Couple buy ‘dilapidated’ villa untouched since 1950s and turn it into dream family home – adding £640,000 to property value

A woman has revealed how she and her husband transformed a “dilapidated” villa into a dream home for their family – adding around £640,000 to the property value.

A woman has revealed how she and her husband transformed a “dilapidated” villa into a dream home for their family – adding around £640,000 to the property value.

Rowan Giles, 45, and her husband, Tim, 48, from Manchester, have spent over a decade doing up the semi-detached, five-bedroom, two-bathroom property, which they purchased for £360,000 in July 2012.

The property, which had remained untouched since the 1950s, ticked all the boxes despite being “in really bad shape”.

Pictured: Before – Kitchen. (Credit: Jam Press)

In 2023, the pair are thrilled with the result, having spent just over £280,000 on the transformation in total and currently live in the home with their three children [names and ages omitted at case study’s request].

“Lots of family and friends thought we were mad for taking it on,” the PR consultant told

“The house hadn’t been updated, there was a hole in the roof, no central heating and old wooden sash windows, and the kitchen was from the 1950s.

“But we were looking for a period property, as well as a project, and this house ticked both boxes.

“The fact that it needed a lot of TLC really appealed [because] we could put our mark on it without having to rip out a relatively new kitchen or bathroom that someone else had installed.

“There were also lots of original features, such as a pedestal sink and it had great Victorian bones, so it was the exact adventure we were after.”

The couple started by decorating the living room, pulling out the old gas fire and getting rid of the dulled blue carpet and old curtains, before painting the space white and filling it with vintage pieces and prints.

Pictured: After – Kitchen. (Credit: Jam Press)

They wanted one nice room to live in while the renovation work was going on.

Rowan said: “After that, we re-modelled the first floor to create a family bathroom.

“We did this by borrowing space from two bedrooms on either side and then knocked two more bedrooms together, including a tiny box room.

“Then we began work on the kitchen extension.

“We have lived in this house throughout all the work, even when our kitchen wall was a piece of chipboard.

“I cooked in the tiny space, using an oven that only did one temperature and had to avoid the hole in the floor.

“While it all felt like an adventure and I didn’t mind the kids making a mess, I wanted a space that was large enough for all five of us and was actually ‘done’.

“We had lived for years in what felt like a building site and I think we all craved a peaceful space that was decorated and finished.

“I love the mix of old and new in the kitchen.

“We have inky green cabinet doors from a Danish brand called Reform combined with an 8ft table that Tim made himself from old floorboards found in our basement.

“The school chairs are from a vintage shop in Hampshire and our more modern cement grey porcelain floor tiles are from a shop round the corner.

“It’s an eclectic blend but seems to work.”

Pictured: After – Rear of property. (Credit: Jam Press)

Once the kitchen extension was complete, which also included their patio, a utility room and downstairs toilet, they moved onto the living room and Rowan’s office.

Using colourful second hand furniture, laying Herringbone flooring that cost £1,900 from a local parquet flooring specialist and putting up artwork, they’ve given both rooms a “new lease of life”.

She said: “I love discovering old furniture, art and ornaments and combining them with more contemporary finds.

“I have lots of white walls so I can fill them with bits that have a story to be told, which adds character.

“We found three basement chambers full of ornaments and old furniture, including a vintage school science table, which Tim has re-purposed to include across the house.”

In a bid to create a family bathroom, the first floor had to be entirely reconfigured, which involved knocking down two bedrooms and installing new fittings at a cost of £19,000.

After fitting a new shower screen, cast iron bath, flooring and tiles, the pristine white and contrasting black space looked unrecognisable.

In the hallway and landing areas, everything was stripped back to basics, before new flooring was laid down and the stairs were painted in Farrow & Ball Off-Black.

Finally, they moved onto their favourite room in the house – their master bedroom – which cost £16,000 in total.

The 45-year-old said: “It’s one of the last rooms we renovated, but it’s the best one.

“For 10 years, we slept in the attic while we did up our kids’ rooms and ours, so having a calm and beautiful space to sleep at night was so important.

“We also added an ensuite, which is such a treat – the novelty hasn’t worn off yet.

“We discovered so many original features while doing this room up, such as a roll top bath beneath the panelling and beautiful wooden floorboards.”

While the duo have previous experience renovating after doing up their first home together – a 1970s flat – this was a project much more out of their depth.

Luckily, her husband has a few handyman skills under his belt.

Rowan said: “Tim has done other renovations before, so he’s well practised and it all comes easily to him.

“He is the handiest man ever, as his dad used to involve him in DIY when he was little, so it comes naturally – but for me, not so much.

“I have the vision, I know what I want in each room and he makes it happen.”

Rowan is uploading snaps of the home’s transformation on Instagram in a bid to share their “unique” story and normalise taking renovations slowly (@homeisheathside ).

Currently, the property is estimated to be worth between £850,000-£1m, but the couple’s main focus was never making a profit – but to create a warm and inspiring space for their family.

She added: “We had no savings when we first moved in, as we spent everything on buying the house.

“Right from the start, we knew it wouldn’t be quick, especially as we were renovating between working, saving and looking after three kids, but it’s what we signed up for.

“There are real benefits to going at a steady pace, it means we made considered decisions rather than rushing into choices we weren’t sure about.

“Next on the list is the attic, but that needs quite a bit of installation work.

“I think I love the house even more knowing the amount of time and effort we’ve put into it – and the kids appreciate it too.

“They’ve grown up surrounded by dust, DIY and building work so they appreciate the progress we’ve made and the fact that we’re nearly done now!”


COST BREAKDOWN (includes building work, fittings and furniture):

Kitchen (incl utility room, extension and downstairs toilet) – £200,000

Family bathroom – £19,000

Front living room – £7,000

Hallway and landing – £5,500

Office and middle living – £5,500

Kids’ rooms – £3,000

Master bedroom (incl ensuite) – £16,000

Garden – £24,000

Total: £280,000.

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