26 Nov 2015

Come dine with us


Paul and Tina Tann have recently completed an ambitious restoration in East Malling, Kent, transforming a conventional 3-bedroom semi-detached property into a lavish and spacious home tailored to their passion for entertaining.


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When the Tanns’ two children flew the nest, they found that the space that came with their three-bedroom property was no longer required. Instead of simply downsizing to a smaller house, the couple embarked on a challenging project that would create the exact home they desired. Tina explains: “We had a relatively small mortgage left on our three-bedroom property, so we looked around the local area for something that required modernisation. By selling our home, paying off our mortgage and having some money left over, it enabled us to create a home that met all of our needs.”

Instead of being overwhelmed by this new venture, the couple approached the restoration design logically. Tina continues: “In order to reach a final design decision, we took what we believed to be the best bits from previous projects we had been involved in, we then tailored them the best we could to suit our budget.”

The property was originally owned by a local authority and was purchased by the tenant in the 1980s under the Government’s Right to Buy scheme. Despite these properties being notoriously popular for approved extensions and modifications, the couple experienced their first potential hurdle in their original plans.

Paul explains: “We consulted with a local architect who was familiar with our local authority – he advised us against our original plans for a detached garage. He told us it would not have been passed as it was encroaching on the street scene. We were obviously pleased to have found this out before submitting any plans. We instructed him to draw the plans with his advice and were happy they were passed in 12 weeks without any problem.”

Before the couple proceeded to completely gut the three-bedroom property, finding a space to live throughout the restoration process became a number one priority for them and their two cocker spaniels. In spite of several offers from family and friends, accommodation was found in the form of a caravan, which would take pride of place in the spacious front garden. Tina explains: “We could have moved in, it wasn’t unlivable, but we wanted complete freedom to transform every aspect of the property, as opposed to focusing on one room at a time.”

The original specification of the property comprised three bedrooms, bathroom, a lobby, lounge and kitchen/diner. The property had been vacant for some time, so was in desperate need of modernisation. Tina explains: “Our vision was to totally transform the property. We reduced the number of bedrooms to two, but incorporated an en-suite shower to the main bedroom and completely refurbished the main bathroom upstairs. Downstairs we had a single-storey extension including a garage, cloakroom and a roomy, open-plan dining room and kitchen.”

By Christmas 2014, the interior was a complete shell. Winter had truly set in and the prospect of more months in the caravan nearly sent the couple to breaking point. Tina explains: “Our biggest challenge was living in the caravan. As the majority of our belongings were in storage, we had no access to our home comforts. I was itching to get the project moving quicker.”

Gradually the exterior and interior elements started to take shape, as Paul explains: “We had the roof tiles removed and cleaned, and felted the roof before relaying the newly-restored tiles. Cavity wall and loft insulation was also installed. We moved windows to better positions and had French doors fitted in the lounge and dining areas.

High-tech home

“The whole property was also rewired – we gave great thought to this and the location of each power point, as we wanted to include as much home technology as our budget allowed. We wanted surround sound for all TVs in the house, so it was important the cables were concealed as best as possible. LED lights were installed throughout, including sensor LED on the staircase to give a contemporary finishing touch.”

In total, the project from start to finish took 20 months. As Tina and Paul were both working full time with their own business, the project was only worked on during weekends and some evenings throughout the summer months. Luckily the Tanns had no set deadline, and with their own groundworks business being so busy, it was agreed that the house renovation would not affect or disrupt work commitments.

With no immediate time pressure, the couple could give careful thought to the precise finish they required. Paul explains: “A lot of the products we used were through recommendation. Working in the construction industry ourselves, we meet a lot of trades and suppliers. As a result, we felt we were in contact with a lot of tradespeople that we knew and trusted.”

The most common challenge when embarking on a self-build project is keeping within the allocated budget. When setting a budget, one piece of advice given to all first time self-builders is: expect to double it! In this case, flexibility alleviated some of the pressure, as Tina explains: “We didn’t have a strict budget. The project did cost more than we originally thought, as we were only looking to have a small extension at the front of the property and a detached garage. However, after seeing our neighbour’s home and consulting an architect, we thought the downstairs area was not going be big enough. Our unexpected costs therefore came from extending the ground floor at the front of the property, wrapping around to incorporate a larger kitchen/dining space and attached garage.”

A space to relax and unwind

When asked how the local community has received their new home, the Tanns have been delighted with the positive response, as Paul unveils: “We have had nothing but compliments from the local community. Throughout the project, neighbours and passers-by would regularly enquire about the build’s progress and have commented on the property’s transformation. We have even invited some in for a tour, which in turn has given them some inspiration and ideas for their own homes.”

Creating a luxury space to meet their needs was the ultimate motivation for the Tanns. It was clear from early design proposals that the couple required a property that would not only provide them with a zone to relax but one that offered them plenty of space to enjoy entertaining friends and family. “We love entertaining,” enthuses Tina. “Cooking is a major part of our lives, so the kitchen and dining area was a key part of this project. We also created a cosy lounge, which becomes our sanctuary when we find time to relax.

“The home we have created for ourselves is everything we had hoped for and more. We are so relieved everything went so smoothly for us, and look forward to spending many happy years here.”

As the Tanns get ready to spend their first Christmas in the new property, the exterior landscaping, as with all self-build projects, has been the last – but not least – assignment. Paul explains his vision for the surrounding outdoor space: “We intend to create low maintenance, attractive yet practical landscaped areas. Having spent so many countless hours rearranging and remodeling the interior, it will be refreshing to step out of the confines of the inside space and spend some time enjoying our courtyard garden.

Quaint courtyard

“The use of outdoor lighting will make the space safe, yet it will enable the area to become warm and inviting when the sun goes down. We also intend to introduce a water feature to create a smoothing and tranquil atmosphere. An accommodating seating area and built in BBQ will also be key features.

“Having been in the groundworks industry for over 30 years, we will be using our own expertise and skills to completely transform the front and rear exterior landscape. We are currently in the process of constructing the rear courtyard using natural products – as the space is only small, we want to recreate a cottage courtyard feel to blend in with the interior design of the property and make it a really inviting focal point. Meanwhile, at the front of the property we will be creating a subtle parking area with fruit bearing trees and a living hedge to attract wildlife.”

For the Tanns, this project has most certainly been a labour of love. Keeping momentum on a build that, in effect, had no absolute deadline, is pure testament to the drive and passion behind this project. Offering some final words of wisdom to first-time self-builders, the couple concludes: “Our advice would be to take the time to plan the build and set a budget for each area. Be patient. Find your local pub to relax and spend some time away.”

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