Hello my lovelies!!…My God, it’s been far too long but I have some very exciting news to finally share! For some, it may seem like I just disappeared of the face of the earth but for little old me over here I have in fact been for filling a life long dream and my biggest challenge in terms of design to date. Yeah, I’ll admit, I have never been one to take the easiest of routes when it comes to achieving my personal goals but even for me this was a pure testament of endurance, patience and faith, (or some may say pure craziness and stupidity.)  The last 4 months have been THE most intense, the most demanding and by far the most consuming period of my life but I am pleased to finally say that we are now officially Home Owners. That’s right, I have been extremely busy literally designing and rebuilding MY first ever home! Finally, instead of renovating and doing up other people houses whilst we rented for 10yrs it turns out that the house of our dreams WAS in fact out there just waiting for the right time to be found and transformed into the beauty she’s gradually becoming.

I’m so thrilled to be officially introducing you to Orchard House – an old out building / barn which was originally part of a 63 acre country estate home in Surrey. What can I say, it was love at first sight. The potential, the blank space, the outdoor life it would grant our three young children, not to mention that over whelming feeling of knowing this was it – a real opportunity for me to finally push myself to all limits in terms of creativity and design, knowing that the end goal would become our family home. Sure. It was a lot to take on, made even harder by the fact that we had only 4 weeks to complete the purchase from our first viewing, 3 months to pretty much rip the property apart and rebuild it again, and then factor in that there was a limited amount of funds to do it all with but gambled and took the plunge regardless. From the start it was undeniably rocky – taking this risk resulted in us loosing our original solicitor, mortgage broker and the safest most logical option in purchasing the house we were currently renting at the time but luckily the stars aligned and everything went through against every single f***ing odd you could have found. (Let’s just say turning grey within this time period has been something I have had to seriously deal with.)

A few shots taken on the morning we picked up the keys…


Now this is the part where I have the pleasure of introducing you all to my best friend Mr. Paul Casey from Live, Love and Build who agreed to come on board and head the project with me, applying his own belief in my vision and hope in achieving what some at this point said was literally impossible. Having grown up together, I knew that he was one person that was as crazy as me and would take as much pleasure as I would in proving everyone wrong. Without his talent, knowledge and expertise in the building industry this dream simply would not have been possible and regardless of even us admittedly questioning whether our friendship could sustain such pressure and strain we went full steam ahead and did it anyway. Some risks in life are just worth taking so as you can imagine at this point,  s**t suddenly got seriously real!

Just to clarify, I’ve heard some people say that sometimes it’s easier to build a house from scratch than it is to mend what’s already there and I have to say that there is a hell of a lot of truth in this. It’s not until you start ripping a property to shreds that you reveal exactly what’s been hiding, (or in other words, what additional money you are going to have to spend to fix it!) For us this meant new electrics, new sewer systems, new plumbing, new insulation, new walls, new structural developments, new and additional windows, new floor plans…. basically a complete over haul of everything that was standing. The whole building had to be pulled back to brick. In fairness, what drew me most to the property was it’s blank canvas – originally used as kennels the structure was long and narrow, which you will see from the original floor plans below, with only windows down one side of the house. So it was time for me to stop being a wimp and make some serious decisions in terms of design so that Paul could take on board my ideas and distinguish what was actually possible. However, have you ever had the problem of having too much choice? Anyone that knows me well will tell you that I am renowned for procrastinating over the littlest of choices…what should I make for dinner? Should I spend the extra £1 and buy chewing gum? To shower or not to shower today?…. let alone choose how to redesign a whole frikin house! Sometimes when you have too much option I find it can have a tendency of hindering your thought process in making clear cut decisions – regardless of my original visions I was still questioning whether my decisions in every aspect was the right choice. Something that this process has definitely taught me is to stick with your gut and to not deviate too much from your original instinct.  I know I’m not the only one that suffers from self doubt however in actual fact one of the biggest things I had to start learning was to trust in myself.

Original Downstairs Floor-plan
Redesigned Floor-Plan

I wont bore you with any of the Building Control, Planning Permission and technical details of our building process because quite frankly there’s just too much to cover in this write up but the best advice I would give anyone is to get your head around the fact that Building Control and Planning Departments are entirely different. Planning will determine what you will be allowed to do in terms of  ‘granted planning permission’ and what precise adaptations will require permission being granted before you start any alterations whilst Building Control will be the department that works with you in terms of making sure the building is structurally sound and complies with all the legalities required when building, modernising or making any changes to a property.  Ie. if you are making structural changes this, like us, may require a structural engineer to provide you with equations and requirements that you will need to comply with in order to have your adaptations signed off and certified. (A big error people sometimes make which massively bites them on the arse when they come to reselling.) You can either go straight to your local council who will assign a professional from their department or you can source a Private Building Control company (which I strongly recommend) who generally may come up a bit more expensive in comparison BUT could potentially save you a shed load of money in terms of cost effective ways to proceed with your desired alterations.

That’s it, I promise I won’t talk anymore about the boring stuff!

I fully intend to share more blogs on the breakdown of each room but as I mentioned before there is just too much to cover in one hit so for now I will give a little visual guided tour with some before and after shots….

Let’s start with the left side of the house – Originally containing a small kitchen with a random shower and sauna but redesigned to become The Kitchen and Open Plan living / dining area. For this we added 3.6m Bifold doors and an additional full length window to let in as much natural light to this side of the house opening up this room to a major degree…

This was to become the open plan Kitchen Area combined with an open plan living plan space.
Original Left Side of house – soon to become the new Kitchen / Living Area
Windows and Bi-folds to the back of the house being marked up.

Then over to the right side of the house which had absolutely nothing in it, zip didly squat! Just one large room originally containing a snooker table. This was the most problematic area of the house as we were wanting to instal our main bedroom with an en suite bathroom at this end but going ahead with this meant we had to rip up all the existing floor and concrete and begin ground works to instal new sewer pipes throughout the house, ensuring we were creating enough fall for it to work accordingly. What a shitter, literally. We also divided the 10 metre length space and added an additional reception room with french doors and very sadly had to loose the very cute and country stable entrance door to the side of the house. (Sob) Oh and did you get a look at the old tudor style beams? Let me tell you, ripping those babies off was no easy task. Phewwwww.

Then onto the hallway where I changed the nothing space under the stairs into a W/C and moved both doorways into each side of the house to reflect a symmetrical entrance, I’m totally OCD like that much to Pauls dismay but it was definitely a decision I’m glad I stood my ground on regardless of how much extra work this would create…(but let’s face it people, in the grand scheme of things ya know lol!)

Then onto upstairs. We had granted planning permission obtained already to raise the roof but quite honestly whilst our children are as young as they are and it solely belonging to them for the time being, decided that this would be an additional phase to the development of the house which we would complete at a later date. Evidently even the ‘dream team’ has their limits…sort off. However, my 8 year old daughter was finally going to be gifted her own bedroom (serious Mum points – check) whilst the younger boys, aged 5 and almost 2 years old were going to share. The biggest issue when designing these rooms was the height and shape of both spaces. Your most regular, standard furniture was just not going to fit due to the height of the eave space so this meant most of the pieces ie, beds, wardrobes, chests etc were going to have to be handmade. You know, because Paul and myself didn’t have enough to already build…(eye rolling, poor guy.) Luckily for me, there is literally no end to this mans talents, carpentry being one of them thank god. Anyway, I think we managed to turn the biggest thing that put other potential buyers off purchasing the house in it’s original state into something truly unique and functional bedrooms that are now absolutely loved by my children…

My daughters bedroom before…
…and after. Who needs wall paper when you can just paint it on?


Now the boys room….

Boys room before….
…and after.

And finally… Our Master Bedroom with En Suite. One of the least finished rooms in the house however Paul over exceeded himself with the Bathroom execution and I am more than pleased with how it’s starting to come together. This room had an additional full length window added to the side of the house that had no natural light, however with the room layout having to change last minute my biggest concern was still the lack of light reaching the En Suite area. I will save a lot of how I over came this with a more in depth post when the room is finished but lets just say an alteration I decided on raised a lot of eye brows but thank god I did, it’s become one of the biggest features of the room and really gives it that desired grown up hotel vibe. Stay tuned for further developments but for now here’s a little sneak peek…

Stud work going up and the space being divided….

2am = Pure exhaustion.
En-Suite area after….

Wow. Even looking back now I still become totally astounded at just how much we managed to achieve in only 3 months. There was without doubt moments of pure exhaustion (hence falling asleep on a cement bag) and wonder of whether we had taken on just a little bit more than we could actually in fact achieve but somehow, just somehow we managed to pull it off. With pure dedication, endless hours of blood, sweat and tears and a whole lot of faith we managed to do what some considered the impossible. That fact alone makes me so damn proud. Not only did I get to learn and implement so many aspects of the building world I most importantly was able to push myself beyond so many boundaries that have hindered me from taking risks in the past. My dream of finally being able to divulge and relish in all things design and fully understand what it takes to make a fully functional yet unique home has now become a reality and I am so grateful to have had this once in a life time opportunity. It has totally changed me as a person, equally as a designer and maybe (dare I say it) even given me the inner confidence I sometimes lacked before on other projects.

Whilst the end of the Summer approaches we are primarily now focusing on the outside as that in itself has been a challenge but have enjoyed spending some much needed time over these school holidays with my bubs, settling into our new home and easing the amount of pressure we have had off slightly. It’s so nice to finally be excited again about sharing all the built up content and details I’ve been bursting to talk about for the last 4 months. Granted, there is still sooooo much that needs doing (ummmm finish patio, add skirting, doors, more painting, just to name a few) but hopefully, now it’s easier for me to handle the work load with less pressure, I’ll be able to share the rest of this journey with you along the way instead of having to take such a long break. I’ll no doubt be asking for all your opinions and help when it comes to decisions that are still yet to be made lol….hey, I said I changed a bit but not that much!

Have any of you designed or renovated your own home? Or even built it from scratch? I would absolutely love to hear all about your experiences, achievements or even disasters so please feel free to get in touch or to comment below!

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