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Renovating an Edinburgh Tenement: Behind the Scenes
Slow, seasonal interiors. Part one: before!
As an old soul, home is where my heart truly is. I am the definition of a home bird and like nothing more than nesting, decorating and personalising my environment with cosy touches. So you may have noticed the conspicuous absence of interior pictures that usually accompany my posts here… Because we have been moving house!
The pictures and videos I shared on my Instagram had such a lovely reaction, thank you, but there’s only so much you can share in a short form way there - so I decided I’m going to take you behind the scenes of renovating our Edinburgh tenement in a slow, sustainable and seasonal way as a new series in my newsletter. This is one of a few exciting changes coming up - make sure you’re subscribed to hear more soon!
Some background first then. For the last year or so we have been looking for a bigger place. I bought a teeny tiny tenement in Edinburgh on my own almost four years ago, and since my partner moved back to the capital it’s been a little wee for two - plus we wanted to pool our funds and buy together now we were in the same city.
The property market in Edinburgh is pretty challenging to say the least, especially at the moment. There is not enough supply to meet demand, especially in popular areas. In Scotland properties are marketed as “offers over” so you have to bid more than they are listed for. In many cases if there are several interested parties (sometimes lots!) the property will go to a “closing date” and effectively the highest bid will win.
We lost out on several dream places - from a cottage that overlooked fields in the Hermitage, to a main door flat in Sciennes - and we’ve looked at so, so many. In fact, we lost out on a flat that went for 25% over the home report value the week we ended up winning the bid on the flat we ended up buying (we moved quickly, offering on the day it came on and got very lucky. I didn’t believe it at first and cried tears of shock). Our tenement was waiting for us, it seemed.
Throw in my buyer having mortgage issues days before moving day, and it’s been a stressful few months. The day we got the keys three weeks ago was surreal as we hadn’t seen the flat since we viewed it in March; some things were even better than I remembered (the view! Another silver birch in the garden!) and others were less good (botched DIY and cat scratches on all the doors).
Our Victorian tenement was built in the 1880s and was owned by the last family for 40 years so it has seen a lot of history. It needs some love to bring it fully back to life again but it has good bones and beautiful period features: high ceilings, cornicing, Edinburgh presses, wooden floorboards throughout and four (four!) original fireplaces. The Victorian details sold it to me even though we knew it would need work - in particular, there was hardly any kitchen to speak of and the bathroom was literally crumbling (the extent of which we wouldn’t realise until later…) However, we’d far rather have the chance to put our own stamp on a property together, to renovate thoughtfully, decorate gradually and evolve with the place than have something that cost more because it had a new and shiny kitchen etc. that wasn’t to our taste!
Over the next few months I’ll be taking you on our renovating journey with us, sharing the process, our research and plans, sources, trades and everything in between. Maybe one day we’ll even get to decorating and styling! As this is my first renovation post I’m sharing a wee video tour so you can get a feel for the space with me. It’s already changed so much in three short weeks!
(If you’re reading this on email, click the image of the video, which will open it on YouTube in your browser!)
Is there anything you’d like to know about the tenement and our plans? Have you got any renovation tips?