Pop in for a cup of tea at Rhiannon and Joel’s home in the evening and chances are you might bump into a university professor, a student, or even an Olympic swimmer. With two of their bedrooms available for rent on Airbnb, there’s always someone interesting at the house.
‘We never set out to use our house as a business, but it’s allowed us to turn what was a development project into our family home,’ explains Rhiannon.
Rewind to 2011 when Rhiannon and Joel returned to the UK to live with her parents following a stint volunteering in Peru, and the couple were keen to start making plans for the future.
‘I inherited some money, and because we weren’t sure where we’d end up living long term, we chose to use the money to fund a renovation project, with the aim of selling it on for a profit to give us a bigger deposit for our future home,’ says Rhiannon.
After a six-month search, the couple came across a dated bungalow. ‘It had been empty for five years, so was in need of extensive work,’ says Rhiannon. The couple planned to retain three walls of the bungalow, stripping back the space and then rebuilding the property with the addition of a second storey to create extra bedrooms.
Work soon got underway, but a phone call from their builder meant the project took a new direction. ‘He explained that having stripped the house right back it was obvious that the walls weren’t strong enough for what we’d planned,’ says Rhiannon.
‘The suggestion was to demolish the entire bungalow and start a new house from scratch. As new-builds are zero-rated for VAT, we’d make huge VAT savings, so our builder estimated it would only cost us an additional £3,000 compared to our original budget.’
Decision made, the walls were swiftly demolished and Rhiannon and Joel were left with an empty plot. ‘I did panic that we’d paid £160,000 for the bungalow and suddenly all we had to show for it was a scrap of land,’ she adds.
Undeterred, the couple pressed on, and with planning permission for a new-build in place, Rhiannon finalised the details. ‘We went for a barn-style design with a pitched roof, as this was the cheapest option,’ she explains. ‘To stop it looking like a boring white box, we clad it in larch to give it more of a Scandinavian feel.’
Rhiannon’s natural flair for design is clear to see throughout the finished house. From the light-filled hallway with its colourful coral-pink door that greets you as soon as you walk into the house, to the way she’s mixed inexpensive Ikea buys with vintage and charity shop finds, the whole house has a Scandinavian-inspired vibe.
‘I’ve gone for a neutral palette of grey, white and oak so I can quickly change the look of a space by adding new accessories,’ she says.
During the 18-month project, Rhiannon and Joel found themselves getting attached to the house, and they made the decision to make it their family home, rather than selling it on.
With the arrival of son Huck in 2015, the couple know they made the right choice. ‘It works so well as a family space,’ says Rhiannon. ‘The open-plan layout means I always know where Huck is.’
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But staying here has inevitably meant being creative with their finances. ‘The house is beyond what our salaries can afford, so it has to pay for itself,’ says Rhiannon. From companies hiring the house as a location venue to university visitors who need a place to stay and book a room through Airbnb, it’s opened up a different way of life for the family.
‘The house is such a sociable space that it really lends itself to having guests here,’ she adds. Despite the changes to their initial plans, the couple have no regrets. ‘I never dreamed that our first-ever home would be as special as this place,’ says Rhiannon. ‘We feel very lucky to be living here.’ Looking at the beautiful home they’ve created, it would be hard to disagree.
- Interior design: Rhiannon Payne
- Builder: Ellis & Hughes
- Kitchen and bathroom installation: Tim May Services
- Tiles: Tons of Tiles
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