Positioned just south of the river, we visit Rich and Charlotte in their Totterdown home to discuss their experience of transforming a previously run-down foster house into a stylish Victorian family home over the past six years.
The couple has always been in and out of Bristol, having lived in Kingsdown/Stokes Croft in their 20s, before going travelling, then living in Street, Somerset for three years. But Bristol called them back once again when they took on the renovation project at Bushy Park before settling in and raising a family.
Rich works in marketing procurement for Imperial Tobacco, whilst Charlotte is the commercial lead for Europe at Herman Miller, a premium office furniture brand, so they needed a house they could put their own creative stamp on.
The couple were initially attracted to the large stone frontage and good-sized plot with tons of opportunity, but the home also comes with an interesting background and history. “The previous owners were here 40+ years, the house wasn’t in a good way when we took it on, but they had raised a family and amazingly fostered around 150 children in this home throughout the years! So it had many quirks, to enable their fostering,” says Rich. “Yes, there was a huge intercom system where they could push a button and talk through to each room, probably used to call all the many kids down for dinner!” explains Charlotte.
“Although the house was extremely run down, we could tell it was full of love and the previous owners were obviously amazing people. We’ve taken it from a really run down but characterful house, and turned it into the perfect family home,” says Charlotte.
The house has gone through a radical but gradual transformation throughout the six years Rich and Charlotte have lived here. “The first two years were spent renovating the upper floors; we started with the two bedrooms on the top floor with a new shower room. Then renovated the middle floor with our bedroom, the kid’s bedroom, new upper garden and the main bathroom fitted with a cast-iron bath. Then we finally moved down to the ground floor, which was the main project. We re-built the large open plan kitchen and utility extension with the dining and snug area, as well as having the garden re-landscaped with bi-folding doors. The last thing we did was the front porch that was built just last year.” says Rich.
“So literally everything you see and don't see has been re-done! New Fibreglass flat roof, the removal of the large fire escape at the rear, the guttering, new electric circuits top to bottom, new plumbing and boiler with 3 zone Hive system and smartphone independent heating control on each floor,” explains Charlotte.
The only part of the house the couple have not re-developed yet is the garage space at the rear of the garden – a space nearby neighbours have made amazing spaces from, proving there’s lots of scope and opportunity there. “We love that we still leave one big last opportunity for the next owners to make their stamp on this house!” says Rich. “Absolutely, there is a unique opportunity with this house, to internally connect a new 'workshop' to the main house via a new stairwell at the back end of the long galley kitchen/utility” explains Charlotte.
Rich and Charlotte’s home boasts a thoughtful and modern style whilst still embracing the Victorian features. Charlotte explains “I love Victorian houses; I was really keen to bring back the original features. The fireplaces had been blocked up and the coving had been plastered over – I had to delicately remove it by hand to recover the coving. We were purposeful with letting the best features of the original house come back through so we’ve kept the interior neutral but modern. There’s so much character and it’s nice to be reminded of the history of the house, we wanted to honour that!”
“We were young professionals at the time of moving to the Totterdown area, we were drawn to South Bristol because of the buzz of North Street, we love the cafes and living the city life being close to the centre. But as our priorities changed and we became a family here with young children, we have discovered it’s perfect for families too! We love the closeness to Victoria Park as there are loads of activities there with a great family vibe - the area feels very community orientated.” says Charlotte.
“The change we have seen in Totterdown over the six years we’ve been here is immense. There are some amazing new restaurants just a two-minute walk from us such as Florence, a great pizzeria, and Bank, a delicious all-day dining venue. There’s a great opportunity for Totterdown homeowners including big infrastructure projects around Temple Meads where they are building an amazing £300m University of Bristol campus and an urban regeneration project as well as the high-speed railway link to London from Temple Meads Station where you can reach London in just 1.5 hours from here!” explains Rich.
The couple and their two children are looking to move onwards to the Chepstow area to be closer to family. “We have come to the realisation that we will struggle to find a house as great as we have created here. Nothing will compare, making the move a tough one!”
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