Cowieswells is a derelict farm south of Stonehaven in NE Scotland. We were lucky enough to acquire the place in August 2010 when we were moving back to the UK from Norway and looking for something to match or even better our previous, fjord-side home. The farm house and steading (barns) command an impressive and exposed cliff top location with fantastic views across the North Sea. The buildings were constructed from sandstone in a traditional style and our goal in rebuilding it is to be sympathetic to the original design whilst creating a much larger house which is modern, efficient and maximizes the unique views.

Since we bought the place we have spent over a year working with architects, planners and generally doing stuff that doesn't make for interesting reading. This blog picks up the renovation process in late 2011 when work outside got started. Over the coming months it will be updated every week or so with pictures, movies and the odd bit of text. Like Grand Designs but without the suave sarcasm of Kevin McCloud.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Belated Update

We have been living here for 3 months and the place is gradually getting sorted. I have been meaning to post some pics of the finished project for a while but things have been a bit busy with moving in, keeping Sophie entertained (a full time job in itself), getting to know Abigail, new job, lots of travelling etc etc. It's been busy times!

So we moved in at about the best time off year with a long summer stretching ahead of us. It was super-windy for the first month and Katharine was getting a bit concerned that we had made a very big mistake, but then the wind died down and we have had an amazing summer. We splashed out to get the lawn turfed and then it was my turn to spend a month panicking that all that expensive grass was going to die. This led to frantically moving sprinklers around for 3 or 4 hours every night. It now looks quite lush and we had to buy a robot and a tractor mower to keep it under control.

And basically we love living here. Sophie gets me up most mornings at around 6am and I get to have first brew of the morning watching the sun playing in the clouds over the sea, creating the most amazing jesus-rays. And every morning its different. The garden is great for the kids (even the big ones) and we have been flying kites and sending up rockets and bouncing on the trampoline and basically enjoying life with lots of space.

Here are some pictures, at some point I will make some 'before and after' and also process all the thousands of timelapse images into something watchable. In the meantime this will give you a taster of what we got after 2 years of planning, building and waiting...

The finished project (clicking on the picture takes you to a click-through slide show of all the pictures below) 

Early morning view from the bedroom window
Sophie on her way to what has become called Grandma's house - the bothy
The trampoline - I am not allowed on it!
Another view of the house and the pit! Our sunken attempt to have somewhere to sit when its windy 
Sophie playing with the "wrong-shaped ball" on my fabulously watered lawn (cut by robot)
Kitchen and dinning area 
Remember that curved piece of steel? 
Kitchen and breakfast bar
And from the other direction...
Lounge area (which some have commented is strangely reminiscent of my house in Norway)
Old meets new
Stairs (and Sophie's art work under them!)
One of my favourite views of the house, I think this sums it all up but the picture doesn't really do it justice.
Those stairs again 
Upstairs landing
Bathroom, the otherside of that curved piece of steel. This room caused more head scratching than anywhere else in the house 
Bathroom detail (ask Katharine about this window...)
Outside at night 
New and old stonework
Another view at night 
Full moon over the sea and a fire pit. Its been a good summer
Squatters, already!!!
And the neighbours!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

We are in! Mission (almost) Complete

Things have been super busy over the last couple of weeks but on the 26th April 2013 we moved into Cowieswells. Finally!

We bought the place in August 2010, we fixed the Steading (barns) between Sept 2011 and Jan 2012 and we started work on the main house in March 2012. Work was due to be completed in September 2012 and due to various reasons the project ran over by 6 months. I have watched enough Grand Designs to realise that this is fairly normal. Now we are in and despite the delays we are really pleased with the quality of the work done by the builders (Peterkin Homes), they have been great people to work with, excellent workmanship, really friendly and very flexible. We have also been very happy with our architects at Alan Forbes who designed us an excellent space to bring up our rapidly expanding family (this is starting to sound a bit like an Oscar acceptance speak here, so I shall quickly change tack...).

Very happy to be in and very much enjoying having space and light. Small children mean that we are often up early and drinking a cup of tea while watching the light on the water as the sunrises over the sea is the reason we wanted to live here. The house is great and once I work out how to use the heating and we get the sound/audio visual/lighting system finished it will all be very hi-tec.

There is still stuff to do, especially finishing the garden, and there will be more posts to follow as we get settled. There are also timelapse movies to compile and a photo anthology to sort out. In the meantime here are a few pics from moving in day.
This view best captures everything we have tried to do in one photo. 
Kitchen breakfast bar and fire 

OMG - lots of space!

Staircase and stonewall bringing together the old and the new 

Living room with a fine view eastward out to sea.

Utility room. Raised washer and drier so I don't have to bend to do the washing - part of getting old!

One of my favourite spots in the house

Big bath in main bathroom - the girls love it! 

The bothy, almost ready for guests 

Another view of the bothy.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

One project complete - one to go!

When we bought Cowieswells, Katharine was pregnant with Sophie and we had a very optimistic view that we might be completed by Christmas 2011, before she was born. That was quickly dismissed when we realised that magnitude of the task at hand. Once we actually finished planning and started building the main house (March 2012) we still had high hopes of being finished by Christmas 2012.
We had originally hoped to be in before the one of the left was born! Blind optimism! 
Then in the summer of 2012 we found out that Katharine was pregnant again but we never even considered that we would not be in the house before our second child arrived.When we missed the Christmas move-in this started to become an increasingly possible outcome. It started as a joke and then as time marched on, the race became more earnest.

Last Thursday at 1.45pm Abigail Laura made her entry to the World at a fairly average 3.5kg and 50cm. She was blissfully unaware that she had just won the child vs house race!

The winner! 
The latest estimates are that the house will be ready for us to move into next week. Lots of last minute tidying up and small bits to finish off, but we are very very close. The movers are booked for a week Friday, so I predict that we will be in before the end of April.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Heat is On!

The end is so close we can literally smell it!
The builders reckon that they will be finished on Tuesday next week, yep in 2 days!
We where down there today and the work that has been done in the last few weeks is pretty damned impressive, especially considering the storms that have been hitting the UK. Personally I doubt they will finish quite that soon but its very close.

All the ground works are pretty much done. Where there was the Somme it now resembles a garden, amazing transformation. All the structure is now in place, just needs planting and seeding. It makes a massive difference to the feel for the whole place.

From battlefield to patio in 3 weeks!
Patio and sunken garden. The square hole in the fore ground will have a hot tub in it. 
Area between the the house and bothy, sheltered spot for a cup of coffee on a summers morning
So after being amazed by the progress outside we headed in. A sign on the door said that they heating was on! That's a bonus! Inside it felt warm (only 11 degrees) but warmer than it has been for about 3 years. Things are progressing, the bathrooms still need some tiling and plumbing and Dougal the electrician is in for a very busy day on monday if the Tuesday deadline is to be met. Overall though I think they could be finished by the end of next week. Its so exciting! 

That's a good sign...
11.1 degrees - the evidence
This is where all that warmth is coming from. Think I might need a degree in engineering to understand it
Main living area basically finished except got a clean up 
Main bathroom - some tiling and plumbing still to do there

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Short Update

Its been quiet on the blog front but that is primarily because I have been away and things are very busy on the work front at the moment. Was in Argentina in the field for two weeks and then in Norway for a couple of days, back to Stavanger tomorrow so not much spare time for the house.

The big news is that we should be finished by next Tuesday! Yes really next week! That's when we plan for the final inspection and potential hand over subject to minor bits and bobs being corrected. We were getting sceptical that they would get it done before the baby arrives, but it seems like it might just happen...

Was on site today to answer a few questions and its bedlam there. About 15 vans and trucks parked outside and all sorts of tradesman zipping past each other to get their bits finished in time. It's super-exciting!

Will post more at the weekend and next week including pictures...

Saturday, 16 February 2013

I can now walk down stairs and get a chilled glass of wine from the kitchen...

... because we now have stairs, a wine chiller and the bones of a kitchen :-)

Work progresses at a steady rate. The stairs were constructed by a joinery in Stonehaven, based on some pictures we found on the internet. They are looking very nice, perhaps better than we had imagined. The corian work tops are in, in the kitchen, as are all the appliances except the cooker. All the floors are complete and they start on the bathrooms next week.

Stairs are in and looking good
Work tops are on in the Kitchen and the wine chiller is installed. No kettle yet, so glass of wine it is then. 

Remember that curved piece of steel...
Katharine admiring her masterpiece of design 
Outside the groundworks are progressing and there are drains and cables and pipes going in all over the place. Having finally got rid of the old stonewall in front of the house you get a nice idea of how big the garden will be.

A lot of space for lawn, think I am going to need a tractor mower (or a goat)
Much better without that wall...
Space for a lot of poo! Getting installed next week.
Interesting discussion with the builders about the landing plate at the top of the stairs. It has a slight lip on it (by design) which to them is fine but screams "trip hazard" to our oil industry, HSE sodden brains! You think you are immune to all the brainwashing but you realise that simply through a process of attrition, some of it effects your view of the world. To cleanse my sole I am going to run up and down my new stairs with an unlidded cup of coffee in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other...

Trip hazard or oil industry perpetuated paranoia? Either way its going to be changed.