Extension and Renovation for Jason and Gillian, Cambridge

Trower's Villa Restoration, Renovation and Extension

Undertaking a large-scale renovation is a daunting step for any couple. But Gillian and Jason Trower have found that if you can trust the builder, you can trust the building.

The Brief

When Gillian and Jason Trower first moved into their Cambridge villa, remodelling was always on the cards. What they didn't anticipate back then was the scale. But when the time came to take the plunge, they decided to go big: a major renovation of the whole house, including significantly increased floor space, a new garage, a new roof and a completely overhauled interior. 

This is the house where they plan to not only raise their family but also live long after their two kids have left the nest. So what they wanted was a comfortable family home, modern while also remaining sympathetic to the original style of the villa.

The Process

On the recommendation of a couple of friends, Jason contacted Rob May Building. Originally planning to consult with a number of builders before making their choice, so impressed were they with Jono that they decided to look no further—they had found their man. Jono's ability to be "a good sounding board", offering useful insights and suggestions was a major reason for choosing Rob May Building. But it was his integrity that sealed the deal. "Your instinct tells you he's honest," says Gillian. Jason adds, "That was really important because we're not building a spec home to sell; we're building a home to live in."

Despite its size and complexity, the Trowers enjoyed a low-stress renovation. And when issues did crop up, Jono and his team were quick in coming up with solutions. The couple cite the hallway by the entrance as a prime example. During the design phase, there seemed to be no way to avoid erecting an imposing crossbeam that would create a cramped, angular ceiling where there was supposed to be a bright, lofty and welcoming entrance. But what seemed impossible on paper, Jono was able to do in just minutes with his hammer and nails. "He just whipped up on the roof, fixed the wood, nailed it up together," says Gillian, describing his ingenious work-around. "In just that minute, he got up and did it." Problem solved. 

"Jono's honesty was really important because we're not building a spec home to sell; we're building a home to live in."

The Result

Walking into the Trower home now, it's hard to imagine the cold, aged house that stood before the renovation began. The the open-plan living area, the warm timber floors, spacious entrances and hallway, ornate original doors and the multi-purpose garage all make for a beautiful, inviting family home. They've created a house that's a seamless blend of contemporary and historic styles. 

Gillian's favourite part of their new home is the kitchen, which unites a cluster of rooms—a lounge, a dining room, a "snug" (sitting room)—into an open living area that flows together like a breeze. For Jason, it's the way the whole house exudes character with its slew of interesting angles and delightful details. "I love it," says Gillian, reflecting on the end result. "It's changed the way we live in the house. It's changed the way we live."

"I just trust him," says Gillian. "I trust Jono to give good advice, I trust him to help us make good decisions and just to do the job really well." Jason adds, "I'd trust him to look after my kids, let alone build my house."

The trust Jono established with the Trowers early on soon blossomed into a strong working relationship. Jason laughs as he recalls the surprise they all got when he and Gillian were walking around the building site in only their dressing gowns with a morning cup of tea, when "round the corner comes the big ginger builder." Gillian adds, "Once you get over your first cup-of-tea-dressing-gown moment, you're all good." 

The strength of those relationships was put to the test when Jason was involved in a serious mountain biking accident, leaving him with a shattered collar bone, three broken ribs, lung infections—and leaving Gillian and the builders with a big headache. The fact that Jono was away at the time meant that others on the team, like Mark Forrest, worked particularly hard to ensure the build stayed on track. Gillian and Jason were impressed with the whole Rob May crew, as well as the subcontractors that Jono recommended. "They were all fantastic," says Gillian. "No bad language, no offensive music…There's nothing you wouldn't want your kids to hear." Jason adds, "With Jono, we got a community of tradespeople who have the same standards as him."