Family transform ‘dated and tired’ 19th century property into their dream house


A family who waited for years for their ideal house to go on the market have finally fulfilled their dream of buying and renovating the property.

Sarah Melling, 41, fell in love with the home when she lived in a rented flat across the street from it in 2014.

She admired the 19th century property from afar until becoming friendly with the owners, a couple who had lived there for decades, who gave her and husband Richard a tour of the house.

Sarah eventually bought a property on the same road in a bid to stay close to what she hoped would become her future home.

This also meant she would be ready to sweep in with an offer if the owners ever decided to sell.

Fate struck when in 2017, the neighbours revealed they were putting their five-bedroom house on the market – at the very same time that Sarah and Richard had decided to do the same to their house.

“I’ve lived in the area for my whole life so I know it really well, and there are one of two streets that I really love,” Sarah, who works as a marketing manager, said.

“Directly opposite our house at the time was a white brick house – it was perfect and I fell in love.

“It was the perfect size and had enough original features remaining to do a total renovation over time, but not a total wreck – just what we wanted.

“When the couple came to tell us they were ready to move, it was perfect timing.

“From the moment we walked in, I felt completely at home.”

The family decided to bite the bullet and go for it, purchasing the property for £475,000 in November 2017 and moving in with their son Leo, now seven, and daughter Miller, now six.

Although it had been well-looked-after, the property was dated and required a full renovation to suit their family’s needs.

Set across three floors, it has five bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living rooms and a large loft space for storage.

Sarah said: “The house was built in 1878 and had been a family home for a long time.

“It had such a lovely feel about it but the interior was very dated and tired.

“All the walls and ceilings had been papered and painted over the years, which is a big job to put right.

“There was a lot of crazy 60s and 70s wallpaper, and the kitchen was old and in a bad way too.

“But structurally, everything was OK – apart from the roof, which we needed to replace.

“The house had loads of potential to renovate and put period features back in.

“In fact, the first thing we did was put a marble fireplace back in the front room – which really wasn’t a priority, but it set the tone for the rest of the renovation.

“Our goal was to bring the house back to life and make it a beautiful family home.”

The family started by replacing the roof and insulation, and then tackled the entire top floor.

Hiring professionals to help with some of the trickier parts, they stripped and re-plastered all of the walls throughout the house, as well as reinstated period features including cornicing, ceiling roses, picture rails and fireplaces.

They removed the dated red carpet and yellow painted walls in the master bedroom, updating it with hard wood floors and fresh cream walls – but left the marble fireplace.

The front room was also given a complete overhaul, with the former bright green walls and mosaic fireplace replaced with trendy sage walls, dark wood flooring and an original marble fireplace to match the master bedroom.

The rest of the finished rooms were given Sarah’s favourite light and bright makeover, decorated in trendy neutral tones.

Sarah also became pregnant during the makeover, giving birth to Magnus in January 2019.

She said: “My worst memory was dodging the builders at eight months pregnant, as I tried to get ready for work with bits of ceiling falling down.

“Living in the house during all of the work has been the hardest part.”

Things ground to a halt during lockdown and the family were forced to live amidst the rubble of their half-completed home.

Sarah added: “We were in the middle of plastering sections of the house so we had crumbling walls all around us.”

Once things picked back up, the family focused their attentions once more on finishing the home.

They have spent three years and £100,000 so far on renovations, with the kitchen, second living room and downstairs bathroom still awaiting Sarah’s magic touch.

The couple anticipate spending another £100,000 on the downstairs – and hope the house will enjoy a significant increase in value by the time they are done.

Despite the hefty expenses, the mum says it is all worth it for the incredible finished result.

She added: “We have probably spent more than we should have done but this is our forever home and we’re not looking at it in terms of resale value.

“We could have saved on lots of the fixtures and fittings and didn’t have to put cornicing back everywhere – but we decided early on to commit fully to getting the house we really wanted.

“We didn’t embark on this to flip a property and make money – what we want is to create our ideal family home.”