A Clever and Colorful Renovation Gives Two Kids Their Own Rooms in a Tiny English Victorian
Sarah and Tom Godfrey rented their small two-bedroom Victorian terrace house in a village in Nottinghamshire, England, for two years when their landlord decided to sell the house. Sarah was expecting her second child at the time, and although they thought the house was too small for a family of four, the couple knew it had potential. “Having lived in the historical village for two years we knew it was a special place to be,” says Sarah. The couple was able to purchase the small house for a modest sum before an unusual property boom hit.
An 1870s terrace house, the house was in need of renovation. It had a kitchen/bathroom extension was built on the back, leaving only a small yard. One day when Sarah was in the yard part of the old back wall crumbled. “I looked over the wall and noticed a disused Victorian building with a chimney and some scrub land,” says Sarah, who immediately set to work trying to buy the small property that adjoined the terrace house. It took two years of negotiations, but finally the lot and small building there theirs. Once used as a mixing room for a pharmacist back in the early 1900s, the building was full of bottles and scales, and the land was crammed full of medicine bottles and historical items, some of which the family donated to a museum. With this land and building, Sarah and Tom felt confident to invest in converting the roof space of their house to turn it into a three bedroom.
The Godfreys increased the house’s square footage from 721 square feet to 986. Their renovation added a dormer to the attic and finished the raw space into two bedrooms for their children Mo, 9, and Ed, 6. Plus, a new bathroom is situated upstairs on the parents’ bedroom level. Tom, who runs two art galleries, had previously transformed derelict spaces with limited funds, and those skills came in handy as they managed their budget renovation.
The couple also built in flexibility, having their builders construct the new bedrooms in a way that they can change it to a very large single bedroom in the future, if they choose. “It was such a relief to give the children a room each for the first time — and they enjoyed seeing them being built! Five years after buying the house we now have two small-but-perfectly-formed bedrooms in the attic,” says Sarah.
On their DIY interior style: When asked what their style is, Tom replies “hippie modernism” before laughing. “We are very DIY and most of our furniture has been made by Tom. A majority of our other belongings have been found, were free, or were cheaply sourced. Our paint splattered dining table top was found in a gallery skip and our very long floating teak bench was found in a Victorian school skip,” says Sarah.
On the challenges of a DIY renovation: “The biggest challenge for us was living in the small house as the work was happening. Our two children slept in our room as their bedroom was being converted into a bathroom and whilst the attic was being converted into two bedrooms,” says Sarah. The family boxed up their belongings and stored them in our outhouse. “I gave the kids one box each to keep beside their beds until they could be reunited with their things.”
Proudest DIY: “Tom made all of the furniture using and inspired by Enzo Mari ‘autoprogettazione’ designs for the beds and dining table.”
Their surprise favorite element: “Our renovation project is still in progress and our favorite elements change; however it’s quite a luxury to now have a light-filled landing space on the second floor by our bedroom. The stair case is painted yellow, red and green which brings me joy, where as a slate gray wouldn’t.”
On design influences: “There are Japanese and Danish influences and I love the Bauhaus. However, as the house is 150 years old, we have sourced some British antiques over that period, too,” says Sarah.
How history influenced their design: The terrace was originally built for a family of knitters (they live in a historical village with knitting at its heart), so Sarah says, “it doesn’t feel apt to install fancy marbled fire places or sparkling chandeliers.”
Their biggest indulgence: “Paying for a builder to do the main building work was our biggest expense however it was the critical shower screen from Victoria Plum, which was our biggest indulgence. For a shower screen and for our small budget it was expensive. But it was worth it.”
Their best advice: “When embarking on a building project make sure your builders are skilled, trustworthy, and able to listen to you. We had to wait 18 months for our builders, Omega Lofts, who were fantastic,” says Sarah. “It’s important to listen to their advice and be open to suggestions. Although Tom has renovated and built numerous gallery spaces building a home is another thing. Sticking another floor onto a very old terrace requires expertise. Our builders made our space work for us and they were well worth the wait.”
This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: A Renovated 150-Year-Old English Victorian Is a Playground of Primary Colors and DIYs