Elizabeth Lloyd-Day and her husband Carl have transformed a 16th-century timber-framed property into an inviting and comfortable home. It topped the Best Townhouse category in our Readers’ Awards 2010

Taking on a timber-framed property riddled with damp is a major undertaking at any stage of life, but factor in an impending wedding and stress levels can soar.

However, Elizabeth and her husband Carl Day both admit they were probably in denial about the amount of work that needed to be done when they bought this 16thcentury townhouse in 2007.

‘We moved in just 10 days before our wedding,’ says Elizabeth. ‘We had a lot going on that summer, so it wasn’t until we returned from our honeymoon to an empty house that the scale of the work fully sunk in.’

Since then they have both been very busy making various improvements and repairing their three-storey home while also starting a family – they had their first child just one year into the project. The hands-on renovation of this elegant old house impressed our judges, earning this home the title Best Townhouse in our Readers’ Awards 2010.

Family matters

‘A few years ago, we were living in London,’ says Elizabeth, ‘close to bars and restaurants, and lots of our friends, but we’ve all gradually moved out of the city to start families. I grew up in Essex, so when Carl proposed we decided to move near to my parents so they’d be involved with their grandchildren’s lives. We chose this town as it has good schools, shops and cafes; and from our first visit we always admired this house, though I never dreamed that I’d live here one day.’

From the front, the house seemed quite grand and in very sound condition, and its large windows on the single storey extension (which now accommodates the kitchen) to the left of the main part belies its past. ‘The house had been the town supermarket for many years before being turned back into a home,’ says Carl. ‘Each previous owner has done some work to transform it into what is, for us, an ideal family home.

Damp and mouldings

 ‘When we started planning the work,’ he continues, ‘we found that while most of the ground floor and the bedrooms on the first floor were in reasonable condition, the bathrooms and the attic space needed urgent repairs. Initially, we fixed the leaky roof and downpipes, which had caused the house to suffer significantly from damp, replacing felt asphalt gullies with appropriate lead ones; we also had to strip out the showers in the family bathroom and en-suite bathroom as they were flooding into the dining room below.’ Outside, raised decking was removed, gully drainage was installed and a new patio was laid to help solve the damp problem. Inside, extending the heating system has allowed the house to dry out and warm up properly. ‘Carl was keen to do as much of the work as possible himself,’ says Elizabeth, ‘mostly during weekends, and he has done a considerable amount of research to learn the various skills required.’

‘The floors and walls are so uneven – and there are no right angles in the family bathroom, so that room was quite a challenge,’ admits Carl. Indeed, even on a raised platform it was difficult to level the doubleended bateau bath so that it drains effectively.

Elsewhere in the house, he’s been just as busy; for example, in the large master bedroom suite, which still features the original pine panelling with bolection (projecting) moulding, he has created a nursery and a separate dressing room, as well as updating the en-suite bathroom. And downstairs, he’s made the playroom more family friendly by adding heating and replacing a window with French doors that lead out to the garden; meanwhile, the space next door is no longer a damp area with a concrete floor – employing a few of Elizabeth’s design ideas, he has transformed it into a light and pretty utility room.

Pretty colourful

The whole house has been painted in Elizabeth’s favourite colour schemes. ‘I used to live in a warehouse conversion in London,’ says Carl. ‘It was very contemporary, but Elizabeth tried to give it more of a country feel when she moved in – I don’t think I’d ever owned a cushion before that. Her style really suits this place, though, and I’m really happy with the way it has all turned out.’ Elizabeth has embraced a wide range of colours for their home – she’s used dusky pink in the bedroom, green in the hallway and blue in the utility room. The saturation of each shade is well balanced, providing a good flow through the house. To further soften the look, she’s also added some rich creams and natural tones; and all of the paints have an appealing chalky finish to complement the house’s stripped timber beams and wide planked floors.

Like the decorating, furnishing the house has also happened gradually. ‘Moving from a flat to a house, we had nowhere near enough furniture to fill all the spaces,’ explains Elizabeth, ‘but rather than buying a large amount at once we decided to take our time and waited until we came across individual items that suit the character and architecture of the house and the scale of the rooms.’ A blend of French and classically English pieces works beautifully to create an elegant and comfortable atmosphere. It’s clear that the effort put in by Elizabeth and Carl has achieved a friendly and welcoming home where children can feel free to run around and play, while the adults can relax in style. Elizabeth says: ‘The house performs so well for everyone’s needs, whether family breakfasts in the kitchen or informal drinks parties in the sitting room. It’s practical at Christmas, as there is plenty of space for relatives to stay over; but it’s surprisingly cosy even when it’s just the three of us here. Despite all the hard work, we absolutely love our home and can’t think of anywhere else we’d rather be living.’

Budget breakdown

They spent £57,900 renovating

Building work £16,000
Plumbing £1,500
Window repairs £150
Roof repairs £250
Modifications to kitchen £7,000
New bathroom £4,000
Furniture £18,000
Lighting £1,500
Paint/wallpaper £750
Flooring/carpets £2,750
Accessories/curtains £5,000
Gardening/landscaping £1,000