Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
An old stone farmhouse and barn has become a cosy country home for Richard and Michaela Tinniswood
Michaela Tinniswood’s heart was always in Ireland. Brought up in Worcester, she loved visiting the country with her Irish mother, before the family moved to Ireland when Michaela was 13 years old.
Later she returned to Newcastle in the UK to go to college, where she met her now husband Richard, and they bought their first house together in Nottingham.
‘It was a tiny old house and I loved it,’ she says. ‘We did it up and then, when there were no more improvements left to be done, I started to get restless and began to think that I would really like to take on something else.’
Come on in...We are Michaela Tinniswood, 45, an interior designer who also runs a bed-and-breakfast from the house, and Richard Tinniswood, 48, a beekeeper and gardener.
Our home is A five-bedroom farmhouse and converted barn near Ardee in Co Louth, built circa 1820.
She also missed her family; her parents, two brothers and sister had all settled in Ireland. In 2003, when they visited for her sister’s birthday party, Michaela’s father announced that he had found the perfect house for them in Co. Louth, just outside the town of Ardee.
It was an old farmhouse in a rural setting surrounded by rolling countryside, completely unmodernised, with no real plumbing or up-to-date wiring in place.
Beside it was an ancient stone barn, without a roof. ‘It wasn’t even just the four walls,’ says Michaela, ‘more like three and a half.’
Despite the ramshackle state it was in, the couple were completely smitten. Returning to Nottingham, they put their home on the market; it sold in a single day. They rented a house and moved over, lock, stock and barrel.
‘We set about designing our new home with the help of an architect and structural engineer,’ says Michaela. ‘There wasn’t a lot we could do about the layout of the original house – it was very long and one room deep – but we did add a sunroom to the sunny rear of the house.’
Luckily, Michaela’s brother, Ashley Goodall, is a builder and specialist stone mason, and was the perfect choice for the renovation of the old stone house and barn. ‘We had to completely gut everything and start over,’ says Michaela.
About our home...My best bargain is The fireplace in the living room, which we bought on Done Deal for €20 (£17). When we went to collect it, it wouldn’t fit in the car, so we had to bring it home on the roof.
My advice Always use tester pots, as paint can look very different in different light. I chose a lovely soft grey for the living room, but when Richard had finished painting, it was a lurid lilac!
My style is Country-casual/Scandi! I love pale colours and natural materials. My interiors can be eclectic, but always have that unifying theme running through.
The couple scoured the countryside for salvaged slates, went to auctions to buy old fireplaces and timbers, and brother Ashley came up with salvaged stone from the jobs he worked on. ‘I had a little wishlist’, says Micheala. ‘A range cooker and a relaxing, cosy-country look.’
The build took a total of 18 months and there were a couple of hiccups along the way – one where the new windows supplied for one room couldn’t be opened and had to be taken out and replaced.
The other hiccup was caused by the garage. ‘In the original plan, the garage was integrated into the house, taking part of what is now the kitchen,’ reports Michaela. ‘It looked great on the plans, but when the dividing wall went up, the kitchen suddenly became very small.’ The wall was knocked down again and the larger kitchen rejigged.
Later on the couple were able to build a separate garage in the garden. ‘When we moved in, the house was literally bare walls and floors,’ says Michaela. ‘We moved in and camped out with a mattress on the floor. Then we worked all hours to finish the project.’
Richard, who had worked in sales in the UK, taught himself DIY skills from books and YouTube tutorials. He did the tiling and laid all the wooden floors and fitted doors, architraves and skirting. ‘He got really good at it,’ says Michaela.
‘It got to the stage where I could ask him to build anything. I’m always looking in magazines for inspiration and I would show Richard a photo and ask him to copy something, and he would! I wanted the house to be totally unprecious – a country home where muddy boots were the norm. So I asked him to build a bootroom with half-doors for the back door, and he did a fantastic job.’
Meanwhile, Michaela wielded the paintbrushes, being responsible for all the painting, on both the interior and exterior of the property. Michaela enjoyed the whole process so much that she decided to take a diploma in Interior Design and now works as an interior designer, as well as fulfilling another of her dreams: running a bed-and-breakfast in a unique country house.
‘My parents ran a large B&B when I was growing up and I liked that,’ she says. ‘We have a large house, which I think is really lovely and welcoming, and I enjoy having visitors to share it.’