George Dunnett grew up in the small Scottish village of Kinnesswood, about an hour north of Edinburgh. For years he’d been walking past an abandoned two-story cottage just down the street from his parents’ home.

Dunnett standing outside of his house.

George Dunnett standing outside his house.

George Dunnett

There were plenty of nice houses in the village, but this building was one of the few that had been left to crumble. The cottage was old and weathered, and the masonry walls were full of cracks.

“It was kind of dilapidated, so I always thought it was a bit of a shame that it was left to this condition,” Dunnett, a 28-year-old video editor, told Insider.

Even so, he could see its potential.

A thick layer of dust and cobwebs covered the interior. Nobody had lived in the building for over 50 years — the previous owners had been using it as storage space.

A collage of the house before it was cleared out.

The building’s interior while it was being used as storage space.

George Dunnett

“There’s a family in the village that’s owned a lot of property that they’ve picked up here and there over the years,” Dunnett said. “This was one of the properties that they owned.”

Based on what he learned from others in his village, Dunnett believes the building dates back to the 1700s, when it was used as a place to bind and distribute religious books.

“People have said that it used to be joined to a church which was taken down and that was just the garden of the next-door neighbor,” he said.

After the items were cleared, Dunnett assessed the house’s condition with the help of external contractors.

The lower floor after all the items were cleared out.

The lower floor after all the items were cleared out.

George Dunnett

Both levels of the house have an open floor plan, with no internal walls to section the space into rooms.

There was almost nothing in the house except for an old fireplace and a flimsy wooden staircase, Dunnett said.

Dunnett worked with the builders to maximize the small space and design the home in the way he wanted.

Progress photo of second floor during the renovation

The second floor during the renovation.

George Dunnett

The plan was to section off two rooms on the lower floor, which would become a bedroom and a bathroom, Dunnett said. The combined living area, kitchen, and dining area would be on the second floor.

After laying cement to create proper flooring, the builders raised the ceiling of the upper level and added insulation to the walls.

“With all the insulation put in, it was actually nice to come in here during the cold winter and have it be semi-warm,” Dunnett said. The only downside was that he wasn’t able to leave the original brick walls exposed inside the house.

Once the electrical wiring was completed, the builders were ready to install the drywall.

Progress photo of the upper floor.

The upper floor.

George Dunnett

The cottage didn’t have a proper wiring system that would serve the needs of a modern home, Dunnett said.

“With most of the installations completed, the joiner was able to put in the plasterboard to block off the rooms downstairs,” he said. “This helped me to see how the space would work and made the interiors look much cleaner.”

After the hardwood oak floors were laid, Dunnett and his mom painted the walls.

Dunnett's bedroom has a grey feature wall.

Dunnett’s bedroom has a gray accent wall.

George Dunnett

“I went with white paint throughout the house to keep it light and cheery but added a few accent walls in the bedroom and the bathroom using a blue-gray color,” Dunnett said.

The renovated home has one bedroom and one bathroom on the lower floor, and a living space, dining area, and kitchen on the second level.

The renovations took slightly less than a year to complete, Dunnett said.

Dunnett's bedroom is located on the first floor

Dunnett’s bedroom is on the first floor.

George Dunnett

The renovations started in January 2021. The bulk of the project was completed by August, and the finishing touches — the staircase railings — were installed in November.

Dunnett moved into the tiny house at the end of November. “This is the first time I’ve ever moved out of my parents’ house,” he said.

In total, the renovations cost £102,458, including solicitors’ and administrative fees, Dunnett said.

Dunnett's bedroom is located on the first floor, facing the two windows at the front of the house.

Dunnett’s bedroom faces the two windows at the front of the house.

George Dunnett

“Using the money I saved up over the years from my work as a video editor and my YouTube channels, I paid for the house and all of the work and furnishing myself, minus the loan amount,” he said.

Dunnett estimates that he spent £157,844 on the entire project, including buying the cottage.

As a first-time homeowner renovating an old house, Dunnett has some advice for others who want to do the same: Expect it to take longer and cost more than you think.

A collage of two photos of the completed bathroom.

The completed bathroom.

George Dunnett

“I was quite naïve about just how long it would take,” Dunnett said. “Initially the builder told me it would be two months and it would cost £40,000 to do it all. But with time, and as they get into the build, you’ll find that it’ll take at least twice as long and cost twice as much.”

Dunnett already has his eye on another fixer-upper nearby that he hopes to buy with his brother. This time, he’s keen on renovating it himself.

The completed kitchen, which is on the second floor.

The completed kitchen on the second floor.

George Dunnett

Dunnett said one of his regrets was that he didn’t have the skills to renovate the cottage himself. But now that he’s seen how the builders worked on his home, he wants to try his hand at a new renovation project.

The nearby cottage is “not as severe a project — that’s just a building that needs some work done inside,” Dunnett said. “So I’m going to try and do all the joinery work on that and see how much I can actually do myself.”