Mornacott’s eco-credentials part 1: Refurbishing the farmhouse

Summer 2024

At Mornacott, we are incredibly proud that our farm and cottages sit within a conservation site. The broader Mornacott estate is part of a long-term vision for land regeneration, aimed at enhancing biodiversity and promoting the health of the land. 

As such, being environmentally conscientious in the way we operate is something we take very seriously. We take care to think about the wider impact of each operational decision, and are constantly seeking to improve our practices. This was especially important to us while refurbishing the 17th-century Mornacott Farmhouse, where preserving its heritage while embracing sustainable methods was our top priority. 

Right from the beginning of the project, we had five key ambitions: 

  1. Work with locally-based contractors 
  2. Source materials second-hand whenever possible 
  3. Purchase new items from local, ethical, and ideally B-Corp companies 
  4. Adopt a ‘zero to landfill’ policy 
  5. Record any learnings for future projects 

 Work with locally-based contractors: 

One of our broader goals is to create employment opportunities for the local community, and this project presented the perfect opportunity. We collaborated with over 20 Devon-based contractors, each contributing their expertise to the unique character and challenges of the farmhouse. Some were old hands familiar with Mornacott, while others were brought in for specialised, one-off tasks.

A particular point of pride are our two dining tables – one for indoors and a second for the covered outdoor dining area – which were handcrafted for us by a local artisan carpenter using wood from across the estate itself! The finished tables are works of art (our estate manager would love to purloin one for his own house!). By choosing to use wood from our own estate, we’ve minimised our environmental footprint and ensured that the farmhouse is firmly rooted in the local landscape. 

Source materials second-hand whenever possible: 

We began the project by meticulously listing every item we needed on a room-by-room basis and working out what we could feasibly buy pre-loved (and conversely, what we couldn’t). Buying second-hand was important to us from an environmental perspective – reducing the demand for new products, thereby decreasing the need for raw materials and energy used in manufacturing, all while supporting small businesses and the local economy.  

While we opted for new soft furnishings to ensure comfort, we were able to source a vast amount of beautiful furniture and some excellent lighting from an array of antique shops and fairs, reclamation yards, charity shops and even Facebook Marketplace.  

Some of our favourite finds were from: 

Purchase new items from local, ethical, and ideally B-Corp companies: 

Where we couldn’t (or wouldn’t) source items second-hand, we wanted to be as ethically minded as possible when choosing suppliers. Our aim was to purchase new items exclusively from companies that prioritise environmental considerations in their decision making, aligning with our own values and practices.  

We sourced all of our kitchenware from Pro Cook, a B Corp business with sustainability at the heart of their operations and our bedding – everything from duvets and pillows to mattress and pillow protectors – was bought from EarthKind, another B Corp whose products are comprised of recycled materials and responsibly sourced fabrics. While not from a B Corp company, our upstairs carpet is made from recycled materials, and our curtains and blinds were made for us by a local upholsterer. 

Our choice of paint throughout the farmhouse is another highlight.  All paint was bought from COAT, a B Corp company with impressive environmental ethics including the use of a closed-loop system, a no-waste policy, recyclable products and solvent-free paints. Their values very much aligned with ours, so this decision was a no-brainer for us. 

Adopt a ‘zero to landfill’ policy: 

 We knew that there were certain items we’d need to remove from the farmhouse before the refurbishment could begin – cables, carpets, tiles, an old water tank and a broken toilet for example. Our ambition had always been to avoid any waste, which meant we had to think about the removal process from start to finish.  

In the end, all were recycled or refurbished through different means. The cables were stripped out for the wire to be reused, leaving just the plastic which was easier to recycle. The tiles and broken toilet were taken to be crushed and reused as hardcore surfacing, and the old water tank was refurbished and used elsewhere. We returned old carpets to their original provider to be recycled, but kept the underlay to reuse ourselves. 

We also kept all cardboard packaging, which will be chipped and used to power our biomass boiler – thereby creating our own closed loop system (of sorts).  

Record learnings for future projects: 

Inevitably, there are things we could have done better in hindsight, and things we will learn from. Given that much of this process was new to us, the journey provided invaluable insights and knowledge that we can now apply moving forward.  

Despite the challenges and the steep learning curve, we are extremely pleased and proud of the final outcome. Mornacott Farmhouse stands not only as a testament to our hard work and dedication but also to the principles that guided its creation: environmental impact; sustainability; and community. 

Final thoughts 

Our commitment to ethical processes was a cornerstone of this project. From the responsible sourcing of materials to local employment, we made it a priority to adhere to our dedication towards delivering positive environmental and social impact. This commitment has enhanced the quality and integrity of the farmhouse, and we hope others can learn from our processes. 

While there are always improvements to be made and lessons to be learned, we are deeply satisfied with both the tangible results and the ethical integrity of our work. The experience has enriched our understanding and equipped us with greater knowledge, preparing us for even more successful and responsible projects in the future.  

We can’t wait to welcome you here!