The Art of Restoration...
For us it can be telly heaven. Watching an over ambitious novice property developer wildly underestimate budgets and timescales whilst forcing his wife and new born to live in the shed for three winters. That’s the melodrama whilst the ‘against all odds’ editing provides the satisfying sense of achievement with the glory of final completion.
Sure, it’s possible to tell how over budget the build has gone with the sound off by the owners subsequent hair loss but it’s the satisfaction of seeing a previously dilapidated wreck transformed into something wonderful that makes the journey cathartic and not 'docu-schadenfreude'. And stalwart of TV, Grand Designs, is by no means the only option. Beeny’s Restoration Nightmare and Restoration Man have provided a salacious fix of highs and lows amongst others.
So what’s it really like to restore a period property from tumble down wreck to domestic bliss? Micheal Booth is a property developer who took on an impressive renovation project in Yorkshire, he reveals the faith you need to have in the potential of a property.
"The decay was total throughout," he remembers, "but I couldn't resist it. It became a wool merchant's house after it was built in the late 1800s and still had a wonderful sense of grandeur, but it had been converted into three apartments in the 1970s and hadn't really been touched since.” However, having faith will only get you so far as the vision for how an old property that was designed for a previous age or non domestic use will be transformed to modern day living needs to be realistic. Realistic in terms of budget and function.
Life During The Build
As prospective developers consider the possibility that the collective value of their assets will allow them the funds to play Grand Designs the figures get in the way of hum drum basic planning. Where for example will you live during the build? If a previous house is sold to pay for the project can the kids be packaged off to the grand parents for 12 months? Maybe you don’t mind living on a building site but will the family? As a extremely fortunate piece of luck Micheal Booth managed to extend the completion date after the sale of his house for another year. "There was no way I could live in it while I did it up," he says. "I stripped everything back to a shell and allowed a year to put it back together again."
Period Features Balanced with a Contemporary Feel
Micheal's property is well over a hundred years old so there were an abundance of period features that could be preserved. Here again though there must be a consideration for the long term future of the residents of the building as much as the romance of the long term past and the hindrances that can bring.
Do you want to rescue a period building to preserve as a monument to the past alone or can you retain a buildings ancestral character whilst allowing new life to flourish in contemporary fashion unrestricted? Or more to the point will the local building regulators be open minded enough to let your architect design for today in sympathy with the region's history. Micheal was allowed to replace single pane windows with double glazed sash windows, drop the ceiling to accommodate wiring and even remove a few walls to make the space more ‘liveable’. Of course, features such as architraves, skirting boards and doors were replaced with precise copies to match the cherished originals.
Be warned though because many who successfully renovate a property and are quids in at the end of it often enjoy the project so much it becomes more than a one off and becomes a lifetimes work. Micheal admits honestly, "I've really enjoyed renovating this place and had every intention of staying here, but I've seen a wonderful old farmhouse which I've fallen madly in love with and I have to sell this place in order to buy it.”