You know you’ve truly caught the renovation bug when you’re still upbeat and enjoying the dust-filled weekends 18 months into the full refurbishment of a dilapidated seven-bed, three-storey Victorian villa. And I don’t know about you, but the thought actually gives me shivers (of course, this is not at all helped by my own doer-upper experience).
Especially knowing the homeowners still have five rooms, a driveway, and a garden to tend to. But this doesn’t phase Morgan Scott-Murch, although she admits that sometimes the gigantic project she has on her hands can – at times – can be horrendous. Especially around the time she was five weeks pregnant and, I quote, ‘living in a hell hole’.
We start the tour on the top floor, where she says the most work has probably been done. As we walk up the stairs, she tells me when she and husband Jon first moved in, the place was awful: all the carpet stunk, the curtains were disgusting and there were holes in the walls. Plus, no heating during the winter. (I couldn’t do it, could you?)
Not only that, they were tasked of putting the house back together – after it was separated into bedsits. But the couple weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. As soon as they got the keys to the grand semi-detached property, they started the renovation straight away. Apart from things that needed expert attention – including complete replumbing and restoring the windows – Morgan and Jon have done most of the renovation work themselves, from taking every wall down to reinsulating and replasterboarding.
And, as their budget didn’t allow for renting elsewhere while the work was ongoing, they concocted a plan to ensure they had a sanctuary to retreat to after a long day’s work – the master suite, which I am now standing in. And wow, is it cool.
The couple completely reconfigured the top floor, which originally comprised a bedroom, an ensuite, and a kitchen, knocking all three rooms together to create their open-plan scheme.
The star of the show? The hotel-chic copper bath steps away from the bed. (So jealous!) The couple then built a stud wall behind the bed to house their dressing area – located here to make best use of the sloping ceiling.
The décor, described by Morgan as “neutral masculine with industrial aspects”, consists of brickwork, original floorboards, and black panels, but is softened by plants, pictures, and textiles.
For the ensuite, accessed via a small staircase, the pair chose a large walk-in shower, framed by statement green tiles laid vertically. Around the time the suite was finished Morgan and Jon fell pregnant with their daughter Loxley – time pressure really kicked in then. So the nursery, along with the rest of the first floor, was high on the agenda.
It’s the ground floor that has been renovated the least – although a large rear extension was added to create an open-plan kitchen-diner. They plan to soon create a pantry or utility room out of the original kitchen, which was very small.
For the 40sq m extension, Morgan really didn’t like the idea of a modern glass box – it had to be sympathetic to the property’s era. So they went for an orangery style, replicated the bay window they have at the front, and included a big aluminium roof lantern. Similarly, the couple were opposed to an ultra-modern kitchen so chose a country-style design – perfect for dogs and kids – which feels very homely rather than sterile.
For its colour, the couple picked green and pink, accessorised with brass and jaguar-design (yes, jaguar!) handles, for something a little different. The kitchen-diner has then been opened up to the living room, creating an L-shaped broken-plan space, which Morgan says is where they spend most of their time.
Despite the big push at the beginning, and with already so much accomplished under their belts, there is still a way to go until the project is complete – including a playroom, utility, pantry, and a Victorian formal front room. They plan to continue every weekend until it’s done. Now, that’s dedication. I ask if this is their forever home, to which Morgan laughs. “It could be, for a few years – but I don’t think I can live without another renovation.”
Photography: Rachael Smith
Feature image: The bath creates a luxurious feel within the large master suite