When people say they’ve restored a dilapidated old property, it generally means they outsourced the actual graft to experts, but lent their clever eye to the whole project. That’s impressive enough. But when Tanya and Duncan, owners of Brecon Beacons Hideaway, bought a rundown old farm in Wales’ Cambrian Mountains, they literally restored this outbuilding entirely by themselves. They mended its ancient floors and beams, repaired the roof, replaced the bathroom, rebuilt the verandah and hand-crafted a new kitchen.
Tanya explained all this to us quite casually, but it blew our minds. We’re down with painting and a bit of tiling, but wouldn’t have the first clue about anything else. Neither did they, it turned out; they both worked in the public sector prior to this move into hospitality, and learnt the new skills on the job!
But – and we can’t stress this enough – this place is immaculate. So beautiful, and so carefully done; every little finish is perfect. We found their story totally inspirational.
They restored this dark and leaky outbuilding entirely by themselves. They’d both worked in the public sector prior to this move into hospitality, and learnt the new skills on the job.
Q. Tell us about the physical restoration part of the project: how much was involved?
A. A lot! This was the oldest outbuilding on our farm – we believe it was once the coach house – and the third that we restored. We left it ’til last as it was by far the trickiest. It was terribly dark and leaky and gave me a headache just thinking about it. The downstairs floorboards were in a particularly bad state, so we had to do a lot of patching, then painted them as they wouldn’t have held up to being stripped back. We got the mezzanine and verandah’s floorboards from a timber reclamation yard, and to save a few quid we bought them full of their original nails, and had to knock them all out before we started. Not my favourite job.
Is everything else new?
Far from it. We upcycled what was already there wherever we could, to preserve the quirky character of the place. Sally, the former owner of the farm – and the first English woman in the valley – was an artist and had a great eye. She put in the stunning Edwardian stained glass windows, which we’ve kept, and the extraordinary newel post at the bottom of the stairs, which we think may have come from the nearby ruined mansion. The tiles behind the cooker are Edwardian, too.
What inspired the interiors?
My original vision was a Gentlemen’s Club style, with a tweed, leather and brass vibe. But then I decided it needed something more bohemian and quirky, to suit the character and history of the space. I painted it Annie Sloan Duck Egg Blue throughout, and made all the curtains and cushions from some fabulous GP & J Baker Nympheus fabric I got on eBay – the reds, greens and blues offset the walls perfectly.
Duncan handbuilt the kitchen, crafting the beech worktops from a locally felled tree. I picked up the sideboard in a charity shop for £30! It just needed stripping down and repainting with chalk paint.
The fantastic Lantern in the bedroom is by Jane Knapp and I sourced the antique furnishings from Patricia Ash in Llandeilo. The long pine box in the bedroom is really unusual and comes from Berlin, just after the wall came down. I particularly love the Georgian supper table that makes up the dining area with the window seat; it’s so elegant.
What are the most luxe features?
The bedlinen is 400-thread count, and the bath is absolutely huge! We built a special shelf beside it for wine glasses, candles and bathsalts, and the water itself is completely pure, from our own mountain spring.
Which little touches are most popular with your guests?
It’s the simple things, like lighting the fire for their arrival, picking flowers from our garden, and the book detailing our favourite local walks and places to go. People are always amazed by how quiet it is here, and how amazing the Cambrian Mountains are.
What time of year would you recommend for a stay?
Personally, we love May and June. The roses and mock orange that are planted here fill the air with the most delicious scent. Autumn in this valley is very special too; in olden days it all belonged to one estate and each year tenant farmers were given 10 oak trees to plant. These trees are hundreds of years old now and the colours are fantastic.
Any advice for home restoration projects?
If you see something you like, buy it – art, furniture, fabric. Even if you’re not ready for it or don’t have a plan. Carmarthenshire is like the antiques home of Wales, so when you come to stay, have a browse in our favourite shops – we’ll point you to them.