A happy accident

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

About the time the first apartment was stripped back to its bones, we were toiling with winter. We’d been in South America and Asia for the past few years, so the cold and damp of North Devon, in a house with sketchy heating, was testing our willpower and wardrobes. I was wearing pretty much all the warm clothes I owned at the same time, and often it was colder inside the house than outside.

It was high time, while we still had scaffolding in place from the outside works, to think about heating. The school used a bank of five big boilers in the basement, which could have been used when we moved in, but the pipework was huge and ugly and everywhere, on full show. To run heating suited to holiday apartments and functions, it had to be more subtle, so we have opted for a more distributed plan, with separate heating systems in each apartment, rather than running hot water from the basement around the whole house.

For a couple of these new boilers, as well as a fireplace in the apartment lounge, we needed to run flue liners into the chimney at the end of the apartment.

Because nothing ever runs smoothly, one of the test drops got stuck. So we had to get the guys to go digging in the chimney breast. First we found that part of the flue had been bricked up to cut out a wider doorway from the old part of the house into the apartment (a route we had planned to block off again anyway).

And then we found a third flue, which meant anther fireplace.

Just to the left of the window – you’d never know it was there. So a bit more digging and we have a lovely large inglenook. First we found the small opening, but you can see from the bricks that there’s also a larger one. I feel warmer already. This room  hadn’t even been on our radar at this stage, but rapidly it became our new snug lounge.

We had been planning a gas fire in the apartment, thinking it would be more foolproof for a holiday rental, but ended up falling for the charm of a wood burner (part swayed by the huge installation cost of a gas fire, and part by the advice of local holiday cottage lettings agency). Local supplier Rangemoors helped us choose a pair of suitable stoves.

Here’s one in the new fireplace. We even painted the room Christmas red, knowing that the plaster was all coming off eventually anyway.

And here is the other one going into the apartment, with the final touch of the cowls on the top.

Just occasionally it began to feel a little bit warm inside.

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