‘When we decided to move out of central London, we bought a railway map showing train commuter times. This meant we were able to pinpoint where to live so that Gordon could commute to his workplace in London within an hour,’ says Lisa.
The couple started looking at various properties in Surrey. ‘We were viewing a house in Redhill when a friend suggested we try Reigate,’ Lisa recalls. ‘After we’d looked around, we thought Reigate was livelier than the other towns we’d seen and we fell in love with the area.’
That settled it and, at the first opportunity, the Randalls viewed a property in Reigate that they found on the internet.
The owners: Lisa Randall, a primary school teacher, lives here with her husband Gordon, who is a tax inspector
‘We first viewed the house opposite the one we eventually chose,’ says Gordon, ‘but it had only two bedrooms. We already had a two-bedroom house in east London and really wanted a bigger property. Then we heard that the sale of a larger house in the same road had fallen through.’
This property was ideal for the couple as it gave them the chance to put their own stamp on it, as Lisa explains: ‘It had been renovated nicely by the family who lived here previously. They had decided to move on though, and it really needed a facelift after several years of family use. It was perfectly habitable, however, and exactly what we wanted.’ v The couple were pleased that many of its original features were intact. Its open fireplaces, original doors and box sash windows all added to its character.
The first job they tackled was the property’s tired-looking exterior. ‘The front sash window was leaking, so we had to address that first,’ says Lisa. ‘We wanted to keep the box sash style, but the Building Regulations dictate that windows now have to be double-glazed, which made it a lot more expensive. We searched around and, luckily, found a company that offered us an excellent deal.’
While work on the window was under way, the couple thought it would be a good opportunity to get their builder to repaint the front of the house and tidy up the driveway, which was overgrown with weeds. He painted the exterior of the house in a vibrant yellow shade and replaced the gravel driveway with block paving, instantly giving it a smart new look.
Lisa and Gordon spent the next two-and-a- half years renovating their bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and conservatory.
‘The back bedroom was one of the first interior jobs we tackled, because the fireplace surround in there was badly damaged, with loose brickwork,’ says Lisa.
The fireplace needed to be stripped back, replastered and a new surround installed. Gordon then painted the surround to fit in with their new room scheme. The rest of the space was given a completely different look with new carpets and recessed lighting, while the storage cupboards were stripped back to their original light wood shade.
Confident with their work so far, the couple next turned their attention to the kitchen. The original kitchen seemed rather cramped due to its freestanding pine units, which they disliked. It also had a cement floor that had been overlaid with cork tiles.
‘Although we tried out utmost, we were unable to remove the cork tiles, so we used them instead as insulation for our new slate floor,’ says Lisa.
The couple decided to keep the original layout but installed new cabinets and worktops to make better use of the space.
‘The previous owners had already created an open-plan kitchen area during their renovations, so when the builder suggested putting back the dividing wall, we felt this would be like going back to the original layout so we rejected that idea,’ says Lisa.
Lisa and Gordon didn’t want a kitchen that would date easily, so they chose classic handmade Shaker-style kitchen units with a rimu hardwood breakfast bar.
‘We went for that style mainly because we weren’t sure when we would move on to another property so we wanted something we would love living with,’ Lisa explains.
They were keen not to compromise on quality in their bathroom choices too, looking to create a sense of luxury. The original bathroom had cork floor tiling, like the kitchen, with only a bath and basin.
‘We gutted it all and replaced it with a contemporary roll-top bath, basin and a digital shower, plus slate flooring, which works perfectly in the Victorian space,’ says Lisa. ‘We opted for wall tiles that contrast well with the slate floor tiles.’
A chimney stack projected partially into the bathroom space, and the couple had been concerned that it might prevent their new sanitaryware from fitting in the room.
‘Gordon measured the bathroom and realised we didn’t need to remove any part of the chimney stack to fit in the bath, shower, WC and new boiler, so we created a feature from it by reducing it in size and addding shelving above. We even have space for a flatscreen TV,’ she continues.
The bathroom project wasn’t without its problems. ‘Once the bath was installed we found that it didn’t drain properly,’ Lisa recalls. ‘We had to call in a plumber to sort it out – he soon discovered that one of the drainage pipes under the floor was leaking as a result of badly fitting joints.
‘It would have been impossible to remove our newly installed underfloor heating in the bathroom to reach the problem, so the kitchen ceiling had to be removed to reach the drainage pipe – so it turned out to be a costly repair,’ says Lisa.
While the couple continued with their renovation projects in the rest of the house, they lived with the original sitting room scheme for months. It had peachy pink walls and a bare fireplace hearth, with an old throw that was used as a curtain.
Eventually, they chose red as the starting point for their new scheme on the ground floor. They kept the original fireplace, and Gordon sanded and stained the Victorian floorboards in cedar varnish.
It was around this time that they discovered their conservatory roof was leaking badly, so it was updated with polycarbonate panelling, while new slate flooring was put down to continue the ground floor design scheme.
Satisfied with the renovation work so far, the couple took a break from renovating. Then, two years later, they started considering ways to create extra space.
‘We thought about moving to a bigger property but felt that converting the loft to add a master bedroom with a luxury en suite would give us the extra space we needed,’ Lisa explains.
‘The loft had been a playroom with a ladder leading up to it. I had wanted to convert it as soon as we moved in but we didn’t have the funds for it then,’ she adds.
However, after saving hard for a few years, the couple raised enough money to take on the conversion project they had dreamed of. They approached three loft conversion companies who all gave similar quotes, finally settling on The Loft Conversion Company in nearby Dorking.
The company drew up the plans, which would incorporate a large master bedroom with a floor-to-ceiling window to make the most of the surrounding views and a full-height en suite bathroom with a shower.
Lisa and Gordon wanted to create a contemporary-style space in the loft. To achieve this, they installed high-grade engineered oak floorboards and painted a feature wall in deep purple.
Blue mosaic tiles have been used in the en suite. ‘I really wanted lots of colour on the second floor,’ Lisa explains.
‘The loft area is now my favourite space,’ she adds. ‘That’s probably because we created it and it has such a luxurious feel.’
The couple are thrilled with what they have achieved in the house, as Lisa explains: ‘We started our renovation project with a vision already in mind. We knew how we wanted it to look and we were happy to take our time working on it to achieve that.’
Was there anything that Lisa and Gordon would have done differently?
‘With hindsight it might have been best to start with the loft conversion and work our way down through the house,’ says Lisa. ‘Converting the loft created a lot of mess throughout the house. Unfortunately we were dictated by our finances at that stage. ‘It took a few years but we now have a dream home – so it was worth it.’