I’m delighted to welcome you back for another amazing Instagrammer who is going to be sharing her renovation project with you, today it is the turn of Ashlee – the face behind ‘The Suffolk Nest‘ with her Suffolk home renovation.
As well as renovating a house, you can also find Ashlee working away in her home workshop creating stunning wedding flowers and bouquets, so take a peep at her floral IG account if you’re Suffolk based and in need of wedding flowers.
Tell us about you (the people behind @The_Suffolk_Nest)
My name’s Ashlee, and I live in a little town in Suffolk with my husband, Chris, and our lovable little rogue, Winston the Frengle – half Beagle, half French Bulldog. We will be adding to our little family this Christmas as we are expecting our first baby! Life is already very fast paced for us, but we are told it is about to reach new levels of craziness once the baby arrives, which we are very excited for….maybe not so excited for the sleep deprivation though! I work as a Sales Manager, managing a team of 8 sales representatives that sell a very well-known chocolate brand to convenience stores. On the side, I’m a florist! Floristry is a personal passion of mine and I finally took the plunge to start up the business 2 years ago doing weddings. So whilst I’m not helping my team to sell chocolate or making wedding bouquets, you’ll find me in one of my fave DIY stores.
We sold our first home on the basis of privately buying the house opposite to my parents’ house where I grew up, but unfortunately the seller pulled out a few days before Christmas. We were absolutely devastated and no other houses were comparing. Then one day, a 1930s property that was right at the very top end of our budget came up for sale. They were holding back to back viewings one weekend and I just knew we were going to love it! My husband was away that particular weekend so my Mum and I viewed it on a Saturday afternoon and fell in love with it! My Mum did an amazing job of building up a rapport with the owner and he loved the fact that we had lived just a few doors down when I was a lot younger. To really try and seal the deal, I took our Mortgage in Principle around to prove to him just how serious we were about buying his house. I knew he was booked for viewings the entire weekend, so when we left and I’d told my Husband just how amazing it was, we were very nervous.
That evening, the Estate Agent called and said, ‘I don’t know what you said to the owner, but he wants to sell the house to you and cancel tomorrows viewings!!’ We were elated, and popped open the fizz to celebrate! We moved in 6 months later (the sellers were having a new house built), the day after we got home from our wedding in Italy!
The house had already had a lot of work done to it by the previous owner, who was in fact a builder. Unfortunately, he liked to cut corners and everything looked OK on the surface, but the electrics, plumbing and quality were appalling….our plumbers and electricians actually took photos of some of the work to send to the rest of their team to have a laugh about how bad it was! We always knew we wanted to change the back of the house structurally, but we never envisaged just what a big job it would be!
What’s your project and what’s your vision for your finished project?
The initial project was to open up the back of the house which was divided by a T shaped wall which included a chimney breast housing a Rayburn, and formed a kitchen, a long thin family room, a dining area and a downstairs toilet. They had taken the short cut to open this space up and we weren’t making the most of the living space as it was just too long and narrow to do anything with. We wanted to do it properly and turn it into a large open plan kitchen/diner/living space whilst adding a utility and making the downstairs toilet smaller. We had the funds to allow us to complete the open plan kitchen/diner/living room and we were always happy to wait to complete the utility and downstairs toilet at a later date.
As with most renovations…it never is as simple as it seems in your heads! After a visit from our structural engineer, he confirmed that by removing the chimney breast and Rayburn from the middle of the house, they would need to remove the wall in our upstairs family bathroom and bedroom and add steel work into the roof. This put a bit of a spanner in the works as we knew that we wanted to make that family bathroom into an ensuite and walk in wardrobe one day further down the line. We settled on making the upstairs ‘good’ and living with it for a year or two until we could do it properly so that we could focus all our efforts and funds on the downstairs open plan space.
Then our vision changed. Just before the work started, we found out that I was pregnant and after discussing it over many McDonalds (the only thing that subsides the horrific 20 weeks of nausea!), we decided that we wanted to complete the upstairs the way we had envisaged so that we could start our new family life feeling settled! So the plan went from completing one open plan room, to completing the utility, downstairs toilet, kitchen/diner/living room, master bedroom, ensuite, walk in wardrobe and gutting the nursery!!
We’re aiming for a timeless, classic look with period features that’s cosy and welcoming. Unfortunately, I have very expensive taste, but a limited budget! We’ve spent hours and hours trying to find expensive items for much less! There are some things that we haven’t been willing to compromise on, such as the Quartz kitchen worktops, porcelain floor tiles, underfloor heating system and the aluminium sliding doors and window. On the other hand, spending £650 on a toilet seemed absolutely bonkers to me, no matter how good it was! We had a quote to kit out our ensuite and downstairs toilet for £5000, excluding tiles, and we’ve ended up spending just shy of £2000, including the tiles! It certainly pays off to shop around….I love a good bargain!
We’re not far off…although I don’t want to jinx anything! We’re hoping to be in my mid October which will allow me a couple of months to nest and make it feel like home. We’ve decided to wait to do the nursery up….except for a bit of plaster…new carpet…new rad and electrics, until baby has arrived as we have chosen not to find out the sex. We then have plenty of other projects to keep us busy for years on end!
Has it gone to plan to date or have their been unexpected hiccups?
Lots of different places, but I love making myself feel at home in any Neptune store before quickly coming to my senses and realizing I can only just about afford a candle in there! We’ve taken a lot of kitchen inspiration from them and have actually based the size of our mantle on one of their own in store….yup, we measured up one of their kitchens in store with absolutely no intention of buying it! I naturally have a ‘Pinterest house’ that came just after my ‘Pinterest Wedding’ board. It’s completely unrealistic, but again, it provides me with a lot of inspiration! I’m quite good at envisaging exactly what I want, and then really struggle to find everything to make it happen. I don’t really like to follow ‘trends’ in our home as its often expensive to change them when they go out of fashion and I feel like I could go off them very quickly.
Where are your favourite places / brands for interior homewares?
Without a doubt, TK Maxx and Homesense for unique finds! Like I said, I love a good bargain and these places are the perfect stores to hunt them down! I also love a good mooch around John Lewis, Laura Ashley, Barker & Stonehouse and The White Company.
If money were no object, what would be one thing you’d do to the property / piece of furniture you’d buy for it?
Ooooh tough one….I could find so much furniture in Neptune…but I think we’d have splashed out on a Stovax for the open plan room – I love the seamless fit and the modern feel they bring to the room. It wasn’t just the cost of the fire that put us off, it was the installation cost and time it would have taken, so we’ve settled on a traditional limestone surround (that I picked up on Facebook market place for £80!) with exposed brick and fire grate instead.
What’s your favourite thing about your property? i.e. is there a particular room you love, or an original feature you really love and want to restore?
From the very first few steps we took into the house when we viewed it, it just felt like home. Despite the décor not being to our taste, I just knew that it instantly felt cosy and welcoming and that’s what I love most about the house! In terms of a feature, I love the arched porch entrance – it needs some TLC and one day we’ll restore the front door and windows, but it’s got potential. My husband would say he loves the artificial grass…not many people realise its artificial until they’re standing on it. Whats the one thing you wish you knew before you started this project / or what’s the one bit of advice you’d give to someone about to undertake a home renovation project?
What is the one thing you wish you knew before you started this project / or what’s the one bit of advice you’d give to someone about to undertake a home renovation project?
I wish I’d known that pretty much everything costs double what you thought it would! In terms of advice, I’d say to be as crystal clear as you can be with what you want….and treat your workers to a few Greggs sausage rolls and crates of beer (not for drinking on the job!) every known and again! Apart from the Structural Engineer’s drawings, we’ve designed and planned the entire renovation with no architect help or advice. We had no idea about how thick a stud wall was, or how narrow a doorway could be, but we spent hours and hours on Powerpoint creating our own ‘to scale’ (kind of!) plans which the workers use every day! If you’re not living at your house during a renovation, stay in close contact with the workers and pop around to check things are progressing as you expected.
Favourite insta accounts for interior home inspo and just general fav accounts ?
Oh wow…there are so many!
A firm fave for her stunning home is @Thehousebuild – the way she’s combined period features with a modern feel is absolutely seamless and I feel we have very similar taste.
@Debbies_house is just a dream – the outdoor pool and seating areas are to die for!! Who am I kidding, the whole house is incredible!!
@Feathering_the_empty_nest – another beautiful home, and how could you not love Borris!? I love watching their adventures – Elle’s stories are hilarious as well as extremely heartwarming. She makes me remember and realise what’s important in life.
@and_life_inbetween – latest house obsession!! It’s going to be AMAZING – Check it out!
A massive thank you to Ashlee for featuring in the home renovation series, wishing her every success for the last push on her project and of course with the new addition to the family! If you’d like to feature your renovation on a future addition of the home renovation series then do get in touch.