‘I embarked on the renovation from hell… then discovered I was pregnant with triplets’

Be careful what you wish for. When Amy Balfour and her husband Victor decided they needed more space after the first lockdown, they stumbled across a charming 550-year-old house in the middle of the picture-postcard village of Fletching in Sussex, just a mile from where Amy grew up. ‘We were a bit bored, and decided we wanted a project,’ she says.

The Grade II-listed property had barely been touched in the past century. On the plus side, that meant charming, unspoilt period features. On the other hand, it also meant no electricity, no heating, no running water (just a well in the garden), rotten window frames and a rotten dining-room floor. That might be enough to put off most people, but not the Balfours. 

‘It was uninhabitable, but unique as a house,’ says Amy, an interior designer turned decorative painter. ‘It was like stepping back in time. I don’t like to wait, so I started measuring up before we even bought it.’

Thank goodness she did, because soon after the building work began, Amy found out she was expecting triplets. ‘Suddenly we had a huge panic, and just wanted to be in,’ she says. The couple, who already had their toddler, Eliza, now three, in tow, were now on a mission to expedite the entire renovation and finish before Amy was due to give birth last April.