Master at work

Master at work

Stephen Rankin, Vantage & Co managing director, reports on the restoration of a derelict landmark house that earnt his company the title Master Builder of the Year in the annual FMB Awards.

Old Heaton House, built in 1823 for William Cotterill, a wealthy Birmingham merchant of high status, was originally set in its own landscaped park. But a century of industrial activity around the site had left the house unlisted and at risk of demolition. In 2021, the building and the surrounding land was purchased by city developers Elevate Property Group, and Vantage & Co was tasked to complete a restoration, a seven month long project which became a labour of love for the team working on it.

Old Heaton House is one of only two Georgian villas remaining in the city’s historic Jewellery Quarter and it was a complete wreck. But we knew it could be something special. The team was required to preserve as many original features as possible, while ensuring the finished property incorporated all the luxury and high-end signature features of an Elevate home.

Was fabulous to be able to work on a building which has a real history, and Old Heaton House became a real labour of love for all of the skilled craftsmen and women who played their part in bringing it back to life.

The house was an almost total ruin when the team took over – it had taken Elevate several months to make it safe enough to work on. But the building revealed some stunning original features, including a large, hipped, slate roof with a central well and a three-bay stone façade with an abundance of rendered details such as detailed cornicing at the eaves and moulded architraves to the windows.

Working with D5 Architects, the brief was to restore the outside to a magnificent Georgian villa but create modern luxury on the inside that was in keeping with the period features but practical for 21st century living. Huge numbers of local craftsmen and women were called upon to create the array of bespoke fittings that we needed, as well as the customised kitchen. Another Midlands firm was brought in to make the internal doors to fit every arch. They were not standard doors – the one into the master bedroom is almost 8ft high and 3ft 6in wide so bespoke was the only way to go.

The real talking point in the house is the stunning stone staircase, hand-carved by local stonemasons from Bath stone. It is spectacular, and a real showpiece feature.

The core building might be 200 years old but building regulations are bang up to date, and we had to work closely with building control to make sure the house would meet modern standards of fire safety, construction and insulation.

Once the structural renovation was completed, the interior design was completed by Blocc Interiors, which created an ambience which seamlessly blends the old with the new. The colour scheme and kitchen reflect modern tastes, with plenty of grey and neutral tones, while the furniture, mirrors and rugs are firmly rooted in the house’s Georgian heritage.

Jobs like this don’t come along very often and the whole project was brilliant to be a part of. Progress meetings were held on a regular weekly basis via Teams, with a site meeting being held every month. The site based team were exceptionally supported and coordinated by our highly experienced project manager, Daniel Baylis.

We prioritised engaging in careful and considered dialogue at every stage of the project as we believe that clear communication is key to success. And winning the master builder title as a result was the icing on the cake.

The award judges described the project as a “superb example of urban renaissance in practice” and a “shining beacon of what can be done to the very highest level.”

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