Young couple Claire and Cal made a rookie mistake. They thought this mistake of theirs was going to really mess up their lives, when this mistake actually ended up being one of the best things they ever did. Cal and Claire made serious lemonade from the lemon they found themselves in. This is perfect inspiration for anyone trying to change the outlook on a dicey situation.
This story will change how you think of everything, this tale is as unbelievable as they come with every bit of it being true. The photos and details are brought to you by Claire Segeren through her blog and Instagram. We delve into the life of this couple, who bought something they did not plan on and decided to let it change their lives forever.
It only makes sense that you get to know this couple. Claire Segeren was on a ski trip in the French Alps when she met Cal Hunter. Cal was from the United Kingdom, Claire was from Canada. Despite the obvious distance between the two, they hit if off immediately.
They decided that they would make their relationship work despite the distance. The couple knew right away that they share the love of adventure. They have traveled together around Europe and Claire’s home of Canada. These two were destined for exciting events!
Claire and Cal were young, in love, adventurous, and had time on their hands; so what did they do? They decided to spend their time making some extra money to enjoy. The couple thought it was a good time to get into the flipping business. They wanted to find an apartment to buy, renovate, and sell for a higher price. they took to the internet to search for the best options. Home flipping is all the rage these days, just turn on HGTV!
Cal and Claire searched online to find the best option for their plan to buy a house and flip it. After a lot of research, they decided to go with an auction. Cal found an auction right away and was over the moon about their plan and how it was all turning out. After sitting in the auction for a couple of hours, Cal walked away with a new home! Cal could not wait to let Claire know, however, this was before he realized what he had bought.
Cal was so excited to be a part of the bidding process that he did not realize what he was really bidding on. It was not until he was presented with the check that Cal realized what he had done. Hold on to your hats! So what did Cal buy? He indeed bought a house, but rather than a little fixer upper nearby that would require a little renovation, he bought a 120-year-old mansion, in Scotland!
Cal was shocked to find out that he bought a property 4,000 miles away from where he and Claire were living. He spent their £30,000 on this mansion far away from home, and to make it all worse – “all sales were final” so there was nothing he could do about it. Cal was terrified to tell Claire about what he had done. He could not imagine how she would react to him spending their savings on the wrong property!
Cal is one lucky guy. When he told Claire what had happened, she took it all much better than expected. She was excited about the idea of working on the property and traveling to get the renovations done. Her next words would define this couple’s entire philosophy: “what’s the worst that could happen?” This whole thing was written in the stars, it seems, as Claire wanted to go to Glasgow University for medical school. The mansion was in the town of Dunoon, which was not far from Glasgow at all!
As soon as they got to the mansion, called Jameswood Villa, Cal was stunned to see the state of the home and how the photo that was shown hid a lot of the dilapidated state that this home was in. One of the worst discoveries was that the house was actually leaning to one side. There were more surprises for the couple, such as the huge holes in the roof, and rotting wood work, and the elements that had essentially come into the home.
Despite the issues with the home, Claire’s positive attitude could not be shaken. She was excited about the challenge that this house posed and could not wait to see it finished after they get their hands on it. The transformation of this house is incredible. However, as they got started they realized how much money it was going to take to get this project done, add the mortgage to that and it was a non-starter. The couple found a way around this issue, which we will cover in just a bit.
Many of us would have seen the scope of this project and run for the hills. Claire and Cal saw it as an adventure. However, if the two wanted to start working on this fast, they would need to make arrangements for themselves. In order to be near the property, the two rented out a caravan that they parked right outside of the manor. They did not want to be far so they could jump into work in the morning and get back to rest at night. The caravan did not even have any electricity, but they managed.
In a brilliant move, Claire started a blog and an Instagram page so that others could follow their adventure! She posted updates for those who were like them – renovators who are adventurous. They documented every little thing they did in the home, calling their account: “What Have We Dunoon?” – clever! Anyone who followed them saw the progress they were making day in and day out. Everyone saw their hard work and their lunch breaks, following every step of the way.
Claire and Cal did indeed work on the house mostly with their own two hands, but every now and then they got helping hands to speed things up! The couple quickly made friends in the town and those same friends came to help them make this property a beautiful one again. From trimming the trees, to taking a shovel and clearing out the sidewalk, their friends were showing their dedication to the couple one clean sidewalk at a time.
No one said this was going to be easy! The couple kept hitting roadblocks along the way. Their van kept getting stuck in the mud, or the fact that they built a driveway under their water source. The couple did not let anything deter them from their original goal. Claire was working on the renovation full time, while Cal worked as a carpenter to help cover some of the renovation costs. This was a test for their love, for sure, and they knew that if they could survive this, then nothing would break them up.
A community is a huge part of the consideration for people when looking to buy a new home. For Cal and Claire, they hit the jackpot. Their neighbors quickly became their friends, and with that they started helping the couple make this dream of theirs a reality. There were those who did not know the couple at all who volunteered their time to help with the renovations. There were neighbors that allowed the couple to come into their homes for a shower and food as the couple’s caravan was electricity free.
Once they started sharing with the world what they were doing, there were many who commented with suggestions and advice about renovations. One piece of advice that kept being brought up is how to make the house more environmentally friendly. The couple took the comments to heart as they too wanted it to be sustainable. They recycled old materials to begin with, such as old wood or kitchen units. This was also going to help with the cost of the renovation, which was important to them.
Cal and Claire had a dream for this place. They knew that if they managed to make it happen, this property would be their dream come true. Their plan was to renovate the large mansion into three apartments. One apartment would be for them to live in, while the other two would be sold to help cover the debt of the renovation. Their dream of being homeowners in their twenties was coming true, all they needed not was to finish this monster of a project and to be mortgage and debt free!
As the renovations were coming along, the couple would take trips to with a lot of the old items that did not make the cut to remain on the property. They went to the dump all the time to clear out the spaces as much as possible. They were reusing as much as they could from what was already in the house, but there were many things that were unsalvageable.
The first thing Cal and Claire researched and took very seriously was their safety as they were renovating. They were not going to take any chances with their health. The biggest items for health preservation would have to be the gloves and the face mask. The face mask prevented inhalation of the mold, dust, chemicals, and other harmful airborne elements. There are a lot of harmful pieces in the air that they could not see, but either way they were safe with their masks.
There was another dangerous element to this renovation and that was rotting wood. There were floorboards in the higher part of the property that were so rotted that they would break with the slightest of pressure. Claire decided to remove the floorboards entirely so that no one would get hurt. She got down on her hands and knees and took each piece out. This was a wise move on her end for everyone involved in the project.
Once the inside was getting worked on, the scaffolding for the outside needed to go up. Cal and Claire put up the scaffolding themselves, per the instructions that they got. Claire has a fear of heights but did it all anyway! This couple may have an adventurous streak in them, but they are all about safety. The couple even set up a “board room” in one spot in the mansion to sit down and talk all things renovation.
In order to keep from burning out, considering this project was so large in scope, Cal and Claire made sure to take breaks throughout the day to kick back and relax. They would often sit on the scaffolding and talk while they munched on some snacks and refueled so as to get back to work more refreshed and alert. It was also important to them as a couple that they take breaks together.
In addition to hanging out with friends when she is not working on the house, Claire uses her spare time to volunteer at the Sandbank Community Council in Dunoon. Claire helps them by promoting their sales on her social media page, helping her local community as much as she can. The Canadian-born young woman wants to make her community in Dunoon her home away from home, especially considering the work she and Cal are putting in.
After what seemed like forever working on this home, Cal and Claire no longer needed to use candles to light the house in the dark – they had finally connected the home up to electricity! With this they no longer needed to ask others to help them charge their power tools, they could be at the house later after the sun went down, and basically also enjoy the home with light now.
Restoring this home while not having electricity helped Cal and Claire learn first-hand how the people of old handled their lives. Claire would hand wash all of their clothing by hand in the stream by the house and would hang the clothes to dry – just like it was done ages ago. The neighbors must have lifted an eyebrow or two, but this couple did what they needed to do to get things done.
While Claire washed the clothing by hand, Cal was doing his own creative thinking when it came to their cooking methods. Their caravan was too hot and stuffy to cook in, so Cal made an outdoor kitchen for them! The outdoor kitchen was essentially under a tent, but this was way better than cooking in the tiny caravan which had no electricity anyway. This was not necessarily glamorous but it was necessary.
Initially, the couple’s caravan was placed on one side of the property which was not that attractive. Thankfully, their neighbors and friends were kind enough to help the couple move their caravan to a much more beautiful side of the property, where horses and deer were their view, rather than the road. Now they could sit back in prettier pastures when they are not renovating their dream home that they bought accidentally.
Jameswood Villa stood empty for years before Cal accidentally bought it. While it was technically deserted, it doe not mean that there was no life in the mansion. People may have not lived in the mansion for a very long time, but animals found their way in! Crows made the property their home base on the property thanks to holed roof. Claire’s father decided to put up a few scarecrows to try and gently push the crows out.
Friends of the couple from across the world would come visit them as the renovations were happening so that they could see it all first-hand. The friends that came to visit also wanted to come and help with the renovation since it is not something you see friends do every day. Cal and Claire set up a lovely tent for those friends visiting, to show their love for them. They may be in a tent, but it is a well equipped tent at that!
After months of renovation and spending time in this new sort of life, Claire wrote in her blog a post that she would share with everyone online as to how far they have come. For Claire, this was time to sit back and look in awe at the amount of work that had been accomplished and how little bits go a long way when working as a team. One friend who visited in the beginning, came back again to see the change and was entirely stunned.
The couple has since built a roof for their outdoor kitchen so as to expand it and keep it safe from the elements as much as possible. The roof of the house itself was also being worked on, but that is for a little bit later. The roof over the kitchen meant that they had more space to do things and more room for everyone to sit back and view in wonder the amount of work that had been done.
Cal and Claire are so lucky to have such incredible friends who come from near and far, neighbors to cousins back home who want to lend a hand and be a part of this great project. It is thanks to all of these volunteers that the couple is getting through the renovations a whole lot faster. Together with their friends, the couple was able to clear out the whole left side of the first story of the house in just one afternoon.
Fixing the roof of the house was the largest and most passion of projects. In order to make this dream happen, the couple went down the batten path for the roofing. The battens would be placed onto the roof skeleton and the slates would follow by being fixed onto them. The reason for the batten is also for heightened circulation which would be better for the house as a whole anyway. Two birds, one stone!
Claire and Cal did everything by the book and in a safe way, they always wanted to be prepared if they could. There was one thing they had to do to make sure that everything was safe for the roofing. They had to remove the chimney to make the roof sustainable. They worked together with a volunteer to remove the chimney brick by brick. The bricks were then repurposed on another project in the house.
Cal and Claire knew that they had amazing volunteers and so wanted to make sure they were always rewarded with what the couple could offer them. They always welcomed them into the home, always had snack and always had the kettle on for a hot cup of tea. Considering they were in the United Kingdom, tea was king and key to showing appreciation for their devoted helpers.
Cal and Claire did not know about Dunoon prior to buying the mansion. It was because of that that they knew it would be incredible to explore their new home. As they walked around they found treasures everywhere. The couple loved Dunoon. They love climbing the old ruins, hiking the woods, or go to Argyll’s Secret Coast for a walk on the beach. There were so many hidden gems!