Real home: a carefully renovated Victorian watermill

A piece of English history brimming with original features, this Victorian watermill has been lovingly renovated for modern living

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(Image credit: Darren Chung )

Whether you're looking for inspiration to take on your own period property restoration or simply want to see a great example of a stunning renovation, we think you'll love what Tina and Simon have achieved with this carefully renovated Victorian watermill. 

Once you've had a read, make sure to check out more of our real home transformations for even more inspiration. Read our guide on renovating a house, too, for more guidance.

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Tina commissioned a bespoke kitchen from Churchwood Design to suit the mill’s unique period features. Plenty of cupboards – with a rail-mounted ladder to reach the high ones – and a clever mobile island unit, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Oval Room Blue, give useful additional storage and a workspace that can be pushed out of the way when not in use. Arch details on some cabinets echo the shape of the mill’s windows. The sink is from Villeroy & Boch, with taps from Perrin & Rowe and Grohe. An original Victorian range has been converted by David White Fireplaces to include two Smeg ovens and an induction hob, and the tile mural above was designed by German artist Regina Bakker.

(Image credit: Darren Chung)
The Story

Owners: Tina and Simon Jones live here with their children Finian, 15, Rhiannon, 14 and Conlan, 12. They also have four grown-up children who live abroad. Tina is an interior designer and Simon is a lawyer

Property: A six-bedroom, Grade II-listed Victorian watermill, built in 1862, near Guildford, Surrey 

What they did: The mill had to be stripped right back to correct shoddy construction work carried out over previous decades. The wiring, plumbing and heating were all replaced 

 Searching for a characterful old property to restore, German-born Tina and her American husband Simon knew they need look no further when they saw the old millhouse – an idyllic setting to bring up their three youngest children. The Grade II-listed former flour mill is set in two acres of grounds, with the millpond a bonus for the fishermen in the family. 

The mill was built in 1862 but had fallen into disuse by the 1920s, becoming completely derelict before being restored into two weekend homes in the 1960s. By the time Tina and her family took it on, there were decades of additions to unpick. 

‘Years of substandard building works meant that the mill had to be stripped right back to the bricks and our six-month plan to complete the renovation fell by the wayside,’ recalls Tina. ‘We also had issues with the listed building consent. They didn’t allow us to replace the 1960s windows with cast-iron multi-pane designs in the original style, and also suggested adding a garage that would have been completely at odds with the mill’s architecture.’

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An Ikea sofa has been matched with an antique rug. The sideboard and ceiling light are from Maisons du Monde. The window seat fabric was a remnant from France; for similar, try Izabela Peters. For grain sack cushions, try Parna. The other cushions are by Lexington. For similar lights, try Hector Finch 

(Image credit: Darren Chung )

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An antique brass oil lamp, bought in Amsterdam at a fleamarket, has been converted to an electrical fitting

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

After six months, Tina decided she needed to be there every day so the family moved in to what was essentially a construction site, confined to the kitchen. With new builders, who understood exactly what was needed in a project like this, the work was finally completed 18 months later.

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(Image credit: Darren Chung)

The ground floor is home to the restored mill wheel, complete with working gears, separated from an oak-beamed study by a glass screen, as  well as a laundry room and workshop. After a lot of debate, Tina ensured the original heavy oak doors were retained, despite building control wanting to replace them with modern fire doors.

 Tina bought the daybed in her native Germany; try Swoon Editions for similar. Dressed with a mix of cushions from vintage and high-street shops, it’s perfect for the feminine scheme in the guest room

(Image credit: Darren Chung )

The living spaces are on the first floor, where Tina removed multiple layers of flooring to reveal the original pine boards. Five inches of screed in the kitchen had caused so much damage that the floor had to be replaced with reclaimed pine. A glass panel in the living room gives a view of the mill gears below, a constant reminder of the building’s past. 

Mill-workings

The waterwheel and gear wheels have been fully restored in their original position on the ground floor, which now also accommodates a study 

(Image credit: Darren Chung )

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The pretty guest room, with vintage Habitat bed, Laura Ashley quilt, and pillowcases by Ralph Lauren.

(Image credit: Darren Chung )
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 Tina’s interior design training has helped her seek out authentic period details while still ensuring the mill is equipped for modern family living. She enlisted Churchwood Design to create a bespoke kitchen to suit both the period and the proportions of the mill. 

‘Made in solid timber and showcasing traditional skills, the new kitchen looks as though it’s part of the building’s original architectural fabric,’ says Tina. 

She sourced an antique cooking range, which has been restored and now cleverly integrates two modern Smeg ovens and an induction hob. ‘The beauty of being the interior designer for your own home is that you don’t have to compromise your ideas; you can do exactly as you please,’ she adds. 

Her inventive approach prompted her to repurpose the mill’s old coal shaft, which runs the full height of the building, to install a lift for when elderly relatives visit. 

Tina has enjoyed subtly reflecting her and Simon’s backgrounds in her interior choices. Echoes of Germany’s North Sea coast and classic New England styles are carefully fused with English design cues to create a look that’s eclectic yet in perfect harmony with the mill’s strong heritage

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 In the living room, a Stovax Regency stove offers a  cosy spot to sit. A glass panel in the floor reveals the millwheel mechanism below. The chair, footstool and table are antiques

(Image credit: Darren Chung )

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 A closer look reveals the craftsmanship of the Victorian bricklayers, with the original cast-iron windows

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

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