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Grand Designs, Property Ladder and home interior television programmes inspire many of us to take on a project. A home designed with personalised character, style and layout. This was the dream of my husband and I and I’d like to share our story of renovating a 1930s chalet bungalow.



My husband and I had been thinking about taking on a renovation project for years. Our previous home was a 1990s estate house; perfect for us and our young family. We moved in and filled the cupboards up; no work was necessary. As our children gained independence, it was time to reignite the dream.

Now I can’t take any credit for looking. My husband spent a couple of years browsing Right Move to see what was available. A few things cropped up, but nothing that made us book a viewing. Then, one Saturday morning a little 1930s chalet bungalow popped up; the open house event was that morning. My attention was grabbed, but our house wasn’t on the market. We weren’t sure of the location and my husband wasn't convinced..

I drove to the next village, struggled to find the house in question, pulled into a lane to turn the car around and stumbled across the gorgeous little bungalow. It looked like it should be on the front of a chocolate box. It was situated at the end of a lane, off the main road, next to woodland and fields.  As soon as I pulled into the drive, I knew that this should be our home. 


A 1930s bungalow before renovation.
A 1930s bungalow before renovation.

Our estate house had four bedrooms, a utility room, a study, a large living area and a small, but gorgeous courtyard garden. This chalet bungalow had three bedrooms; one of which was on the ground floor, no utility room, no study and a small living room; far from ideal for a family of four! It had an old oil boiler and oil tank, plus it was off mains drainage so there was a septic tank; neither of us had any experience of these things. 


Despite all of these obvious challenges, I was smitten. The beautiful gardens and surrounding scenery were stunning and I knew this would be a selling point that my husband could not refuse. My mind was already planning how to extend the house, whilst retaining a large garden. I decided we could make it work… if we could just sell our house in time.


A stressful whirlwind of activity filled the following week. We put an offer in on the bungalow and appointed an estate agent to sell our house. Within a week we had a buyer and our offer on the new house had been accepted. It was a race between us and another couple to see who could sell our house first, but we also managed to convince the current owner that we wanted to make this our family home. 


In conversation, we learnt that this house had been given to the owner’s parents as a wedding present in 1937. He had grown up in the house and its sentimental value was as much worth as the financial price tag. He was starting a new life in another part of the country but didn’t want to sell to a developer who would knock the original house down and build a couple of new houses in its place. It was a perfect fit and we moved in 15 weeks later.


Before we even moved in, we had started thinking about ways we could extend, but we wanted to live in the house for a couple of years before getting an architect on board. In this time, our ideas changed several times. We would sketch things out, walk around the house trying to visualise how things would work and research possibilities online. Eventually, we came up with a renovation plan we thought would work. 


Fast forward a few months; the architect had drawn up plans, we’d got planning permission and we’d started digging boreholes. We had decided to add a large kitchen at the back of the house and a utility room on the side. The rest of the house would remain untouched structurally but would be fully renovated. A studio/games room was planned to replace the existing garage and the garden would need a complete overhaul to improve on the concrete drive and grass. 

Plans to extend a 1930s bungalow.
Existing plans of a 1930s bungalow before renovation.

Various things happened that year. It made us re-evaluate what we wanted to do with our lives and how we wanted to live. Then the building quotes started coming in. We had planned to project manage ourselves as we were both working in the construction industry at the time. Even with this cost-saving, quotes for building work were going up and up and up; more cuts had to be made. The cost for the kitchen extension was coming in at around £100k and I don’t even like cooking that much! 


It was back to the drawing board. We had lived in the house, with two teenagers, quite happily for two years, but we thought we should make it bigger. Realistically, by the time we finished our eldest would be off to university with her brother following not too far behind. If there were going to be fewer people living in the house why were we making it bigger? We were becoming acclimatised to small house living and enjoyed the freedom it gave us (that’s another blog post!). Why add more space that we would have to maintain, heat, clean and fill with possessions that we didn’t need?


We walked, we talked, we mulled things over and we made our decision. We would not add space to this beautiful little house we had bought, but we would renovate it and breathe new life into its old bones. You could say we wasted all that time and money on hiring an architect and obtaining planning permission, but I still believe this was a process we had to go through. Every penny helped us to make the right decision. 


We are not lavish people; we don’t want a huge house to rattle around in. We like simple things and by focusing on renovation, we could achieve a higher standard and actually get the project finished. Deep breath, we had a plan; now we needed to make it happen!

A view of the Essex landscape from 1930s bungalow.
A 1930s bungalow before renovation.
Are you considering your own renovation and would like some advice on how to get started?
Drop me a line or give me a call!
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