■ Carolyn Radford, CEO of Mansfield Town FC, had one goal — to bring a 17-bed property back to life. We take a look at how she got on…
WE HAD bought the football club and decided we wanted to have a go at doing a big house up,’ says Mansfield Town CEO Carolyn Radford of buying a 17-bedroom house in Nottinghamshire with husband John, the club chairman.
That was seven years ago and, despite having no experience of property renovation, Carolyn confidently put herself in charge of managing the project.
‘It had been empty for three years and was really run down. Everything needed redoing,’ Carolyn tells us.
‘We underestimated the extent of the work and I wanted to oversee everything myself — which was stupid, looking back. I’ve learned the art of delegation.’
The property dates back to the 1880s but wasn’t listed, so the couple were able to completely reconfigure the ground-floor layout — meaning extensive structural work.
‘There were lots of small rooms downstairs and we were able to knock walls down and make it more modern,’ Carolyn explains.
But before that work began, basic repairs had to be undertaken, including repairing the roof and fixing rot in the walls.
The couple decided to stay on site while the work was done, making their temporary home in the one-bedroom annex next to the property. But the move lasted three years as the project took longer than planned.
‘Living on site wasn’t easy,’ says Carolyn. ‘The work was supposed to take two years and ended up taking five — and I had all my children during that time. My oldest son was four months old when work began, and we were still living in the annex when I found out I was pregnant with twins.’
One of the biggest setbacks came after a bath was installed on the first floor. Rotten floor joists led to it falling through the ceiling on to the ground floor.
‘I was only 30 at the time. We didn’t have an interior designer and I had to choose taps, sinks, toilets, kitchens — and then a ceiling would fall down,’ says Carolyn.
‘I had never done it before and the scale of the work was huge, so I was learning as I went along and had to think on my feet. I would wonder, “Am I choosing the best tradesmen? Am I getting the best price? Are people taking advantage because I’m young and female?” There were a lot of factors.’
Managing such a huge renovation meant there were some relatively minor details Carolyn overlooked. ‘Because I was trying to think of everything that was going on in the house I’d forget about small things, so there’s no toothbrush charger in our bathroom and no heated towel rail. An experienced project manager would have thought of those things,’ she concedes.
But, minor niggles aside, the five years of hard work have paid off and the couple now have a modern, spacious and extremely luxurious house. The succession of small drawing rooms on the ground floor has been turned into a more open-plan space including a main hall, kitchen with diner, separate dining room, snug, office, utility room, gym and swimming pool.
Changes to the upper floors, introducing en-suite bathrooms and dressing rooms, has reduced the total number of bedrooms from 17 to ten.
Several small rooms were knocked into one to create the grand entrance hall, which features a spectacular chandelier that originally hung in Northampton Theatre.
Carolyn’s favourite space is the dining room. It features Harlequin designer wallpaper, paintings of London landmarks by artist Craig Alan and a custom-built dining table made from moka Japanese burl veneer, which seats 21. But behind the grandeur, it’s not all smooth sailing — thanks to a pesky biomass boiler.
‘We wanted the house to be sustainable, so we have solar panels and a biomass boiler, which runs on wood pellets. It occasionally goes out overnight so there’s sometimes no hot water in the morning — but considering the size of the house it does a good job,’ says Carolyn.
It has been a long and occasionally difficult project that has only just come to an end, with the finishing touches being made to the garden landscaping this year. So would Carolyn do it all again?
‘Yes, I’ve got the renovating bug,’ she says. ‘We would do another renovation despite everything we have been through.
‘It makes me sad to see so many neglected properties out there and if you can bring them back to life for another generation then that has to be a good thing.’
■ Carolyn Radford is CEO of Mansfield Town Football Club, mansfieldtown.net