A SEA CHANGE

When the Mitchell family outgrew their holiday cottage on the Welsh coast they decided not to buy another. ‘My husband Ian and I had always been to St Davids for our holidays. The beaches were great when our sons, James, now 18, and Iain, 16, were small and the city is so lovely and lively,’ says Christina. ‘But having a home there became a problem because we kept wanting to be in St Davids all of the time and with two growing boys the house had become too small. So we decided to sell up and to go abroad for our holidays instead.’ The plan worked until one day, in autumn 2010, Christina clicked onto an internet property site ‘just to browse’.

‘I spotted a bungalow coming up for auction in three weeks’ time,’ she explains. ‘It had been owned by a Spitfire Granny — one of a team of women who moved fighter planes around during World War II. I loved that it had sea views, which is unusual in St Davids because it lies in a dip, and that it was set in a private 1.5-acre plot. It needed a total renovation but as I’m an interior designer that didn’t worry me at all.’ Resolutions regarding a holiday home gone out of the window, Christina and Ian viewed the property, then went along to the auction in October 2010. ‘We didn’t even know if we’d be able to bid for it until 20 minutes before the sale started, as that’s when we heard the bank had given us the temporary loan we’d asked for.’ The recession meant that competition for the property was less fierce than expected, but Christina was still amazed when they put in the winning bid. ‘Maybe it was our boys glaring at everyone else that put them off,’ she laughs.

Having acquired the property, the Mitchells were faced with a tall task. ‘It had been empty for months so was rather smelly,’ recalls Christina. ‘There were brown carpets and pink walls throughout, with a 1950s kitchen and a turquoise bathroom. But we liked the fact it was a detached clapboard property on a generous plot, especially as a lot of the buildings in St Davids are stone cottages.’ The Mitchells applied for planning permission to transform the bungalow so they could enjoy the sea views. ‘We got permission but then decided it would be too expensive so we cut down a hedge instead, which was a cheaper and quicker way to enjoy the scenery,’ smiles Christina.

Raising the funds to renovate the bungalow took another 11 months but the delay meant that by the time work started, Christina knew exactly what she wanted to do. ‘Our main home is a period farmhouse and quite dark with small windows, so I wanted to make this place as different to that as possible. I aimed to keep it light and to reflect the hues from outside, so there are a lot of blues and greys in the colour scheme that echo the shades of the sea.’

Keen to retain the property’s original character, Christina and Ian replaced the pine tongue-and-groove walls, the ceilings, and oak wood floor in the sitting room and bedrooms, and the slate floors in the kitchen, bathroom and conservatory. They also had to renew most of the windows, although they managed to preserve the internal

1930s glass. The layout was also reconfigured to make a better use of the space, turning a bedroom into the kitchen, a dining room into the master bedroom and the original kitchen into the en-suite bathroom.

The project took 18 months. ‘It was a much longer process than we expected and we finished six months behind schedule,’ admits Christina. But has it been worth the expense, time and upheaval? ‘Without a doubt. We can once again spend wonderful holidays and weekends in St Davids. And now we let out our bungalow to help pay for its keep and so that others can enjoy it too.’

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