before and afterDIY

A Converted Victorian Railway Car in Dungeness Kent

by Grace Bonney

I can’t remember the last time a before & after grabbed me like this one did. I live for the day when we get to see incredible full-home makeovers that see- and bring to life- the potential in somewhat scary spaces. This has never been truer than in the case of Mark & Keith of MiniModerns. They recently finished the complete makeover of a Victorian Railway Guard’s camper/car (with extension) in the seaside town of Dungeness, Kent. Not only was the project a major labor of love, but they were so inspired by the results they decided to create a new wallpaper (below) inspired by the project.

The full details of this project are pretty incredible and the guys were so kind to send us so many pictures. I’ve done my best to place them in an order that makes things as clear as possible, but not every angle has a matching “before” because so much major wall work was done. But for most spaces you can get a great idea of just how much work went into overhauling this space- like removing lead paint and bitumen coated floorboards (along with new hot water lines, an entire central heating system, a house-wise rewire, a new wood-burning stove, a new kitchen, bathroom and floors). I’m SO impressed with the work Keith and Mark have done (along with the help of contractors) that I’m beyond thrilled to share it here today. Thank you so much to the MiniModerns team for sharing this incredible space wish us. Their full project details and notes about this fascinating space continue below! xo, grace

[All “after” photographs courtesy of Andrew Boyd]

Images above: The entryway after its makeover; Keith and Mark enjoy the fruits of their labors; A new wallpaper pattern from Mini Moderns inspired by the Dungeness project.

The full INCREDIBLE makeover and 20 more pictures continue after the jump!

An overview from Keith and Mark:

We have been visiting Dungeness, on the South Kent coastline, for nearly 20 years and have always loved the landscape, the atmosphere and big skies. We were amazed to discover a house for sale on the Dungeness estate – because the dwellings are so rare that they are usually snapped up as soon as they come up for sale. Our place was looking unloved. It had been rented out and had seen better days. But 2 things made us know it was right:

1. The property – a converted Victorian Railway Guards van – one of several placed there in early 1920’s when the line ceased to run.

2. The location – situated between the two lighthouses, with a sea facing aspect and uninterrupted views towards the English channel, and from our rooftop, France.

Several of the dwellings on the estate have been substantially rebuilt – and Dungeness is becoming something of a showcase for contemporary architecture. The carriages are protected, but the temptation was to consider what could we build if we took away everything but the carriage and started from scratch. Frankly, though, we neither had the budget nor the stomach for a full rebuild. Besides, despite aesthetics, the building was essentially sound and had been well loved.

What we knew was that we wanted to reconfigure the layout. The carriage had been oddly divided up in the past, leaving small, unusable spaces in the characterful, sea facing part of the house, whilst an uninspiring living area had been added in the 1990s at the back of the house. We decided we would open up the carriage, swap round the rooms’ usages and create a more open, bright feel.

Originally, we thought that we wanted to instruct contractors immediately upon completion but once we took possession of the property, we realized we wanted to connect with its idiosyncrasies and get a feel for how we wanted to live in the space. So instead we spent a cold winter exposing original features long hidden behind previous generations of home improvements. We needed to get back to the core of the building to fully realise how we wanted to use the space.

There were of course more practical issues we had to address. Firstly as the house is essentially a rail carriage – we had a look bird cage roof which enabled the guards to look out. with the demanding elements at Dungeness beach we knew this was never going to be water tight – which we soon realized our suspicions were correct on a rather stormy night. This had to be looked at immediately replacing the wind battered opaque windows with clear protective ones. This was incredible as we had no idea we would be so flooded with light or that in the evening we would see beams of light at intermittent periods from the newer lighthouse. We also had no form of heating and a perfunctory shower.

We had always dreamed that we would stroll in from the wind swept beach into a deep hot bath – so we now knew our brief to the contractors:

What we had discovered in our exploration was the original carriage floor was an amzing patchwork of wooden planks spanning several decades. So we didn’t want to loose that. Mark then oversaw the sandblasting of the carriage interior to rid ourselves of lead paint and bitumen coated floorboards. The contractors moved in over the summer – literally – and by the autumn all the major works were complete. Then we could get on with creating our vision that we had initially believed it could be the first day we walked through the door.

The kitchen we chose was an off the shelf IKEA model, which our clever carpenter/builder customised to make it fit the space. Because the entire house is wood-clad, we didn’t want to introduce any more wooden surfaces, so we went with utility stainless steel, which is reminiscent of a fishmonger’s preparation area.

We had been very clear from the start that we would make a feature of the carriage floor so this was varnished to bring up the various woods and colours – by contrast we painted all the walls white to bounce as much
light around as possible and to harmonise all the different types of wood – from tongue and groove, to original plank carriage walls. All floors except the carriage floor were painted in a mid-grey floor paint, again,
to create a neutral, harmonious feel.

Once we’d created this blank canvas of white and grey we could start to introduce the pattern and colour that would ultimately Mini Modernize the space. The idea of the beach house is that as well as being a retreat from
London life, the house will also serve as a showcase for new collections. Therefore, some walls in each room have been left as flat walls that can easily be painted in our range of Mini Moderns Environmentally Responsible Paint, or wallpapered in any of our designs. The introduction of some British mid-century teak furniture – a Guy Rogers sofa and chairs in the living room, and a G-Plan headboard and side tables
in the bedroom – brings some warmth and contrast to the fresh white painted surfaces.

Living room BEFORE

Living room AFTER

(Detail of new living room space)

Bathroom BEFORE

Bathroom AFTER

(Detail of new bathroom)


A peek at the painting in-between

Images above: The remodeled Kitchen

Three images above: one of the new bedrooms. I love those gold cage sconces!

Image above: a small office space was created in the renovated space.

Images above: One of the new bedrooms

The view from the new home!

[All “after” photographs courtesy of Andrew Boyd]


emerald colourway4
Image above: Dungeness wallpapers by Mini Moderns in (top to bottom) Coach Emerald, Chalkhill Blue and Washed Denim. Available online here.

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  • This is beautiful but I’m a bit sad that they painted the bathroom floor- it was so beautiful!

  • Hi jen. The bathroom floor was cheap vinyl flooring pretending to be wood – so promise we didn’t spoil anything characterful!

  • Where does the seagull, fishing boats, and waves wallpaper come from? It is featured in one of the bedroom photos.

  • the bathroom floor was a cheap vinyl wood effect – it had to be taken up so we could lay a real wood floor the bathroom floor is new- the house is very small so we tried to limit the amount of finishes to make it feel bigger – some floors were concrete which had to be re poured and levelled and some were hardboard, and some were carpeted. I think the bathroom floor knew we were photographing it and wanted to look its best – but in reality we daren’t even walk on it in bare feet!! :)

  • What a fun project! An amazing transformation. I love that they maintained the character and age of the railway car. Exceptional use of space.

  • HUGE HUGE improvements – love it. Can you PLEASE tell me the source for the desk//bookshelf?? Thanks in advance!

  • Hi Chris. The lamp in the study is the Mini Moderns MMG floor lamp – the first product in our new lighting range. Glad you like it!

  • Hello there, Firehorse Jane. The desk/bookshelf is String shelving – http://www.string.se – originally designed by Nils Strinning in 1949. It is a bit pricey, but as it is modular you build your collection as you go. The cabinet was a treat we promised ourselves as an incentive to complete the project.

  • Super votre blog , félicitations les photos sont chouettes :)
    j’aimerais juste un petit renseignement le tissus beige de la chambre avec les bateaux il vient d’où ?
    Merci d’avance !

  • wow. wow. I just decided yesterday that string shelves and cupboards are the way to go for my place. This confirms it! Love all the funriture and all of the wallpapers. Great that you custom made one just for your place. Congrats!

  • WOW! That’s the best before-after taht I’ve ever seen? Can I move in, please? Maybe just for a weekend? I love every single detail of the property… Amazing!!!

  • Wow, I’m completely smitten! Would you mind sharing where you found the lights in the kitchen? I love that blue cord!

  • First of all you guys are awesome!

    I have a couple of questions, I can’t help but want to see a photograph of the outside of the carriage, do you have a photo you could link us to?

    Secondly, is the wallpaper from the blue bedroom a pattern of yours as well?

    Thirdly, do you accept random houseguests? I’m from Vancouver, BC Canada and would be willing to fly over to stay in your ever so cool place, breathe in the fresh sea air, and hang out with you guys… :)

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Ashley – just don’t expect us to pay the air fare :)
    There are so few houses at Dungeness – we didn’t want to point ourselves out too much.. Dungeness had 600,00 visitors last year – and there are no boundaries to show which is your land – so we do often have people peering in while we are in our pyjamas which isn’t fabulous! :) there are clues however – our house is on the wallpaper and it is seen at a distance in the row on the photograph with the lighthouse – its a bit of an ugly duckling from the outside i have to say :)

  • al the wall lights with coloured cord were made by Mark using some reconditioned fittings and the cord that we use for our MMG table and standard lamps. We had the one in the kitchen put in by an electrician – as we didn’t want to blow ourselves up! Thanks so much for your comments…

  • So much to love! I can’t remember when I’ve spent so much time studying a “before & after”. I have a new favorite wallcovering co. each one is a hit.

  • pretty damn cool!
    One day I’ll create something to escape London, might not be an old railway van, maybe a bespoke treehouse?

  • That BED in the blue bedroom is gorgeous. Is it custom made, vintage, or a modern piece?

  • Keith,

    Now that I look at where Dungeness is on a map it makes complete sense that it is such a tourist destination. I have spent time in both Devon & Cornwall but not Kent (besides getting off the ferry in Dover). I also understand the concept of privacy, but I have to be honest and say that if I get myself to Dungeness I don’t know how I would hold myself back from peering in your windows.

  • I’ve been trawling through this blog all morning, and this is hands down one of my favourite posts. I love nautical themes along with strongly coloured accessories with whit walls :] Makes me want to do up my little old caravan x

  • I love what they’ve done with this old railway car. Great idea. I’ve seen this done to an old bus. But this is better – more spacious and stable. I’d change the color scheme tho – I’d rather paint it in some darker colors and make it look more like a bar or hotel.