Run of the Mill

9th September 2013

By Paul OLeary

It’s funny how you get used to things. What was an impossible dream just a year ago has become… well, almost normal; to me at least. It takes someone to visit for the first time to remind you that you are still very very lucky and what you are doing is far from normal.
The short and tall barn, reroofed and weather-boarded. (shop front to tall barn yet to be fitted.)

The short and tall barn, reroofed and weather-boarded. (shop front to tall barn yet to be fitted.)

The old entrance to the mill, now inside and impassable.

The old entrance to the mill, now inside and impassable. Robin the decorator’s lovely little fiat.

Half built workshop already in use.Top floor of tall barn, waiting for windows.

Half built workshop already in use. Top floor of tall barn, waiting for windows.

When you imagine buying a place as vast as this, with it’s 1000 years of history, its 12 acres by the river Soar, it’s unique array of outbuildings and its endless room after room, floor after floor, you know you are taking on a huge project. You know you are sticking your neck out, not playing safe; but you can’t quite imagine how it will feel on a day to day basis. Will you be scared or proud, will you take it in your stride or fall apart with worry; will unforeseen problems and spiralling costs turn your dream into your worst nightmare.
There’s more to share here than the building when it’s done. As an experience, it is unique and our blog, which feels like a diary to me, is a way of recording your thoughts and  experiences for others to share; and in doing so I think it will serve to remind me what a special time this is.
We have learnt that it is definitely better to allow your plans to develop as you go. We have had numerous ideas that seemed perfect at the time, but later seemed ridiculous, the very last thing you should be doing with the place. One such idea was opening a cafe. We imagined a wood fired pizza oven and a swanky coffee bar right in the middle of the second storey, like a hub of lively and luxurious living. Helen was keen, I was not keen. I pictured more of a tea room in the Mill house at the back overlooking the mill pond, with maybe a deck suspended on wooden piles so you could enjoy a peaceful cuppa and a toasted tea cake watching the ducks.
We decided to get on with the essential renovations and mull it over. Once we opened our doors back in January it quickly became obvious that we really shouldn’t be encouraging passers by to pop in for a bite of anything. Nice to have a place like this to visit, but not necessarily good for business. Our customers travel for hours to spend time with our designers. They want to be reassured with quality and dedicated service, they don’t want to be disturbed by random browsers. We didn’t need a lively coffee bar feel, nor a blue rinse tea room, this place needed to be a sanctuary from distraction, an exclusive club where you soak up ideas and creativity.
You have to learn to get excited about things and then be prepared to let them go without any disappointment. One idea dissolves as another comes into clear focus. And so it has been, it’s refreshing, we have a problem, we have some ideas, we have a quick chat with the builders and then suddenly someone’s idea is a clear winner. We decide there and then, that’s what we’ll do; and then, when will it happen. You spend the following days or weeks wondering why it hasn’t happened yet. You’re eager to see it done to be reassured you have made the right decision and to help you with the next tranche of unanswered questions.
Occasionally you are able to feel some satisfaction: the last asbestos roof panel has finally been removed or the building is now water-tight ish or we are actually finally making furniture here. Each milestone is not represented by a clear and solid marker unfortunately there are lots of overlaps. For example, we are making furniture, but the roof has no guttering. We are making our show stand for 100% design in a room that has been insulated but not boarded out, let alone plastered, decorated, 2nd fix electrics, lights etc. Needs must, the show is imminent and this space is available for pre-assembling the stand.
Incidentally, you might recognise the casual beardy fellow in the unfinished barn, it’s my old business partner, the deV of deVOL, Phil deVries, He’s back from growing olives in Portugal to help us out for the summer. This building is so rambling it was easy to find a little space for him to live temporarily. Phil along with Dean have been doing all the little jobs around the mill; the stuff builders turn their noses up at. Like pulling out all the old urinals and making our loos spacious and spotless, with baby changing and disabled facilities. I saw a chap changing his baby in the car park a couple of months ago and thought, of course, how stupid, it’s crazy not to look after Mums and Dads, when you have all this space. And that’s how it goes, instant realisation of what you must do; on that matter and every other. You feel kind of like a passenger, definitely not like a person with a burden of having to get it right.
Phil, pencil on wood, show-stand in bits.

Phil, pencil on wood, show-stand in bits.

Looking inside from inside, there will be a door through to the mill on the left. 1st fix cables from the tall barn hanging loose in the Air kitchen workshop - See more at: https://www.devolkitchens.co.uk/blog/?p=3233&preview=true#sthash.Vt4l0JYS.dpuf

Looking inside from inside, there will be a door through to the mill on the left. 1st fix cables from the tall barn hanging loose in the Air kitchen workshop.

Making the Air kitchen display for 100% design in the ground floor of the short barn.

Making the Air kitchen display for 100% design in the ground floor of the short barn.

Ducks hanging out by the mill pond

Ducks hanging out by the mill pond

The Environment Agency on site for the summer repointing the Medieval bridge over the Soar. Devil’s island, a 3/4 acre island of significance in the Civil War battle of Cotes bridge, which me and the kids cleared last winter, but is now 7 foot high with nettles.

The Environment Agency on site for the summer repointing the Medieval bridge over the Soar. Devil’s island, a 3/4 acre island of significance in the Civil War battle of Cotes bridge, which me and the kids cleared last winter, but is now 7 foot high with nettles.

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Cotes Mill 01509 261000

St. John's Square 020 3879 7900

Tysoe Street 020 3837 5900

 

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usa.enquiries@devolkitchens.com

New York  +1 212 210 6269

  UK & Rest of World

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Cotes Mill, Nottingham Road, Cotes,
Loughborough, LE12 5TL.