Sarah Locke and Stephen Bradshaw bought this Victorian cottage not far from the Lancashire coast in 2009; in less than one year they have completely renovated it, bringing out its character.
Their eye for architectural detail made a real impact with our web visitors, earning their home the Readers’ Choice Award in our Readers’ Awards 2011.
‘Two years ago, Stephen and I were looking for a period house to restore,’ says Sarah.
‘This cottage caught our attention as it had quite an unusual history: it was originally built beside the sea in the 1880s as a home for a shrimper, who would also prepare his catch here ready to sell. At some point, the house was moved inland, brick by brick, a couple of hundred metres from the coast to form part of a new street. But in its immediate past, it had been left unoccupied for over a year.’
When they first viewed it they found a house that had suffered not just neglect but an unsympathetic 1980s makeover, as well as some detrimental additions.
Period: Shrimper’s cottage built in the 1880s
Size: Two bedrooms
Owners: Sarah Locke is a fashion designer; her partner Stephen Bradshaw is a police officer.
‘We moved in that September,’ says Sarah, ‘and the following January we set about stripping back the layers to reveal its hidden treasures.’ Over the following nine months, she and Stephen – with the help of builders Angus and Brian – embarked on a hands-on restoration that would utilise all their skills, knowledge and resources.
Sarah, who took time out from her fashion career, would act as architect, project manager, designer, decorator and gardener; and Stephen, an ex-electrician, would rewire the house on his days off from his job as a policeman.
The Victorian cottage recieved a sympathetic facelift
Reworking the space
‘The downstairs rooms were on different levels,’ Stephen recalls, ‘so the back of the house didn’t match up with the front. As the builders dug up the 30-year-old asphalt to even them out, they discovered rotten floor joists below; that was a setback but we just had to get on with it.’
While they tackled those essential repairs, they decided it would be good to reconfigure the space to transform the series of small areas into better proportioned rooms. When they bought the property it had three bedrooms but a downstairs bathroom next to the kitchen, both of which were situated in the 1980s lean-to.
‘We sacrificed one bedroom to move the family bathroom upstairs,’ says Sarah, who sourced a 1920s roll-top bath to create the right atmosphere. ‘But it has left us with two really good-sized double bedrooms, one of which now has an en-suite shower room.’
With more space freed up downstairs, she and Stephen could have a more comfortable kitchen/diner. The extension was knocked into one and two skylights were installed to flood the room with light. ‘I commissioned some handmade units,’ Sarah adds, ‘which we painted in a fresh white shade and we chose limed oak flooring for its natural beauty and practicality.’
Also on the list of jobs was stripping woodchip paper off all the walls throughout the house. ‘Wooden panelling had survived at the back of the stairs,’ recalls Stephen, ‘but thick gloss paint was discovered in the rest of the house; in the end Angus had to replaster everywhere.’ All the original fireplaces that had been swapped for gas fires were replaced; and they chipped away the plaster on the snug’s chimney breast wall, uncovering muted red bricks beneath. They’ve added a woodburner and put back missing architectural features.
‘We found an old piece of skirting board,’ explains Sarah, ‘and had it copied and fitted in this room and throughout the ground floor; similarly, we reinstated a picture rail. It’s remarkable how these small details put back a sense of the appropriate proportions.’
The renovation was complete by September 2010, a year after Sarah and Stephen moved in, and they are more than happy with their home. ‘Although it’s not a huge house, every decision took time and research,’ says Sarah. ‘Properties that cost a lot may offer an immediate “wow”, but a project like this one shows what can be achieved on a more modest scale.’
|New kitchen (including appliances and fitting)||£6,000|
|New bathroom and shower (including fitting)||£4,000|
|Flooring and carpets||£2,000|
|Total cost of renovation||£45,400|
Photographer: Bridget Peirson