Crack The Shutters founder - ‘I didn’t want to buy this house, but it’s changed my life’
PUBLISHED: 16:10 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:16 04 June 2020
Physiotherapist Jennifer Rothbury has become an Instagram sensation as she shares the transformation of her Bramhall home
Jennifer Rothbury is a physiotherapist based at Salford Royal A&E, specialising in chest-related issues. As you can imagine, at this time of Covid-19, her shifts there have taken her to a new level of exhaustion, making her time at home even more precious than it has ever been.
“I am working 12-hour shifts at the moment, so coming home is just such an escape. While the hospital is pretty quiet in terms of numbers of people coming in, those that are coming are really quite poorly. For me, lock-down is a relief, it’s an escape. I try to stay away from the news, it’s grim enough in work. The kids are happy, we’re just enjoying it being a bit slower and not rushing about like we usually do.”
With Jen’s home being more important to her than ever before, the pleasure she takes in the interiors that she has designed herself is more intensely felt and there is even greater joy in the fact that it is, after several years of ongoing work, finally complete.
“I am so happy that our house is finally finished! When we moved in here Magnus was 12 weeks old and Leo was three – and we gutted it completely. Having to pause and wait for lock-down to end would have been awful!” Jen and her husband, Miles, bought their house in 2015, with Jen only agreeing to the purchase on the basis that everything she disliked about the property could be changed immediately. “I didn’t want to buy it. We viewed it and when we walked out I thought ‘that’s horrible.’ But my husband had really liked it. We had a bit of debate about it and he convinced me to get a builder round to have a look at it. I was about eight months pregnant and just couldn’t be bothered to think too much about it. We put our house on the market and I really didn’t think it would sell, but it did within the week and I thought, ‘oh no, I’m going to have to do it now!’
“I only agreed if he promised me that the work would start straight away and I didn’t have to live in it as it was. We had a survey done and everything came back as red, except the roof, but three days after we moved in that started to leak in the middle of the night, into the bedroom - water just pouring onto the bed. It wasn’t like the house was structurally unsound, but the whole of the rear was damp, the garage was subsiding, all the plaster was falling off the walls (the previous owners had just shoved wet tissue into all the holes), there was a shower room and it was covered in green mould...it was all dirty and smelly and disgusting. It did have the most beautiful floor to ceiling timber windows – but the frames were all rotten. We went in with our eyes open, though, the builder had been very clear and because we wanted to knock-through and extend it meant that all the areas with damp would be ripped out anyway.”
Jen and her family moved into their new home in June 2015 and work started in September 2015, with a loft extension, which gave them two new double bedrooms and a shower room. Next they replaced all the windows and started on the first floor, re-plastering the ceilings and the walls and combining a small bedroom, a box room and separate loo into a family bathroom. They now have a five double-bedroom house, perfectly designed for multi-generational family needs.
“We managed to get all the upstairs work complete by Christmas. We chose to work with local company Cheshire Sustainable Construction, having had some experience of them in our previous home, and they were absolutely brilliant.”
In no mood to slow down, Jen had the work on the downstairs of the house start in January. She has left two rooms at the front of the house as they were, simply replacing the timber window frames in the quite beautiful floor to ceiling windows. At the rear of the house, they have knocked through to create an open plan dining and kitchen space, with an additional three metre extension, with bifold doors and four rooflights encouraging the light to fill the space.
“In the kitchen area, we put in a short wall, in between the area we call the snug, and the kitchen – just to keep it from being completely open plan and giving us a cosy space with a wood burner. This area is part of the original house and the parquet floor was already there – though we did have to have it restored.
“When we finished we just painted it all white, so we could just live with it for a while – and save up some money for the next stage. I had always loved interior design. In 2018 I joined Instagram and was constantly looking though the posts and found a lot of inspiration there. My husband is really handy and he’s done most of the work in the house. I’ll just say ‘oh, I fancy that’ and he’ll give it a go.”
The kitchen is a mix of classic style and quirky personal touches, including a Latin motto above the Aga.
“My husband studied Classics at university and his mum and sister are Classics teachers, so it has been drummed into him that Latin is the most important language. My best friend is a sign-writer and I wanted something in that space that was meaningful, about striving and never giving up. It means ‘through adversity to the stars’, and we just like the saying.”
There is a post in Jen’s kitchen that I also find intriguing, decorated as it is in tiny mosaic tiles, reading: Est. 2003 in L’pool.
“That post has always annoyed me, but the cost of a steel across the whole back of the house was too much, so we had to live with it. I love these penny tiles, and really wanted them, but couldn’t figure out where. The post was always getting grubby from the kids’ fingers, and so I decided this would be a great place to do it. Miles and I met at university in Liverpool, in 2003, so that’s where all this started.”
In 2019 Jen decided to set up her own Instagram interiors feed, @crack_the_shutters , which now has almost 33,000 followers.
“When I started I really didn’t know what I was doing,” Jen says. “I basically made it up as I went along. I found I really enjoyed it, chatting to people, getting ideas from people and sharing my ideas. I hate to think of myself as an influencer, I just post what I love. I get approaches from interiors brands, but it really has to work for me – I am very pick and choosy!
“In September 2019 I started a shared account which I co-host with some other influencers where we post people’s before and after photos, from upcycling a chair to a full home renovation, and each month award a prize. It’s called @pimpupmypad and has over 50,000 followers now.
“The best thing I have got from Instagram however is the people I’ve met – and not just remotely. The Pimpupmypad team all came up to Manchester earlier this year. I have met lovely people through it, so I feel that at the end of the day if I stop now, I have really got what I want from it.”
As well as being Insta-famous, Jen’s house has been taken on by locations company Lifestyle Locations, who source locations for commercial and TV filming and who supplied the photos for this story.
“We signed up with them a few weeks before lock down so haven’t actually had a shoot yet! We had one in the diary with Very, but it had to be cancelled. I am looking forward to seeing what happens when lock down is all over.”
In the meantime, Jen and her family are enjoying the haven that their home is – and Miles is briefed with just a few new projects...
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