There is a chance that Him, Me and Our Three have found our forever home. We’ve been looking for a while but I’ll come to that. I’m sure everyone we know will think we’ve lost our minds. It is one of those projects that screams, “prepare for financial ruin and a shorter life expectancy all ye who enter here!”
It doesn’t even meet any of our essential criteria. We wanted more outside space and the back garden is smaller than the one we have but there is a double garage in the middle of it that can be moved- (can you tell I’m ignoring any objection my husband raises)? We wanted spare bedrooms and maybe even space for my parents some day. As it stands we wouldn’t have that but as a grand old house that had been turned into flats, it has massive potential and I’m dying to get my hands on it!
You see, I have a history of falling in love with shabby Victorian buildings. My first crush began amongst the dishevelled splendour of student digs in Glasgow’s gloriously scruffy tenements. I was studying History of Art in the majestic surroundings of Glasgow University.
Like most of us when we find our first true love, I was oblivious to the obvious faults in my object of desire. I was happy to overlook the draughty windows, doors that didn’t quite close and creeking floors for the joys of high ceilings, deep coving and generous proportions. Dull days were cheered each time I opened the door to our ‘close’ on Sauchihall Street to be greeted by the garish majolica of orange and green tiles that covered every surface over five flights of stairs. Nothing has changed.
Whilst I loved learning about the stunning simplicity of Meis Van Der Roha’s Barcelona Pavilion and Le Cobusier’s elegant utitiarian architectural vision, my soul soared as I directed tours around Charles Rene Mackintosh’s fabulous School of Art.
First house purchase
My first ever house purchase was a Victorian end terrace back home in County Down. It was in the next street to the man who acted as my solicitor in that purchase and became my husband three years later. He accuses me of stalking him but he didn’t seem to mind!
It wasn’t too long before we sold our two starter homes to buy our first marital home-yes, you’ve guessed it, another Victorian house.
That was at the start of the property boom and having made a reasonable profit from our double sales, we were keen to invest in ‘a little doer-upper’ when my husband made the mistake of taking me to see something way out of our league in terms of budget or experience.
The Old Manse
He found ‘The Old Manse’ advertised in the paper and we went to look at it out of idle curiosity. There was a tree growing through what should have been the kitchen, electric sockets hanging off the walls and large lumps of cornice had fallen off onto the floor with the space in the ceiling left to tell the tale.
In spite of it’s dilapidated state, I was smitten from the moment I walked in the door. I could see the children we were yet to have chasing each other down the stairs and the dark decor giving way to light and life. We had bought our house less than a year before but I knew that we had to take on this project and many sleepless nights of “will we, won’t we” debating with my other half followed.
We took the plunge and lived through a year of stressful refurbishments. We moved into rented accommodation on the coldest week for 30 years to discover that the boiler hadn’t worked in quite a while. When we got the heating going, the warmth thawed the billions of previously slumbering fleas and I slipped discs in my back on Christmas Eve causing me to direct operations from my bed for a couple of months.
We got there in the end though and I relished the challenge of project managing the extension and renovation. You can learn more about our renovation of ‘The Old Manse’ and see images here.
Ten years on and three kids later, we’ve been getting itchy feet. We had loved and lost a house (more on that story another time) and not wishing to miss out on another opportunity, we made the decision to agree the sale of our house over a year ago to a couple who said they were prepared to wait for us to find somewhere, however long that takes. They have been abundantly patient but a year down the line we are both wondering where we stand and now this mammoth restoration project has appeared on the market. It’s a huge risk. There is no planning permission to bring it back to one building, there aren’t even any internal stairs and with the cost of rennovation it will take every penny we own to pull it off. The problem is that I’m a fickle beast and once again, I’m in love. Do we dare to take the plunge? Surely it has to be worth putting in a cheeky offer?