Natural Scenery

Rundown Snowdonia cottage transformed into ‘dream home’ – and it took time to complete

A couple in need of a change decided to swap their city life to make their “dream home” out of rundown cottage in the heart of Snowdonia.

Roughly 12 years ago Louis Eveleigh made the decision to uproot his life, which was in dire need of a change, but at the time he wasn’t sure where to go or how to persuade his wife Gen.

Louis who is originally from the North of England but lived all over the UK including Scotland knew he wanted to move somewhere with open space and breathtaking scenery.

READ MORE: Gothic Snowdonia clock house with awe-inspiring views North Wales’ most expensive property for sale

So it’s no surprise the couple settled on moving to the heart of Snowdonia National Park – one of the most beautiful places in the UK.

Especially after Gen pointed out that Wales is the best place to live.

During an interview with Wales Online, Louis explained: “We were unhappy with where we lived – schools with growing classes and poor performance, and stressful jobs.

“We were tired of the attitude of people, the materialism and living in the city; none of it made a great lifestyle for us or the kids. But my idea of getting away from everything was to persuade my wife we should live on an island!



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
BEFORE: The photo of the ‘body’ in the bed that helped the couple choose this cottage



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
BEFORE: The bathroom



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
BEFORE: Stone floors hiding under concrete

“It wasn’t until she pointed out that my choice was nearer to Norway than Scotland and if I suddenly had a craving for a beer and chips, then I might have to wait days for the next ferry out!”

But then-wife Gen had the best idea that we all agree with; Wales is the best place to live.

All the couple had to do now was find a remote, rural property to set up home for their family in the Snowdonia region, and they decided on the worst house they had seen on the internet.

Louis says: “Why we considered viewing it then still makes us laugh. There were no great pictures, the rooms looked tired and pokey, and then there was the photo of what looked like someone who had died and been covered over with the bedclothes!”



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
BEFORE: Dated kitchen with no cottage character



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
BEFORE: The classic cottage fireplace



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
BEFORE: Let the renovation begin

But then a quick look on Google Earth at the cottage and the location soon captivated them, showing them the beauty of the area and the idyllic rural life they were craving, even if it meant a full renovation project was their immediate future at this stone cottage.

Louis says: “It was close to a village but not in the centre but what was most striking was the area’s beauty. It sounds a bit hippyish but there was just something about the place – a calm.

“We arranged a visit with the estate agents and one Saturday we set off. When the sat-nav told us we had arrived at our destination we couldn’t believe our eyes; it was just pure magic.

“Surrounded by trees, hills and a river – we couldn’t have asked for more.



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: The cottage looks so welcoming



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: The garden looks inviting too

“It was a beautiful sunny day and, despite the tiredness of the images that were advertising the house, we just fell in love with the place.”

The stone cottage was at that time a holiday home that had not been used regularly for a long time, so the couple were eager to grasp the opportunity to create their family home.

There was a new roof and some decor had been refreshed but there was a full list of work to do. But it was too late to worry about that, the cottage and location had captivated the couple to the point of being smitten.

Louis says: “It clearly needed a lot of work doing but it was exactly what we wanted – a blank canvas to create our home.



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: Now that’s a classic country cottage kitchen



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: Classic country style with pops of bold colour

“Although it hadn’t been used much there was a peaceful atmosphere about the place, an atmosphere that still exists today. Friends who come and visit comment on how relaxing the place is.”

Whilst ploughing through the work to update the cottage, the couple stole some time to find out a bit more about its history, discovering that the property exists on local maps at least as far back as 1750 and that it was once two separate farm workers’ cottages.

The second-storey was added around 1829 with a grant from the local church, and more recently was occupied by miners and their families.

Louis says: “Each property had two upstairs and downstairs rooms. None of them were particularly big and we later learned that at some point each house had about six people living in it.



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
BEFORE: Normal, boring staircase



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: Magical corner and staircase that looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale

“There was a room that was tagged on the side that was used to sell meat and the floor – to this day – is on a slant so that the blood could easily be washed away.”

Now Louis and Gen have worked hard to bring a new chapter of life to this charming cottage, but it hasn’t been easy and they have taken away from the experience some hard lessons that they are keen to share.

Louis says: “It’s taken us years to get the house to where we want it and perhaps the biggest challenge was getting a company to give us a mortgage. The property is made of a slate floor on an earth bed and the walls are made of local riverstone and slate.

“For some reason the mortgage company wanted us to put in cavity wall insulation and other things that would not have helped the property.



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“We spent ages researching old properties on what should and should not be done to them and battled the company for months until we finally got the answer we wanted.

“We wanted to keep the uniqueness of the property and retain its original features including lime plastering that would allow the house to ‘breathe’.”

But neither of them had done any renovation to this level before so the learning curve was steep.

It began with the back-breaking work of removing all the concrete floors that had been added to the home over the years, without damaging the original stone floors beneath.



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: The colour choice in the lounge was for dark and cosy



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: The fireplace adds visual as well as practical warmth

Louis says: “One of the previous owners had a passion for concrete – everything was covered in the stuff!”

Then came the stage of lime plastering the cottage and this, as well as some other gems of experience, Louis is keen to share with any would-be stone property renovators.

He says: “Firstly be realistic about timescales for doing things. I’d never done a renovation before and had all my charts and timeframes set for completion – it was all going to be done in a few months!

“Secondly, make sure you have enough money, and more, to achieve what you need to do.



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: A cosy corner to relax and textured accessories add extra visual and tactile depth



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: The pets love the living room too

“Thirdly don’t live in the property while you are renovating it if you possibly can move out; and finally don’t lime plaster in winter as you can’t have the fires on as it can crack the plaster!”

The cottage is at a comfortable stage of its renovation life but of course there are always things that can be added to or changed, but for now the couple are enjoying the results of their years of hard work.

Louis says: “We are able to chill and enjoy what we have created. Each room is always a joy to be in and it’s taught us never to take things for granted.

“The house is a work in progress and we are always able to add, chop and change accordingly – and its that which makes it so special.



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: Fresh green connects the bedroom to the natural landscape outside



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: The traditional style furniture pays homage to the cottage’s past

“Before I came here I had never done DIY let alone renovate a property. It’s taught us so much and helped build our confidence.”

The inside of the property is a treasure trove of creative ideas, personal interior design choices, and an expression of the couple’s imagination.

Louis says: “We set out with the intention of living and staying wherever we bought for a long time. With that in mind we wanted to make the property ours and to hell with whatever was “in” or other people thought.

“That gave us free reign to do whatever we wanted in terms of colours, furniture and things to make it home. We could be as bold and as creative as we wanted.”



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: The bathroom has been given the full Eveleigh imagination treatment and looks amazing



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: Classic and vintage mix with quirky in a steampunk scheme

The result is a cottage that oozes personality and special snippets of mesmerising colours and textures, features and furniture, fabulous finishing touches and touches of pure fun.

Louis says: “We wanted to maintain the originality of the place and its surroundings. By and large I think we have done that with the exception of the bathroom with its steampunk style.”

The couple are keen on upcycling and have scoured eBay and second hand shops for vintage finds and used a local recycling plant for quirky extras such as the uplighters in the living room, made from a couple of rain collectors that had come from a demolished synagogue.

Louis has even learnt how to make furniture from salvaged wood, beautiful examples of which are dotted around the cottage and very popular with the family pets for curling up for a snooze.



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: The main bedroom pays homage to the home’s rural location



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: Louis has learnt how to make furniture

The couple’s favourite room is the living room and in here they have shunned the suggestion of going with a light colour in a small space, and chosen dark and moody.

Louis says: “We wanted the opposite to spacious – we wanted a room that was cosy and helped you feel away from the world – and that’s why we painted it a rich dark red.

“When you light the candles and have a warm fire going, there’s no better place to be. For that reason we didn’t plonk a TV in here.

“Our ideas are our own and we get inspired through places we visit or things we see in films. We are basically big kids that have never (or want to) grow up!”



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: The cat has claimed one of Louis’ homemade chairs



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
AFTER: Touches of visual creativity can be found throughout, like this pipe system in the bathroom

The couple have been settled in their Welsh dream cottage for over a decade now and are happy but admit that, as with all house moves and property renovation, there were challenges and hurdles that sometimes produced a rollercoaster ride.

Louis says: “Don’t get me wrong, life isn’t perfect and living semi remotely has its challenges – but it’s these challenges that make you think and work around them till you come to a solution.

“It’s easy to forget what goes into it and how draining physically and emotionally it can be. In retrospect I don’t think it was fair to expect the kids to have lived in this while we were doing the work. Adjusting was difficult enough without this and certainly their stress became our stress.

“There were certainly dark days and living at the start in a house with an emergency electric supply, no heating, cold water and no cooking facilities was rough.”



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
The community and the landscape helped the couple get through their darkest days



After pictures of a renovation of a cottage in Snowdonia updated over years by couple Louis and Gen Eveleigh
Who wouldn’t feel instantly calmed surrounded by the beauty of Snowdonia?

But as is often the way in Wales, the local community helped the family through the tough times.

Louis comments: “Thankfully the hospitality of people in the area and the local pub got us through those periods.”

And the cottage and its location played its part too, helping the family plough through the stress of completely changing their lifestyle, their location and the all-consuming nature of a period property renovation.

Louis says: “It’s unique because whenever you get tired or fed up with things you only have to open up the front door, look out, and let the surroundings take those cares and fears away.”

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