Zen house restoration

Zen house restoration

With a big house restoration project, you can see the beautiful home it will become (WHY DID YOU BUY IT IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IT CAN BE BEAUTIFUL?), but often all everyone else seems to see is a wreck or a horror movie set. Occasionally this makes you doubt your vision, maybe they are right? What have you done? when we bought the house loads of people grimaced or said wow it looks like psycho’s house – mmm thanks. We just though it needed love.

But a few weeks or months in and your faith can get tested, it is hard work both physically and mentally restoring a house, maybe everyone was right it is just a horror!

It is then time to get Zen, or more accurately follow the rules of Zen house restoration. Trust your intuition, take your time and learn from those more experienced than you (tradespeople).

Zen house restoration is based on Dirk Gently’s Zen Navigation.

If lost, rather than consulting a map, find someone who looks like they know where they’re going and follow them. It very rarely gets you where you wanted to go but always where you needed to be.


In Zen house restoration, rather than following a person who looks like they know where they’re going, follow what the house tells you. When we moved in we immediately wanted to knock through the kitchen and put in a new bathroom. What we ended up doing was repairing, restoring the stained glass windows, taking off all old alarms, cables, switchboards, installing a new porch, repairing the roof, it all just flowed from each other, the kitchen can wait.

Sometimes we do follow a person who looks like they know where they are going and these people are the tradesmen. They often make suggestions, for example it was the carpenter who suggested we move the radiator to the other side of the hall. The roofer who found a crate of matching old roof tiles for our coach house when he was out and about one weekend. The plumber who found a matching door for our dining room in a skip. The builder who dug up stones from his own garden to build steps that would look old. Build relationships with your tradespeople and they will reward you back

Another example of zen house restoration was searching for other Penraevons on google. We found Penraevon Industrial estate in Meanwood where Hicks and Weatherburn the oldest paint manufacturer in Leeds are based ( And also a rather fine bread co-operative who do the best sour dough which is served in my favourite restaurant Reliance and Coffee shop Opposite) . We chose the paint for the Drawing room from Hicks and Weatherburn (Drystone Wall – all the paints are named after the Yorkshire Countryside). As they mostly dealt with trade customers I asked them to recommend a painter decorator to paint the outside of the house, they told me about Gary, who is now painting the outside. Who knows what gems Gary will tell me!

We also use Zen house restoration to find things for the house. Instead of searching for objects we search for what is for sale by “pick up only” in a ten mile radius on Ebay. So we have a lovely set of ercol chairs, a coffee table, a sideboard, two school lab tables, an old phone, a Victorian chest of drawers, plant stands the list goes on, who knows what we will find.

The aim of a restoration is to uncover the building and understand it, this process should be fun, learn from your house and the tradespeople…and sometimes just follow where your crowbar looks like it can discover something new.

Zen house restoration.

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