How one couple overhauled their whole home themselves

A remarkable restoration project has given a near-collapsing Georgian townhouse a new lease of life

Estate agents love to talk about ‘kerb appeal’ – the idea that potential buyers can be won over by a house’s appearance before they’ve even crossed the threshold. But not every property makes a good first impression. In fact, when Mary-Anne and Riccardo Gallo first saw their Edinburgh home, you’d have forgiven them for hurrying past and not looking back. “You could tell before you’d even set foot in it that the property had been neglected for decades,” remembers Mary-Anne.
If the exterior of this B-listed Georgian townhouse was bad, the inside was a whole lot worse. Mary-Anne’s description of it as “a complete wreck” hardly does it justice: “It had rising damp, beetle infestation and woodworm. There was evidence of water ingress throughout. The ceilings were falling down and there was dry rot in the roof joists. Some of the fireplaces were boarded up. The floorboards in the back bedroom were completely rotten. The whole house was quite literally falling apart.”
Rather than making a sharp exit, the pair looked closer. They’d been searching for a home with period features and classical proportions, and this house, under the mildew and cobwebs, oozed such qualities. “We knew that we could do something special with it,” says Mary-Anne.
She and Riccardo both worked in IT, as an analyst and a business architect respectively, but they shared a passion for property renovation. They had worked on a couple of projects together but were looking for something they could live in themselves with their growing family. This three-storey wreck on the fringes of the West End, so dilapidated that it was on the Buildings At Risk Regis­ter, and described bluntly as ‘uninhabitable’ by the Home Report, was – somehow – going to be their dream home. “We were excited and terrified in equal measure,” she laughs.

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 224-234, issue 106.

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Photography Sean Begley
Words Judy Diamond
Art Direction Gillian Welsh
What A three-storey townhouse
Where Grove Street, Edinburgh