See an English Estate Renovation That’s Any Downton Abbey Fan’s Dream

Claire Bingham
·5 min read

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.

Having left their previous home for rural Warwickshire, U.K., Dean (left) and Borja are midway through the renovation of this Georgian estate. With a variety of accommodations from cottages to stables, the future use of the property will prove to be as adaptable as they are.
Having left their previous home for rural Warwickshire, U.K., Dean (left) and Borja are midway through the renovation of this Georgian estate. With a variety of accommodations from cottages to stables, the future use of the property will prove to be as adaptable as they are.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua

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

Raised planters with white tulips punctuate the cobbled courtyard of the service quarters.
Raised planters with white tulips punctuate the cobbled courtyard of the service quarters.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua
Dean and Borja created this rose garden, which would have been a must in a traditional Victorian garden. It is situated right by the gardener's cottage and has a path leading into the orchard.
Dean and Borja created this rose garden, which would have been a must in a traditional Victorian garden. It is situated right by the gardener's cottage and has a path leading into the orchard.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua
The white-rendered exterior of the servants' cottage, once a hive of activity. To the left is the caretaker's cottage, which will shortly be available for holiday lets; on the right is the main Georgian house.
The white-rendered exterior of the servants' cottage, once a hive of activity. To the left is the caretaker's cottage, which will shortly be available for holiday lets; on the right is the main Georgian house.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua
The house, dating back to the 18th-century, stretches over three floors with a large cellar, and its front façade features a classical white-columned portico.
The house, dating back to the 18th-century, stretches over three floors with a large cellar, and its front façade features a classical white-columned portico.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua
Here, the roofline of the house with its many chimneys—the restoration of which was the one job the couple were happy to give someone else to do.
Here, the roofline of the house with its many chimneys—the restoration of which was the one job the couple were happy to give someone else to do.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua
Built around the existing bolection-molded fireplace and generously proportioned windows and shutters, this beautiful grand room is on the rear of the house and faces the formal gardens.
Built around the existing bolection-molded fireplace and generously proportioned windows and shutters, this beautiful grand room is on the rear of the house and faces the formal gardens.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua
The former stables, cleared and ready for renovation.
The former stables, cleared and ready for renovation.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua
One of the first bedrooms to be completed in the makeover reveal, this skylighted bedroom is in the 16th-century caretaker's cottage and features modern elements within the traditional space.
One of the first bedrooms to be completed in the makeover reveal, this skylighted bedroom is in the 16th-century caretaker's cottage and features modern elements within the traditional space.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua
The beautiful staircase of the main house and its original checkerboard-tiled floor.
The beautiful staircase of the main house and its original checkerboard-tiled floor.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua
Original features such as the lovely marble fireplace and the detailing of the picture rails and coving are yet to be restored—and let this portrait rightly take its place.
Original features such as the lovely marble fireplace and the detailing of the picture rails and coving are yet to be restored—and let this portrait rightly take its place.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua
An aerial view of the estate that shows the full frontage; from left: caretaker's courtyard, caretaker's cottage, servants' cottage, main house, main house gates, stables, and coach house.
An aerial view of the estate that shows the full frontage; from left: caretaker's courtyard, caretaker's cottage, servants' cottage, main house, main house gates, stables, and coach house.
Photo: Dean Poulton and Borja de Maqua

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