Helen and her husband, Jason, were on the look out for a period gem when they decided to buy a bigger property in Penarth, a small coastal town in South Wales.
As Helen had grown up in a period property she’d always hoped to own one herself one day and when she saw Westcross House she immediately knew it had potential, thanks to its beautiful cornicing, ceiling roses, fireplaces and original flooring.
The house was built in the late 1800s during the Victorian era and, while it ticked their must-have boxes of a large back garden and being close to the coast, the dated decor and damaged windows, brickwork and glass panels all needed a lot of work.
The couple have been working on the renovation together since March 2018 alongside their family business, Ladders Free, that provides a window cleaning management service to the retail, hospitality and leisure industries.
The finished product is beyond stunning and mixes old with new. Think a modern log burner and hot tub, stylishly dramatic navy bedroom and beautifully restored wooden floors for the living room.
What was your interiors inspiration?
“Our inspiration was my grandmother’s house; a large country mansion in Worcestershire and our family base for so many years. It was a welcoming, elegant and beautiful home. It was full of character and charm with a playful flair, which was something we wanted to recreate at Westcross House. We call our vision modern Victorian. Trying to get the balance of old versus new was always going to be a challenge, but we knew if we could get it right, it would be so rewarding.
“To achieve the contrast between old and new we renovated many of the original features such as restoring floorboards, cleaning up the original tiled floor and renovating all six original Victorian fireplaces. We added our own twist on things with colour and accessories as well as modernising aspects such as the derelict coach house, which we demolished and replaced with a contemporary garden lodge. We also added a frameless glass balustrade wall enabling us to have the concept of a never-ending garden.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced while renovating?
“The biggest challenge was living in the house when we had so many contractors here. I remember one day making cups of tea and coffee for 28 people and it definitely didn’t feel like home at that point.
“It was hard feeling like we were living in a building site. No matter how much cleaning I did, it always felt like I had not cleaned for months due to the sheer volume of dust!”
What is your favourite room?
“Myself, my husband and our daughter are all huge foodies but for years and years, both in previous properties and this one pre-renovation, we haven’t had a work surface. So, I can’t explain what a joy it has been to have the space and facilities in our new, amazing kitchen. My advice to anyone would be to get a Dekton worktop… you can’t mark it!
“I could see the potential the kitchen had from the beginning and so creating this room was the most magical part of this whole renovation for me. My daughter’s such a good baker… too good, if you know what I mean… and to see her enjoying this room puts a massive smile on my face and warms my heart.
“In the kitchen we exposed the original Victorian stone work and created two features with some lighting. We are so pleased we did, it’s always a talking point with friends and family. I also love the original lamp light on the staircase newel post, we have been told that this is a very rare find.”
Best DIY hack?
“This may not count as a DIY hack per se, but I would encourage those renovating to look creatively at any surplus products or anything ‘left over’ and see how they can be used to create something unique.”
Helen’s favourite renovation Instagram accounts:
Rich and Naomi Sympathetic Restoration
Dust and Bricks
Victorian House No 6
Helen’s go-to homeware brands:
“I love Abigail Ahern, she always has a super on-trend product range. I love her maximalist style, which I am trying to adopt more of. I’m not there yet by any means but I do aspire to it!”
“I use Ecover, an all-purpose cleaner, to clean my floors. It’s gentle on the original wood flooring and the original Victorian tiled floor which we exposed as part of the renovation.”
Dowsing & Reynolds
“I love Dowsing & Reynolds for faux plants. They are excellent quality, really realistic, good value for money and delivery and general customer service is amazing.”
Images: Westcross Property Renovation / courtesy of brands