Riverside Renovation

PUBLISHED: 14:37 18 August 2010 | UPDATED: 15:36 20 February 2013

Ivy Cottage

Ivy Cottage

In this December issue, we look at a property that was untouched since the 1970s until it was transformed into a bright and airy two-up-two-down

Riverside Renovation

In the first of a series of articles on how to make a property suitable for paying guests, we hear how a couple transformed a tired two-up-two-down

Nancy Cullen, with her GP doctor husband, Mark, bought Ivy Cottage two years ago. They wanted to own a house in the tucked-away spot beside the River Tamar at Calstock. "We completely gutted it. It hadn't been touched since the 1970s," she recalls.

They rent their own home, in nearby Lewtrenchard, on a long lease, but Nancy had "always liked the vibe" of this undiscovered bit of south-east Cornwall and when the right property came on the market they went for it. Seven months after they bought it in 2006, the two-bedroom cottage, which had started life as a 19th-century railway office, had been stripped of its brown paintwork, lino and other tell-tale signs of the way we lived 30-plus years ago.

By 1 June 2007, when it started welcoming happy holidaymakers, the Cullens had given the property new handmade sash windows, replaced doors with salvaged Victorian ones and stripped the original stairs and pine floorboards. They fitted a modern bathroom suite and a compact, built-in kitchen with all-new gear.

Ivy Cottage is about 30 metres from the riverbank and just 10 minutes' walk downstream from Cotehele, the National Trust property loved for its historic house and charming garden. Just beyond the heart of Calstock, but only five minutes from the pub, the cottage is in a great location.

"I love fossicking in junk shops and markets to pick up bits and pieces," says Nancy, whose flair for doing up properties to let has been hired by others. One friend, off to work abroad, paid her to set up his home with the level of equipment, furniture, styling, comfort and convenience that a good, successful holiday home should present.

Doing up her own home allowed her to add personal touches. In the main bedroom is a wardrobe, tallboy chest of drawers and lady's dressing table (her grandmother's suite) and a new six-foot-wide bed. "On holiday," says Nancy, "it's really important to have a big comfortable bed."

The second room is a single with a truckle bed so that the cottage can sleep four. Around the bright, well-presented property are colourful accessories, pictures, old and new books, a few games and toys, a child's buggy and an 'instruction file' packed with helpful information about local visitor attractions, good places to eat, maps, train timetables and tide tables and Tamar Valley details.

Being beside the river, the owners of this neat holiday home provide kagoules, boots and life-jackets, as well as a Canadian canoe and paddles. When both the tide and weather are right, you can go out and canoe on the Tamar.

Mark and Nancy Cullen thoroughly enjoyed this restoration project. "I liked providing all the bits and pieces so that people can come and have a really good holiday." It sounds obvious, but ensuring all the right things are there, ready to run, is crucial to success - and good business.

"It makes sense to go that extra distance," says Nancy, who knows that paying guests appreciate the smart bathrobes and toiletries she provides, and that little visitors love finding a small bar of chocolate on their pillow. Oh, and there are also two bicycles for holidaymakers to use, not just the canoe. That's part of this cottage's 41/2 star rating, say Helpful Holidays, who have long known that it's the owner's input that makes a great holiday home.

Helpful Holidays 01647 433593, www.helpfulholidays.com

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