Hi all! Today I am really excited to be featuring Esther @waitingforflorence and her beautiful home, with its stunning gold clad loft conversion. I love how different it looks and how it stands out to the rest. Esther has completely transformed and extended her home that she found by leafletting hundreds of houses in her local area.
To achieve this stunning renovation she talks about how important it is to have a good relationship with your architect and builder to create the vision that you are hoping for, and I totally agree with this.
I would love for you to have a read of Esther’s renovation story, especially her top tips of staying true to your style and investing in items such as flooring that need to last for years. Also do go and check her Instagram to see more of Esther’s style.
Tell us about your home and your renovation project. What did you do?
We live in West Bridgford, which is a suburb of Nottingham, just down the road from the famous Trent Bridge cricket ground. We moved here 8 years ago and although happy in our semi-detached house here we longed for a big project. The market here is very buoyant so I had the brilliant idea that we should sell our house first so that we could be ready to pounce when the right house came up. It’s a risky strategy though, we sold ours quickly and then nothing came up. We decided to be proactive and put notes through all the doors down our favourite streets. We leafleted around a hundred houses and only received one reply – it was a gamble – but sometimes that’s all you need!
The reply was from a detached Edwardian property five minutes walk from our old house and ticked a major box in terms of location but it was dated in terms of decor and layout. Although very well maintained by its owners (who’d lived there for forty years) it had very few original features left. I love old houses and want to preserve and reinstate these features where I can, but as there wasn’t much left we felt that we could go for something quite modern at the rear of the house. So we went for it! We found a local architect @swain.architecture and started to draw up the plans to open up and extend the ground floor with a kitchen / diner and to add a loft conversion to give us an extra bedroom and en-suite bathroom.
What did you enjoy the most about your house renovation?
I loved the ability to design our own space, thinking about how we wanted to live and eat and relax as a family and then to turn that into something solid. I’d also never had the opportunity to design something from scratch, we’d always just painted, and upcycled everything in our previous houses. I loved being able to choose the floor we wanted, the kitchen units, the windows, everything, it was exhilarating! I also quite enjoyed the project management side, becoming adept at liaising with the builders, the architect, the buildings inspector, the structural engineer, etc. There are so many people involved in a large project like this and I loved feeling in control (most of the time)!
What was your biggest challenge?
My biggest headache was balancing the project with real life commitments. We were very fortunate to have the money for the project but we both work normal jobs so couldn’t be on site overseeing things as they happened. I had a few tears each month when I’d call in one my way home from work, after grabbing the kids from after-school club, to find that something had not been done according to plan. It’s really tricky to then put something right after the fact (like a window in the wrong place, or different bricks used to what you’d planned) and you need to have a really strong relationship with your builder in order to resolve these kind of issues and move forward so that you’re both happy with the resolution. You soon become an expert in lots of bizarre things – ask me about warm roof or cold roof insulation and I can bore you to death over a bottle of wine any time!
Tell us your top tips?
Get as many recommendations from friends, neighbours (and countrymen) as you can. We were very lucky with our architect and our builder but I know people that haven’t been as fortunate. Both came from multiple recommendations and we got several quotes before making a decision. You’ll be working (and often sharing a loo) with these people day in, day out, for months so you really have to be able to get on with them and trust them with your home.
As much as going ‘off plan’ can cause issues, it’s sometimes also a good idea. You may have a certain size window on your plans, but often by adjusting slightly and fitting a standard size (especially for things like skylights) you can massively reduce the cost compared to a bespoke sized window. Also really question if you need all windows to open (would you really open a skylight you can’t even reach or just open your french doors for some fresh air when you’re burning the bacon on a Sunday morning?) as again this can add a huge amount of unnecessary cost and complexity.
Be true to your style rather than going with the latest trends. I love vintage furniture and a certain amount of clutter – a sleek minimalist look was never going to be for me. Windows and floors are like the coats and shoes of your wardrobe (go with me here… ) you can’t afford to change them every year so invest in something that you’re going to love for years, that feels like you, rather than what’s ‘in’ right now.
What was your best renovation purchase?
It’s a close call between our aluminium windows at the rear of the kitchen, or our cladding! When we started the project everyone was still having bi-folds but we wanted a more traditional look, so we hit Pinterest and Instagram and sketched up a full width window with two sets of French doors opening out to the garden. They’re called ‘Smart Alitherm Heritage’ so they look like old-school Crittal windows and still have a relatively slim frame, but have the benefits of modern windows in terms of insulation and security. I love them and it’s the aspect that people always comment on when they first walk into the room – I think it’s the main ‘wow’ factor of the house.
The other best purchase has got to be the loft cladding. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s quite tricky to make a loft extension look pretty. You’re basically building a big square box on top of your house. There are some cool wooden cladded ones around our local area which we liked but we didn’t feel that they sat right with the rather ugly, brick rear of the house. Then Tom stumbled on an image of some ‘gold’ cladding and we sprinted off to our architect, Izzy, with our hair-brained new idea. It looks like brass but it’s actually pre-coated aluminium standing seam cladding (do I sound like I know what I’m talking about?) and it became a bit of an obsession. We knew what we wanted, but could only find commercial companies that used it on large scale builds so they weren’t interested in the job, plus the minimum order quantity was around 10 times what we needed for our project. We eventually tracked a company down and miraculously Izzy got the planning permission through. It’s certainly a talking point. Some people love it, one of our neighbours has since moved house, it definitely splits opinion!
Would you do it again?
I’ve moved houses a fair amount since first leaving home; I think this is my 12th house. My mum likes to joke about me moving so much, and my husband Tom is all too familiar with the words “…but it’s for the next house” when I’m buying some piece of furniture that I have absolutely nowhere to put. I love our house and I’m still engrossed in this renovation project but I’m always thinking about what I’d like in my forever home. Something older definitely, original fireplaces, stone windows, a tree in the garden for the kids to climb and secrets to be uncovered are all on my wish list!
What’s next? Any future renovation plans?
We’re almost there – we still have the downstairs cloakroom and the hallway to finish, but they are the final tasks. After that I’ve promised that we’ll take a break (other than painting / decorating – but that doesn’t count – right?). Eventually we’d like to tackle the front door which is possibly original but the glazing and side panels definitely aren’t. It’s also wonky… and I don’t mean by a few inches, I mean about a foot off centre. Forty years ago when the previous owners bought the house, it had been split into two flats with two separate entrances. Although one door has since been removed, they never bothered to move the remaining door. It doesn’t look terrible, and there are dozens of jobs higher up on the list, but eventually we’d like to find a salvaged door and sidelights and reinstate it to its former glory. That is, unless the forever house comes along before that…
Thank you so much Esther! I have loved featuring you and your home on my blog today.
You can see more of Esther’s beautiful home on her Instagram @waitingforflorence.
If you would love to have your your home featured as part of my series, do drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and take a nose at my last renovations highlight post featuring Sissinghurst Location House.