‘Cornival’ Crowned National Winner

'Cornival' extension and renovation, Millbank, Aberdeenshire.

The Coldwells team were thrilled and honoured to be named national winners for our Cornival project at the 2021 UK Federation of Master Builder Awards.

The renovation and extension of the Aberdeenshire cottage and byre won the prestigious ‘Medium Renovation Project’ category – beating 12 other finalists from around the UK.

The awards recognise building excellence, quality craftsmanship and exceptional customer service and are run by the Federation of Master Builders, the largest trade association in the UK construction industry.

black sofa set within the living room
cornival home walkway with transparent walls

Coldwells Director, Ross Booth, discusses the recent win and shares his favourite project highlights, as well as some tips for those considering a custom home project.

Judge’s comments:

“This project had the edge because of the good use of the glass and timber, the old and the new, coming together so sympathetically for the environment in which it was delivered.”

Caroline Grumble, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Building

cornival house in the woods
glass wall and dark colored wood panels

What was the main objective of the project?  

We first encountered Cornival as a neglected shamble of croft buildings, packed with the kind of potential you don’t get with modern properties.

Tucked between pine forest and fields, the granite cottage and neighbouring byre were built in 1869. They were clumsily connected by a slate-clad extension, which had been added in the 1970s.

Cornival was cramped, dark and rundown, having stood empty for years. However, it didn’t deter the ambitious new homeowners – who fell in love with the site and surrounding woodland on their first visit.

When we first met the homeowners, they were temporarily living in a converted garage on site with their toddler and a baby on the way. Our challenge was to build them a beautiful home, providing space for their growing family.

The task was to strip and refurbish the cottage and byre and create additional space with a modern, bold extension of timber and glass.

Designed by Brown & Brown Architects, their brief demanded a holistic blend of the cottage, byre and new extension to transform them into a bright and open contemporary home.


What are the key highlights or outstanding features?

The 150-year-old property suffered from a lack of light and living space, but clever design and construction conquered those issues.

Openings were carved in Cornival’s granite walls to introduce expansive glazing, which illuminates the home and capitalises on spectacular views.

Birch cabinetry runs the length of the entrance hallway. Custom-made by our joiners, the built-in units maximise space, providing vital storage, with a bench to sit and remove boots after a forest walk.

Along the hallway, a pocket door conceals a bathroom. This space had no external walls or windows, to flood in light, a 250kg frameless skylight was positioned above the walk-in shower and bath.

Charred larch makes a unique bathroom feature wall. Burnt using a traditional Japanese technique called ‘Shou Sugi Ban’, it enhances the timber’s beauty.

Both floors of the original cottage were stripped out to create one practical and spacious open-plan kitchen and living area.

The byre was transformed into two large bedrooms, whilst a new extension made space for a generous living room and master suite.

The extension was clad in black Siberian larch to complement the surrounding forest and distinguish it from Cornival’s traditional granite exterior.

kitchen with transparent wall

Judge’s comments:

“It impressed me how hard Coldwells had worked with the client to keep the project to budget… while producing a really impressive finish. It’s a beautiful looking place.”

Lee Jones, editor of Professional Builder

What challenges were overcome? 

The extent of Cornvial’s challenges presented itself when stripping out the 150-year-old byre. The space was to be converted into bedrooms, yet it was in a terrible state. The wall heads were off level, wall plates were rotten, the ceiling ties needed replacing and some rafters had woodworm.

It was a budget blow for our clients who needed a cost-effective way to repair the byre roof, without compromising its integrity. Our solution involved thoroughly inspecting all 30+ rafters. The healthy ones were salvaged, treated for woodworm and re-purposed to build a new roof. This made savings for our clients, who had a strict budget.

In the cottage, we discovered the kitchen floor was 45mm off level. To tackle this, we used a self-levelling compound and liquid DPM, before laying new timber flooring.

Overall, the biggest challenge was time. With the imminent arrival of our client’s baby, we made a commitment to have the works completed by Christmas 2019. Our team, including our subcontractors, pulled together to deliver on our promise and the family celebrated a comfortable first Christmas as a family of four in their new home.


What does the award mean to you?

Cornival was a huge team effort and thanks go to our supremely talented employees, subcontractors, architect partners and wonderful clients who poured their heart and soul into it.

This is one of our first major awards and as a small family business, where every client is a VIP and we only take on a select few projects, it certainly means a lot to us as it validates the time, effort, planning and consideration that we put into every project.

If you’re in the process of planning your house extension and could benefit from professional advice about budget, logistics, timing or any other elements of renovations or new custom builds, then please get in touch on 01975 223011 or hello@coldwellsbuilding.com to schedule a complimentary planning session.


modern white bath tub
house with a kid playing

Editors note: This article was last updated May 4, 2022

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