funky Chadder toilet feature was actually left behind in the utility room downstairs. It was covered in limescale, so much so we didn’t think we could save it. Michael spent two days repairing it until it shone and we moved it upstairs to this room. This bit of the house is a little strange it’s like a forgotten annex, there’s a door separating it from the main landing and it has two little bedrooms back to back and now this new addition of a very pretty ensuite. It’s kind of become the guest area and maybe we will AirBnB it in the future. Still deciding. Would anyone like to visit the ‘west wing’?!!
There is still so much to do, flooring for the entire house (excluding the rooms above) and all of downstairs, including a kitchen (a dreamy Devol one is top of my list maybe in a few years?). Plus more maintenance of course, but little by little. I've listed all the supplier details below. I hope you liked this! I'd love to hear your renovation stories or any advice on the bits we are stuck on please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading this xx
Interior Design & Planning
Michael Frawley contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Copper Bath | Cast Iron Bath
Double Basin | Lusso Stone
Blue Metro Tiles | Tons of Tiles
Mirror | Maisons Du Monde
Chandelier | Debenhams but discontinued, this is similar
Floor Tiles | Furnace Iron Fired Earth
Paint | Dulux Breton Blue in Matt, Gloss & Eggshell
Paint | All whites Dulux
Wall Cabinet | Ebay
Wall Tiles | Tile Mountain
Basin | Bathstore
Basin Mixer | Heritage Bathrooms
Bath | Victorian Plumbing
Chandelier | Debenhams but discontinued, this is similar
Mirror | Maisons Du Monde but Discontinued similar here
Old Ensuite, now third bathroom
Wall Tiles (Valencia Mist have been discontinued) these are similar | Fired Earth
Floor Tiles | Fired Earth
Chadder Cistern and Accessories | Chadder & Co
Carried out by Paul & Ray (and Team) | The Project Works