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The money pit - part 2
Renovated farmhouse
Jeremy and Louise's renovated farmhouse
Last updated: 25 April 2005 1243 BST
lineJeremy and Louise Brown went that extra mile to get their dream home in Gloucestershire...
(April 2005)
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Grand Designs: Gloucester

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Jeremy and Louise Brown bought Upthorpe Farm in Gloucestershire with a view to turn the Grade II listed farmhouse into their dream home.

It's taken two years, a lot of money and involved a great deal of stress but they stuck at it and now their dream home is a reality.

In the second part of our series, Jeremy and Louise talk about the renovation project and why they decided to go for it in the first place...

You must be mad!

With all that was involved in the renovation, have Jeremy and Louise's friends and relations ever asked why they embarked upon the mammoth project? Louise remembers:

"My Dad did. We had a Victorian house where we lived before - a cottage - and we'd done it all up. It was completely finished. We'd just unpacked the last box and it was all beautiful.

"My Dad came over to help us move here and he said 'you must be bloody mad'."

The building

You wonder what the thought process is that makes a couple want to go into something that is going to take up two years of their life, swallow all that money and involve a lot of hard work? Louise explains:

"When we did our old house, we'd never done [a renovation] before so that was a challenge in itself. It had about half an acre of land with it, it was semi detached - it was a lovely cottage.

"But we always felt it had had a lot of the character stripped out of it. I think we suddenly decided that we'd enjoyed doing what we'd done, we'd come to the end and we were a bit bored so we thought we'd look for something."

Untouched charm

Finding Upthorne Farm came about by chance, as Jeremy and Louise weren't particularly on the lookout for a new home. Louise recalls:

"A lot of it was to do with Jeremy's Mum and Dad - they were thinking of moving down here but wanted a property with some outbuildings. Jeremy sent off for a load of details and we looked at [Upthorne Farm], discounted it for his Mum and Dad.

"It sat there for six months, then Jeremy picked it up again and said we should go and look at it. It was the only property that we looked at. We hadn't made that conscious decision to move and look at hundreds of properties - this was the only house we looked at. We just fell for it, we fell for its charm and the untouched nature of it.

"At the time we didn't realise how much work was required. We'd had a survey, relatively minor works were revealed and the original build spec was twenty weeks. I think at the time if somebody had said it would take us two years, we probably wouldn't have done it."

Tough decision

Jeremy also thinks that it would have been a tough decision in going for the property if he knew then what he knows now - especially the restrictions the project put on their lives. He says:

"We would have had to think a lot harder about it. It would have been difficult to walk away because it was really a unique property.

"I don't think you'll find many properties that have been so untouched but it would have been a lot scarier - the concept of two years of your life which has been almost written off.

"We haven't been able to do a lot of things that we would otherwise have done, [and] living in a caravan was quite restrictive and depressing at times."

The building

Louise recalls how intensely committed they were to the project. She says:

"It was all consuming, you couldn't think of anything else at times. For two years we haven't thought about anything else and it's quite bizarre, suddenly, to not have to make any more decisions.

"But I think at the time we'd got an original budget for the work [around £70,000], and if somebody had told us that that budget was going to triple - that would have put us off, definitely. Once you're in it, you've got no choice really."

Jeremy looks back at some of the problems they've had to face in their renovation project - particularly the moment when the entire building was at risk of collapse - and remembers the grim determination with which they saw it through. He recalls:

"You get to that scary point where the house, because of the structural problems, is being ripped apart and it's worth virtually nothing. Certainly a lot less than what we paid for it. You can't go back at that point, you've just got to see it through."

The modern with the old

One central theme that the couple have followed in their renovation plan is to mix the old features of the property with modern, 21st Century ones. They purposefully wanted to avoid making the house a museum piece as opposed to a place you can actually live in. Jeremy explains:

"We didn't want to be ashamed of being in the 21st Century either. It would be a bit of a fraud to try and put a 19th Century bath from a reclamation yard in the bathroom, it wouldn't have been the original so we decided to go for a modern luxury bath.

"That's what we've tried to do, to mix the two - that's always been the biggest challenge, to try and get the mix right."

The house now has a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system that has been built into each room so no wires or bulky objects can be seen. It's an example of their old-with-the-new design philosophy in action. Jeremy says:

"The whole house needed to be rewired completely. While we were at it we wanted to put the modern technology into the house because we could follow the same routes as the normal wiring.

"We've got whole house systems for audio, television and also we've got lighting scenes. These buttons allow you to have different lighting scenes in different rooms depending on what you're doing in that room at that time.

"You can also see with, for example, the speakers in the ceiling that they're much less obtrusive than having speakers on the floor. We thinks it's actually in-keeping with what we've been trying to do."

See also: The money pit - part 1

Audio AUDIO
BBC Gloucestershire's John Rockley talks to Jeremy and Louise about the renovation of their 16th Century farmhouse

To listen to audio content on the BBC you will need to have a program called RealPlayer installed on your computer. Download it for FREE by clicking here

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