colsie (kol-zee) / origin: Old Scots for ‘cosy’
Welcome to A Colsie Moment, our blog series that features questions and answers with inspiring people about what slow living can look like in all aspects of life. From career to family to cooking to designing to mental health, we're dedicated to exploring what it means to live an intentional, happy life using the simple magic that already surrounds us.
There's D.I.Y and then there's R.E.E. (Renovate Entire Estate), meet Dean & Borja, the duo behind the internet's favourite renovation with a big property and bigger dreams. We talked to them about renovating, styling our Lambswool Blanket Collection and all things slow living. Discover Dean & Borja's beautiful estate on instagram and at mytinyestate.com
Tell us a bit about yourselves!
We are Dean and Borja, a young couple that bought a derelict Estate in Warwickshire, and we are extreme DIY'ers as we do all the restoration work by ourselves. Dean is an Architect and I am a Surveyor.
Dean is English and has lived all his life in Warwickshire. I am Spanish and moved to England 9 years ago after I was offered a management job opportunity. A year later I met Dean and I stayed in UK. We have bought and restored a few houses since we met, and it's always gone really well. We are now in what we think is our forever home, as it will take us a long time to do up. We found this opportunity by chance as it was advertised on a commercial website. It has few cottages and the main Georgian House, so the estate agent was actually targeting developers. We are not developers but we decided that this would be the perfect forever home for us.
Tips for others wanting to renovate?
‘Start small and go bigger!’ I know it sounds very desirable after reading our journey to go to the internet and look for “estates for sale” but we started with a tiny one bedroom apartment then we moved into a 3 bedroom semi-detached house. We learned what to not do on the next one, while gaining skills, then we sold and moved up into another bigger house until we felt confident and we were obviously able to get this mammoth house.
Something that we learned years ago when designing a room was to use natural and earthy colours palettes and materials like wood, stones, etc. This has always instantly given us a relaxed feel when walking into a room. By using neutral and natural schemes you are ensuring that the room doesn't date in years to come. You can always add some colours with the furnishings, if that is what you like, as they are always easier and more inexpensive to replace.
What’s the story behind the estate?
The Estate has belonged to one family for 500 years. This family owns thousands of acres and properties around where we are in North Warwickshire and also where they are established in the South of England. Unfortunately, some of these properties are left to decay until they are in such disrepair that it becomes a liability to them which is when they sell. Our Tiny Estate was last fully inhabited in 1934. Since then, they have rented out some of the cottages and even the main house. However, it was completely uninhabited for almost 20 years, so you can imagine how bad the condition of everything was… It was love at first sight!
What inspired you to renovate it?
Let’s face it, we knew it was going to be financially suicidal for us, and the only way to have a chance at making it work, was by doing everything ourselves in our spare time, and save thousands of pounds by not hiring tradesmen. When we walked in to view the estate, we suddenly felt the importance for this building to fall into good hands so it could be restored to its former glory. We felt it was a shame that a developer could have bought it to split it all up in different units and make apartments, as that is what the estate agents were selling for. We wanted to keep the small estate running as it once was, keep it as one. Call us romantics but we set ourselves a mission, and a 5 year plan. We had to save it!
What’s gone better than expected?
For us, it has definitely been starting an Instagram account. We started an account sharing our journey. The ups and downs, the pretty and the nasty. It took off very fast! We gained over 45.000 followers in only a year. We have been featured in magazines, and most importantly it has opened the door to us for companies wanting to work with us, which is helping us to elevate the finish of the Estate. However, although we feel so thankful for the support of thousands of people, this means that Dean and I spend on average 6 hours a day each replying to people messages or questions, so it has become another full-time job on top of running our companies and restoring the estate.
How do you want to feel when you come into a home and how do the spaces you’re creating help you accomplish that?
We want and need to feel calm and relaxed in each room of the house. Having an ongoing restoration and having lived for a few months pretty much on a building site, we can hand in heart say that having a tidy, clean and uncluttered home makes a difference, at least for us.
When we design a room, we always think about practicalities, comfort, flow and colours. You must always think how will you use the room, is it practical? Dean and I always battle between the design and the practicalitie. Dean being an Architect is all about design, I am all about comfort and practicality, and let me confirm to you that you can find even ground where all the boxes are ticked.
You're such talented and creative renovators- where do you find inspiration?
That is so kind! We are very visual people, so we know straight away what we like and what we don’t. Nowadays inspiration is everywhere, from social media channels like pinterest and instagram to boutique hotels, restaurants and independent shops. We believe that the key is to get inspired by a concept or idea and try to add your personality into it rather than trying to copy what you have seen.
What’s your favourite TBCo. product and why?
Do I have to pick? We have been devoted fans of TBCo! We love the recycled wool blankets, not only do they look and feel great, somehow there is a nice relief of knowing that it's recycled, and you can have nice things while helping the planet.
What would your perfect day look like?
The weather is so important for me to have a lovely day, so I would say late spring as it's nice and warm but still lovely at night where you need a blanket to cosy up.
I would go out on an adventure to visit a little village that I have never visited before. I would have a nice lunch in a pub, and I would invite friends over for dinner at ours. I will order a takeaway for everyone and we would end up drinking and chatting and curling up in the outdoor sofas in the garden with the fire pit roaring.
What are some ways in which you practice colsie / slow living?
Trying to be positive, and being organised so you never feel like you are rushing everywhere and your life is chaotic.
Comfort at home is so important. A tidy and clean home makes us feel so peaceful and ready to relax, picking the right colour palette and textures with your soft furnishings when decorating is key.
Slow travelling for us is researching good restaurants to eat at. Somehow we always end up going to small restaurants where the ambience is very personal, it makes a huge difference to our trips when we are well fed. We also stay in small hotels where it feels homely, the decor is nice and you don’t have to make your bed in the mornings.