Northamptonshire, UK                                        © 2017 by Nichola Haysey

Brixworth's DIY SOS

March 4, 2019


As many of you may already know, there has been underway in the village of Brixworth, Northamptonshire a fantastic project for Shelley Balding, 47, who unfortunately suffered with a stroke just after her 40th birthday which left her completely unable to walk and fully dependent on her family.  After previously living a very active, busy, athletic, middle class life this came as a huge shock to the family and an uncertain future.




The new adaptations that both she and her  family were forced to accommodate saw the family having to move to a more adaptable home and very sadly, a wealth of associated health problems which have continued to escalate over the last 7 years to the point now, where she is weak, extremely poorly and life is very limited. 


Shelley describes life as living in a goldfish bowl and watching it all go past her door. Loneliness, isolation, poverty and sadness on its greatest scale are all side effects she and and many others in her situation face daily. 


Her entire family are affected but each and every one of them stoically put on a big smile, utter only positive words to anyone they meet and remain bright when out and about.   Shelley suffers with many, many epileptic seizures every day and each one brings more trauma to her body and mind which are gravely associated with all her other health issues.    


Her health and change of life meant that Shelley and her family were now living in a small house which was increasingly unsuitable for her needs despite their financial efforts.  Because Shelley’s husband was doing his utmost to hold down a full time job, help to raise their daughter and provide round the clock care to his very poorly wife, Shelley and David were not entitled to help from the local council to make essential home renovations so that Shelley could wash and access the toilet safely and easily.  There was a downstairs toilet which was difficult to get to via a narrow corridor, the door could not be closed because Shelley’s wheelchair would be wedged in the door entrance and when she had a seizure whilst in the room, which she often did, it was very difficult to get to her quickly to ensure she didn’t cause herself serious harm, trapped and vulnerable. 


Over the last 7 years, Shelley has had very serious episodes whereby she has had to use the family’s living room as a bedroom.  With no way of getting upstairs, washing has been difficult and humiliating for a very intelligent, well-educated individual.   A very basic thing on her wish list was to be able to go to the toilet in her own home and be able to shut the door easily and have the freedom to move about independently.  


A wonderful, friendly lady, resident to the village, Ms Julie Wykes, dog groomer and lover of daschunds – a common interest with Shelley, happened upon Shelley and her situation in June 2018.  Julie immediately rallied around on social media channels aghast at what a lovely lady was living with and eager to change her life for the better.


The people of Brixworth village in Northamptonshire have since been giving their time entirely for free to help create a wet room for Shelley to use. 


Julie has been managing the project since.


You may have heard about Brixworth DIY SOS.  This is what it is and what it aims to achieve.


In June, Darren Wood (local builder), Jon Bilson of JB Building Services, Conor Haldenby (local plumber and bathroom fitter, Jimmy Garrod of Elite Plumbing & Heating, Julian Gaywood (flooring), Phil Lee of AMC Electrical, myself, Nic Haysey of Haysey Design & Consultancy and Julie Wykes (local dog groomer) gathered at the property.  I handed out a design I had put together (after a previous meeting Julie , Shelley and Shelley’s husband, David), accommodating all their wishes and Shelley’s very essential needs as much as we possibly could in as practical a way as possible.  With a new floor plan and initial design documentation for the contractors, we all discussed the ideas and the tradespeople were each, absolutely invaluable in their advice, experience and professionalism.  Suddenly, we had a plan.  


Jon and Darren set to work initially, swiftly followed by Conor Haldenby.


Julie and myself had to source supplies.  We had an enormous amount of support from companies all over Northamptonshire which was such a great feeling for us all.


Towcester Building Supplies(TBS), particularly Chris Gilbert, were incredibly generous and without them, most of the renovations would never have taken place.  




















































Wickes in Northampton also provided material we needed, Dodd Group Electricals recommended to us by Phil the electrician were outstanding, providing more than we ever imagined possible, enabling us to fulfil all the wishes on our list for the optimal space for Shelley and also providing an outside light.    Stonesuperstore provided us with the most beautiful stone tiles for the floor and walls and Walls and Floors in Kettering donated the shower area non slip mosaic tiles. They even hand delivered them to the site.


Plumbase on Gladstone road provided us with a large number of the plumbing supplies which we needed in support of the project and the most perfect waterfall shower we could have hoped for came from Bells in Kingsthorpe, who also supported the project in its entirety. 


We received a radiator thanks to Jimmy Garrod and Plumbco, we had a fantastic courier colleting and delivering no ends of supplies to the site for us, Jon Noble of JPN Distribution who tirelessly kept going.  Route1Express from the village also stepped in to help us out on a particular occasion when yet more supplies were required to keep momentum and progress at their expense. 

Topps Tiles, ADS Heating Solutions, First Choice Lighting and Paul Driver at Jewsons  were all absolutely invaluable with supplies too. 


Then, when it just couldn’t get any better we had another influx of tradespeople to get us where we needed to be. 

Conor Haldenby began to work relentlessly around his own work not just in plumbing areas but also helping with some of the woodwork and structural parts we desperately needed as the summer months became busy for the team. 


Jamie from JML Plastering helped us turn a big corner giving up his Sunday mornings for a month.  Conor Haldenby then still, almost daily,popping in whenever possible right up until Christmas arrived. 


Richard King of R.King Plastering (happy to pass along his details if  you drop me a line!) in Towcester came swooping in and spent two days working very hard, completing an outstanding job for us helping to push us even closer to the end goal plastering both rooms which we had now created.  A wetroom and a sitting area, removing a narrow corridor so that Shelley had somewhere to be when she couldn’t use the stairlift to get upstairs and so that there were no longer any narrow spaces to navigate, to enable her to easily access her new wetroom. 


Village based JPP Surveyors and Daventry Building Control have been right with us throughout this project from Day 1, and we have all been so grateful for their valuable support. 


We had a builder arrive from Market Harborough, Paul Schofield of Unique Exteriors–on one afternoon’s notice to help us finish putting up some tricky areas of plasterboard in readiness for the plasterer due the very next morning- of which he did a fantastic, efficient and fast job.  It really was dumfounding.


Phil Lee from AMC Electrical carried out all the electrical work at the property.  I personally, was so pleased to come across such an efficient and professional sparky. 


It was a huge juggle to schedule in the tradespeople and ensure the next part of the project was achieved with all the necessary supplies and without a glitch – or to quickly overcome any difficulties as soon as possible (and we have certainly had our fair share as these projects tend to have) to accommodate so many people fitting the project into their busy schedules.   


Whilst all of this was going on, Julie Wykes and Sharon Payne were fundraising throughout the summer, in the village, baking so many cakes, carrying out sales on their front lawns and running around supporting the teams coming in and out of the Shelley’s home, promoting the events wherever they could to help drum up support and keep things moving. 


Geberit donated to us the most amazing toilet for Shelley’s wet room which will be everything she needs and more to make it the best wet room it could possibly be.  They have also been incredibly supportive and happy to get involved in the project.


Brian at Kingsthorpe Karpets made many, many trips to the site to help us level out the floors in both areas which took a great deal of product provided entirely by him.  He has been back several times since and worked against the clock for us when time was tight to fit in other scheduled tradespeople, fitting it in around his busiest time of year to help us along.  He has been fantastic and his work is excellent.  I couldn’t recommend his dedication, professional attitude and capabilities highly enough. He is an absolute gentleman and an exceptional flooring specialist.


Luke Bryans of LB Contracts spent several days too-ing and fro-ing with paint supplied by Johnstones who very, very kindly colour matched some beautiful Farrow & Ball Colours we had hoped for, for Shelley’s spaces, being her favourite tones which we knew would lift her spirits when she was feeling low and help her to feel calm and happy to encourage her recoveries. Luke did an excellent job as you will see from the final images of the areas.  He also fitted this in for us when he really wasn’t available but again, yet another display of the remarkable kindness that resides in this village when it’s needed, he painted the rooms top to bottom, ready for the next stage. 


Christmas arrived and the floor was tiled by Kurtis Walsh of ASK Tiling who stepped up last minute so that we could attempt to get the toilet installed ready for Christmas for Shelley.  Marcus Mabbutt of MCM Ceramics had provided us with all the information and support we needed up to this point wholeheartedly.  We were devastated when it came to tile as he was sadly away with business.  An exceptional and professional tiler we were keen to use. But, we were not at all left in the lurch! Kurtis was more than happy to help us, his enthusiasm, cheerful, caring outlook and nothing being too much trouble meant he grafted for two days, including Christmas eve to keep things in the right direction for us.  He was fantastic.  Unfortunately time was not on our side and we couldn’t get to the point where the toilet was installed however we are now very close. 


Phil Lee was back straight after Christmas to second fix all the lighting and electrics.  Ever closer, we needed to finish the floor and the walls of the wet room before Conor could pop back to second fix the wet room.


Finally, in the early weeks of this year, Jason Campbell and Adam Mace offered to step in and help see us through to the finish with the remaining tiling in the wetroom and fitting the skirting board in the sitting area.  Jason has been back and forth for a number of weeks, fitting in all the tiling amidst his very busy workload and current projects.


It has been a long six month journey, but it is very nearly through! 


Conor Haldenby will be back to install the wetroom sanitary ware and both Julie and myself have been gathering items for Shelley to make her sitting area as comfortable as possible. 


We hope to have this room up and running very soon. 


Unfortunately, during this project, poor Shelley and her family have had to put up with all our noise, comings and goings, a lot of their items in a bit of upheaval without very much internal space to put them and together with all of this, Shelley’s health has continued to decline rapidly.   


We have been on BBC Radio Northampton - if you skip to 2h54 during the Annabel Amos programme on 2 July 2018, (accessible via the link below) you will be able to hear about us.


I have been updating twitter, facebook and instagram as much as possible with updates so if you would like to see the progress and the result as it comes to fruition please do take a look:


You may have seen our large banner outside the property with many of the companies involved in the project.  This was donated by the , Big Phat Print Company right at the outset of the project.  They did a magnificent job and designed it all.  This was huge support and helped more than they could know.   


The objective is and has always been just to help Shelley have a little positive space that she can share with her nearest and dearest, to give back to her a little of what she has lost.  To also give back to her some degree of independence and happiness if at all possible.


This is Brixworth DIY SOS.

Further reading:


The Electrician: AMC Electrical -

The Plumber: Conor Haldenby

The Builders: Jon Billson of JB Building Services, Brixworth and Darren Wood

Floor levelling, materials and works:  01604 720888

Flooring materials supplied by Julian Gaywood of Brixworth

Support Plumbing and Gas safety: Jimmy Garrod of Elite PLumbing & Heating -; ADS Heating Solutions - 

Tiling: Jason Campbell -

Support Building works: Paul Schofield, Unique Exteriors

Plastering: JML Plastering Yardley Gobion 07901 562322

Plastering: R. King Plastering, Towcester -