Kyrle Street - How We Got Started
In December 2017 we sold our first home in Ross-on-Wye. It was our first project - a run-down, 400-year-old cottage in a pretty market town, very close to the river and just a short drive from the forest. We bought the house in 2013 after finding out we were expecting our daughter. At just 22 and 24 we had no idea how to build anything. Ewan had basic DIY skills and I had a good eye for design, so both of us were pretty confident we could turn the house into something special with just a little bit of work.
We intended to move into the house in time for Christmas and spend a few weeks decorating to get it ready for the baby, but our plan was flipped on its head when Alex arrived nearly a month early, just a few days before Christmas. The house wasn't ready - we had only picked up the keys a week earlier. The damp-proofing had just been finished in the main living spaces, all the upstairs floors were ripped up, and we had only installed half the kitchen. While Bekki was in labour, the builders were sending us text updates to reassure us that they had delayed their other pre-Christmas projects to make sure the house was plastered so we could come home!
Quite accidentally we had become the owners of our first baby and first building site in the same week.
The birth of our business
To make things even harder for ourselves, we had decided we didn't want to choose who would be the stay-at-home parent and who would go out to work - we wanted to be equal. Knowing we couldn't both get maternity leave, and unable to find freelance design positions, we both quit our jobs and started a graphic design business from home.
Juggling a new baby, new business and new home was a challenge. Every waking moment (and a lot of the ones where we should have been sleeping) were spent working, quite often with a baby in one hand and a laptop in the other. We'd take it in shifts to do a small bit of the build, chipping away at the project a little at a time. Life was busy but we were learning fast and loving everything we were doing.
An on-the-job degree in building
After about a year we had learned the basics:
• Don't fit a kitchen worktop with just a jigsaw
• Always pay a little extra for good quality finishes
• Never assume you know what the walls are made of
• There's no such thing as a '5 minute job' in a 400 year-old house. Putting up a picture? Set aside a day.
After three years Ewan was almost a professional builder, having completed an intensive, on-the-job degree in renovating a cottage where nothing is at a right-angle. Bekki fell in love with interiors and started a diploma in Interior Design. Alex got her own high-vis and hard hat, and learned how to mix cement like a pro. Our business took off and we were able to sustain self-employed life.
We had the bug
Once work was finished on the house we were at a loss. How would we fill our days off if we didn't have walls to build and floors to lay?! We knew then that we had caught the property bug and we needed to find out if we'd done a good enough job. The estate agent valued the property exactly where we thought it would be placed, and it sold within 6 weeks on the market. We were buzzing, and so ready for our next project.