When their thatched house burnt down and they discovered they weren’t insured, Alex Reay and Cheryl Robson didn’t lose heart. Instead, they rebuilt their dream home - a dairy cottage in Hampshire.

TV House Hampshire Dairy Cottage1

The couple rebuilt Dairy Cottage with green oak frames and expansive modern glazing to provide views over the nearby bird sanctuary

TV House Hampshire Dairy Cottage1

The kitchen features Corian and wood units plus a grey water recycling system linked to the washing machine

Cheryl Robson and Alex Reay are survivors. Once, they seemed to have it all, with successful careers in the music business, a newly renovated thatched cottage in Hampshire and a baby on the way. Then Cheryl’s record label folded and Alex was made redundant. Things couldn’t get worse, surely – but then chimney sparks set fire to the thatch and their cottage burnt down. The final blow came with news that their insurance policy had lapsed. Cheryl promptly went into labour.

Thankfully, the picture is very different these days. After the fire, the £400,000 debt the couple was up against made getting a loan and rebuilding the only real choice. ‘I just went on to autopilot and coped,’ Alex recalls. Their optimism won admiration from Grand Designs’ viewers. ‘We could either look at this as a half-burnt home, or a half-built home,’ said Alex philosophically. ‘We chose the latter.’

 TV House Hampshire Dairy Cottage3

A sturdy farmhouse-style table with traditional chairs is the centrepiece of the dining area

TV House Hampshire Dairy Cottage3

Set on a raised plinth, the copper bath in the master bedroom en-suite is the perfect place to unwind

The silver lining in all this was that the poky, low-ceilinged rooms of old could be redesigned. Within the original footprint they have created light, open spaces and added a double-height extension. But what about a new thatched roof? Alex was worried about putting it to Cheryl, but she didn’t hesitate. ‘It’s the reason we bought the house in the first place,’ she insisted. The new roof is gorgeous: thick, bushy Norfolk reed cut with swirls inspired by the Biba logo, fitting as it’s the name of their daughter. The reborn Dairy Cottage is a testament to this family’s triumph over adversity.

 TV House Hampshire Dairy Cottage4

The original cottage has been restored to its former glory, while the annexe to the right is now a self-contained holiday home

 

Photography: Emma Lee; Sean Myers

Kevins Column

Top self build highlights at Grand Designs Live 2019 hosted by Kevin McCloud

Find top experts, specialist exhibitors and a wealth of inspiration for your self-build or renovation project all under one roof.
visit-award-winning-grand-designs-live-hosted-by-kevin-mccloud
 
 
q-a-with-the-creator-of-the-rockhouse-retreat-angelo-mastropietro
Grand Designs TV Houses

Q&A with Grand Designer of The Rockhouse Retreat Angelo Mastropietro

Angelo Mastropietro is the creator and mastermind behind The Rockhouse Retreat. We speak to him all about his story so far.
grand-designs-tv-house-2019-episode-5-west-suffolk
Grand Designs TV Houses

Grand Designs TV House 2019 episode 5: West Suffolk

Find out more about the West Suffolk TV house featured in 2019's Grand Designs TV series, airing on 2nd October 2019 on Channel 4 and...
grand-designs-2019-episode-2-lincolnshire
Grand Designs TV Houses

Grand Designs 2019 episode 2: the dramatic Lincolnshire round house

Take a tour of the second TV house featured in 2019's Grand Designs TV series, aired on 11th September 2019 on Channel 4 and hosted...
grand-designs-2019-first-episode-galloway-scotland
Grand Designs TV Houses

Grand Designs TV House 2019 episode 1: a breathtaking Galloway self build

Take a tour of the first TV house featured in 2019's Grand Designs TV series, aired on 4th September 2019 on Channel 4 and hosted...
grand-designs-tv-house-2019-episode-4-hull
Grand Designs TV Houses

Grand Designs TV House 2019 episode 4: The Water Shed in Hull

Find out more about the Hull TV house featured in 2019's Grand Designs TV series, airing on 25th September 2019 on Channel 4 and hosted...
kevin-mccloud-grandest-design-special
Grand Designs TV Houses

Grand Designs' special 20th anniversary episode

To mark Grand Designs' 20th anniversary Kevin McCloud hosted a one-off special show before the new series starts. Find out more about the one-off episode.