Mar 14

Looking for some inspiration?

By Sadie Sayers | Buying an old property

When it comes to decorating it is always difficult to know where to start. You might have some ideas about what style you want to create but how do you achieve it? Looking at magazines can give you some great ideas. You may find a piece of furniture     or be inspired by a room layout. Keep an open mind. You may find inspiration where you are least expecting it. Recipe photos can illustrate how some very vibrant colours can really work well together. In the garden look at the colours of the flowers and how even contrasting colours can create a potentially fabulous pallet to work with. Like most people, I tend to take my phone everywhere and photograph anything I find interesting. I can be sitting in a dentist waiting room and see something I like, or in the high street looking in a shop window.

Once you have found some inspiration, get some colour charts out and see how the colours work together as a scheme. You may have some very strong hues but these can be toned down by just selecting a lighter shade within the same spectrum. Then get some ideas down on paper. I tend to print out my photos or collate my magazine collection and start putting together a mood board with all of the ideas. I then add selected colours that blend well with these to define my colour choices.

By doing this, you have hopefully narrowed your choices down and can start to focus on specific colours and patterns. Now is the time to order some fabric samples and paint sample pots and seeing how these look on the actual walls you plan to decorate. You don’t have to apply them directly, instead, choose a heavy cartridge paper and paint a number of these up putting them on different walls to test the affect. Be careful to use a low tack adhesive such as blu-tac rather than masking tape!

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Mar 08

What’s your style?

By Sadie Sayers | Buying an old property

IMG_20160416_143041011_HDRIMG_20150625_095407854_HDREveryone has a good idea of what they like in terms of colours and style, but actually turning your ideas into reality can be more difficult than you think.

You may have very strong views about what you like and don’t like and find choosing a design style is straight forward. But for most of us it can be quite a challenge. You may be thinking about updating your current house or moving to a new property that you want to put your stamp on. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing my ideas about a variety of different design options. These can be based on the age of your property or your personal preferences. Do you like bold colours or are you someone who feels safer with a neutral palette? Do you live in an old or modern house? Do you like traditional or contemporary design? At the end of the day, it is what makes your house feel like home to you that matters.


From modern contemporary to traditional builds there are lots of styles to choose from, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that a

traditional build has to confirm to a traditional interior. That’s down to personal choice and where the fun begins!




The contemporary update of this hotel

contrasts beautifully with its surroundings.





IMG_20160730_111225618_HDRThis contemporary house off the south coast of Brittany has a clean uncluttered

finish with horizontal timber cladding and plate glass windows edged in

a dark powder coated aluminium finish.







Mar 03

The challenges of restoring a 17th century cottage.. the story continues

By Sadie Sayers | Renovation Project

Well it’s been almost 10 months but we have finally got Planning and Listed Building consent! Buying a Grade 2 listed building within a conservation area is not recommended for a stress free life! If you are thinking about it  and do not have planning permission – caveat emptor – buyer beware!


A small end of terrace stone cottage in the conservation area of St James, Shaftesbury, Dorset 

Originally a thatched cottage, much of the property has been updated and modernised over the years. The 1950’s and 60’s saw the removal of old roof timbers and the addition of an asbestos tiled roof. The original timber windows were also replaced (probably because they had rotted) by Crittall windows which were popular at the time. The windows have been insulated with the addition of secondary glazing to the front of the property on the ground floor but add very little to the aesthetics or “U’ values. Trying to replace these with a more traditional timber window has been difficult. English Heritage have suggested that any replacements must be single glazed to be in keeping with the original design. To do this would cost in the region of £20,000. A better alternative is to add internal wooden shutters which can increase the ‘U’ value when closed by up to 60% and reduce condensation significantly.  If you decide to update these then you should be guided by Historic England’s website which provides useful information as to methods of repair. They suggest repairing in-situ which is considerably cheaper than taking off site. Crittall windows can be very expensive to get repaired, if done by a specialist firm.

Photos of the front and rear of the property.

IMG_20160413_142927912_HDRThe rear of the property has a small garden but most importantly off street parking and a garage which is a premium in St James. The challenge here has been to improve the aesthetics of the original cottage without removing the character and charm. Currently a majority of the garden has been concreted over to provide vehicular access. This  has resulted in rising damp in the original ‘Outshut’ (the single storey extension). The Outshut roof has been replaced using  asbestos cement sheets to keep weight down to a minimum. Many of the original timbers have been replaced due to rot and water ingress and again is in a poor state of repair. It is proposed to remove the concrete from the garden, reduce the levels and replace the surface dressing with a porous finish ; in this case Cotswold gravel. Because of the historical sensitivity of the area, an archaeological watching brief has been specified by the Listed Building Control (LBC) team



The current kitchen extension and outside toilet is constructed of breeze block and a corrugated asbestos concrete roof and is in desperate need of updating. Because of the sloping nature of the plot this is well below ground level. The extension is in desperate need of replacement and it is proposed to add a contemporary element to the building with the addition of a zinc clad roof with raised seams which will be slightly bowed to increase internal height without compromising light to the rear first floor windows.


May 05

The weeks go by….

By Sadie Sayers | Renovation Project

A boarded up incomplete Victorian fireplace

A boarded up incomplete Victorian fireplace

The original timber lintel is now exposed. The cupboard to the right show the extent of the original fire place.

The original timber lintel is now exposed. The cupboard to the right show the extent of the original fire place.

The original fireplace exposed

The original fireplace exposed

The original timber lintel is now exposed. The cupboard to the right show the extent of the original fire place.

The original timber lintel is now exposed. The cupboard to the right show the extent of the original fire place.

It has now been 6 weeks since we made our pre-application. Having read the local authority planning website, we were advised to go down this route as the property is grade 2 listed. The conservation officer visited the property and took a number of photographs advising us that we could investigate the fire places which were at the time covered with fibre board. The original fireplace in the lounge had been modified to accommodate a later Victorian cast iron fire surround with a 1950’s hearth. We were advised to take photographs of what we found but on receipt of these were told not to proceed any further. We were surprised to discover that even though the property is grade 2 listed, there are a number of restrictions that also affect the renovation of the inside of the property as well – so buyer beware! Do your homework first and be prepared to wait. Planning authorities vary across counties but if you do have a very stringent council try and work with them otherwise you may end up in court! Until we have some feedback we will be unable to draw up our plans and move forward with the planning application process.

Luckily the weather has been fairly dry over this time period and the rising damp which is badly affecting the internal walls has not deteriorated much further other than to generate more mouldy plaster.

The property does have a lot of potential. We are hoping to be able to repair and update the main body of the house to incorporate a downstairs toilet. (There is only an outside toilet available at present.) We plan to update the rest of the house in a sympathetic way to reflect the age of the property. We have been advised already that the old pitched roof extension should stay as it is an integral part of the existing building, but are hoping to demolish the 1950’s lean to extension (which is constructed using breeze blocks, critical windows and a corrugated asbestos roof ) and replace this with a contemporary style building which will house a new kitchen and dining room.

The property has a variety of different window styles. In the front the property has been updated sometime in the 60’s to incorporate Crittall windows. This could have been the time that the rear lean to extension was added. On the first floor of the rear of the property there are three timber windows, which although not original, look more in keeping with the age of the property. It is hoped that we can replicate these in the front of the building. These will probably have to be single-glazed to comply with the original fenestration but we should be able to add secondary glazing to try and be a little more environmentally friendly.

A full planning application once submitted can take anything from 8 – 13 weeks and that is after you have designed and drawn up your plans.

Next week I will hopefully be able to share with you the feedback from the conservation team.



Apr 28

What to consider when buying a home.

By Sadie Sayers | Buying an old property

We all get excited about buying a new property, but how do you ensure that it is the right one for you? I’m a great fan of Kirsty and Phil and their Location, location, location programme. But finding the right location for you depends upon a number of different elements.

Firstly what is your budget? If you are buying something with the all important ‘Potential” element, you need to factor this into your offer price. If you are not going to do the work yourselves, then start getting some ideas of costs by asking builders to quote. If you give them dimensions and a comprehensive idea of what you want,  they should be able to give you a ball park figure. Always factor in at least 15% on top of this for any unplanned contingencies. I would suggest though that if you are buying with the intention of re modelling, that you live in the property for at least 6 months before you make any decisions. It is surprising how much your needs and ideas can change once you have got to know your home.

If the property is in need of serious renovation beware- you may struggle to get a mortgage. Anything with a flying freehold can also give the lenders apoplexy! If you are buying a leasehold property, you will need to have a minimum of 65 – 70 years to get a mortgage but anything below 85 years can also get lenders twitchy. You need to get all of these elements addressed before exchange. (I can’t emphasise enough the need to find a good solicitor). Remember the estate agent is working on behalf of the seller and wants to get the best outcome for them, so it is your responsibility to make sure you are happy with everything before you part with your cash. Once exchange has happened, it is your responsibility to ensure the property. Again if you are going to do a major renovation and the property is empty, you will need to find a specialist insurance broker.

Your idyllic location could be in deepest Somerset in the middle of a field. But let’s be practical here. Its not a good choice if you are having to commute into London every day, especially if there is no village shop and you have run out of milk. Trust me – I have been there and doing a 14 mile round trip gets a bit wearing. Living in the countryside can be wonderful, but it’s an awful lot easier if you have a village shop, a pub, good transport links and an active community, otherwise you might decide to upticks and move back to the smoke.

The Government is keen to meet the growing need for new homes with the minister for housing Brandon Lewis setting an ambitious target of 1million new houses to be built over the next five years. This isn’t going to be just in existing towns and cities, it is going to effect everyone. Each village is being encouraged to develop their own Neighbourhood Plan. This is important in giving each village the opportunity to have some influence on the type of homes built, but there is no getting away from the fact that each one of us has been given a target to build a specific number of new homes which must be achieved by 2031. This will consider in-building, building on gardens and more worryingly building beyond the established village boundaries, so if you are looking at a nice house on the edge of a village overlooking nice empty fields, check to see if this area has not been zoned for potential building land.

I would suggest if you are looking to move to a more suburban location and you are not familiar with an area, try renting first. If the property is in a residential area, it may just be worth visiting the outside during rush hour, when the children come out of school and in the evening. You may find that that particular road that looked so quiet at lunchtime is the local rat run for commuters, or that all the local mums use the road as a car park for collecting their children from school. A relative of mine recently moved into a maisonette and had the neighbours from hell for a year, so just ask around about the property, the area and do your homework!

Another thing to consider is your life stage. If you are buying your first home, you might like the idea of a renovation project and enjoy all the hard work that comes with that. It can be very rewarding, but make sure that you have sufficient funds to take some time out, otherwise it becomes an obsession. You need to enjoy what you are doing and have the energy to complete it. If you have children, you will need to consider schooling so may want to move within a good catchment area. You also need good transport links especially if you have older teenagers. Otherwise you will be constantly playing taxi to pick them up from the pub or nightclub which may be some miles away.If you are nearing retirement that idyllic cottage in Devon might still appeal. This is great if you are happy with your own company but I think a larger town or small city may be a better option as you can access all the cultural activities and not have to depend upon public transport to get you home.


Apr 25

The next project – A 17th Century Cottage in Shaftesbury

By Sadie Sayers | Buying an old property

Front view Rear view Rear garden with off street parking Internal rear extension The original bathroom Lounge showing rising damp

Taking on an old property is not something you should do without careful consideration. There are a lot of things to think about, especially if the property is listed. We have always looked for that magical word ‘Potential” when buying property. The first house we bought was in the Meon Valley in Hampshire. It was inhabitable, but we were young, full of energy and relished the opportunity to get onto the property ladder. We chose this option because we couldn’t afford to buy a property in the area we wanted to live in, that had the accommodation and space we needed. This I suppose was the start of our love affair with old houses. The first six weeks was spent living in a small caravan in the rear garden in the snow whilst we gutted the old two up two down, which at the time had no hot water or central heating. The only source of heat appeared to be an open fire and an old dilapidated looking Rayburn in the kitchen. We were doing the work ourselves and got filthy stripping down old ceilings and walls. After a number of watering can showers heated by an electric kettle we decided that enough was enough and took the brave decision to try and light the old wood fired contraption. Martin (my husband) was working for a bridge building company at the time and used to bring loads of offcuts of timber home for our open fire, so we had free fuel. Once fired up, our magical Rayburn produced gallons of hot water and heat – what a luxury.

6 houses later, we find ourselves with another old property to renovate and bring back to life. This old stone cottage based in Shaftesbury has been empty for almost a year and virtually untouched for the last 20. Being in a conservation area and grade 2 listed it is going to be a real challenge to bring it up to the 21st century whist preserving as much of its original character as we can. The photographs show the front and rear of the property along with some of the internal rooms. Were do we start?