As professional property renovators, Victoria and Lee Alderson bought their current home as a business venture, and certainly never expected to settle in it themselves. Located in an attractive village with fields all around, the house was an ideal project. ‘The interior was very shabby and old-fashioned with orangey-brown pine everywhere,’ recalls Victoria.
‘It was really damp, too — there were lots ofwoodlice!’
Victoria and Lee, who have three children — Isabella, eight, and twins Eloise and Madeleine, six — had just begun restoring the house for resale through their company IME Properties, when their personal circumstances changed. ‘We’d decided to sell our family home so we could move nearer to our daughters’ school,’ explains Victoria. ‘When we found a buyer within a week, we were delighted, but also a bit caught out, as we hadn’t yet found a house we wanted. This property was in the right area, so it made sense to move in here as a stopgap.’
The renovation was at a very early stage, but with just six weeks to make the house habitable, the couple rose to the challenge. They preplanned the space to create a small ground- floor office for Lee, and Victoria designed a new layout, colour scheme and look for every room, researching and ordering fixtures, fittings and fabrics. Lee and his team stripped the house back to its bones and installed new wiring and central heating, and replaced bathrooms and floors. There were long days and late nights as the work carried on right up to the deadline. By the time the family moved in, the sitting room, bedrooms and bathrooms were more or less ready, but the kitchen was yet to arrive. ‘There was some wet paint and the carpets were still being fitted, but the lack of a kitchen was the biggest headache,’ recalls Victoria.
‘For two months we had to wash up in the lovely new bathroom, which was hard-going, and everyone really missed home cooking. In fact, the girls knew the takeaway menu off by heart!’
Lee and Victoria had not anticipated staying longer than a few months and, at first, even continued their search for another home, but as they added the finishing touches they began to question why they were still house-hunting at all. ‘This place seemed to lend itself to life with three lively daughters. Also, I was thrilled with the subtle, pale colours I’d picked and all our pictures and accessories seemed to work much better here than in our old home,’ says Victoria. ‘As everything came together I just fell completely in love with it, which was a surprise and a delight.’ Victoria had originally hoped they would find an elegant period property with traditional features, but has discovered that the solid, 300-year-old former farm building suits her signature style perfectly. ‘I love antique pieces, but I like to mix them with modern furniture and fabrics,’ she says. ‘I’m always shopping for bargains, too, so I visit outlet stores or pick up secondhand items to up cycle. I always enjoy a rummage.’ Combining Victoria’s creative talents and Lee’s joinery skills, the couple have built unique items like the kitchen table and furniture for the girls’ bedrooms. Their kitchen-diner is practical and sociable and, anticipating that the house would probably appeal to families, Victoria planned in plenty of storage that helps keep day-to-day clutter under control.
The success of the renovation is testament to Victoria and Lee’s understanding of design and construction, and although they didn’t plan to make this house their home, its chic simplicity has won them over. ‘We love the location and the house just works for us,’ says Victoria. ‘We’ve been very lucky.’