Breeda and Philip Rochford had long admired the abandoned farmhouse next door to their home in Wexford, so when they had the chance to purchase the characterful property, they couldn’t resist. ‘I had approached the owner of the house a few years previously to see if he was interested in selling,’ says Philip. ‘But he wasn’t keen at the time, so we didn’t think we’d ever have the chance to buy it.’
The farmer they bought it from had inherited the farmhouse and land, which added up to around 160 acres in total. The property had been empty for five years and was in very poor condition, with no electricity or running water.
- The owners: Breeda Rochford, a retired teacher, and her husband Philip, a farmer, live here with their four children, Kate, Faye, Clogagh and Martha
- The property: A renovated farmhouse with five bedrooms and 70 acres of land
- The location: Wexford, Republic of Ireland
- What they spend: The couple bought the house, valued at £50,000 without the land, in 2000. They have spend around £95,000 on renovation work, and it has recently been valued at around £120,000
The farmhouse next door
‘One summer, back in 2000, the owner stopped me on the road and asked if we were still interested in the house, explaining that he had split the farm into three lots,’ recalls Philip. ‘Two had been sold, leaving the farmhouse and a bungalow, along with 70 acres of land. I couldn’t believe our luck, and we did the deal there and then.’
Starting the project
One of the first jobs Philip tackled was clearing the ground around the farmhouse. ‘The land was very overgrown with two large elm trees to the front of the house, which we decided to cut down as they made the interior very dark,’ he explains. ‘These didn’t go to waste, however, as we have used the wood for shelving, floors and window boards in the house.
‘The land was really high at the rear of the property – right up to the windows. It was making the walls very damp and we would often have cows popping their heads in through the windows!’ he laughs. This all had to be cleared and Philip dug French drains around the house to solve the damp.
Saving the chimney
Another major undertaking was the chimneys, which were all in a bad state of repair and needed to be replaced, with the flues relined. ‘There is a huge chimney breast that takes up most of the space in one of the bedrooms. Everyone advised us to take it out, but we wanted to keep it as we felt it was part of the history of the property. So, instead, we chose to build up a second chimney inside it. This was a great decision as the house is now incredibly warm, but still retains its original character.’
Restoring original features
Philip and Breeda tried to do everything as economically as possible, salvaging and repairing many of the original features and sourcing materials from buildings that were being demolished or modernised. ‘Most of the doors came from a bed and breakfast in Wexford. The owners were replacing all the old ones with new designs that met the fire regulations, so we were able to pick them up for a song and alter them to fit our doorways,’ says Philip. ‘The ceiling boards were salvaged from an old church in England, and we even managed to get hold of a cast-iron bath, toilet and basin from a local castle that was being updated. We were lucky that we had time on our side to find bargains and source the materials that we knew would suit the property.’
‘The only new furniture in the house is the freestanding bespoke kitchen and worktops, which we had made by a local carpenter to our design,’ adds Breeda. ‘We wanted a traditional, country-style kitchen that would be practical, with plenty of storage and space for preparing food, so the large central island is perfect for this. We also installed a reconditioned Aga to complete the farmhouse look.’
Extending the property
To one side of the kitchen was a pretty stone annexe, which the couple have built up and incorporated into the house to create an extra living space. ‘We thought it would make a lovely, bright room that we could enjoy all year round,’ says Breeda. Philip did all the stonework himself and, to give it a spacious feel, made it double- height with rooflights and large windows. ‘We also fitted a wood-burner, so it’s a cosy snug to relax in during the winter months.’
Creating a colour scheme
To inject some colour into the interior, the couple opted for some strong shades. ‘Colour is important to me and I wanted the house to be warm and vibrant,’ says Breeda. ‘The rooms are all large, so they take dramatic, bold shades well. I opted for a deep red feature wall in the kitchen and had the cabinets painted in a turquoise blue. I chose a rich blue for the dining room, and went for a pretty, cheerful yellow in the main living room. I continued the dramatic scheme upstairs with deep aubergine in the bathroom and used pink and red in a couple of the bedrooms.’
The couple furnished the house very economically using an eclectic mix of country-style furniture and pieces inherited from Philip’s family. ‘We both like antiques and were lucky to have furniture given to us by family and friends; there were also some old pieces left in the house,’ says Philip, who has upcycled several unloved items of furniture to give them a new lease of life.
With the major renovations complete, Breeda and Philip can now enjoy their home. ‘We had always loved this place and are so pleased that we have had the chance to bring it back to life,’ says Philip. ‘All the work has certainly been worth it, but an old house such as this will never be finished, so it’s definitely still a work in progress.’ Handmade kitchen and worktops
|Handmade kitchen and worktops||£17,000|
Featured image: Freestanding cabinets were made by carpenter Matty Roche and painted in Striking Cyan by Dulux. The old dresser belonged to Philip’s mother and the table is from Bevel Furniture, with chairs sourced from a French market. The ceiling and floor have been replaced with salvaged wood