We had tea and caught up with EKBB magazine editor Ciara Elliott at her home in the Suffolk countryside, which she is currently renovating for her growing family.
“One of my favourite spots in the garden is right here under our magnolia tree where I love to have a lazy weekend tea and catch up with the newspapers as the kids splash around in the paddling pool or do cartwheels on the lawn,' she says.
“I'm originally from Dublin and having previously bought and done up old properties I was reluctant to get involved again but we'd been renting for two years and knew we had to buy. We viewed here, thinking it was totally out of our budget and not practical at all, but of course we fell for the garden instantly, and with almost half an acre around it and its location, which is in a protected conservation area of beautiful Georgian houses on a train line with direct trains to central London, we could clearly see the potential for development. So we went for it!”
Two years later the house is still an ongoing 'project'. “It hadn’t been modernised for about 40 years,” says Ciara “A lovely couple - a Royal Academy artist called Peter Coker and his wife, Vera - had lived here all their married lives, and while they had maintained it to a certain degree they had spent nothing, so the windows were all rotting, there was rising damp, dry rot, peeling wallpaper etc. It really needed the full works. He was big into the garden and had that landscaped in the French style, with a lily pond and lavender and all that, but the house was sort of falling down around them when they died.”
The family continued to rent around the corner when the first renovations, which involved gutting the house and installing new plumbing, electrics and gas, got underway. They needed a new roof as well as a whole new heating system and even had to get the gas connected on the national grid.
“Even though it was stressful as we kept finding more problems the more we stripped the house, it was also such an exciting time as every day we felt we discovered something new about the house,” says Ciara “We found old newspapers from the 1920s and there were floors underneath floors, we eventually uncovered the old original Victorian floor tiles in our porch. Also some of the layers of paint and wallpaper were fascinating as the walls were stripped. There was also an amazing bell system for maids which is very ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ and we got that working again. And we worked out that in Georgian times the house had actually faced the other way as the spine of a central staircase was found as we took up floorboards. I am a big history buff and love old buildings so all of this sent me into lots of daydreaming reveries about who had lived here before and what the house/land/area must have been like. I want to set up my own blog to chronicle it all! But I am getting married in August first, so it will have to be after that. It's been a busy two years!”
Follow Ciara on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ciaraelliott/