Our Bristol home renovation tracks the story of the early stages of our time in Little Ravenswell, right through to the project completion. The property is a 1960s four bedroom house lived in by the same family, until we acquired it in December 2017.
The early build – 2017
We met with our Architect, Simon, the day after we moved in. Being the impatient sort I was keen to get started on this project as Little Ravenswell clearly needs some love and attention! At this initial meeting we discussed the potential in the property and our desire to create a light, open home that works for our family and takes advantage of the views to the large garden. Simon began by taking a survey of the property, measuring up to enable initial designs to be developed. This took around 4 hours as he literally measured every nook and cranny of the property.
Six weeks later and after our first Christmas in the house, Simon was back to talk us through the initial draft design plans. Before this stage we’d deliberately not been too fixed in our minds as to what we wanted in each room or how the house should look – after all, we are paying for the expertise of a design expert.
The wish list we shared with Simon before the initial plans were drawn up included:
- Kerb appeal with welcoming porch
- Children’s play room downstairs with sufficient space and storage.
- Utility room, , with laundry shoot being a bonus.
- Kitchen / dining / living space with high ceilings (including glazing) – possibly a lantern room, and maximises view of the garden with sliding or bi-fold doors.
- Family bathroom to include bath and separate shower (the house currently has an over the bath feeble electric shower)
- Ensuite to master bedroom
- Spacious and comfortable lounge
- Sufficient storage for coats and shoes
We were presented with the initial design drawings and were pleased that Simon had managed to incorporate nearly all the points on the wish list. The next step was for us to reflect and review the draft design. We pondered over this for a while and went back with questions, particularly relating to the downstairs layout – which is where we’ve decided most of our budget will be spent. If we’re honest, we’d love to make more of a radical change to the upstairs design, as the current layout includes a long corridor – which is dark. However, to get the upstairs to be how we truly want it to be would take us over our budget, probably by at least £50,000. The upstairs we can live with however, its downstairs where we won’t make any compromises.
Our planning application was approved and the detailed construction drawings began to be prepared. This was a lengthy process and coincided with us commencing the compilation of our schedule of works document. We had to have this ready before we could even begin thinking about starting the tender process to find the right builder for this project. We shopped around looking for kitchens and decided upon our kitchen layout.
We began to think about the bathroom we want, we’ve both had very differing views on this room! With the spell of good Summer weather we were able to get out into the garden and spent the early May Bank Holiday giving many of the overgrown shrubs a good hair cut. The pond which was choked up and overgrown was then cleaned and new aquatic plants put in place. Colour schemes have been confirmed for the children’s rooms and many items to furnish these have been purchased (my favourite bit of this project!). We have also utilised the knowledge we gained on a recent interior design workshop to plan the layout and interior of the formal living room and our bedroom. So good progress!
Following a recommendation from an interior designer we met with a company called Bright Box, a specialist lighting company. Our thinking being that lighting is one of the most often overlooked aspects of a house project and actually has possibly the biggest impact. So we pootled over to Cheltenham for a chat with them and to learn more about what was possible for our project. Firstly if you haven’t spent much time thinking about your lighting, I strongly recommend you do – we learnt so much and came away very excited about the possibilities. One lighting brand that we now are in love with is Buster & Punch – stunning switches and pendents in heavy metal colours. We commissioned Brightbox to prepare the lighting schematic for our house.
Lots happened. After what felt like a long time waiting for the architect to finalise plans, these finally were ready. This meant that in early September 2018 we had: a completed schedule of works (list by list of every room and the work required to each room), a detailed lighting schematic, detailed design drawings, structural engineers calculations (which basically tell the building contractors how much of each material is required to undertake the job), building surveyors report and a document which shows visually how each finished room would like – a bit like a mood board). This is more detail than contractors would normally receive but for our peace of mind means we’ve thought about most aspects of the house and will enable us to get a more accurate quote from the contractors.
Quotes from the building contractors are all in and and we decide to work with R H Building Contractors (Ross Heaps), we speak to clients locally they work for and feedback is positive. As with all people we’re looking to work with we also check out their accounts to check the business is solvent. Quotes go back and forth as we try to manage our budget against what we want to do with what we can afford.
Ross confirms they can move some work around and can start our project in January. I’m excited beyond belief. We begin the process of packing up as much of our stuff as possible.
The most exciting day of the year, January 6th and I head off to work wondering what’ll be greeting me when I return. It’s a funny moment when I arrive home at 3pm to find a digger, a dumper and a portaloo on site. The builders I think thought I was slightly doo-lally as I insisted on getting on the digger for a photo. In just one day they’d made more progress than I was expecting and that then set the tone for the rest of the project, we couldn’t keep up with how quickly and efficiently they worked.
We moved out at the start of February as the builders were now ready to start work to the interior of the house. Ceilings needed to come down and this was where it got messy. By mid-February and only 6 weeks since the build had started we have a water-tight extension area.
The novelty of not being on site and in temporary accommodation had worn off. We had budgeted to move out for 3 weeks and had set aside £2k for this. We ended up needing to be out for nearly 7 weeks so went over budget and spent £4k on temporary accommodation. I wouldn’t have minded too much except it was pokey and living out of a suitcase just grated! It was all forgotten when we did eventually get to move back in at the end of March 2019.
We moved back into the house, the builders popped in for a few weeks to finish off jobs but essentially it was then over to us to finish off everything else…….
So what needed doing to the house?
These photos show the state of the house internally before any work began.
The builders were tasked with installing new central heating, new electrics, replace the plumbing, various walls to be knocked down, new kitchen space to be created (including removal of old original kitchen), build a large single-story extension, remove the old water tank and generally bring the house out of the 60s into present day. Here’s the house the day before work started.
And now in 2022?
Well we finally finished the last room, the family bathroom in February 2022, this was later in the project than we’d originally planned but that was due to finance – basically we ran out of cash and didn’t want to compromise on the overall bathroom look or fittings so took our time, finally getting the bathroom we really wanted four years after moving in – yes, I did live with horrible red carpet in the bathroom for four years!
But it’s been worth it, all the dust, mess and building works and expense are definitely worth it in the end. The added bonus has been I now work from home so get to enjoy the space alot more than I’d had ever known way back when planning this in 2017.