The designer has been doing repairs in her house for 10 years — that’s what she got

When interior designer Juliet O’Carroll and her husband bought the house, they soon realized that they could not afford its full restoration. We decided to make repairs in stages, but in the end the process dragged on for ten years! That’s what they ended up with

Many people are familiar with the situation when you think about and make a design project for months, and then you find that construction work and materials have become so expensive that it is already difficult to implement the original idea. British interior designer Juliet O’Carroll is familiar with this: the renovation of her house in the small village of Sheepscombe in Gloucestershire required a significant adjustment of the original plans. Having developed the project and made an estimate, the family realized that they would not be able to implement everything at once.


The story began 12 years ago, when Juliet and her husband were looking for a house in which they could raise a two-year-old daughter and a newborn son. “We found the ugliest 1970s building you’ve ever seen,” she recalls, “but the place was so beautiful, with a view of the valley and meadows with wild flowers, that we said to ourselves, ‘OK, we can fix this.'” They planned to demolish the old house and rebuild everything from scratch, attracted architects to develop the layout of their dreams. When the plans were approved, the family realized that the construction cost would exceed the originally announced budget by 40 percent.

“The architects seem to have simply ignored our budget and expected it to magically grow. Now we understand that we should have asked more questions right away — for example, how they are going to design structural elements and calculate engineering work to meet our budget, and whether this budget was even real for the initial sketches,” says Juliet, “But we were too enthusiastic about the construction and did not do it.”


As a result, the couple decided to implement the project in parts, starting with the adaptation of the existing building. “Since I am a designer myself, I knew that it was possible to make this place suitable for living without getting into debt,” says Juliet. For six months, she and her husband repainted and lined the facades of the house, redesigned the layout, changed the equipment in the bathrooms and in the kitchen, and also made minor repairs to start life in a new house.

For the next 10 years they lived like that, slowly finishing something, focusing mainly on the arrangement of the garden. And only in February 2020, the family again began a major restructuring — this time taking into account the received “repair” experience. Juliet began work on the construction of a Cotswold stone extension at the back of the house. This added 120 m2 of living space to the building, including a new kitchen with a ceiling almost six meters high at the top.


The main stages of construction fell on the pandemic of 2020 and 2021, which in total delayed the process for 15 months. “Because of the situation with Covid, there was no other option but to live in the house while the work was going on, and it was difficult. At one point we had a refrigerator on one side of the construction site and a single working sink on the other,” recalls Juliet. Now, in addition to the spacious kitchen (48 m2), the house has five bedrooms, one of which is used as a place to watch TV and play games.

The hostess was inspired by the style of the extension at home in Provence: “We wanted something like a country house with a warm atmosphere, not something super-modern, minimalist, with glass and stainless steel. In addition to the stone facade decoration, we used traditional building materials in the interiors — plaster, lime, ceramics and solid oak, combined with more modern Velux windows.”


When it came to the decor, Juliet chose a rather calm palette so as not to distract attention from the light, airy atmosphere of the house. The designer painted all the interior doors in a dark red Georgetown shade of the English brand Little Greene, “to add rich tones and deep colors to white and pastel cream paints.”

In the next couple of years, the family will have another stage of construction work — the addition of an office in the garden and another bedroom, the organization of the driveway and the alteration of the front facade of the house to bring it in line with the new part.


The windows in the old part of the building will be rearranged so that they offer better views, and the facade will be insulated. “If you look at the house from the outside, it’s just perfect. We know what else we want to do and we will be glad to finish the repair as soon as we can,” the owners say.


So what did they learn in the process?

“Many times during this time we thought: “Should we sell the house?“ When you have made a bad decision, done something wrong, and there is no money to resolve this situation, you often start beating around the bush. And that’s what we did. But there always comes a moment when you overcome all this. Time is an excellent healer who helps to overcome all doubts. In the end, you have so many pleasant memories, so many joyful moments associated with this house that no problems will confuse you anymore.”


How to keep expenses under control: Juliet’s tips:

  • The costs of laying the foundation are very high, so in order to use your finances to the maximum, think about a two-story extension, not a one-story one. The superstructure of the floor will cost about a third of the cost of a single-storey.

  • Think about where you can save and where to spend. Our ceiling beams are decorative, made of foam (Oakleaf Reproductions company in Yorkshire). They are very light, so it didn’t take much effort and expense to install them. On the other hand, we chose solid wood floors and oak window sills that will stand the test of time. It’s not worth saving on these things: they must be strong, durable and of course beautiful — they are always in sight!

  • If you plan to manage the project yourself, keep in mind that you will not be able to do it effectively if you work full-time. It takes a lot of time to call suppliers and monitor construction — do you really want to do this?

  • Entrust the preparation of project estimates to specialists. They will make an estimate according to your construction drawings and specify the details of the finishing and fittings that you plan to use. So you will get a more accurate calculation than the approximate calculations from the builders.

  • Buy something you really like at the very beginning of the project, because then you will run out of budget.


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