Wallace Hall, in Dumfries and Galloway, was neglected, dark and damp until Giles and Jane Hay rolled their sleeves up to turn it into a warm, bright, family home
‘COLD, DAMP and dark,” is how Jane Hay described Wallace Hall when she first walked into the late 18th-century house near Thornhill in Dumfries and Galloway on a dreary October day six years ago. Despite that, Jane and her husband Giles had a gut feeling that, with a little TLC, the house could be reincarnated.
How right they were. Warm, bright and airy are more fitting words to describe the five-bedroom house today, thanks to a detailed and thorough refurbishment.
The couple had lived in London for a number of years and wanted to move back to Scotland. Having spotted Wallace Hall for sale online, they made an appointment to view.
“When we came up to see Wallace Hall it was colder on the inside than it was outside,” recalls Jane, a former PR manager for the Jaguar Formula One racing team. “We came in the front door and it was just cold, damp and dark. My parents came with us and were horrified. But we still had a great feeling about it. It had been a much-loved property, but just needed TLC and brought back to life.”
The pair bought the house and immediately pooled ideas as to how they envisaged it working as a family home. Work started in March 2007 while they were still living in London. They bought a white transit van and would drive up at weekends to do what hands-on work they could. The couple finally moved up in June 2007 to oversee the building work, renting nearby until the house was ready in April 2008.
As well as replacing and insulating the roof, they knocked a small kitchen, utility and cloakroom together to form a large dining kitchen, creating french doors out to a newly-formed patio. A former coal store was incorporated into the house and turned into the utility room. They also installed hand-crafted sandstone fireplaces in the living room and drawing room, as well as solid oak floors, and knocked through from the drawing room into the formal dining room, where they also added french doors out to a courtyard. This has allowed light to flow right through the house and brought stunning views to more rooms.
The couple extended to the rear, adding a downstairs toilet, office and rear hallway, with an additional family bathroom, dressing room and passageway upstairs. They created three en suites, replaced all rainwater pipes and gutters, restored all of the original sash and case windows, installed a new oil-fired central heating system with underfloor heating in the kitchen, utility and hallway, and fully rewired the house. A cellar is now used as a log store and large storage room too.
Throughout Wallace Hall, the attention to detail is impressive – from the hand-crafted, oak-painted and granite kitchen, and the mix of Travertine, marble and porcelain-tiled bathrooms, to the palette of Farrow & Ball and Laura Ashley wall tones – with the end result being a warm family home that is enchanting from the moment you see its handsome façade from the bottom of the sweeping driveway. The couple have furnished it with a mix of family pieces, substantial wooden-framed and wrought-iron beds, eBay purchases, and a mix of contemporary and traditional artwork.
“When we bought the house it had damp, all the downstairs fires had been taken away, there was no insulation and there was only one toilet and bathroom for the whole house. It was like time had stood still,” recalls Jane. “We took up all the floors and discovered it was just soil underneath. We stripped it all back to the bare walls and started again from scratch. We had experience of renovating but we totally underestimated the amount of work and money it would take to do it to the standard we wanted – it would have been cheaper and quicker to have built a new house in the garden.”
She adds: “Giles is a management consultant and is very detailed in his work, and he tackled the house in the same way – he wrote pages of everything that needed to be done. We had builders but we also did a lot ourselves, such as sanding the floors upstairs, and picking out years of rubble from under the floors. We have such great memories from doing the house – we had the romantic notion to paint the outside of the house ourselves, so spent an entire summer painting it a soft tone as we wanted it to have a warm glow.
“We designed the extension and all the en suites ourselves and decided which walls should come down and just got plans drawn up for planning. We just knew how the house would work. Originally, the garden came right up against the house – we had to remove 100 tonnes of soil to move it back from the house and create the patio outside the kitchen.”
Two years ago they knocked down an old farm shed and built a magnificent two-storey barn in its place, with garaging, downstairs and upstairs oak-floored rooms, and a Travertine tiled bathroom. The couple use the upstairs room as an additional living space and have hosted many family get-togethers here, including the christenings and birthdays for three-year-old Madeleine and 18-month-old Tristan.
Outside, Jane and Giles repaired the drystone dyke wall that encloses the 2.7 acre garden, removed overgrown hedging and seeded a new lawn. Exterior lighting was also installed to illuminate the house at night.
The couple fell in love with Wallace Hall when they first viewed it six years ago, so it is with heavy heart that they are now selling.
“Giles commutes to Leeds, Bradford and London with his work and the drive is proving too far, so we think we need to live nearer to an airport in Scotland to make the commute easier,” concedes Jane. “We renovated this very much as our forever home and absolutely love it. If, or when, we leave Wallace Hall I really will be gutted – I know I will cry.”
Wallace Hall, Wallaceton, near Thornhill, Dumfries & Galloway, is for sale with a guide price of £850,000 through CKD Galbraith (01556 505 346, www.ckdgalbraith.co.uk)