Couple transform cinema into stunning family home


finished home

Gwyn and Kate ap Harry have spent £450,000 turning a run-down cinema in Thorne, South Yorkshire, into an impressive family home.

So what did they do, why did they do it, and was it worth it?

The property

The couple had lived locally for 11 years, and with a growing family they were looking for something with more space - and a bigger garden. They hadn't considered a building project before, but when they saw the disused building, they realised it offered a huge opportunity.

They bought the derelict 1920s cinema in 2011. The Old Kensington Picture House had been turned into a bingo hall, and then a nightclub, before being emptied and left to rot. The couple described it in their blog as: "Massive. Completely gutted, with 15 years of pigeon poo on the floor."

They initially planned to knock the building down and build a new family home. However, they discovered that the planning department wanted to keep the facade - so their designs had to be built around that. In the end, apart from the facade, they kept very little, and went with a striking modern design.

The back of the property also features a canopy door, which opens up a room at the back, and creates an all-weather cover for the decking outside.

It turned into an enormous project, with £60,000 of demolition work to do before they could even get started on turning it into a family home. However, after two and a half years of building, this summer they finally finished and moved in.

The programme will feature as the first project on the new series of Grand Designs in September.

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Was it worth it?

Like the vast majority of people to feature on the programme, the couple say it was an enormous amount of work (and money), but it was worth it for the opportunity to live in their dream home.

They certainly could have bought a property locally for less money. A four-bedroom detached property in the town is currently on the market for £290,000. For the sort of money they spent, they could get a four bedroom property on the outskirts of town, with 8.5 acres of land, paddocks, outbuildings and a poultry unit.

Alternatively, they could have built their own from scratch, and hoped to spend £100,000 on the land and £150,000 on the build (if they used professionals for the work). That would have given them a cheaper property, but not one that breathes new life into a local landmark.

If they were to sell it now, it's hard to know whether they would make their money back. It's difficult to put a price on such striking originality. However, as Leigh Osborne and Graham Voce discovered when trying to sell their home (a Victorian Water tower conversion that also appeared on Grand Designs), you need to find a buyer who specifically wants a property like this and is willing to pay a premium for it.

But what do you think? Would you spend the money on a renovation, or would you rather buy a new build? Let us know in the comments.

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