• Rob Lawson

Salvin House Alston: Our First Holiday Let Experience

Updated: Jan 4

After more than 20 property renovation projects, our first holiday let was a new adventure for the Clarice Carr & Co team. We've done city centre serviced apartments before, so we're used to fitting out and furnishing properties, but this was a whole new level. It had to be more than a nice place to crash for a few nights; It needed personality, character and comfort. The sort of place people don't want to leave and long to come back to.


After the start of the staycation boom in 2020, we set out to find somewhere suitable. After a couple of failed auction bids, we came across Salvin House. Although it was perfect, we believed it needed a lot more work than the owner seemed to think, which sadly meant we couldn't agree on a price. That was in November, and then in mid-March, they unexpectedly came back to us, and a sale was finally agreed.


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Salvin House was a sleeping gem. The same family had lived here for over 100 years prior to the death of the last living relative in 2015, and the people who came in after had made some improvements, but the house was clearly in need of some serious care and attention. This was complicated slightly by the fact that Salvin House is a conservation area and is Grade II-listed, so everything from changing the colour of the front door to replacing a 1930s tiled fireplace, and even demolishing an asbestos-ridden 1960s concrete panel garage, required full planning permission.


A Light Touch


We set out from the beginning to conserve as much of the character of the property as possible, enhancing what we could and replacing as little as possible. Where walls were a little cracked or scarred, we tried to make good rather than aiming for modern perfection. The four exceptions to this were as follows:


The Staircase

Half the bannister was missing and we were unable to find the missing newel posts, so we commissioned a local woodturner to recreate them based on those that did survive. It would have been easier and cheaper to buy an off-the-shelf replacement, but when you're talking about a historic building, it's worth doing things right.



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The Fireplace

The 1930s fireplace in the living room was not only out-of-keeping with the house, it was also badly damaged and the stack itself was in urgent need of repair. We applied to Eden Council to replace it with something more appropriate and, once this was granted, a new limestone surround was sourced. The original plan was to use brick slips inside the Inglenook, but once the original stonework was exposed, we decided to keep this on show and it was repaired with lime mortar. The fireplace is a whole blog on its own, but suffice to say we're chuffed to bits with the finished product.


The Bathroom

On the face of it, the main bathroom looked ok. It was fitted with a modern jacuzzi bath and plastic cladding. However, our hand was forced when we decided to fit a combi boiler, more of which below, which allowed us to remove the water tank and the large cupboard to create a bigger bathroom. We also took the opportunity to replace the floor and ceiling, as well as installed a larger sink and a new, simpler bath with shower over,


The Garden

The garden was a mess. With a 1960s garage in the middle, overgrown rubble piles and lost borders. The first task was to get rid of the horrid garage and then tidy up the remaining spaces, dividing the garden from the parking area to create some peace and privacy. Getting it perfect will be a long-term project, but we're pleased with what we've achieved so far.


Character & Comfort


When it came to decorating, the primary focus was to work with the house and complement what was already there. Fireplaces in particular are a big part of the house, even if the original ones outside the living room are no longer in use. We decided to use heritage colours that would go with the period of the property. Also, the Georgian habit of painting the walls, fireplace and doors in a single colour is all the rage at the moment, so we thought why not give that a go as well.



Each room has a signature colour that served as the basis for furnishing, design, artwork and accessories. We didn't have an unlimited budget, so we decided to work with what we had and source items from various sources. The only proviso was that everything had to be good quality, comfortable and appropriate.


The sofas were a no brainer. Chesterfield leather is something that will last forever, if you look after it, and never goes out of fashion. Once the sofa was in place, the rest of the living room was designed around it, with a blue wall designed to accentuate the white limestone fireplace and the built-in bookshelves on either side.


Beds were another big consideration. After all, you can't have a relaxing staycation without a good night's sleep, so we made sure that comfortable beds were installed in every room, with doubles being at least Kingsize. We didn't skimp on the bedding either with 100% cotton to ensure a cost and comfortable sleep.


Behind the Scenes


We quickly worked out that people coming on holiday don't necessarily want to compromise on their home comforts, so we made sure the house was well equipped with the sort of things that many of us take for granted, and others maybe haven't discovered yet.


For the foodies, this means a full range cooker, an American-style fridge freezer, and of course a dishwasher. For the techies, it means Amazon Alexa, Sky TV and high-speed broadband, which will be particularly welcome on the rare occasions it rains in Alston.

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We also realised that the existing hot water system was totally inadequate for a holiday cottage with eight people staying. The tank was simply too small, so we ripped it out and started from scratch with a top end combi storage boiler that offers instant, unlimited hot water, and super-high pressure that can power two showers at once.


The Journey


So there you have it, our first holiday let. It's been a tale of ups and downs, with multiple delays due to planning and Covid, but we got there in the end. We've used local tradespeople wherever possible, as well as bringing in a few regulars from Newcastle, and Amazon Prime has been great for the stuff we couldn't get at the local Mad Hatters Hardware store. You need to plan things a bit more when you live in Alston as it's over an hour round-trip to the nearest Screwfix, but that's why they call it a country getaway.


Salvin House is now on the market and ready for rental, so please don't be shy. Get booking and make it all worthwhile.





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