There’s not many people brave enough to take on such an outlandishly top-end renovation project, but for Dean Poulton, 33, and Borja de Maqua, 31, of the Instagram feed @mytinyestate, this grand design of stunning proportions was too tempting to resist. A rural English affair in Warwickshire, it comprises an array of different buildings and gardens including a three-story Georgian manor house, an adjoining servants' quarters, and a caretaker's cottage that dates back to Tudor times, plus a charming gardener's cottage and piggery—all set amidst 2.5 acres of formal gardens, courtyards, and stables—barely habitable and far from good decorative order. These self-taught fixer-uppers may call the estate tiny, but the amount of work completed since they started, in March 2018, is vast. And what makes the story all the more compelling is how they have journaled their makeover via their social media platform. Having started out as a way to share progress with friends and family, it has garnered a following that has turned into something else altogether. For any DIYer, this is renovation porn.
In terms of compatibility, the stars aligned when this couple met eight years ago. Dean is an architect by trade, and Spanish-born Borja is a surveyor. Before they purchased My Tiny Estate, they completed a number of other home renovation projects, and this is their most ambitious restoration to date. They obviously make a good renovation team, which is just as well, as everything from constructing timber-framed walls using traditional methods, plastering entire spaces (Borja took a course to fast-track on techniques) and even restoring chimneys has been completed themselves. Dean takes charge of the plumbing and electric, whereas Borja has become an expert at cabinet work. Crafting all the wall paneling and kitchen cabinets in the updated caretaker's cottage was the first completed phase of the estate; the space will shortly become available as a holiday rental, along with accommodation within the servants' quarters, which is next on the list.
“Inspiration for the decoration comes from the buildings themselves,” says Borja of the aesthetic decisions made. “We have replicated ideas such as the wall paneling to a certain degree, but we like to add our own personality too. For instance, the caretaker's cottage dates back 400 years, so you can’t really say we’re taking it back to how it was. We’re making it new again.” Caretakers themselves, the couple are living in this space, whilst progressing with the servants' quarters and main house. “I like a list,” says Dean on how he manages the order of work without getting overwhelmed. “Mentally, we section it all into phases. To start with, the caretakers' cottage was our only focus before working up to the big house.”
See an English Estate Renovation That’s Any Downton Abbey Fan’s Dream
Dean and Borja manage costs by completing the jobs themselves. Their greatest extravagance is time. What they spend in costly materials—such as 3,000 reclaimed Victorian blue bricks for the courtyard, original cast-iron radiators, and quality finishes like the DeVol taps in the caretaker's kitchen—is balanced by their own skill and labor. If they were able to roll back the years to Downton Abbey days with staff on hand to assist, what help would they appreciate the most? “A gardener would be good,” laughs Borja. “I spend a day a week in the garden, and that’s just mowing the lawn.”
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest