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

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'

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.

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Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
Michaela’s love of pale neutrals can be seen in the living room, with its lime-washed floorboards, pale grey walls and off-white sofas. The walls are painted in Pavilion Grey and the woodwork in Downpipe, both from Farrow & Ball. Michaela hand-finished the floor in a limewash look using Autentico chalk paint with matt varnish from Home and Garden Store, while the sofas came from Sofa workshop in Nottingham

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.

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'

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.

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
The upcycled coffee table is painted with Inchyra Blue from Farrow & Ball. The baskets are from the Garden Trading Company, while the turned-wood standard lamp came from House of Fraser

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.

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
A Georgian linen cupboard bought at auction makes a perfect pantry and Michaela bought the table at auction too. The adjustable lights over the table came from a holiday in Amsterdam

‘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.’

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
The arch with red-brick detailing was originally built to house the range, until the couple discovered how small the kitchen was when the wall was built. They decided to knock it through into the space designated for a garage and make it all part of the kitchen. Michaela and Richard bought the slate floor tiles as salvage; find similar from Natural Stone Ireland. The Lohals rugs are from IKEA. The kitchen was made by Churchtown Kitchens, with the units finished in Purbeck Stone from Farrow & Ball. The walls are painted in Clockfacefrom Little Greene

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. 

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'

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.’

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
The corner display cabinet cost £40 in a charity shop. Michaela and Richard have collected the enamelware over the years from second-hand shops and brocantes on holidays in France. Richard rescued the leather and wood armchair from a skip

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.

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
This room has been painted in Farrow & Ball’s beautiful, restful shade Light Blue, while the woodwork and bed are in Slipper Satin, also from Farrow & Ball. Providing added cosiness are a quilted throw and cushions from Marks & Spencer. The lamps are from Biggie Best. A window blind in gingham fabric from Clarke and Clarke finishes the calming scheme

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.

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
Michaela bought the pine bookcase in a second-hand shop. It was finished in yellowing varnish, so she repainted it with Autentico chalk paint in Gris, and replaced the panels with chicken wire for a rustic look. The genuine Le Creuset pot stand was destined for a skip before Michaela rescued it at a friend’s house

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.’

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
A 1950s addition to the house in blockwork, the ‘snug’ has been heavily insulated and the couple refashioned the ceiling with timber cladding up to roof level. The stone wall is the original exterior wall of the farmhouse. The bed is from Dreams.co.uk

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.

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
Good idea! Michaela’s favourite feature is a secret door from the guest bedroom to the en suite, made with Rasch Library Books wallpaper and simulated shelving

‘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.’

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
This is a very long room, so Michaela has painted the end wall in a darker contrasting colour, Natural Taupe from Kelly Hoppen. The other walls are painted in Bleached Lichen from Dulux. The bedside lamps are from Star Lighting in Monaghan, the bed is from Harvey Norman and has been painted in Cornforth White from Farrow & Ball, while the headboard has been upholstered in fabric from Lucan Fabrics. The lovely linen duvet set is from Foxford

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.

Real home: 'We worked all hours to transform this derelict farmhouse'
In the bathroom, Michaela has echoed the shape of the original brickwork walls with the contrasting colour of these green metro tiles from Emerald Tiles in Dundalk. The sanitaryware set is Valadares, and the wall colour is Nordic White from Valspar
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‘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.’