While taking on a restoration project of this scale, we inevitably find ourselves hitting road bumps at nearly every step of the way. Finding a new problem seems to be a daily occurrence here at Jameswood.
To keep our spirits high, and stay motivated, Cal and I like to reflect on some of the small victories we've had, instead of the huge hurdles ahead of us.
So here they are...
Finding the elusive electricity wire
The first, and arguably, the best win we've had in the past week has been finding the cut electricity wire, that used to connect the property to mains electricity.
Soon, I'll post a blog explaining just how hard it was to find this wire, but for now, just know that we have been searching for this wire since November!
Hopes of finding the wire were starting to dwindle in the past few weeks, and the gravity of the situation was starting to become clear. If we couldn't find the wire, we were going to have to pay a hefty fee to have the pavement dug up, to be reconnected to the main line.
We were told to look for a little black box, where the cut end of the wire would be sheltered, about 500mm deep in the ground. We were also given a map of the property that indicated (inaccurately) where the wire was supposed to have run.
This week, while digging out drainage pipes at the front of the property, Cal stumbled upon a cut end of a thin, black wire, wrapped tightly in black electrical tape, lying in the ground, with no "black box" in sight.
It was the live electricity wire and we are so relieved to have found it! (And very excited to have electricity on site in the near future!)
Getting a driveway laid
One of the first things Cal did when he first got to Jameswood was clear a Ford Transit-sized space at the front of our property, to facilitate access to our building site.
Now, Transits are incredibly helpful to have when restoring a home, and I'd recommend them to anyone looking to take on a project like ours. However, I would not recommend them to those of you looking for an off-road vehicle..
Our van has gotten stuck in the slick, deep mud on our "driveway" too many times to count. And with such a heavy vehicle, pushing it out (with the help of our friendly, but exasperated neighbours) is not an easy task.
For a while, we would lay old plaster out on the driveway while we were clearing the house. The plaster was a great temporary driveway, but it was a bit too water soluble for the wet conditions we get here in Scotland. Once it had rained, the plaster just added more gunk to the the messy mud our van was getting stuck in.
This week, we were excited to receive our first on-site delivery: 10 tonnes of aggregate, about a quarter of which has gone into making a nice, new, sturdy resting spot for our van!
Our New Home - A Caravan!
As much as I love #vanlifeYoutube videos, trying to live in our Ford Transit, while also using it as a working van, has not been ideal. This week, we've found a new home!
We are now living in a little, 1990's, two berth caravan. It's a dry, clean space to retire to at the end of the day (and has way better closet space compared to the Transit.)
I am absolutely thrilled!
So, as frustrating as this house can be at times, Jameswood is helping Cal and I remember to appreciate the little things in life, and focus on our small victories, instead of the constant problems we encounter.
I hope we have many more little victories for me to write about soon!
Thinking of moving to Argyll and Bute?
The council has a great new website with useful information to help facilitate your move.
They recently posted a lovely story about our move!
You can check it out here
Are you renovating in the Dunoon or Glasgow area? Maybe you know someone who is?
We want to recycle your building materials!
Cal and I want to restore Jameswood Villa in an environmentally friendly way (and a budget friendly way too!) One way to do this is by using reclaimed building materials.
Right now, we're looking for floor boards in particular.
So if you're redoing your floors, please, don't take the old boards to the tip! Email us!
We'll be happy to pick them up at a time convenient to you!
We'd also be glad to have any old timbers, sheet material, old kitchen and bathroom units... anything you think we could recycle or upcycle for the project!
We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you who'd like to see more photos of the project, follow our Instagram page at
We'll be posting visual updates of our progress, as well as photos of the beautiful scenery we come across as we explore our new home and the rest of Scotland.
We’ve had our property in Dunoon for a few months now, and I’m sure some of you are wondering what we’ve actually been doing. We’ve decided to start writing intermittent progress reports to update everyone on our developments.
Progress Report #1: Nov-Dec 2018
When Cal first visited Jameswood with our good friends Barry and Dexter, they had a difficult time reaching the front door of the building. The grounds were overgrown with a wide variety of bushes, trees and weeds and some ferns had even managed to take root inside the building. Nature had truly taken over.
We can now walk around the house!
On days where it was bucketing down, we had plenty to do inside the house – where our holey roof provided us with a little protection from the rain.
The apartments had been left fully furnished… with soggy, mouldy couches and mattresses, broken furniture and decades-old appliances. After more than five runs to the dump, with our Ford Transit filled to the brim, we are getting to know the friendly staff at Dunoon’s local tip and gradually clearing the trash that has been left on the property.
Click photos to view full size.
Before we can start fixing the house, we also have to clear out the crumbling wet plaster that lines Jameswood’s walls. Property development tv shows make this job look easy. Their montages of knocking down walls with sledge hammers and bringing a house back to its bones look fun and exciting!
I’ve now found out that plaster is dustier and heavier than I could ever have imagined! And getting rid of the mouldy, wet insulation sitting behind the walls and ceilings can be a very itchy endeavour!
Bucket by bucket, and with plenty of help from our friends, we’ve managed to bring our apartments back to the studs, and in the process, we’ve also collected a lifetime supply of kindling produced by the lath!
Clearing the land and the house has been A LOT of hard work, but we’ve managed to have a lot of fun in the process. Cal and I are really enjoying having nature right here on our doorstep, and have managed to take a few days off to explore and hike in the area.
Little by little, the property is starting to look less like a haunted house in a spooky, overgrown forest, and more like a proper building site. Now that we’ve prepped Jameswood Villa, we’re excited to start actual restoration work in the coming weeks!
Thank you for joining us, as we take on Jameswood Villa!
Cal and I have been OVERWHELMED by the friendly and warm welcome we have received from the Sandbank and Dunoon community.
We love the almost daily “hello’s” we get from neighbours passing by. Everyone is happy to stop for a chat and see how we are getting on.
We’ve had a number of people visit us at Jameswood Villa, post on our website and message us on Facebook to offer local knowledge and support that will help us with the project.
Despite the fact that most of you likely think we are crazy for trying to restore Jameswood, everyone has been really positive and supportive, and we have received countless well wishes for our journey ahead.
We’ve taken on a really big task, and sometimes, it’s a bit overwhelming. It is so helpful to know we’ve moved to such a friendly community and have so much local support. We can’t fully explain how much it means to us, but we can say thank you.
So, thank you Dunoon.
Claire and Cal.
As we’ve mentioned, our adventure with Jameswood started when Claire declined her offer to medical school. Now we had a whole year ahead of us with no plans. We wanted a new challenge, and decided flipping a house together would be a fun and rewarding experience.
We decided to look at auction properties, and after doing LOTS of research and making a site visit, Cal attended an auction in early October to bid on a particular property (not Jameswood Villa.)
Jameswood Villa was being sold as 3 separate units in the prior lot to the property we were interested in. However, the auction booklet didn’t mention 3 seperate sales, so when Cal placed a bid, he thought it was for the Glasgow property we had wanted.
When Cal realised, the panic set in, and he left the auction house to call me and let me know what had happened.
Quickly looking up the property, Auction House Scotland had described Jameswood Villa, Sandbank, Dunoon, PA23 8PN as in need of "full upgrading throughout", and presented with a Google Streetview image that was last updated in 2010.
We could manage full upgrades, and the photo looked alright.
What could go wrong?
A foreword before continuing: Cal and I are extremely happy and excited to be taking on Jameswood. Take this as a warning about the risks of buying a property at auction, but NOT as a warning against pursuing your dreams or goals in life.
When Cal first went to visit our newly acquired property, he realised the house needed a LOT more than the upgrading than we were imagining.
The photo presented by Auction House Scotland was conveniently angled to exclude the cracked stone on the bay window, and the leaning, crumbling front wall that indicated serious structural problems we’ve now found out are due to subsidence. The roof had gaping holes, and having been left empty for 20 years, this had allowed most of the timbers in the building to rot.
We soon realised this project wouldn’t be financially feasible if we weren’t doing the project ourselves, or if we needed a steady income to pay for overhead costs like a mortgage or rent.
Upgrade, verb: Raise (something) to a higher standard, in particular improve (equipment or machinery) by adding or replacing components. – Oxford Dictionary.
When I think of upgrading throughout, what comes to my mind is a home in need of new electrics, plumbing, kitchens and bathrooms and energy efficient improvements. I’d even describe a roof replacement as an upgrade. Apparently, however, “upgrading throughout” is what Auction House Scotland sees as an honest way of describing a derelict house with serious, visible structural problems; ones that the council has described as dangerous.
Cal and I have often pointed out derelict buildings while driving through Europe, and saw the great potential they had to be turned into beautiful homes. Jameswood isn’t the quick flip we imagined our first building project to be together, but it is a challenge we are excited to undertake.
As was mentioned, we’d love our story to inspire others to go after their dreams, even if they are as grand as restoring a dilapidated old house. But it’s always wise to learn from your experiences, or better yet, the experiences of others! Cal and I have certainly learned to be very careful and attentive at auction, and ascertain that we are bidding on the correct property! We recommend that if you’re thinking of going to auction, always read the legal documents and make a site visit before bidding.
Like with many things that happen in life, our experience at auction was a classic example of the phrase sh*t happens. And now we’re attempting to turn that sh*t into a beautiful home. What have we Dunoon?
Join us on our journey.
We’re a couple who are determined to make life an adventure. We met in the French Alps while on ski season, and over the past two years, we’ve road tripped and camped across Europe, found the freshest powder on breathtaking mountains during a second season together, and spent a summer living, camping and canoeing in Canada.
Now we’re ready for our next adventure…taking on Jameswood Villa!
When Claire decided not to accept her offer to Glasgow’s Medical School this fall, we decided we wanted a project.
We went to Auction and, quite accidentally, ended up buying Jameswood Villa, a stone building from 1900, located in Sandbank, Dunoon. This small loch-side village is about an hour and a half west of Glasgow, nestled adjacent to the gorgeous Trossachs National Park.
To say we’ve taken on an enormous task is not an understatement. Jameswood Villa has been left empty for 20 years. Our roof has gaping holes that have left our timbers exposed and rotten after years of West-Scotland rain, and drainage issues left our land waterlogged, leading to serious structural problems caused by subsidence. The councillors and locals have advised us to knock it down and start over. What Have We Dunoon?
The good news is, we’ve landed up in an absolutely beautiful location, Cal is a skilled carpenter with experience restoring period properties, and with our positive attitudes, and a lot of time and hard work, we’re excited to take on this project!
We would like to welcome you to join us on our adventure, as we take on Jameswood Villa.