An introduction to my renovation project

Zoe Sheridan-Wasey outlines the plans for her renovation as she and her husband embark on a large scale project to transform their 1930s park keepers cottage into a dream family home

After renovating many properties over the years, my husband and I have finally found our dream family home – or it will be once we’ve renovated, remodelled and extended.


Meet the owner: Zoë Sheridan-Wasey

Zoë is a former marketing manager for a popular stove and fireplace manufacturer, a career she enjoyed for ten years while simultaneously undertaking five renovation projects. She has always loved home renovating and interior design, but this is by far her largest project to date: renovating, rebuilding and extending a large family home on her dream acre plot in Devon. This time, two small sons are competing with the build for her attention, while a completion date of Christmas 2014 is looming…

Follow her blog over the coming months as she charts the highs and lows of the build.


We found the property, an old park keeper’s cottage, just over two years ago and fell in love with it on sight. We thought about it, did a few back-of-an-envelope calculations and took the plunge: we sold our beautiful townhouse (a previous restoration project, which was heartbreaking to leave), went into rental accommodation for six months and found ourselves in a bidding war (while I found myself in hospital with meningitis)… all for the love of this house. To be more exact, we liked the house a lot but really loved the plot and location: an acre of private land on the edge of our favourite Devon village. We are within a short walking distance of the village primary school, pubs and shop, yet also have the land we craved (great for our two sons who need a lot of exercise), a fully stocked established orchard and relative privacy. We just knew that this house was the one for the family – I got that feeling that you have when you walk into a house and it feels like home, but with the potential to be our home for a very long time. After all our previous moves this was exactly what we were looking for – a renovation project to get stuck into.

We were already familiar with the village, near Exeter, as we often visited our very good friends who lived here. This has allowed us to experience first hand the village’s atmosphere and community, the idyllic views, fantastic village firework displays and the legendary local pubs. In addition, our eldest son was due to begin school and we felt the beautiful small village school would be the best start we could give him, mirroring our own early village schooling experiences. With this in mind, over the period of a year we had looked at (and placed unsuccessful offers on) three alternative properties in this popular village, which at the time was very disheartening, though this now seems meant to be and we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Image above: The before plans show how the house looks now, but we want to create more space by extending and remodel the interior layout significantly.

The house started out as a park keeper’s cottage, built in 1938. It had later been extended which included the addition of a living room and half a bedroom. The original part of the house was comprised of a retro brown kitchen complete with oil-guzzling Rayburn range cooker, dining room, two decent size bedrooms and a generous bathroom. There was also a north-facing conservatory, which now appears to have changed into a utility/storage room! A survey of the property confirmed the house is definitely in need of an update, with single glazed windows, a leaking wall, a very old roof and not much heating to speak of. We were however keen to live in the house for a while to get to know it a bit better, but a chilly Christmas with no oil (we failed to realise that the oil gauge wasn’t working and ran out on Christmas Eve), spurred us on to begin searching for architects to draw up some new plans. After several meetings, we found Stephen Hargreaves. Stephen works with his son Dan and not only do they have a great dynamic, they also understood our grand vision for the house – and our slightly less grand budget!

Stephen and Dan originally came back to us with three rough designs, one which was quite different to what we had envisaged in our heads, but was to become the basis for the plans. Over the next couple of months we met up regularly to work on developing the design. Our architects also utilised some brilliant technology that meant we could spend our own time virtually ‘walking through’ the proposed design simply on an iPad at home. This really gave us a chance to challenge every decision from both a practical and aesthetic point of view – I would highly recommend this to anyone undertaking a large renovation, we found the BIMx app really useful.

Since the house itself is within a Conservation Area, we needed approval from the conservation officer at the local council in addition to the usual planning permission. We whooped with joy when permission was granted: little did we know that was only the start of it…