Getting plastered for Christmas!

It’s nearly Chriiiistmas!!  Which marks two whole years since we moved into the place – what the heck, time has seriously floooown by!!? With our ‘dust free for 2016’ commitment firmly in sight, we cranked it up a notch these last couple of months to try and make this goal become a reality.

Plastering a house is one of the ‘biggies’ when it comes to reno’s; it costs a lot, it covers everything yet again with dust, and it means you have to move everything around your house umpteen times to be able to give the guys room to work…and we have a LOT of stuff. As we’d taken about 90% of the house back to bare brick and timbers this process hasn’t been easy. Saying that, it’s taken just three and a half weeks to get the best part of it done and blimey has it made a difference.

So first let’s reminisce, because frankly the last two years are a bit of a blur and we have plenty of “I forgot how bad it was” and “I can’t believe we did that” moments when we look back through photos.

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It’s kind of weird seeing none of the structure anywhere anymore, we’d gotten so used to it – exposed joists, pipes, plasterboard and bodged brickwork, now it feels very plain and weird…and beige, everything is beige.  It’s gonna take some getting used to I guess. It’s nothing we hadn’t envisaged, but it’s just so, well, different to what we’ve become used to. Hmm, am I getting bored of it being almost finished already?? …Nah!

So what does new plaster mean? PAINTING! And loooots of it.  There’s something to be said about getting paint on the walls, it’s nothing short of a miracle moral booster and changes the feel of the place so much, it feels like there is definitely a little bright light at the end of our renovation tunnel! And when you enlist the help of some of your nearest and dearest it is definitely a good feeling knowing that you’ve got a team by your side. A big shout out to our motley crew who gave up their Saturday to come and help us blitz a hefty chunk of the mist coat over the new plaster.  It just goes to show how far a bit of bribery with pizza, beer and lemon tart can get you!  And my sweet mum and Paul who dressed like wallies to help with a lot of the painting…they’re gonna kill me :)

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We just vacated our bedroom which was an absolute disgrace, one day I might pluck the courage to share to the world how we were living in there all this time, but most certainly not until we have a nice room to distract from the shame of it…it was seriously bad, no but seriously, bad. bad. bad. We’ve started stripping it anyway, all those shameful memories are now dust, and we said toodles to the last of the wallpaper and those bloody awful polystyrene ceiling tiles!!

Sooo, we are currently sleeping downstairs where the temporary kitchen in the back of the lounge was…it’s fairly near a radiator in the new kitchen at least and hallelujah for mild winters as our plumber ‘aint back until April…yup, a four month wait – he’s in demand. It’ll give us time to suss out what to do about a bowing ceiling in our main bedroom that we’re desperately trying to avoid pulling down. I am so over filling rubble sacks!! No more rubble sacks for 2016 – now that sounds good to me :)

 

All I want for Christmas…is to be dust free…

Now wouldn’t that be nice.  No more furry grey surfaces, no more stepping on rubble with bare feet in the middle of the night, no more constant cleaning of dust and cat hair (a winning combo’) from the kitchen floor, or washing up everything twice for every meal. I am genuinely amazed that we’ve not got horribly ill whilst living here. Super immunity, clearly.

So ‘to be dust free for 2016’ is the new commitment to ourselves, and so for the next 11 weeks we are resigned to being social hermits whose only aim in life is to get some plaster on the walls and have more than 3 radiators for this winter.

We’ve managed to get a lot of the really boring jobs done over the past few months; plasterboarding, insulating floors/ceilings, and lead paint stripping to name a few – they’re somewhat yawn-inducing to post about individually, so I think a brief summary will suffice.

Insulating the ceiling was first – we found something called Earthwool, a great sustainable product made from recycled materials and is super easy to use…it’s something I can lift without buggering my back up too, happy days. Basically it comes in a roll, you cut it into lengths, fluff it up a bit (insert technical term here) to get air into it, the width is already perforated to fit between joists, and you just gently pop it in, like so…

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We had the cornice hanging on in there still (just about), so we had to double board the ceiling in order to cover the edges of that (because of course every simple task soon requires 10 other simples tasks to be done before you can start it). We cut strips of 9mm board to put onto each joist, and then used 12mm boards fixed perpendicular to these to bring the boards down to the desired ceiling height ready for plastering.

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Voila – the strips secured to the joists, and a gap in the Earthwool around any cabling.

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Then the arm-aching task of lifting the boards and screwing them in place started. Si tried to convince me to get the larger boards as we’d have less to cut, but I’m glad I whined and we went with the smaller ones as they are SO heavy when resting on your head whilst poised on top of a ladder, especially when you’re trying to thread cables through a small hole in a board. Looking back at all this, I can’t actually believe how much we’ve done…or that it’s really us doing it! It’s like some weird out of body experience, like it happened to someone else.

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From ceilings to floor, Si cracked on with the insulation under the floorboards – another filthy task where he spent days under the floor staple gunning a vapour permeable membrane to the underside of the joists to create a sort of taught hammock for the insulation to sit in. The insulation we found was Thermofloc, again we chose it for it’s natural properties as it’s made from recycled newspaper. I think we ordered enough to insulate the whole street though…

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It’s hard to tell from the photographs and I’m not sure I’m doing it any justice attempting to explain, so I found this handy little diagram.

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It would be a hamster’s paradise, if only we had one to let loose for a good burrow in there!

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Another big tick off the list was installing a loft hatch, this was an afternoon’s job.  I didn’t really enjoy being the one that had to sit in the dark loft with a dim torch for a few hours. My imagination can scare me more than any horror movie ever could, and I’m ashamedly scared of the dark. But we managed it nevertheless, before and after below…

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And then of course copious amounts of paint stripping. We suspected it contained lead so got a kit online to test for it, and yep it’s got loads of it in…lead is very, very bad for you if you inhale it, so we’re in the throws of removing all that as safely as we can, it may take some time but the end is actually now in sight which is really exciting and keeping us motivated.

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After doing one door we decided it wasn’t worth the pain/risk to our health on top of doing the staircase and other woodwork so we sent the other doors to get dipped, totally worth the money.

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And the best news is that the plastering has started!! Nope, we are not doing this ourselves, we’ve learned to pick our battles, and this is one area we are happy to admit is out of our skillset so we’ve called in the experts.  It’s nice to finally see stuff being put back together it has to be said. Cannot wait to call in some painting favours with family and friends to get this place looking like a proper home soon!

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Laying hexagon floor tiles.

Not to be defeated by the epic task that was tiling the bathroom walls, we took on the flooring next. We picked out some small hexagon tiles, to be honest it was so long ago they already feel “2014”, but we haven’t seen anything we prefer, so hey I don’t mind being behind the curve. In preparation we removed the floorboards and boarded the floor over with plywood so it’d be more level, then used a primer to make it less porous so the tile adhesive took to it better. At least that was my understanding of why we did it!

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Si’s job was to install the underfloor heating, a temperature monitor had to be put in conduit to protect it, then he had to chisel a groove for it to sit in so the screed would fully cover it to avoid big mounds when the tiles went down. The little cork trim you see around the edges is an expansion strip to allow things to flex a little in hot and cold temperatures (the same stuff you can use around the edge of wooden floors), it also helped as a rough guide for the screed to level up to when we poured it in.

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The underfloor heating went down easy enough, cutting and rotating it to fit our awkward little space, being careful to not go too near the toilet and sink legs (Si left about 100mm gap). Basically it’s an odd shape, but as long as we can sit on the toilet or get out of the shower with toasty feet then it’s all good!

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Then it was time for the screed, which was a total rush job after work one evening to fit in with the schedule for getting the toilet and sink in….oh the pressure. Si stood in the bath pouring it out, trying to get it all done quickly so it didn’t set too fast, then he had to take a giant leap to the safety of the doorway. Thankfully no footprints in the screed to report….and no cat paw prints either thanks to our barricading skills.

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The screed was ready by the following morning so I could start the tiling that weekend. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to be laying mosaic sheets rather than individual tiles – it makes SUCH a difference to the speed of things! Also laying them onto a surface where gravity is actually ON your side rather than onto a wall where they have to be propped up, was a welcome advantage.

It took a bit of effort laying the mosaic sheets out loosely to see how they would all fit.  A lot of nudging and shifting was required as the walls are far from square – you think you’ve cracked it and suddenly there’s a huge gap between sheets so the whole lot needs shifting around again. It was fiddly, but a doddle in comparison to the walls it has to be said.

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After I had them all laid out in place, I took care to remove a strip of sheets at once (watching a youtube video a few hundred times as I went), putting some adhesive down and then trying to replace the tiles back in the same spot. Check out my rusty tools, Si tells me off all the time for not cleaning stuff properly and I guess here’s all the evidence you need!

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It’s important to make sure the mosaic tiles are really flat, so my method was patting them down with a few lengths of timber. Also importantly you shouldn’t put too much adhesive on as it bulges through the tile gaps and makes a load of mess – yep, found that one out too late, and I know I’m probably the only one to notice, but there is a bulge I couldn’t flatten properly. It sits right under the bath mat at least, so not too visible.

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And then there were these tricky buggers to cut around the radiator….it in truth has taken me a few months to summon the motivation to do them (as I’ve said before, I’m generally rubbish at finishing tasks 100%) – they are hard to file as they’re so small, and then our electrician accidentally vacuumed up and threw away a few of them I’d done and laid loose….gutted!

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As everything, it ‘aint perfect…I don’t think anything is when you stare at it for so long, but I don’t think any of our toilet guests will look in too much detail and we’re pretty pleased to have this room almost complete!  The photo below is only a phone shot, but it shows the sink and toilet finally in. Baby steps, but they’re making all the difference to our living conditions!!

Our first proper shower in a year…

Yup. A YEAR. We’ve at least had a bath tub to wash ourselves. I’ve had to really get used to standing up to wash again, it actually felt weird…but I got used to it very quickly! Last February I ripped out the bathroom, then Si smashed through the wall between it and the toilet, even though it’s never really been our priority to get it done…obviously, given how long it’s been. We’ve gotten by the last few months using a chipped measuring jug to tip water over ourselves, which also doubles up as a cat water bowl. We’re so glam. Over winter it was pretty grim as we don’t have a door on the bathroom, and didn’t have heating, and then when we did it was only in two rooms the opposite side of the house.

But we finally got to a point where we could attach the shower head, buy a cheap shower curtain until we’re dust free (if ever) and put in some temporary sealant until we can get the pro in (we’re using a mid-grey silicone so need it to be neat and that stuff is a bugger to get right).

For anyone wondering why this has taken so long, here’s a list of just this past month’s dilemmas;

-Need to have a shower, can’t do that without sealing the bath.
-Need to silicone the bathroom, can’t do that until the grouting is finished.
-Need to do the grouting, can’t do that until the tiling is finished.
-Need to do the tiling, can’t do that until the floor is down.
-Need to tile the floor, can’t do that until the underfloor heating is down.
-Need to install underfloor heating, can’t do that until the radiator goes in (yeah, double heat…..).
-Need to get the radiator in, can’t do that until there is another radiator or two ready to go in as the p;umber wants a full day’s work to do.
-Need to get other rooms plastered so we can fit rads, can’t do that until we finish insulating, plaster boarding, clearing out those rooms etc. etc. it goes on and on…

So basically, everything has a knock on effect and delay on everything else and it’s tricky when you only have weekends to work on it, and not very many of those free, so progress is slow. I guess when you tackle the whole house at once rather than do it room by room you have to be prepared to slum it and have patience.

Here are some progress shots of my new found grouting skills…

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Our poor, poor brickwork.

This is something I haven’t posted about until now as I’m still coming to terms with what actually happened to the front of our poor house. I’m totally ashamed and still kicking myself for being conned by a tradesman, and we’ve only just got to a point where I’m prepared to share it with the world. A big fat mistake is what it is.

Last year we dreamed of our house being restored to its former glory, inside and out.  In our minds it would no longer be the eyesore of the street; the flaking, faded red house nestled between its humiliated neighbours. Instead it and would sit proudly shoulder to shoulder with them in an exquisite sea of uniformly painted brickwork loveliness – it would be a dream.

But until then, the once painted bricks were just a big pile of gross. I was so excited to restore the bricks that I actually drafted a blog post well before we had it done. And that, I am convinced, is where I jinxed it.

So the story goes; we debated the best method to get the paint off the house so we could then repaint the bricks ourselves. We read up and researched, and found out about sandblasting. A bit cautious of the harshness of the process, we called a company, and the guy assured us that sandblasting to get the bricks prepared for painting was absolutely the right way to do it. He sent me case studies and invoices for big jobs in London, proof of test patches and happy customers. So convincing he was that I booked his guys in to carry out the day’s work. (Bearing in mind, at the time this was the very first time we had actually paid anyone else to do anything to our beloved house).

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I was out for dinner with a friend the day it all happened, a test patch had been carried out in the morning and we were happy with that. By the time they had finished that evening the light had faded outside and Si was called out to pay up. Giving it a once over in the dark it appeared to be a good job.  I sat through dinner excitedly talking about how I couldn’t wait to see it, but then as the evening drew on and Si stalked about outside with a torch, I began to receive a stream of increasingly frantic messages from him. They started with “It looks great”, then quickly progressed to “hmm, not as good as I thought, it looks different to the test patch”, and finally “Oh my God, I think they’ve f***ed our bricks”. Cheque please.

It was so dark by the time I got home that the full extent of what they’d done wasn’t fully comprehendible until we opened the curtains the next morning to see the bricks of the soldier arches above our windows had been worn down so badly that the pointing actually stuck out further than they did, like giant protruding knuckles. Not good. We ran outside in our dressing gowns and I just wanted to cry. I wanted to curl into a ball right there on the driveway, and cry my heart out.

For weeks my blood boiled, how could this man get away with this, how could we get payback, was there anywhere we could go for advice. A friend told us to just chalk it up as a bad experience and move on, and resentfully, that’s what we did.

A check over from a brick specialist confirmed our fears; the glazing had been completely removed from the bricks meaning there was nothing we could do other that have a special render put over them. We would never have our painted bricks, our dream. Whats more, without glazing they were completely open to frost, meaning the brick faces would break off even more than they already were over time. The specialist gave us a wistful look and suggested our only option would be to apply a render to the front of the house to protect the bricks. It definitely wasn’t cheap, but it seemed our only feasible option other than pebbledash.

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All that money we had saved by doing so much of the work ourselves in the beginning got instantly swallowed into rectifying something that shouldn’t have even been an issue. It was a dark time and the work to the brickwork alone has cost us soooo much.  Well, you can imagine why I haven’t wanted to reflect on that for some time.

We took the opportunity to at least rip out the horrible porch to try and make some good come of the situation, it at least looked a little less shitty without that. But still nonetheless pretty damn shitty.

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Anyway, moving on, we got in a company who our builder had worked with before (I will never again use someone who hasn’t been recommended), they use a special render called K-render which has a mixed in pigment so we shouldn’t need to paint it for 10 years. I wouldn’t say I’m in love with the colour- in certain light it almost takes on a radioactive green, and then in other lights it’s more of a warm yellow. I guess for the money and the pain I just wanted it to be perfect. It’s growing on me.

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As Si tells me, it is what it is. The moral of the story, never ever sand blast your bricks.

Tiling in progress.

Oh Happy (very belated) New Year!

I haven’t posted for an unforgivably long time, and it’s not that nothing’s been happening, rather that too much has been happening and I haven’t been able to keep up! So much for a Christmas wind down! Pfffft!

However, I have found something over the festive period that I’ve really enjoyed doing, and I’m seemingly pretty good at – tiling!  I’d been in some weird excitable state of trepidation in the build up to Christmas knowing that this was my big window of opportunity to make headway on the bathroom.

Heeding advice, I went with big tiles for ease – pah, no I didn’t, of course I didn’t – I thought I’d make it as difficult as I possibly could for my first attempt by choosing teensy little tiles, with a plan to cover every single bit of wall, floor to ceiling – a surface area of about 20 square metres, and on top of that I thought I’d do them brickbond and use charcoal grout – because I’ve seen it on Pinterest, and now it’s in my head, and I want it. Damn you Pinterest!  But really, how long could it take?

On the first day I spent so long measuring everything out, trying not to end up with slithers of tiles anywhere (taking into account that there are in fact six walls, so at six points tiles run into one another, two windows, a doorway, the bath and sink height to work around, and a hidden toilet cistern and bath panel to tile, so lots and lots of working out to avoid the dreaded slithers!).

I started laying it out on computer with all the elements in elevation, but soon found that things just aren’t that perfect, even if you have measured and checked a million times. So I ended up laying tiles and spacers on the floor, marking the breaks on a stick, and placing that around the room to gauge where the tiles would run to. All that you need to know is that there was a LOT of working out and procrastinating and in the end I just had to go for it, get something on the wall and hope and pray for the best.

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It’s taken me so far (and I’m probably 90% of the way there) 16 days of hard slog.  I’ve been completely engrossed with it, starting at 8am most days, to the point of having recurring dreams about doing it. It soon became like groundhog day, every day.  Don’t ask what takes so long, it just does, okay.  It feels well worth it though, it’s massively rewarding to see it coming together from what it was, pretty therapeutic to do whilst listening to Radio 2, and hey, I’ve learned a new skill and saved us a shed load of money in the process.

My first wall was a rather uneven scratch coat surface that I finally accepted at 6pm I had probably put the adhesive on way too thick so had to reluctantly pull all the tiles off again – that was really disheartening and took me two hours to get back to where I was (which didn’t look all that impressive anyway). So by the end of day one I had not even a square metre of tiles on the wall…but I was happy, I had at least got SOMETHING on the wall!

Fast forward a few weeks with a much needed break for Christmas in between and incredibly I’ve done all of this with a tiling starter kit which cost me £19.99, a scraper and ceramic file. Not even a hand saw.  I have a bad habit of just wanting to get stuck into the work and not stopping to think that maybe if I just bought that extra thing it would probably be a lot easier, and therefore, all of the tiles with the tap holes I have filed down BY HAND….and don’t my arms know it.

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I can’t say I’m 100% happy with absolutely everything, with so many horizontal and vertical staggered lines and spacers so close to your face it’s hard not to become blind to how level or straight you’re doing it all, until you look back after the adhesive has begun to set and kick yourself for not noticing something – and you can guarantee it’s in the worst place of all for it to not be right. I’m kind of anal to a point; there are a few areas that I’ve taken off and redone, but then after the first eight days I did away with the spirit level pretty much…which is very naughty indeed, but I had a need for speed. To be honest I’ve been really lucky (ahem, well planned) that I’ve not run into too many problems. There might be a 5mm drop where the walls finally come back round to meet each other…but if that’s the worst thing to happen then I’ve done pretty well considering how many spacings there are.

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Well I can’t wow you with a finished article as we as always have so much more to do; like cleaning the tiles, grouting and sealing them, laying the underfloor heating, tiling the floor (!!), finishing the window architraves (oh yeah, the new windows are in!), fitting a new toilet, shower…the list goes on. BUT the end does seem oh so very in sight for this little room – typical that it wasn’t our priority room at all but it has just worked out to be the first to get done! Eeeeep! A finished room almost, fancy that!  A SHOWER!! MAN ALIVE!!

You probably think I don’t want to tile again after this, but actually I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the kitchen when I can – thankfully that’s going to be a nice flat area with slightly larger tiles. Besides, I’ve got the floor in here to do next so I’ve got to stay chipper about it!

Side return update.

Systems have been all go this month. We had a week off to get on with a few of the bigger jobs, like beginning to insulate and plasterboard the ceilings downstairs, which I’ll post about soon, but it also gave us a chance to see some real change in the kitchen extension – EXCITEMENT!

To refresh your memory (and mine!) here’s where we were a few weeks ago….

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You can see below the two boarded up doorways that will lead back to the lounge and hallway, this has been about the extent of our security defences against burglars for the past few months (I lived in daily fear). The doorways will be simple plastered openings on both sides to create a feeling of openness without it being open plan as such.  It’s hard to envisage from the photographs how the space will work when you can’t walk though it and the floor’s at different levels, but the dream is coming to life!

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The electrics are all prepped to be connected up when we get some kitchen units fitted along this wall.  This is the new party wall we had oh so many dramas with. We originally had only two skylights in our building quote and plans, but we decided to plump for a third as we really want the space to be as airy as possible and carry as much light as it can in to the middle room, which is in danger of being quite dark. Hopefully by knocking the wall down between the two lounges through there it’ll be okay with light seeping in from both sides.

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Below are the openings at the end of the wall where the bi-fold doors and glazed fixed panel were to be installed. It’s been weird with it being open, but I think it’ll be even stranger once it’s all watertight and sealed again as we’ve gotten used to sort of living half outside, exposed to the elements! I wish that the bricks were in good nick so we could leave them, but the pebbledash has pretty much taken their facings with it when it was removed. We’ll go for a smoother render in the same cream colour to finish it off as it should look great against the anthracite door colour.

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Barry was working super hard to level off the floor with sand and cement before leaving it for a few days to set ready for the doors to arrive. The cats, Si, Me and Perry the other builder all managed to put our feet (and paws) into Barry’s hard work….oops!

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The door fitters arrived on a sunny afternoon to fit the bi-folds and fixed panel – it was so exciting to be home whilst they did this! We were in the lounge and kept peeking our heads in when we weren’t busy buckling under the weight of plasterboard – it’s quite a house full when you have six people working on different things!

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Et voila! They’re in! It’s all looking a bit of a patchy mess at the moment, but it’ll look great soon enough when it’s all rendered. You can just about make out three grey wires at head height that will become three outside lights – I’ve got my beady eye on some John Lewis ones that won’t break the bank too much.

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The countless times we’ve daydreamed about the first roast we’ll cook, the first time we’ll have guests round, the first bbq in summer with these door flung open – it’s nice to know that hopefully this time next year we’ll be in an almost finished home….and totally worth the pain of living on a building site for over a year and cooking on a camping stove for 6 months, I’m sure.

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We have a new downstairs toilet to be fitted, but unfortunately it had to go where it’s going, which essentially meant it would open straight out onto the kitchen – not ideal at all. After much deliberation and “shit, why did we bother putting it in at all, it’s ruined everything” moments, we decided to create an angled wall that obscured the view and also helped to phase in some high cupboards. The image below is the view back to the hall that you’ll get if sat at the kitchen island – no toilet door visible!

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So finally the boards have been removed, and for the first time we get to see the view from the front to the back of the house – exciting times!!!! The angled wall actually works really well, it obstructs the view just enough to hide the toilet, creates intrigue by not giving everything away at once, and angles you into the kitchen on the right when you walk through. I love to think that there is a solution to every problem…and I think we solved this one.

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So every morning since, I’ve tiptoed downstairs in my slippers and dressing gown and had a sort of ‘pinch me’ moment as I walk round and round the space beaming from ear to ear. I’m absolutely loving seeing this come to life and wouldn’t change living like this for the world.

Planning approved!

It’s approved, it’s approved! Finally…and breathe! The Planning Department have at last given us the thumbs up on our side return kitchen extension – halle-frickin-luja! It’s not been plain sailing and all smiles of course; an ill timed holiday by our builder when the planning officials gave us 48 hours to change the drawings, and an unexpected change to a brick wall that added a whopping 10% to the extension costs. But it’s done, signed off and all systems go again…well, until the window installation got delayed.

So here’s the story so far. I think the pictures speak for themselves, and to be honest I’m a bit at a loss of what to say about it anymore…it’s been going on so long with so many twists and turns…I’m over it!

I’m kidding, it still excites me…just about!

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Decorex International 2014

The interior design scene once again took centre stage during London Design Festival, and I thought it a good idea to take some time out from work to go for a nosey around a few of the shows. This year I visited Decorex; a show that covers the best of luxury design, in its new home of Syon Park near green and leafy Richmond. On a crisp and sunny Autumn morning it was just the ticket to start the day.

It was a pleasant change from the usual, larger trade shows I’m so used to; shows that feature more heavyweight international manufacturers and consist mainly of men in suits. Decorex was a welcome, much lighter feel altogether; full of predominantly blonde ladies chatting about fabrics and prints, with a peppering of well dressed men. I thought I’d feel slightly uncomfortable in this setting, but I wasn’t at all – maybe because I’m blonde and enjoy chatting about fabrics and prints. What I’m saying, is that it was a lot less snooty than I had imagined.

I simply loved what the show had to offer, and the fact that it wasn’t overly huge and exhausting to get around. I managed a pretty thorough walk through and was back on the shuttle bus to Richmond station just over an hour later. So here’s a download of what got my attention;

Le Deun Luminaires (made in Paris) caught my eye as soon as I walked in. These lighting fixtures are something I could see me speccing for work. I prefer the suspended Circle and Hexa to the wall mounted stuff. Check out their pieces at www.ledeun.com.

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Pinch were there (who I’d met previously whilst working on 100% Design). They have no less than 9 new pieces out this year, such as the Yves Desk pictured below. All of their work is refined and refined until they reach what they feel is perfection, with emphasis on materials, quality and finish. Their work is truly beautiful. See more at pinchdesign.com.

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Juliet Traver’s wallpapers and fabrics caught my attention because of the animals she features in them. I love, love, love animals, and hand drawn animals are a win in my book. Check out the rest of her Safari collection at www.juliettravers.com.

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Taking the largest stand at the show, I found this beautiful marble table by LAPICIDA, the stone specialist. I love the colours and gold base. See www.lapicida.com.

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I’m a real fan of monotone fabrics, so when I saw Cabbages and Rose’s collection I had to take note. Elegant, refined, and beautifully understated. They could as easily work in a chic period house as well as a country cottage. Check out www.cabbagesandroses.com.

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Lindsay Alker is inspired by the Arts & Crafts moveent, which is probably why I was drawn to her designs. Animals, geometrics and limited colours. See www.lindsayalker.com.

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Something I wouldn’t have thought to look for at a show, but Bella Pieroni’s dynamic drawings and paintings of the human form are beautiful and capture such a calming energy. See more at www.bellapieroni.com.

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Well, that’s just a snippet of what the show has to offer, I’ll be sure to go back next year.

I so wish sometimes that I designed luxury homes and hotels!

Watertight, that’s right!

Ok, yeah, we let our number one priority of getting the house watertight slip the net for eight months. With the view to sorting the flat roof at the back of the house ‘immediately’, somewhere in the middle of getting half a dozen roofers to see it and then chasing them to no avail, we lost our focus. To be honest, with all the good weather, we were only reminded that we must really get it done on the few occasions that it rained, and we got leaks in five places – precariously close to ceiling lights. We were fine, we had cups and buckets and towels. 

At the start of the good weather, Si gingerly made his way up onto the roof and took these shots (before bottling it on the descent, leaving me to coax him down like a scared cat from a tree). It would make an awesome G&T terrace up there (with balustrades of course), but at the moment we can’t stretch to that so we’re pretending the idea never entered our heads.

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The zinc roof itself was in fairly good condition, it’s not even that old, but the gentle angle and step on it weren’t allowing the water to run off effectively, hence the leaks. After a few suggestions of patching instead of replacing, or using a fibreglass GRP roof which we were keen on at first, but then heard a few horror stories, we settled on a good old fashioned felt roof. Si hasn’t found the courage to go back up to take shots of the new roof, and I don’t blame him. There haven’t been any leaks inside so we take it it’s been a success.

The neighbour’s roofer also notified us that the render around our chimney stacks is in need of some urgent repair, and one of the pots has succumbed to frost damage. So that’s yet another thing added to our shopping list for reclamation yards, and our builder’s ever accumulating job list. He’s doing very well out of us this month!

Anyway, it’s done, insulated and seemingly watertight, which has meant we can finally begin boarding up the back bedroom and bathroom, which for the last five months have looked like this undignified mess;

IMG_9195Our privacy went and dignity soon followed


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We’ve bricked up part of the left hand window in the bathroom as this will be above the new position for the sink. It gets pretty breezy in the bath when the temperature drops – rest assured it is boarded up, we’re not open to the elements completely.

We don’t have a sink in the bathroom now, and for a night we didn’t have a toilet either, we used a temporary one in the kitchen which is now so exposed it was like being outside. Si wasn’t quick enough to get a shot of that as they got one back upstairs for us the very next day, but funnily enough we both really liked it as it reminded us of the toilets on our honeymoon in Costa Rica.

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And now we have the roof on, we’ve started the process of boarding up the back bedroom that we dubbed the room of rot. It’s weird, although I’m super excited to see progress, I’m also a bit sad to see new additions covering all the old parts and history of the house.

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To continue our much needed streak of good luck, we finally got our planning permission approved after a three month delay. Apparently we’re lucky, an almost identical property nearby got theirs rejected the same week. It has of course not all been smiles – of course not, and the reason I haven’t done a post shouting it from the rooftops just yet, but I’ll do an update on progress soon.

On another note, the windows have been ordered and they are three weeks away from being fitted, and following that we can get the front of the house rendered and the bathroom finished. So after our three month delay, it finally seems like we might have a sudden flurry of progress – just in time for winter…and our morale!

The past few months have been pretty tough to say the least, living here isn’t so bad at all, but to see no progress besides our own efforts makes it quite hard not to think about the summer coming to an end and all the jobs still to do. Si as always has been a superstar, I just wish I could physically do as much as he does. I will pay my dues when it comes to the painting, tiling and finishing…and cleaning it for the rest of my life no doubt!