Transforming a house into a home with @TheHouseBuild
Today, we’re sitting down with interiors Instagrammer (@thehousebuild) Rebecca Doyle, who is the designer and stylist behind an incredible transformation of a Victorian coach house. Fifteen months ago, Rebecca started the renovation of this beautiful house and today, with the extension and phase one of the interiors complete, we take a look inside the elegant, yet cosy, family home – featuring our sofa.com new AW18 Bertie armchairs and our classic Oscar sofas.
We have loved watching the transformation of your beautiful home on Instagram. What attracted you to the original property?
I guess you could say it is all down to fate. We had put our house on the market to buy one particular house, but it had just fallen through for the second time. I called our estate agents to ask them to take our house off the market unless they could find us something within the next 3 days. They called me back 30 minutes later to tell me about an old Victorian coach house on a large plot which hadn’t been on the market for 48 years. They didn’t have any details, but it sounded interesting. So, I was first in the door to see it, closely followed by two developers. It never even got to the open market. As I drove down the drive, before I even saw the house, I just knew it was right. The house sits in the middle of a 1.25 acre plot, completely land-locked and hidden from the road. The plot is what sold it to me. The house was a blank canvas. It needed a huge amount of renovation work and completely remodelling. It literally hadn’t been touched in 48 years! But it had been a very happy family home and I could visualise what it could be.
The Victorian Coach House – before and after!
Can you tell us a little about the renovation so far?
We are 15 months into the building and renovation works and stage one is now complete. Stage two is the second floor of the house. The house was such a warren when we moved in, lots of rooms through rooms, dark, narrow corridors and very little natural light. The hallway wasn’t big enough to swing a cat and the stairs were incredibly steep and dangerous. With young children, a big hallway, a big live-in kitchen/diner and safe stairs were my priority. I took a year to design and remodel the existing house. It was only then that I realised the scale of the works and the escalating costs involved. The existing house was 2,300sq ft and it is now 5,750sq ft. We removed every internal wall (bar one), every floor and ceiling joist was rotten and had to be removed and replaced, we had to remove asbestos, we took the roof off, we replaced every window, re-wired, installed a new heating and plumbing system, re-plastered and rendered the whole house, installed a new kitchen and 6 new bathrooms. The house now consists of a large entrance hall (with safe stairs!), a live-in kitchen/diner/sitting room, utility room, family room, formal siting room, office, gym, downstairs loo, 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms and an upstairs laundry room (one of my very favourite rooms).
Perfectly symmetrical interiors for calm, balanced living – featuring Oscar in Taupe brushed linen cotton
The hub of the home – the live-in kitchen area perfect for family life and entertaining
Have you faced any unexpected challenges?
Hundreds and way too many to mention! But every build comes with unexpected challenges, especially old houses. The house had been surveyed, but due to the fact that a lot of the house was inaccessible at the time, we didn’t realise that all the floor and ceiling joists were rotten and needed removing and replacing. We also didn’t realise that we had asbestos in one of the flat roofs. We also discovered, as we started to remove the internal walls, that every single ceiling height was different. So, we had to find one ceiling height which worked and then lower all of the other ceilings across the house. No easy task! I could go on and on with more of the challenges we faced, but I would be here all day and night. It makes me shiver thinking back to those stages of the build when every day for months on end, a new “issue” was discovered and that sick feeling of dread in my tummy.
The view from the back – certainly makes the many months of planning worth it!
How did you go about deciding on the interior of the house? How would you describe your style?
First and foremost, it is a family home and not a museum. I would describe my style as classic, elegant and cosy. I’m about as far away from modern, industrial or minimalist as you could get! The house has wonderful 3 metre ceiling heights downstairs which is a bonus as we are a tall family. It also gives the house a wonderful feeling of being light and airy. The existing house was devoid of any original features, so I spent a long time sourcing the right coving and ceiling roses, panelled doors, the perfect door handles and deep skirting and architraves. All the reception rooms have wonderful double doors. I had wanted to panel the walls in the entrance hall and the formal sitting room right from the start, but we just didn’t have the budget for it when we got to that stage and the build contingency had long gone by that point too. In the end, I spent ages learning how to do it on youtube and we did DIY panelling. I’m so pleased with it and most people don’t realise it’s not the real mccoy!
The large, bright hallway provides Rebecca with the open space she wished for her home
You have two of our Bertie armchairs, which are brand new for AW18. Where do you envision these being used in your home and why did you choose this design?
They are in pride of place in my office. I work from home two days a week so it’s important to me to have a lovely space to work from. The Bertie armchairs have completed my office to perfection!
A pair of Bertie armchairs in Alabaster brushed linen cotton finish of Rebecca’s study for a traditional, yet comforting, space
How does Chilli, your photo bombing dog, like the new additions to the house?
Chill, our adorable 13 year old, deaf cocker spaniel, adores the new chairs. I have already found her fast asleep on them on more than one occasion!
Comfort approved by Chilli!
You also have two of our Oscar sofas in Taupe brushed linen cotton. What influenced you when deciding on these sofas?
We honestly spent months and months choosing the perfect sofas for the formal sitting room. We spent several weekends traipsing around all of the major London showrooms with children in tow (and much bribery of a lunch out and fun time in the afternoon at various museums and other London attractions). As soon as we walked into the Sofa.com showroom in Bankside, I know we would find our sofas there. The service was incredible, the children were whisked off with milkshakes and goodies to watch a movie and we could really focus on what we wanted from our formal sofas. We knew we wanted Chesterfield sofas from day one, but nothing too low, or too squishy or modern. As soon as we saw the Oscar it was love at first sight. It took two hours to finalise the fabric choice and we couldn’t have done it without the knowledge and expertise of the Sofa.com sales consultants. Every time I sit on our Oscars, I smile. They are just so perfect, in every way.
The traditional chesterfield style Oscar sofas provide a serene and elegant place for Rebecca and her family to relax and enjoy special occasions
The room with our Oscars happens to be ‘your room’. What do you love most about spending time in this space?
What I call “my room” is the formal sitting room. A TV-less and toy-less space, it’s the most wonderfully serene room and the perfect place for relaxing, chatting and drinking cocktails in. I call it my room as the children have the family room and my husband has the gym (it’s very much his man cave). It’s where we will spend Christmas morning, unwrapping presents around the tree and where we will celebrate other special occasions.
The sophisticated formal living room creates a sense of calm and the perfect place to create family memories
What advice would you give to someone undertaking a home renovation project while managing a busy family/business life – as you have?
I would say that you need to be super organised and plan for everything! I would come home from work, spend a few hours with the children, and then once they were tucked up in bed I would be up until the early hours on my computer planning, sourcing, designing and budgeting. It isn’t easy at all, but the rewards are there in the end. And once you get to the end, you’ll forget all the stress and mess and sleepless nights It’s a bit like childbirth!
You have a very interactive and loyal following on Instagram. How have you felt being a part of this community while documenting your renovation?
It has been wonderful to be part of such an active and supportive insta community. I set up my Instagram account less than a year ago, merely to document the house build for myself and my family and friends. I have no idea how it has grown to what it has done. But I love being a part of it. I found insta such a great source of ideas and inspiration whilst building our home and I hope that my journey has helped others along the way.
From Bertie, with love!
What’s next in your home renovation journey?
This is the 4th house we have renovated in the last 12 years, and with young twins and both working full time, it’s not been easy! So, we have decided to stay in our house and make it our family home for a long time to come. But I now well and truly have the property bug. My Mum is a property developer, so I guess you could say that it’s in the blood. It’s addictive! I’ll soon be buying another wreck to transform. Watch this space as they say!