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.

Sarah Locke and Stephen BradshawKey facts

Location: Lancashire
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.

The renovation

‘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.

exterior of terraced shrimpers cottage
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.’

second handing dining table and chairs in a cottage kitchen diner

The dining room furniture was from a second-hand shop

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.’

freestanding roll top bath painted in Farrow and Balls French Gray in a cottage bathroom

Sarah found a 1920s roll-top bath and painted it in French Gray by Farrow & Ball

shower room in cottage bedroom

An en suite shower room was incorporated into this bedroom

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.’

light filled kitchen diner in a shrimpers cottage

Thanks to Sarah’s own design, and with help from their builders, the old lean-to has been transformed into a kitchen/diner with French doors leading to the garden. Woodwork is painted Honed Slate by Neptune

white and wood kitchen with retro cooker
undermounted Belfast sink with wooden worktops in cottage style kitchen

Finishing touches

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.

cosy living room in a cottage with exposed brick and woodburning stove

A bookcase was built into the alcove. The sofa came from Ikea

‘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.’

edwardian armchair in a shrimpers cottage lounge

Sarah reupholstered the Edwardian chair herself

Budget breakdown

Building work £20,000
Central heating £3,000
Window repairs £5,000
Wood stripping £2,000
New kitchen (including appliances and fitting) £6,000
New bathroom and shower (including fitting) £4,000
Furniture £500
Lighting £200
Paint £200
Flooring and carpets £2,000
Accessories £500
Gardening/landscaping £2,000
Total cost of renovation £45,400

Photographer: Bridget Peirson