Whether you're planning on renovating your own farmhouse or simply enjoy reading about those who have, find inspiration with Ann Ellway's renovation of a Georgian farmhouse. We love the charming story behind this gorgeous property.
Want to read more? Browse all our real home transformations, and find out how to renovate a house in our step by step guide, too.
Owner: Ann Ellway, a retired radiographer, lives here. She has two grown-up daughters, Kate and Ruth
Property: A detached, four-bedroom Georgian farmhouse in Yorkshire. Parts of the property date bath to the 17th century, and it has six acres of land including one acre of garden
What she did: Ann and her late husband Peter renovated the house, replacing windows and updating electrics and plumbing. They tried to reinstate some of its character, as many of the original features had been stripped out
When Ann and late husband Peter bought the house in the 1990s it still contained fittings from the ’60s and ’70s and was in need of modernisation, but they had no concerns about taking it on.
Peter had built their bungalow and his practical approach came in handy when they started to strip the house back to a shell.
‘We lived in it as we renovated it with the help of a builder friend,’ explains Ann. ‘He came to see it before we bought it and said “don’t touch it”, but we bought it anyway! A lot of the original features had been taken out, so we reinstated its character where we could and brought it up to date taking an ad hoc approach – there was no grand plan.’
The couple fitted new windows, as the old sashes were rotten and couldn’t be saved, and some new wiring and plumbing. The walls were taken back to bare brick and new floors laid over existing Victorian terracotta floor tiles, which were badly damaged.
‘These houses had no foundations: they were built on bare earth, yet they are incredibly solid,’ says Ann. ‘The only real structural work we did was to build a supporting wall in the cellar, which had been blocked up. We wanted to make it safe so we could use it.’
The walls were replastered with Limelite – specifically for old buildings – and original beams that had been covered up were exposed and painted. ‘The bungalow had been very modern and we brought the furniture with us, so it had a different look then to the way it looks now,’ she recalls.
‘It started with a piece of beadwork and a light fitting I found at an antiques fair and put up in the bedroom. Gradually we began replacing the G-Plan furniture with older things to suit the house.’
Ann rarely goes shopping with specific items in mind. She would rather spend hours browsing until she finds something that really appeals to her – whether it’s a miniature poetry book with a tiny inscription inside the cover, a piece of tapestry, a plump eiderdown or a large piece of furniture.
Ann is happy to mix old and new and admits she’s not a purist: ‘I buy what I like and I don’t spend a fortune. For example, I bought 100 pieces of Wedgwood crockery for £100. I love discovering things that have provenance and history – things that have been treasured by someone who lived more than 100 years ago. It’s fascinating to think about what kind of life they might have led.’
Nothing goes to waste. Ann is always finding new uses for things: she stacks up old suitcases one on top of the other to create extra storage for out-of-season clothes or bedding; recycles pretty curtain fabrics; fills her bookshelves with literary treasures; and puts antique sewing paraphernalia to practical use.
Every so often the kitchen cupboards are updated with a fresh coat of paint, and her treasure trove of kitchenalia – including wooden potato mashers, old crockery, weighing scales and storage jars – is used on a daily basis.
‘I don’t believe in buying things and then hiding them away in a cupboard,’ says Ann. ‘Everything is useful or lovely to look at. I get great pleasure from creating a new use for old things and respecting something that was once someone else’s treasured possession. In a way, it brings life full circle.’