Couple transforms rundown 500-year-old cottage into modern family home

Couple spend 5 years and £65,000 transforming an ‘uninhabitable and rundown’ 16th century cottage into a modern family home – and they did the DIY work during TWO pregnancies

  • Stephanie and Graeme Gowland purchased the Northumberland house in 2016
  • They initially planned to use the cottage as a short-term project to be sold on 
  • But after spending five years transforming it, the couple have no plans to leave

A couple have shared the incredible renovation they have completed on a 500-year-old cottage in Northumberland, transforming the ‘rundown’ and ‘uninhabitable’ property into a stunning family home.

Stephanie Gowland, 29, purchased the house, which dates back to the 16th century, in 2016 as a home for herself, husband Graeme, 35, and their two daughters Olivia, four, and Goldie, two, who were born during the makeover.

They initially planned to use the cottage as a short-term project to be sold on, but after spending five years transforming the home, the couple have fallen in love with it and have no plans to leave.

In total, they estimate they have spent £65,000 on the renovation – including £8,000 on the boiler and radiators, £2,500 on the bathroom, £9,000 on plastering and pointing, £1,500 on adding a fireplace and stove, and £3,000 on the kitchen.

The rest of the costs came from building, plumbing and electrical materials, hiring equipment and tools, decorating, and garden updates – with the couple completing any work they could do themselves.


A couple have shared the incredible renovation they have completed on a 500-year-old cottage in Northumberland, transforming the ‘rundown’ and ‘uninhabitable’ property (pictured left) into a stunning family home (pictured right)


Stephanie Gowland, 29, purchased the house (pictured left before the transformation, and right, after) in 2016 as a home for herself, husband Graeme, 35, and their two daughters Olivia, four, and Goldie, two, who were born during the makeover


They initially planned to use the cottage (pictured left) as a short-term project to be sold on, but after spending five years transforming the home (right), the couple have fallen in love with it and have no plans to leave

Stephanie Gowland pictured with her husband Graeme and their two daughters Olivia and Goldie

‘The cottage was very dated, dirty and rundown,’ Stephanie said. ‘It had always been a rented property and you could see it had never been truly loved.

‘It wasn’t liveable and had a lot of issues like damp. I think we snagged it purely because others were put off by the amount of work it required. But we saw its potential with high ceilings, exposed beams and attached barn.’

The couple started by opening all the sealed windows and allowing the house to ‘breathe’ all summer while they started the work – which also helped clear up the damp.

They fully stripped back the cottage and found ‘amazing’ features including an old stone fireplace, which has now become a celebrated focal point.

Stephanie fell pregnant with Olivia shortly after the DIY project began, giving birth to her in March 2017, which meant the couple were rushed to get the home into a liveable condition.


In total, they estimate they have spent £65,000 on the renovation (pictured right) – including £8,000 on the boiler and radiators, £2,500 on the bathroom, £9,000 on plastering and pointing, £1,500 on adding a fireplace and stove, and £3,000 on the kitchen


The rest of the costs came from building, plumbing and electrical materials, hiring equipment and tools, decorating, and garden updates – with the couple completing any work they could do themselves. Pictured, the cottage before the renovation, left, and after, right


‘The cottage was very dated, dirty and rundown (pictured left),’ Stephanie said. ‘It had always been a rented property and you could see it had never been truly loved’. The kitchen in the cottage, pictured right, recently

She added: ‘A lot of our decisions were quite rushed and progress completely slowed when our first daughter arrived, and then soon a second daughter.

‘We’ve been slowly working our way around the house ever since – but this turned out to be the best thing for us, because living in the house while decorating has made us realise how we use the spaces and what it really needs.’

The pair completed the majority of the work themselves to keep costs low, with Graeme doing the bigger jobs including joinery on weekends and weeknights, and Stephanie focusing on decorating and tiling.

The only professional assistance they had for the whole renovation was hiring plasterers and builders for the external lime pointing. 

Stephanie said: ‘We have done a lot of DIY. What we didn’t already know how to do, we learnt how to do.


The couple started by opening all the sealed windows and allowing the house (pictured left) to ‘breathe’ all summer while they started the work – which also helped clear up the damp. The living room. pictured right, recently

They fully stripped back the cottage (pictured) and found ‘amazing’ features including an old stone fireplace, which has now become a celebrated focal point


Stephanie fell pregnant with Olivia shortly after the DIY project began, giving birth to her in March 2017, which meant the couple were rushed to get the home into a liveable condition. Pictured, the outside of the house

‘My husband has self-taught a lot – including joinery, which he has found a bit of a passion for. He has built doors, cupboards, a log store next to the fireplace, built-in bedroom shelves and window shutters.

‘I’ve done all the decorating, sanding back and re-treating of the wooden floors and beams. I’ve also done all the tiling in the house.

‘Everything was a challenge as nothing is straight or square in old cottages. The metre-thick stone walls also made getting electric wiring and water pipes through tricky.’

She added: ‘Keeping motivation going through the cold, dark winter nights before we got the house liveable was a particularly tricky time – especially when I was pregnant and the countdown to move in was on.’

Completing the jobs while pregnant left Stephanie feeling exhausted – something that continued when she fell pregnant with Goldie in May 2018 – but she continued on to ensure the work got completed.

The pair completed the majority of the work themselves to keep costs low, with Graeme (pictured) doing the bigger jobs including joinery on weekends and weeknights, and Stephanie focusing on decorating and tiling

The only professional assistance they had for the whole renovation was hiring plasterers and builders for the external lime pointing. Pictured, the kitchen before the renovation


Completing the jobs while pregnant left Stephanie feeling exhausted – something that continued when she fell pregnant with Goldie in May 2018 – but she continued on to ensure the work got completed (pictured)

She added: ‘I did a lot of painting whilst pregnant but always stopped when I knew I needed to.

‘In the exhaustion of late pregnancy I lost a bit of interest and started making quick decisions just because I wanted to move in and start nesting.’

One of the couple’s favourite DIY projects was transforming their £1,900 IKEA kitchen into a bespoke space with wooden countertops, dark blue doors and chic brass handles.

For added sophistication, they installed brass light brackets on the walls, giving the room a warm glow.

The rest of the house is decorated in Stephanie’s signature style – tasteful, muted neutral tones with a touch of rural glam.


The couple chose to retain the stunning exposed brick and wooden beams, creating cosy spaces that look perfect for a chilly winter’s night in. Pictured right, the hall before the renovation

The couple are yet to get a valuation on the property but hope it will have increased significantly thanks to their efforts. Pictured: The living room during the renovation

They chose to retain the stunning exposed brick and wooden beams, creating cosy spaces that look perfect for a chilly winter’s night in.

She said: ‘I think it’s important to decorate according to your surroundings, light and the history of the building.

‘Being sympathetic to the original features which make the home so unique – they need to be embraced. We’ve learnt to appreciate new and old and learnt to combine the two.

‘The colours we’ve chosen don’t compete with the features and instead allow them to shine. I’ve steered away from bright colours, instead adding them in with accessories like cushions and table cloths when I fancy a seasonal mix-up.’

The couple are yet to get a valuation on the property but hope it will have increased significantly thanks to their efforts.

Stephanie added: ‘We’ve learnt so much and have learnt from our mistakes along the way – renovating is so much more than re-painting.’

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