Period Property of the Month - December 2006
Graham and Elizabeth Waugh conclude their story of how they sold their Essex semi and bought a grand Scottish wreck.
"After first seeing Assynt House in August 2002 and buying it two months later, we had by the autumn of 2004 endured two years of gruelling work and many setbacks.
"Progress stumbled on. Sometimes windows arrived on cue and then others would arrive in dribs and drabs, delaying everything further. Some of the wood salvaged from the house went missing, prompting us to camp in an out-building. Yes, it was absolutely freezing, but money was tight and we didn't want to lose anything else!
"Then, after an arduous winter when everything seemed to be going wrong, things miraculously started to come together. As the joiner assembled the intricate framework consisting of old and new beams for the living room, we were able to reflect on how far we had come. Okay, things were more than a year behind the original (but unrealistic) schedule but we had nearly achieved our dream!
"On Christmas eve of 2005 we moved into our fabulous new home and Elizabeth's family came up to enjoy their first Scottish Christmas. To be honest, the house was nowhere near finished but, with everyone helping, we managed to enjoy a wonderful, if exhausting, white Christmas even without the usual luxuries. We really owe a great deal to our families who contributed so much to the project.
"After a week's respite, the work seemed to go at a far happier pace. At last the end seemed to be in sight despite the bulk of the interior work still needing to be done. We had previously both enjoyed painting and decorating but, with seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, three reception rooms, stairs and a kitchen, the novelty soon wore off!
"While we were bogged down choosing paint colours and working away at all the decorating we began thinking, what could we do with the newly renovated Assynt House? Soon we realised that it could be rented as a luxury holiday home, offering catering and housekeeping with the comforts you might expect to find in a hotel, but instead, in a relaxed home-from-home atmosphere. We had the perfect location and soon we'd also have the gorgeous décor to match.
"As far as furnishing the house went, we wanted all of the rooms to be unique and individual. Scouring the shops, we found beautiful pieces of modern and antique furniture, quirky accessories and finishing touches for our guests; we really wanted everything to completely suit the house.
"The accommodation upstairs is a combination of the contemporary and the classical, while downstairs the rooms have a more traditional feel. Assynt House now sleeps 14 in luxurious comfort with a wonderful atmosphere to boot. It's a peaceful escape where guests can sleep soundly and re-charge their batteries. Despite the many goings on in the surrounding area, when people visit they often just want to stay at the house and enjoy the atmosphere here.
"So after nearly three years of hardship and homelessness, lots of money and a serious amount of stress, was it all worth it? Well we certainly did have our ups and downs, but we really don't regret a thing! It all happened at exactly the right time in our lives where we still had the enthusiasm and energy to pursue our dream. Sometimes we do look back at our wedding photos and wonder whether we would have aged quite so much without Assynt House but we say the lines certainly tell a story! Now this beautiful home can look forward to a sound future. Perhaps our children and grandchildren will one day enjoy Assynt House and its grounds or maybe we'll find another hidden gem that just needs a little TLC."
Restoration timeline continued:
September 2004 Plumbing and second phase electrical work now well underway. The rear fire escape is completed.
October 2004 Painting the interior continues. This is exhausting but the final push is on to finish the main and 1st floor.
November 2004 Work starts on the giant jigsaw that is the reconstruction of the dining room panelling.
December 2004 Exhausted from painting and cleaning we moved into the house on Christmas Eve just for the holidays.
January 2005 Work resumes on the lower ground floor and we move back into the outbuilding as our own nightwatchmen!
February 2005 It's freezing and we have problems with our newly fitted boiler. Help! Our front door steps are finally built.
March 2005 We move into the house for good. Beautiful metal handrails are fitted to the front steps.
April 2005 The house building work is now coming to an end. The builders' equipment leaves and we begin to tidy up.
May 2005 There's much to do in the garden, including clearing away old debris and sowing new lawns.
June 2005 Busy doing final decorating and finishing touches. We start looking for furniture for the house.
July 2005 Outside we're still very busy rediscovering, developing and replanting the garden. Gravel is spread on the drive.
February 2006 Amidst much excitement Assynt House is finally open for guests with the launch of our new website.
If you are taking on a major restoration, not paying too much for the building is a great help with cash flow over the project. This obviously helped the Waughs who deservedly now own a very valuable property.
More details about Assynt House: See www.assynthouse.com