Many would agree natural stone is far superior aesthetically, but it can be much more difficult to repair properly. The stone may have been quarried from some local and long since forgotten source and it could be difficult to locate replacement stone. However, there are many solutions and a good stone mason will be able to help you. Sand blasting gives the wall a face-lift and works well on many types of masonry. All this work is specialist and as stone masons train for years to become skilled tradesmen, it's unlikely an amateur will be able to create the desired result.
This is when crushed natural stone is bonded together with artificial colours and materials to create easy to work with rustic looking blocks. They are NOT structural load bearing and are used as an external cladding similar to the way facing brick is used. They are arguably no match for the looks of natural stone but as explained above natural stone is hard to locate and expensive to purchase and build. Step forward reconstituted stone which is relatively inexpensive, easy to work with and has many different styles available and unlike natural stone is easy to locate and order.
What image of domestic bliss doesn't contain a warm and cosy fireplace? The relationship between humans and fire is primeval and as well providing heat and cooking facilities it has a certain unexplainable appeal that is timeless.
Nowadays they can be used in their traditional form or as fashion features with gas or electric fuel. Some self builders are lucky enough to be doing a renovation which contains an old fireplace with outstanding craftsmanship which can be kept and restored. For others the vast range of modern styles and imitation models should give some inspiration and provide something for all tastes.
Kitchens & Range cooking
The renovation of a rural dwelling or barn conversion is yelling out for a solid fuel burning range cooker. Again, this type of feature would not be possible in an 'off the shelf' house and the money saved on lining the developers pockets could fund and justify this classy and efficient appliance.
The 'old fashioned', stylish look is a nice feature on its own but there are many other benefits from this appliance.
The heat produced by the solid fuel (possibly wood cuttings), can be used to heat the houses radiators and water supply as well as to cook food.
Even though the range cooker can be used as a normal oven and hob there are cooking styles that can only be achieved authentically on such a device. During a power cut it's always nice to have a stand alone source of heat and power at hand and, as long as the owner has the fuel at hand, this is possible with a range cooker.
See www.aga-rayburn.co.uk for the market leading models.
Flooring & Timber
Many old buildings already have high quality pine floors that have been disguised by many years of dirt and neglect. However, it is possible, (and sometimes preferable) to expose the surface of the wood with an industrial sander and varnish or stain the old wood. The effect can be amazing as each floor has its own individual character and in the case of renovations suits the decor more than shiny new floor would. The timber industry in the UK has changed over the years and in general it has become increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain high quality materials. Timber that is present in older houses that was not particularly rare at the time can be a rejuvenated and fully appreciated by its current owners.
For floors that would not benefit from such treatment there are other solutions both cheap and expensive. The cheapest solution is 'laminate flooring', which is extremely popular nowadays. Laminate flooring is typically constructed with a high density fibre board core, sandwiched between a melamine laminate backing, high quality photographic paper with an image of wood, stone or other natural flooring, and a melamine laminate top. There are a few new hybrid products that replace the photographic paper with a very thin slice of real wood veneer.