Real home: 'It was a bigger project than we ever imagined'
Restoring their Grade II listed Georgian home wasn’t without difficulties for Vicky and Dale Gedge, but their renovation made it practical for modern living while preserving its history
Vicky Gedge knew within minutes of setting foot in this property during a viewing in 2013 that she wanted it to be her home, but it wasn’t the Georgian period features that secured the sale. Instead, it was something slightly more obscure.
‘The first thing we noticed when we viewed the house for the first time was the smell,’ says Vicky. ‘I said, ‘we must buy it! It smells like a National Trust building!’ Dale’s less-than enthusiastic response was, ‘damp, that’s what you can smell.’ But I wasn’t put off. I’d already started imagining our lives unfolding here.’
The couple were looking to upsize to a three-bedroom property with abundant storage. They sought to remain in the same area of Norwich for a seamless move but, despite the property market being full of homes that met their criteria, their search wasn’t all that straightforward.
Welcome to our home...We are Vicky Gedge, 34, employed in retail, and my husband, Dale, an Advanced Clinical Practitioner in the emergency department.
Our home is A Grade II listed Georgian terrace with three bedrooms in Norwich. We have lived here since 2013.
‘The type of property we had in mind isn’t hard to come across in Norwich, but none were in our price bracket,’ Vicky says. ‘Each one we viewed required a compromise on size or location.’
After missing out on their first property of choice, one that seemingly ticked all their boxes, they put their search on hold, sure that they wouldn’t be able to find what they were looking for within budget. But they got lucky.
‘By chance, Dale and I were walking along a tiny, one-way street near the city centre one day, and we saw a for sale sign peeping out of a bush in a front garden,’ Vicky recalls. ‘We were straight on Rightmove to see the price, but it was way over our top-end budget.’
Undeterred, they scheduled a viewing on the off chance they might be able to negotiate on the price if they decided to put in an offer.
A bit more about our home...My top tip is Sometimes, it’s better to leave it to the professionals. I’d give anything a try, but if tiling is going to take me six months, I’d rather invest in somebody who can do a better job in a fraction of the time.
My style inspiration Is my nanna’s home. She lived in a Grade I listed Tudor terrace on Elm Hill in Norwich, one of the oldest streets in the UK, and it had wonky walls and curiosities everywhere.
Next to do is Is to replace the missing Georgian shutters in the front room window and give the spare room a makeover.
Unlike Vicky, who was instantly won over by the property’s history and potential, Dale needed a little more convincing. ‘We ended up making a deal,’ says Vicky. ‘He agreed that we could buy the house if we built a games room in the cellar.’
The sale took six months to complete and was just the start of the couple’s property struggles. ‘When we eventually moved in two weeks before Christmas 2013, the reality of our ‘dream’ home became startlingly clear,’ Vicky says.
‘There was no double glazing and radiators were few and far between. I remember being completely freezing while wrapping Christmas presents and using candles to try and heat the lounge a little bit more!’
Many of the original features had been ripped out, and doors were badly damaged. The kitchen was outdated with questionable worktops and most rooms were carpeted in royal blue or off-brown. The basement, due to become Dale’s games room, was damp and desperately needed tanking, and the chimney was so delicate it was a mere gust of wind away from being blown over entirely.
‘What made matters more complicated is that our home is Grade II listed, meaning we had to get listed building consent every time we took on a major repair,’ says Vicky. ‘I remember lying awake all night during a storm, after learning how fragile the chimney was, worrying it would collapse onto the roof.’
Over the years, Vicky and Dale slowly chipped away at their project property, inching ever closer to the dream home they had first hung their hopes on. They restored the period features and repaired the at-risk chimney.
After a lot of difficulty with the basement, where the room was fully tanked before failing entirely after an extreme rainfall, it was eventually turned into that promised games room, and the unsightly kitchen was replaced. They even added an extension onto the back of the house to add a dining space and bathroom to the ground floor.
‘Living on a building site was very difficult,’ Vicky says. ‘For a while, we camped out in the one bedroom with working plugs and did our washing up in the bathroom.
‘At times, it felt like it was never going to be finished – we’d complete one job only to have the upstairs bathroom flood, or we’d inspect a wall and find that the plaster had blown. But, in retrospect, it has been so rewarding. When I look at our home now – our cosy living room, our beautiful open-plan kitchen-diner and our cool cellar games room, it does feel worth it.’
Vicky stuck to a sympathetic scheme of fresh neutrals and natural textures throughout, which gives the property a classic-meets-modern feel and emphasises its period charm.
There are still tasks to do, but Vicky’s initial vision is now a reality.
‘A house that throws as many curve balls as this one has could test any relationship, but we laughed and cried our way through together, and we have come out the other side as happy as we were when we purchased it.’
Feature Maxine Brady. Photos David Giles.