I have been meaning to write this blog for a while and now I am on maternity leave I can finally indulge and reflect on the whole experience. I have always loved watching grand designs and the journey that families embark on when they are striving to finish a project which has so much invested in it is enthralling to me. Houses are so much more than bricks and mortar and I always hoped that one day I would meet someone who had the guts and know how to be able to do a project like that and who wasn’t afraid to think and dream big….
Passion and creativity are always strong personality traits in the people involved in these projects and I can safely say after a year and a half of observing and helping where I can that the Old School House project certainly required these in abundance.
The story began when we were house hunting around Cheltenham for James’s first property. We looked at all manner of houses, big, small, old, new but when we saw the Old School House it immediately felt ‘right’. It is a lovely old building in the middle of Cheltenham and was converted to living abode in the 1990’s. It is a building that has soul and although it had been converted in a quick, cheap manner James could see the potential to strip it back to its former glory and expose the double height windows and beautiful beams.
The house was purchased on the first of July 2016 and the project began.
We discussed ideas for the house and the purple carpets and flowery curtains were soon removed, walls were dismantled and ceilings were lifted to expose double height spaces in the two bedrooms and most spectacularly in the living room.
Everything was done room by room as we were also living in the property so had to keep some sort of normality as the house was slowly transformed. The spare room was done first in which we then moved all our things while the main bedroom was finished. In both bedrooms there were beams which had been painted black, this took more than a lot of chemicals, elbow grease, sanding and more elbow grease to remove and when they were done revealed a beautiful oak finish.
The floors were also finished in oak and the same floor goes right through the house apart from the bathroom and half the kitchen which are stone flags. Every single aspect of the work was done by James apart from the plastering and some electrical and plumbing stuff. It is something he has never done before and is a testament to not only his self belief but skill that the house is finished to such a high standard and with such care and attention to detail.
Balancing on a beam…
Finishing the stairs
New solid oak handmade stairs
We have spotlights in the kitchen
All stripped out ready for a new kitchen!
Cleaning as usual
The nearly finished kitchen
The bathroom in progress
Bathroom and spare room all in one with the wall knocked down!
Bathroom and spare room wall back up
Beautiful shelves in the kitchen
View from the main bedroom
The double height space in the living room on a lovely sunny day
Downstairs the double height windows were revealed and stripped back to Cotswold stone with oak window ledges installed. The whole house has been stripped back, insulated and then re-plaster boarded and then plastered. Spot lights decorate the cosy fire area in the living room with the other half being a double height eating area lit by a wagon wheel light fitting also made by James. There are also buttresses which have been exposed in Cotswold stone which are nestled into corners adding a rustic charm to an otherwise perfectly plastered and painted wall.
It was the summer of 2017 that the house really started to take shape and friends and family were more and more in awe of what had been achieved in such a short space of time, a Cotswold stone fireplace and log burner was installed and then we could start planning my favourite part so far …the kitchen!
The house renovation took a whole new turn at this stage though as we found out in true Grand Designs style that I was pregnant, if you watch Grand Designs then you will know that nearly everyone gets pregnant while the house is being built! So while we didn’t have a kitchen I was going through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy feeling decidedly peaky on a daily basis and managing with a makeshift kitchen in the sitting room was something I tried to embrace but I must admit did test my resolve for a few months.
True to James’s word the beautiful kitchen was finished in time for both sides of the family to come round for Christmas dinner and we were again in awe of what this man has achieved. The kitchen is exactly what I wanted, rustic charm with a big range cooker, open shelves and lots of work space. Christmas dinner went down a storm and it felt lovely to finally let the pregnancy cat out of the bag, onwards and upwards to the last room in the house the bathroom.
I was dead set on having a free standing bath and after much measuring and head scratching it was decided that we could not only fit one in but also a separate shower, the bathroom was bought online and James set himself the timescale of February half term to get the whole job done, with the help of a plumber and his dad to get some of the tiling done. This turned into ridiculously long days of meeting deadlines for the plumber etc but true to his word it was done and in working order ready for moving back in after the school holidays.
We have spoken about our hopes for the future and I am looking forward to being able to enjoy this house for a few years but I think James has well and truly got the bug now and has shown his talents for renovation in spades. We would love to live in the countryside one day and do something similar on a larger scale, its no secret that I would happily fill the house and any other space we have with children, dogs and any other animals I am allowed.
As I write this post the garden is still a work in progress and there are things I would love to buy for the house but I have learn’t in the last few years to appreciate what you have and to be grateful for what you have been able to achieve.
So the story continues to who knows where, the only thing I do know for sure is that life is never going to be boring or predictable. Yes I do wake up sometimes and wish we could afford to go on exotic holidays or I wasn’t forever cleaning dust, garden debris or concrete off the floor and James would just take a few days off from DIY. The reality is I wouldn’t have it any other way and I feel life is so much richer for it.
The moral of this story is to never give up on your dreams and you just never quite know what is around the corner… So here’s to the future and whatever adventures it may hold for us and our growing family.