Real home: this 1920’s doer-upper has had a total transform

After three years of renting, Nicola Brunton and Barry Dodsworth were desperate to banish all traces of magnolia when they bought a tired 1920s semi in Darlington. The couple had sold their home in Heighington village, County Durham, three years prior to buy the pub they’d been leasing in Darlington. Since they didn’t want to live above the business, they had rented a stone farmhouse half an hour’s drive away in Barnard Castle.

Selling the pub in 2017 gave them the funds they needed, and they continued living in their rented farmhouse for six months while working as labourers on the renovation project. The hard graft was worth it in the end, though: the couple and their three children now have a much larger open-plan kitchen-diner with a rustic industrial vibe and an extra bedroom and bathroom in the loft. Here the couple talk build details, lessons learned and how teamwork got them through the stressful moments.

If you are planning on extending your house to create the space you need, we have lots of ideas and helpful advice on what to do and where to start. For more real home transformations, head to our hub page.

Extending upwards and outwards gave hands-on renovators Nicola and Barry their dream family home

A simple monochrome look gives the hallway a timeless feel. It features a painted bench seat with storage underneath, which houses Nicola’s sewing machine. ‘Quite a lot of my furniture is old stuff that I’ve just repainted,’ she says. Metropolis star floor tiles,Tons of Tiles. Bench seat, Simply Dutch, painted in Studio Green, Farrow & Ball. Lepus print by Reuben Ireland, Juniqe. Cushion cover, Ikea

(Image credit: Katie Lee)


The owners Nicola Brunton, a process analyst and home stager (@darlington_home_staging), her partner, Barry Dodsworth, a driver, children Joe, Kizzy and Wilf, and cats Rosie and Michael
The property A 1920s four-bed semi in Darlington, County Durham
Project cost £85,000