It’s not every day a Sleeps12 holiday house is shortlisted for a prestigious award so when something like this happens, naturally we want to shout about it. So with a fanfare of trumpets and a mighty drumroll, we are delighted to announce that Otterhead House in Somerset is on the 2020 shortlist for the Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovating Awards! Huge congratulations to property owner George Bannister for such an awesome achievement! Please cast your vote accordingly!
Otterhead House was added to our portfolio in July this year and despite the lockdowns and restrictions we’ve all faced, it’s proved to be a very popular property with constant bookings when regulations allow, and looking ahead, there are plenty lined up for 2021 and beyond. That’s no surprise to us because this large holiday cottage is an absolute corker for big family holidays, celebrations, hen weekends and self-catering corporate breaks. The setting, deep in the Blackdown Hills on the borders of Somerset and Devon is beautiful, with views over a peaceful valley, and bounteous birdsong and tranquility all around. The garden slopes gently down to a tinkling stream, there’s a wild flower meadow, a firepit, and on the terrace, a private hot tub and barrel sauna. Oh, what bliss!
So, all credit to George because he’s pulled off an amazing feat. Otterhead House first came to his attention back in July 2017 after selling the shepherd hut business he’d built up and spending a year looking for a building project he could really get his teeth into. He saw what was then an unloved 3 bedroom cottage, almost 300 years old, with a raggedy thatched roof, crittle windows and an uncompromising design, but he knew he could give it a new lease of life and turn it into something amazing, something with wow factor. So he bought it and with vision, determination and no end of sheer hard work that’s exactly what he’s done.
His initial aim was to have the whole rebuild done in a year and to resell the property, but he had no way of foreseeing the nightmare planning process that he had to get through – it took 6 applications and over a year and a half before George could finally crack on with the works. For the first 14 months of the project George camped out in the cottage with no heating and no hot water; then he redeveloped the timber framed chicken shed at the back of the house and moved in there whilst the works continued. The Old Chicken House is now a very unique and successful holiday let for two.
What makes this transformation more incredible is that there was no architect involved at all – the new layout was designed by George and an artistic friend, the person who did most of the grafting was George. He set up a building company called Black Oak and recruited one full time labourer and one part-timer as well as the necessary tradesmen like electricians and plumbers. The whole of the existing house was redesigned and a huge double storey extension added to the front – timber framed with glass walls; essential rustic character was put back into the cottage, with locally sourced beams and stone, a big inglenook fireplace, and ledge and brace doors. Then came the quirky, imaginative additions, like the chunky timber and Perspex staircase, ultra-stylish bathrooms, and a fabulous kitchen with dark grey units and burnished brass worktops. The intention was always for the end result to be high end, to render people speechless for all the right reasons when they walked in, and that’s exactly what’s been achieved. That wow factor George was after – there’s heaps of it at Otterhead House.
This was no easy renovation though; for George it’s been a labour of love, and a very stressful one at that. Jumping hoops to get through the planning process was a very trying time and to add to his woes the financing caused no end of a headache – in fact the initial budget was just 25% of what was finally spent on the project! As you can imagine, that gave George the jitters, so when a friend suggested he let out the Old Chicken House to bring a bit of money in, he jumped to it and moved into a caravan on the drive. The letting was such a success that there was no turning back – George’s eyes had now been opened to the holiday rental market and so he got in touch with Sleeps12. Yes, it would work, we said, of course it would, people will love it, especially with a few additions like a hot tub and a sauna… Then there was no stopping him, it was blood, sweat and tears as George and his mate Adam worked like troopers to get Otterhead House finished and ready for letting. After toiling solidly for 110 days, the cottage was finally finished on July 4th, just in time for the holiday let market to open up after the first lockdown came to an end.
Looking back on it all, George remains positive. It was absolutely worth it, he says and he is very happy to be the owner of a Sleeps12 property. He says we’re a great company to work with (thank you George, you make us blush!) and that he enjoys meeting the guests who come to stay at Otterhead House, all jolly decent folk who come and go peacefully. He loves reading the excellent reviews they leave too, but what really touched him was when back in October during the Rule of 6, a couple came to stay; just a man and wife who booked one of our 6 Guest Special Offers. They chose Otterhead House because they couldn’t find anything else that matched their high expectations and standards – and they were very impressed. Naturally, George was chuffed.
So we’re keeping everything crossed for George and we’re hoping and praying that he wins this award, after all, he deserves it, not least of all because the very small team did it all themselves. We would love it if you’d give a helping hand by going online and voting for Otterhead House; it won’t take you more than a few minutes and well, you know, a bit of understanding, a bit of compassion for our fellow human beings, it goes a long way.