Well, we’re in. It took almost 9 months longer than expected (twice as long as originally envisaged) and cost more than I can bear to think about, but finally, 2 years and 4 months after leaving our lovely home in Cookham, we moved into the “ultimate house”.
Not that the house is finished of course. There is still a list of jobs to do, including work on the heat pump and various bits of “snagging”. We’re still surrounded by boxes, although the last couple of weekends we’ve started to make progress in putting up shelves. Outside, we’re surrounded by hardcore and builder’s rubble. We’ve run out of money, and so the “grounds” are going to have to wait at least another year. Thankfully – despite the mess outside – we’ve ended up with a house that we really love. But it’s been quite a saga. (For more of the history of the house, see https://jonathanrenouf.wordpress.com/2021/05/16/maison-petit-port-the-ultimate-house/ and https://jonathanrenouf.wordpress.com/2019/09/26/storage/)
As work got underway at the end of 2019, it became apparent that the plans we’d made with our architect (Jamie Falla) were not going to work out. We had planned to knock lots of holes in the “spine” wall that runs the length of the house (the old external wall when the house was just one room deep). But it turned out to be a far more robust wall than we’d thought, and also – once we’d chipped off some of the render – a rather beautiful feature. We pivoted. Instead of opening up the house west to east, we opened it up north to south. That decision turned out to be the key to the whole renovation.
We ended up choosing to reveal not just the granite, but much else of the fabric of the building. Bits of concrete, brick and old timber were all left on show. Concrete lintels and wall ends were also left exposed. It just seemed to work, and to fit the house. We also liked the idea of displaying the building’s history. The magazine “Enki” was a significant influence.
The one part of the wall that we knocked through downstairs was where the original staircase would have had a “return” landing built into the wall, with a window. We simply extended the old window opening down to the floor level.
In the living room we dug out the fireplace and discovered that there would once have been a range in the opening. Once we’d excavated the original cavity we had a much better opening for our own wood burning stove.
Upstairs we discovered beautiful old fireplaces in the two front rooms. The chimneys are blocked now, so we couldn’t bring them back into use, but they make a lovely feature in our study and the spare bedroom.
At some point I’ll try and add in some more before and after comparisons, but right now I’m still too exhausted by the whole renovation project to trawl back over the trials and tribulations. So what follows is a gallery of the house as it was when we moved in.
Today, the interior of the house looks very different to this – full of the mess of everyday living. I have to say we’re slightly in mourning for the pristine, empty simplicity of the house in these photos.