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See how this Norfolk couple are transforming a country cottage into their dream home

PUBLISHED: 08:53 05 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:38 05 September 2018

Courtenay and Joey Caston, who are renovating a cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.

Courtenay and Joey Caston, who are renovating a cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.

When Norfolk primary school teachers Courtenay and Joey Caston decided to 
buy a house, they never imagined they would be spending every spare moment doing everything from knocking down walls to realigning a chimney. Property editor Caroline Culot went along to find out more about the renovation project.

Courtenay and Joey Caston's cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.Courtenay and Joey Caston's cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.

The bedroom before the renovation work, when the Castons first bought it from William H Brown. Pic:www.williamhbrown.co.ukThe bedroom before the renovation work, when the Castons first bought it from William H Brown. Pic:www.williamhbrown.co.uk

Many young couples want a 
new home with all the appliances and carpets included which is 
why developments around the county are in demand.

The bedroom now during the renovation work. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.The bedroom now during the renovation work. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.

But Courtenay Caston, 29, and his wife, Joey, 28, decided they wanted something different and working with a tight budget, have tackled as much of the renovation work themselves.

The couple met at the University of East Anglia, and both became teachers; Mr Caston teaches at Aldborough Primary School and Mrs Caston at Coltishall Primary School. That was up until the end of the school year when Mrs Caston left to start her own ‘forest school’ to teach children about nature and wildlife. The couple, who live in a one bedroom cottage at nearby Marsham, really wanted a bigger house with character and late last year, fell in love with Swaithe Cottage. This is the left hand flint and brick cottage in a pair situated in the countryside down a long winding track known as ‘Crudd’s Hole’ in Swafield, near North Walsham.

The extension before, when the Castons bought the house from William H Brown. Pic: www.williamhbrown.co.ukThe extension before, when the Castons bought the house from William H Brown. Pic: www.williamhbrown.co.uk

The extension now during the renovation work. Picture : Nick Butcher, Archant.The extension now during the renovation work. Picture : Nick Butcher, Archant.

The garden and view over fields at the Caston's cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.The garden and view over fields at the Caston's cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.

Courtenay and Joey Caston, who are renovating a cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.Courtenay and Joey Caston, who are renovating a cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.

“We nearly didn’t come and view this cottage but when we did, we just loved it,” said Mr Caston. “It backs onto fields so has lovely views and although it is in the countryside, it’s really close to a town and we could see the potential to do more with it.”

The Castons went ahead and bought the cottage from agents William H Brown for £197,000 and then embarked on the huge renovation project. The property would have been originally a farmworker’s cottage on the estate. When they purchased it, it was set out with a sitting room, kitchen and a modern extension of an extra living room with a bathroom and two bedrooms upstairs. The couple decided to take it right back to basics, obtaining planning permission to alter the configuration slightly, making the upstairs bathroom into another bedroom and bringing in a side storage room into the main part of the house to make a large downstairs bathroom and utility.

Courtenay and Joey Caston who are renovating a cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.Courtenay and Joey Caston who are renovating a cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.

This meant re-roofing the side room and another big job was rebuilding the main chimney to the house.

The sitting room when the Castons first bought the house from William H Brown. Pic:www.williamhbrown.co.ukThe sitting room when the Castons first bought the house from William H Brown. Pic:www.williamhbrown.co.uk

The sitting room now during the renovation. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.The sitting room now during the renovation. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.

The kitchen when the Castons first bought the house from William H Brown. Pic: www.williamhbrown.co.ukThe kitchen when the Castons first bought the house from William H Brown. Pic: www.williamhbrown.co.uk

The kitchen now with the new wood pellet stove at the cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.The kitchen now with the new wood pellet stove at the cottage in Swafield. Picture: Nick Butcher, Archant.

“We opened up the fireplace in the sitting room,” said Mr Caston. “It was all bricked up and so we had to get the chimney swept and then properly lined for a woodburner. Then in the kitchen we have put in a wood pellet stove for the heating and it’s very energy efficient. We’ve enlisted help from friends and family; Joey’s brother and father but a lot of the work we’ve done ourselves. I found myself helping to guide a flue through a chimney on a windy day which wasn’t easy!”

However, during the work, the couple discovered a fireplace upstairs in one of the bedrooms they didn’t know was there which has been a real reward for their evenings and weekends spent slaving away on the project.

The house has been completely re-wired and all the walls taken right back to the original to be replastered and are now ready for painting. But how much has it cost? The couple have so far spent £20,000 with another £10,000 forecast, bringing the entire project to around £190,000.

“We know we are going to love living in this house when it’s finished,” said Mrs Caston. “So many young people buy a new home which is fine but the way we are doing it, it means we do have a period home with character features. Obviously some of the work has to be done by professionals but we are working on a tight budget so by doing so much ourselves, we’ll end up with a house we couldn’t have afforded if someone else had done the work.”

The Castons are hoping to finish the house just before Christmas so they can celebrate in their new home - and apparently EDP Homes is invited back for a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie to see how it looks when complete!

You can see the full story in EDP Homes’ 74 page autumn property guide out this Friday, September 7, It’s free in your copy of the EDP or priced £1 where sold separately.

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Caroline Culot

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I am the property editor in charge of delivering some exciting and informative content within Archant’s varied titles. We have 16-17 pages of stories, features and columns in the EDP Property supplement out every Friday free in your EDP so please don’t miss it.