Couple Val and Norman had a clear idea of the type of country property they were looking for, even if they were undecided on the location.
‘Living in a modern four-bedroom detached house, I’d always dreamt of having a cosy old cottage,’ says Val. ‘We didn’t want anything too big, or with a lot of land that needed maintaining, as we were only going to be there at weekends, but we still wanted a bit of outdoor space. We also wanted a property where we could add our own creative stamp.’
However, with a tight budget and a plan to carry out all the work themselves, the couple were aware that the project had to be achievable. ‘Norman had been in the building industry previously and will pretty much put his hand to anything. When I set him a challenge he doesn’t usually disappoint!’ laughs Val.
After an 18-month search for the perfect location that stretched all the way from Northumberland to Wales, the couple eventually realised that somewhere closer to home was the most practical solution, ideally within an hour-and-a half’s drive so that they could easily manage the project. They also decided to widen their scope in terms of property type. ‘We were initially hunting for two-bedroom properties, but we couldn’t find anything, so we started looking into the option of a one-bedroom home with the potential to upgrade or extend. That’s when we found the current house.’
Val and Norman finally settled on a terraced, two-bedroom stone cottage in a small market town in Weardale, County Durham, on the edge of the North Pennines. ‘We’d never actually heard of it before, but it’s only 50 minutes’ drive away. It’s close to the River Wear and surrounded by woodland, so it’s ideal for walking.’
Having stood empty for two years, the cottage was in a sorry state. ‘The paper was falling off the walls, it was damp and decorated in brown,’ Val recalls. ‘But we didn’t mind, as we could see its potential, and the fact that you couldn’t live in it while the work was being done was not a problem for us.’
- False ceilings were removed to reveal a characterful, beamed roof structure
- The stairs were ripped out and relocated to the living area to create a more spacious kitchen
- The layout was improved to create a larger kitchen, utility and living/dining room on the ground floor, with two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs
The kitchen started life as old wooden doors found on Ebay. ‘We bought 13, stripped and painted them, then simply found carcasses to fit,’ says Val. ‘We also found an old dresser top on Ebay, which fitted perfectly into the recess by the window. It was much cheaper than buying wall cabinets and the glass front helps reflect light into the room.’
‘The stairs actually came from a blacksmith’s cottage in Cambridge; we bought them on Ebay and Norman installed them himself.’ The feature is just one of many reclaimed finds in this house, which is a catalogue of upcycling inspiration.