Setting up basecamp

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

Having done the obvious stuff (meaning that the existing apartment was functional, if not exactly beautifully restored, and we have a soft play room) the question was what to concentrate on next. As we would need a place to stay ourselves soon, we started scanning the measured survey drawings and photos for a suitable place to call home – a basecamp if you like (clearly the conquering Everest metaphor is not too deep down in my subconscious).

We were gradually getting the hang of looking at our photo library without spending the next half hour arguing about where it was taken. We were looking for either one big or two smaller bedrooms and a bathroom as a minimum, with lounge and/or kitchen an optional extra. Bathrooms seems the obvious place to start – there isn’t water running to most of the house, and the bathrooms are mostly of the student shower block variety.

Here’s the first bathroom we seriously considered giving a make-over (we are hoping this decor isn’t considered a treasured historical feature in the grade II listing).


Next door is a corner room with a bit of an alcove, which would make a perfectly acceptable bedroom. The other side of the bathroom is an empty small cupboard, which could eventually be knocked through to make this bathroom a bit more spacious, and beyond that two further student rooms, which could be additional bedrooms, or a bed/bath suite. And importantly, it’s right next to the stairs up to the second floor, which is quite important in a house this big.

But as we started planning, I think it really started to sink in just how complicated this was all going to be.

Our first batch of photos hadn’t shown us the damaged beam, the first hint that we had a bit of a roof leak.


And our heritage asset study got rather animated about this bit of the house. Apparently some of the coving in the room is the oldest in the house, some of the walls may be from an earlier house on the same site, possible 17th century. So we have to tread very carefully – even taking down the obviously school era panelling and nasty woodchip wallpaper on the ceiling would be troublesome. Lath and plaster behind, original room layout and sizes to trace from the coving (you can see from the pic above how a ‘new’ (possibly Victorian era) wall cuts through an older moulding), bathroom positioned right over the oldest room in the house with its rather fragile panelling, and water supply would need reinstating to pretty much the whole house to get to this bit. We researched stand alone storage heating and individual water heating units. I got rather excited by rather lovely ceramic tiles made to look like parquet floor. And then we worried that all this work would need redoing unless we pre-empted all the fire retardent flooring or other building regs we might have to comply with if we did ultimately use it as any kind of holiday apartment. Guh.

In the end it was analysis paralysis. We thought about it very hard, and then gave up. For now. One for the planning/heritage/building regs department. But in parallel, all the surveys we’ve had done have taught us about the age of the different bits of the house, and thus the likely complexities. So the violet bathroom gets a reprieve for now. Please don’t anyone slap a preservation order on it!

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