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I have waved many times in my life, with varying success.

Almost always these waves are a result of money worries, having been a self-employed artist for the majority of my life. I chose this road and it offers up an exciting life, but not without it’s stresses and uncertainties. During this life I have moved house 20 times and found myself homeless on a handful of occasions, with the worst of these resulting in three months of sleeping on various, random sofas throughout London. Not my happiest memory.

So how come I find myself sitting in an incredibly beautiful 1830’s mansion house, with six bedrooms, enormous out buildings and an acre of garden, that I have recently managed to purchase as a first time buyer?

Ok, so, I got married.


No, not to a rich man who could provide me with all of my material dreams, but to another self-employed creative, with a lust for life and as much ambition and drive as me.

It was early 2014; Colin and I were living a nice wee life in a rented cottage in the countryside in Scotland. We had no complaints. But was this it? Same old, same old, for the rest of our lives?

We yearned for a new challenge. Something that was ours, that we could really get our teeth into and build from the ground up, and something that would set us up for the rest of our lives.

We agreed that firstly we needed to purchase a property. Not only because old buildings, interior design and household objects are my passion, nor that I longed to have stability in my home, but also financially, from a sensible and mature viewpoint paying into a mortgage would be the start of our pension pot.

What if we could purchase a home that could also be our new business? My mother had always made additional cash by renting out any spare corner of our house, so I learned from her. What if our house could also provide us with an income?

I have undertaken four artist residencies during my career, so understood the value of having the supportive space and uninterrupted time to develop new work. Colin and I have much to offer in terms of creative skills and we love to meet, chat and laugh with like-minded people. Wouldn’t it make sense for us to set up a centre for creative residencies? We would both love that!

How on earth could we now achieve this goal with no savings (in fact a fair few debts!)? Even if we did manage to save a deposit, any property we could afford in central Scotland would be miniature.

We would have to move further afield.

Long story short, we soon found ourselves looking towards South West France. Property was a third of the price, the scenery was stunning and the sun seemed to always be shining.

We leased a small property at first, in order to start saving on rent, and worked as hard as we were able online, whilst desperately trying to grasp at least the basics of the French language.

As soon as we had our feet in the door, we took a deep breath and threw one almighty series of waves out to the universe!

We waved… and waved again, and again. And much to our astonishment and delight, these multiple waves kept being returned, by people who loved us and people who loved our dream!

We waved… we put all our trust in one particular estate agent, who we clicked with and felt truly understood our unique search (we have remained friends ever since!). She came up trumps, by finding us a place we would never have noticed.

It was in the middle of a town (not rural as we’d imagined) and had little pavement appeal (crucial for the marketing, no?). It was also waaaay over ‘budget’ (whatever that was going to be, this was definitely over it!)

…but it was perfect! We were in love.

We waved… we offered two thirds of the asking price, agreeing to forfeit the majority of the garden (which, bizarrely enough, we were able to buy back at a fraction of this amount just two years later!). Our offer was accepted the very next day.

We waved… we asked for our friends and family to support us through a crowdfunding campaign. Their response blew our minds, as we raised the 5% required for the sales agreement.

We waved… Following a devastating loss in my family and surprise sale of the family home in Scotland, I asked if I might have my share of the money now rather than later, which provided the much-needed deposit.

We waved… Our self-employed status made securing a mortgage virtually impossible, but we asked Colin’s main client to commit in writing to giving him a steady income and, because of this, we successfully found a small independent bank willing to take the leap with us and lend us the rest of the money.

We waved… we set ourselves up as a residency venue ( and sent a wave out to artists, writers and musicians across the globe. They waved back with gusto and by year three we were fully booked and well able to select only the best applicants.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit our business now and we have had to postpone all of our residents for 2020. I don’t know how this will affect us long term, but what I do know is that I will continue to love and care for this property and continue to strive to develop it into a centre that supports creative development.

I ain’t going nowhere!

I would like to take this opportunity to send out one more wave to the universe. A huge wave of thank you to all those who waved back and helped us achieve this enormous dream.

Life’s what you make it. But it certainly helps having good folk to support you on your journey.

Julia Douglas & Colin Usher