I’d like to say that I was elegantly ambling down the rather unassuming country lane to reach this beautiful property, which has seen some rather drastic house renovation work, but actually, it was a fresh, but damp autumn day and the steep decline required a little bit more care underfoot than the poetic scene I could have set.
But, despite the albeit typical British weather, the journey (which lasted some 30 seconds, I admit – I’m being dramatic) to reach Jonathan and Berni Carter’s renovated home in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, which at first glance looks like a bungalow from the front with a crisp, contemporary white-rendered exterior, is worth it. Look closer and you’ll realise it’s actually much larger – because from the back, the property is actually an impressive two-storey build, with an impressive double-height kitchen space at the rear. Built into the hillside, it enjoys spectacular views of the town’s most famous landmarks, including the cliff railway.
It was those views which sold the house to Jonathan and Berni, who make me a cuppa using their nifty hot-water tap and offer me snacks as soon as I get through the door (perks of the job, right). Berni tells me they had been searching for their perfect house renovation project for almost a decade – including a five-year hunt for a self-build plot that didn’t come to fruition.
“As soon as we saw the house, we were immediately drawn to it – although it was like stepping into a time warp as it hadn’t been updated since the ‘70s. It had great potential but was in need of love,” Jonathan remembers. The couple made an offer on the property, sold their house nearby and moved in straight away to get a feel for the property and work out exactly what they wanted to do.
“I felt it was important to live in the house first to understand the layout, plan what we wanted to do and find the perfect architect to help us realise our dream of having an eco-house,” Jonathan explains. After a year, they’d come up with a brief. It included removing a bedroom to create a dramatic double-height, open-plan kitchen-diner on the ground floor with a connecting living area – both with links to the garden and top-rate energy-efficient solutions. The couple also wanted to renovate the remaining three upstairs bedrooms, ensuite, and master bathroom.
Asked what was on the renovation wishlist, Jonathan tells me: a more spacious kitchen for entertaining; lots of glazing to make the most of the views and afford plenty of natural light; a mezzanine landing; a neutral-colour handleless kitchen with an island and breakfast bar; space for a large dining table and a utility room (that’s cleverly concealed behind the full-height units).
Despite the ambitious house renovation plans, all the work was to be done within the property’s original footprint. The couple worked with architect Clare Williamson of CANDO to refine their plans and look for ways to make the build as energy-efficient as possible. This meant replacing all the heating, water, and electric systems, as well as installing innovative ventilation, sound and lighting solutions, plus installing triple-glazed windows and doors. The ceilings were double plastered, voids taped up, external wall insulation fitted and a new mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system installed. They all contribute to the building’s air tightness and prevent heat loss.
As well as eco credentials, Berni and Jonathan were impressively savvy with the house renovation project, too. Getting good value for money was top of their agenda, so they mixed off-the-shelf styles with high-end fixtures and fittings to get the look their wanted within their budget.
They chose simple white gloss doors, grey full-height units and an island with raised breakfast bar from Howdens and invested in composite worktops from Silestone with high-quality appliances and that hot-water tap.
The most dramatic change was the fourth bedroom being removed to allow for the double-height space and create the mezzanine landing area. This was quite a bold move, but it’s meant the whole house is now flooded with light. We also wanted to be able to see through to the garden from the front entrance, so Clare suggested moving the bathroom wall by half a metre to achieve this. While it meant the master bathroom would be smaller, the result is worth it.
After an afternoon spent nosing around the couple’s home and learning all about their house renovation, I can see why Jonathan and Berni are quite rightly so pleased with the finished result of their renovation. They’ve shown me some old images of what the house used to look like and it’s barely recognisable. One thing that hasn’t changed though is the magnificent view, but the couple have maximised every opportunity to take it in. The star of the show is undoubtedly the floor-to-ceiling curtain window at the rear of the house. It floods downstairs and upstairs with light and if you ponder on the mezzanine to take in the scene, you’ll even spot the cliff railway going up and down – now that’s poetic.
Featured image: Used both inside and out, the grey non-slip porcelain flooring helps connect the living space to the garden.
Photographs: Clive Doyle