Ten minutes with My Tiny Estate

Renovation advice from a couple with not one but five historic buildings on their hands.

A whole (tiny) estate definitely wasn’t in the plan for Dean and Borja.

And yet here they are: five buildings to renovate – not to mention formal gardens, courtyards and even a piggery – and now a TV show (‘Saving the Manor’. Catch it on HGTV and Discovery Plus).

‘We didn’t go out looking for a property this big,’ says Dean. ‘We just fell in love after viewing it. We were looking for a historic property, but a little bit smaller than this one!’

With Corston switches, sockets and hardware throughout, we dropped in to take a look at progress so far.
By this point, the couple are pretty much renovating pros, with several projects already under their belts. Which is just as well by the sound of things.

‘We started with the caretaker’s cottage, then went on to the servants’ living quarters. For the show, we completed the entirety of the stable complex.

‘We also worked on the outbuildings, creating a gym, outdoor toilet, bar, outdoor bathroom and shower. We then went on to doing the servants’ stairs and the manor house boot room and guest toilet.

‘We’re currently working on the rear facade of the main manor house, and then we’ll go onto the servants’ kitchens.’
Their advice on tackling a renovation? ‘Don’t overwhelm yourself with looking at the whole thing; focus on one room at a time!

‘We learnt the hard way when we restored the entire caretaker’s cottage in one go. It nearly killed us! You’ll enjoy it so much more taking your time on one room.

‘Plus, if you’re living in the house, you can contain the mess.’
As for restoring a historic property (or several), their approach is definitely a sensitive, slowly-does-it one.

‘We follow the house. By that we mean that we harness all the beautiful character elements in the spaces.

‘So, the servants’ quarters had the 250-year-old exposed timber ceilings and floors, and the stables had the timber trusses and exposed brick.

’Modernising the spaces (which, they point out, is necessary if you’re going to live in them comfortably) is done in a considered way.

‘Quality all the way. You look back at how they made things in the 18th century when the estate was built, and it was such high quality with the best materials. We want to make sure when restoring this place that we input quality fittings and fixtures where they’re needed.

‘Also, the Corston Clear sockets and switches work perfectly in areas where we don’t want it to look completely modernised.’
Clear switches crop up here and there (‘in areas of detail on the wall such as panelling and wallpaper’), but for most of the buildings they’ve worked on so far, the couple went for Antique Brass.

‘We just love brass. It’s such a timeless material and works so well in a historic setting.’

They weren’t afraid to change things up if it suited the character of the building, though.

‘We changed our approach in our “fancy” workshop and used the Bronze sockets and hardware for the more utilitarian feel.

‘Servants’ living quarters are more quaint and frilly with wallpapers, while the caretaker’s is a bit more utilitarian. The stables were designed with the idea to constantly remind you that it was a stable, so old “horsey” pictures, a coach wheel and an old pitchfork on the wall.’
‘Details are EVERYTHING!

‘A lot of people say they wouldn’t have noticed that little tweak in the handle we pick or the switch on the wall, but we all notice it!

‘Some maybe not as consciously as others, but the feeling of the space and how successful it looks is defined by the quality details you have in it.’
The quick-fire round
The project in three words?
‘Tiring, rewarding, addictive.’

Favourite space on the estate?
‘ARGH! That’s difficult...’
Borja: ‘The tack room in the stables.’
Dean: ‘The gym. Always wanted one, thought I wouldn’t use it…it’s the most used space! In terms of beautiful space, it has to be the hayloft kitchen.’

Favourite Corston product?
‘There’s a reason we’ve used loads of different ones: it’s too hard to pick! It depends on the space, but the clear sockets and switches can work anywhere, so maybe them.’