Our new house
Hello, it's been a while hasn't it? I decided to take a little time off from the blog while we got settled into our new home, but I didn't originally intend to be away for quite so long. We moved into the new house almost two months ago and launched headlong into the renovation work pretty much straight away. The property needs a lot of work as it hasn't been updated for decades and we didn't even have a phone line or broadband for the first few weeks. I still don't have a space set up where I can work easily but we've started to make progress.
After we had the offer accepted on the house I wrote this post about why we decided to stay here in Leamington. Period properties in the town are very sought after and those that do come up tend to get snapped up quickly. Prices here aren't dissimilar to some parts of London and we could probably have afforded a much bigger house if we'd opted to look elsewhere, but we really love the town and everything it has to offer.
In the end we decided not to completely blow our budget. This was a conscious and positive lifestyle choice for both of us as we want to have the freedom to live simply and within our means rather than taking on a hefty mortgage. We knew that we were looking for a renovation project and we also wanted to ensure that we had some money left over to be able to extend and update the property to our own specification. Our new home is a three bedroom house dating from the 1930s located in a quiet and leafy part of town. It's not huge but it is situated on a corner plot so we hope to be able to extend to add the extra space we need. We also like the fact that it's set back from the road behind a lawned front garden with a mature hedge which gives it a sense of privacy.
We didn't want to buy anything that had already had changes made to it by someone else that we would potentially have to undo, and this house really hasn't had anything done to it for decades. It still has the original 1930s doors and fireplace and the kitchen and bathroom haven't been updated since the 1970s. It's a complete fixer upper and we both plan to be pretty hands on so aside from things like the electrics and replastering we'll be tackling most of the work ourselves.
Before we moved in I'd considered the garden to be one of the compromises with this house. I've always loved gardening and ideally wanted a larger garden. It's a north facing triangular plot and as we originally viewed the house in the depths of January when it was pretty dark and dismal I'd been worried that the rear garden would be in almost complete shade all day long. How wrong could I be? Two months in and the garden is for me definitely one of the joys of this house. Two thirds of the back garden is in sun for most of the day and because it's an oddly shaped plot we also have a garden on the side of the house as well as a lawned garden to the front. The side and front gardens are screened by a mature hedge which is high enough to provide almost complete privacy but not so high as to block out daylight. Most of our neighbours have removed their front gardens completely to create multiple parking spaces so we feel incredibly lucky to have one of the greenest plots in the street.
We only had a small town garden in our last house and although I enjoyed maintaining it there really wasn't really much space to plant anything beyond a few plants to give it architectural structure. Here I can finally get my hands dirty. I've already spent quite a bit of time tidying things up and creating a kitchen garden at the side of the house. Although the plot is constrained by its size and shape I'm really relishing the challenge of a tight design brief. We can't wait to transform the outdoor space and Graham is already sketching plans for a cool airstream shed he plans to build. The relandscaping will have to wait until next year though as I'm sure things will get pretty messy when we have the builders in to extend the property.
One of the first jobs will be to replace the windows as they are pretty old. We'll also be replacing the UPVC front door with something a little more in keeping with the original style of the house to add kerb appeal to the property. The rewiring is already complete and if you've been following me on Instagram you'll have seen that we've already had some of the rooms replastered and started decorating the bedroom. There'll be a bedroom reveal post coming up very soon.
As is the case with many old unmodernised 1930s properties the kitchen is tiny so we plan to demolish the existing garage and extend onto the side of the property. By doing this we hope to be able to create a larger kitchen as well as a home studio space for me and a small workshop for Graham. We'll also demolish some outbuildings at the back of the house to open up the garden and fit crittall style doors which will lead out to the garden from the kitchen and living room.
some thoughts On compromising to find a house that works for you
Despite the glossy instagram pics that often overwhelmingly suggest otherwise, few of us are lucky enough to be able to find and afford our dream home. For most of us there is nearly always a compromise somewhere along the line.
For Graham and I the compromises with this house were its size (it's a little smaller than we would ideally have liked) and the fact that the garden is north facing and on a triangular plot. Ironically we'd both initially discounted the house when we first noticed the estate agent's listing for those reasons. But what we've since realised is that both of those perceived negatives actually have really positive flip sides. As the rear of the house faces north the front, which has lovely big bay window faces south and these windows flood the space with light. The room is screened from the road by the hedge and behind this the front lawn provides a breathing space so for us the fact that we can live at the front of the house rather than the back is a positive. And yes, the weirdly shaped corner plot means that we have a smaller back garden but the upside of that is that there is much more space on the side of the house, which gives us more potential to extend. Once we'd viewed the house we realised that it had lots of potential and we began to form a vision of how we might be able to make it work for us.
And the fact that it's a little smaller than some of the other houses we looked at meant that it came in under budget, so we can afford to update and extend it. We're excited to put our stamp on it and turn it into a home that works for us.
So my point is don't immediately discount a property because it doesn't tick all of your boxes. Sometimes it pays to arrange a viewing anyway even if you think it's not quite perfect. If nothing else it might help you to figure out which items on your wish list really are non negotiable and which things you might be prepared to be a little more flexible about.
I'll be sharing some 'before' shots of the house here on the blog when we reveal the room makeovers over the coming weeks and months but in the meantime you can can get a glimpse of all the behind the scenes stuff and follow our renovation journey over on Instagram Stories.