Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Show Must Go On

By now I had fully intended to wow you, and myself, with photos of the beautiful, style haven that is my finished home. But, erm, well, almost.

As I write I am surrounded by spare lengths of coving that adorn the living room floor (where else can you put strips of delicate plaster over 8ft long?), rolls of insulation hanging out in the hall way, boxes and boxes of books and CD's still not even unpacked.

Now, I wouldn't like you to think this is due to lack of effort. On the contrary every spare moment has been spent jay-cloth in hand, Mr Muscle my trusty companion as I wade through the many many layers of dust. Fact remains, it takes a good 12 hours (without breaks - well the quick check of face-book aside) to clean one room.

That is only for the cleaning, let alone the ever expanding snagging list... put felt on the roof of the shed, fit the left-over pane of glass and hang the door in the kitchen, paint the window seat, paint the kitchen floor, paint the downstairs loo, touch up the marks in the newly painted hall-way, entirely re-paint the dining space, hang curtain pole and curtain in kitchen, hang curtain in bedroom, get curtains made for living room.......

I could go on, but I won't. Sufficed to say, life is one long list of non completed tasks. The more time passes the longer the list gets when the jobs you have previously completed need re-doing.

I am beginning to realise that this is the joy of home-owning. All that aside the house is looking great!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

When I'm Cleaning Windows

Something is not quite right.... an eery silence has descended. Where is my 7am wake up knock, accompanied by coughing, spluttering and (undoubtedly) swearing in Polish? Where are the endless mugs that litter every room with half drunk cups of coffee? Where the industrial saw in the kitchen?

That's right kids, the builders have gone and I am left feeling strangely bereft! After such a constant presence in my life for 9 months, it feels odd to have the house back, when I say back, I never had it to be begin with. Somehow it always felt more like their house than mine, forever apologising for getting in their way, mortified when we ran out of milk (which they drank!).

Still one door closes and another opens, my brief feeling of emptiness has been swiftly replaced by an even more demanding presence, the dust!
Since buying the house we have lived in a temporary stylee, belongings in boxes, ignoring rooms and allowing the dust to accumulate. I am now faced with actually moving in and cleaning up and oh my lord what a mammoth task it is!

Keen as mustard, on Sunday morning I set too, I had committed the whole day to the task....(jealous?!) Surely enough to conquer 3 rooms at the very least. After wandering aimlessly debating exactly where/ how to start this ludicrous task I opted for the kitchen. Gloves on, Mr Muscle in hand I was ready for anything.

2 hours later, 3 cupboards cleaned, 4 hours later, approximately a quarter done. It was at this stage I really began to wish we had packed everything neatly into storage. .. 6 hours later, I hit the half way mark and began to loose the will to live. But I would not be beaten, so it was that 12, read them, 12 hours of solid cleaning later, I finally had a clean kitchen...

So, only the rest of the house to go.... then there's the decorating!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Under Pressure

Apologies for the delay in posting, this is due to having no internet, or living room, or kitchen for that matter...

I honestly thought we were past all this. It is with some horror I come home to find my toilet in the middle of the kitchen, a large mechanical saw operating in the hallway and the entire contents of my living room piled up willy nilly at one end whilst poisonous chemicals and sanding happen on the floor.. No care has been taken with my possessions, no consideration that the walls their tools are marking have cost us ALOT in time and money, no thought at all for the fact that we still live in this building site.

Oh, and guess what? Another major problem. When recently fixing the guttering they discovered many cracks in the wall of our roof – basically resulting in damp down one side of the house. As ever, it’s all fixable but will cost more money and more time living in squalor.

It’s not to say I don’t enjoy the convenience of having all my possessions in one room and sure it keeps life interesting. The slalam to the loo in the middle of the night to avoid tripping over drawers, desks, bookcases and lamps which litter the bedroom, the simplicity of wearing the same outfit for weeks on end because you can’t actually access your wardrobe. Oh yes, there are pros, but right now I just want to shout, I’m not a celebrity but please get me out of here!

To add insult to actual injury my relationship with the builder has become somewhat fraught. Not dissimilar to a married couple we are bicker, alot. Not full on arguements just general annoyance at being constantly under each others feet. Me with my annoying questions and constantly pointing out faults, him with his inability to finish one job before moving onto the next.
It all boils down to one simple fact, enough is enough. It needs to be finished... and soon!

Monday, 15 November 2010

2 steps back

I think it is the nature of the beast, at least I hope it is, but it really does seem that every step forward you take 2 steps back.

Re-decorating the bathroom, uncovers problems with the plumbing, installing coving reveals an alarming damp patch on the wall. All, might I add, problems caused by the last set of builders.

For some reason the building work this time round has been particularly painful, maybe because I have been around more, maybe because the end is in sight - so close yet so far, maybe because they are doing the hall way and landing, literally no way of avoiding them. You can't shut the door, you can't disappear upstairs or into the kitchen, they are everywhere, so too the layers of dust and coffee puddles that accompany them.

There is progress, I mean we have walls - smooth white ones, ceilings, smooth white ones, cupboards, apparently not so smooth, as informed by builder who told me I needed to re-sand them after an entire weekend of painting undercoat. What? seriously, who has the time for this! But the progress feel slow, so so slow, when all patience has escaped you and you just want to wash the dust out of your hair once and for all.

This week brings with it a milestone, this week we say goodbye to 'the crack'. Once a blight on our landscape, a horrid disfigurement representing the overall dilapidation. We discovered the crack in the very first weeks, it brought horror and despair. But over time, we have grown to accept the crack, just a little idiosyncrasy that makes a house a home. Soon it will be gone, forever (we hope!), so here we commemorate its being.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

A Whiter Shade Of Pale

I have been somewhat lax on updates and this certainly isn't due to lack of progress. On the contrary, my dear friends, we have moved the woeful dread of eternally living in a dusty squat with no ceilings or plaster on the walls to seeing real light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

I cannot tell you the sheer joy of walking onto the landing and seeing a white, smooth wall. Yes it is just a small section of wall and the rest is still bare plaster/ huge crack which has not yet been fixed, but there is some white and that makes me happy.

A small summary of recent works:
1. Rip down ceilings in hall way, landing and bedroom
2. Remove all plaster from said walls (levels of dust such that had to leave the house or risk asphyxiation!)
3. Remove existing architrave and skirting board
4. Apply some kind of tape thing which apparently stops cracks from appearing in future (no idea what it is, a Polish thing I think).
5. Apply new plaster board to ceilings
6. Apply plaster to ceilings
7. Apply plaster to walls
8. Install new veluxe window in roof (much anguish over how/ where etc.)
9. Sand all plaster - repeatedly (more dust)
10. Install fireplace in bedroom
11. Build shelves and cupboards in bedroom alcoves
12. Build floor to ceiling cupboard in hallway (currently an eye-sore, am confident will come good and be very effective use of space)
13. Move ugly gas pipe and box in gas meter previous placed in the middle of the hallway.

The end.... so far, watch this space.....

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Window Song

Oh what a fun week it's been. The timing of things truly impeccable, I am between jobs, my house mate is off sick and this is when the builders come in and literally knock the S**# out of the place. The dust is incomprehensible, the noise of bricks and glass smashing all around me quite alarming and the cold generated through having no ceilings just as autumn descends unbearable.

But, on a positive note, there has been progress. The majority of the deconstruction is over (I HOPE!), they have done a layer of bonding and plaster, along with installing a new ceiling in the spare room and we have a new velux window in the landing.

Installation of said velux caused quite a flurry of excitement,
1. Where should it be positioned (ermmmm, there? Points sheepishly to what looks like the centre of the beams). 2. How should the ceiling around it be built? Should the ceiling follow the shape of the roof up, slanting up and slanting back down again? - great for light but could look weird. Should it slant up and come down in a straight line? - could look better but not as good for light. Should it be boxed in, within its own little tunnel? - kind of what was there before and what was the point of replacing it?
Emergency Saturday morning breakfast meeting involving entire household, full team of builders, google images for reference and Dad on conference call and I think we have a solution. It will be boxed in but with a significant gap around it, therefore preventing lack of light.

This will either make no sense, or will seem like an obvious decision but it's at times like these when I wish I had an architect on hand or some experience to help me on my way.

It will come as no surprise, we've heard it all before, but sometimes renovating can be really hard work. The relentless dust, the endless list of chores, the constant presence of builders in your house, the zapping of money you don't really have to spend, the endless decisions you don't feel qualified to make. Maybe it's the full moon, maybe it's the impending winter and need for a holiday.
Maybe I should just shut up and paint my door!

Monday, 18 October 2010


They are back.... Oh hell-yeah they are back!!

I left the house this morning and I had ceilings... now, I don't.

It is something of an emotional roller coaster this renovation malarkey.
First time round, it was somewhat like a game, even the money felt more monopoly than real. Why else would you handover literally thousands of your hard earned cash on a daily/ hourly basis, surely that couldn't be real money? The house was so entirely revolting I cared not a jot to see it being knocked into oblivion, I had no emotional attachment and it was all just so new and exciting.

This time round... hmmmm not so much.
I have grown rather fond of the place, hours of blood, sweat and actual tears and yes, every penny I own. So to see it butchered in this way is somewhat upsetting. I am aware that the hallway still looked like a squat dwelling and the ceilings are covered in polystyrene tiles, but, at least they were ceilings!!!!

Yet, and yet, I am in equal measure, filled with amused glee. How fascinating to look up and see the roof, how amazing to know how all the cabling works beneath your satisfying to know that you are taking a house back to its bones and putting it back together piece by little piece.

But wait... the carpet has gone, the last remaining relic from the previous owners....tragic!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Singing In The Rain

The seasonal down pours with which we have recently been blessed brought more than the usual frizzy hair, what shoes to wear issues.

Two painful realities have emerged. 1. We have bought an old, decrepit house, as with all houses of this vintage (decrepit) it is going to be eternally fraught with problems.
2. Our first set of builders were, it now emerges, cowboys.
How do we know these facts?

1. During one particularly heavy down-poor, I heard what could only be described as a river flowing outside the window. It was, in fact, a river. The guttering is literally hanging off the wall, therefore neither use nor ornament. It will need entirely replacing.

Having un-blocked the fireplace, I was under the illusion that it would be a little sweep of the chimney and all systems go, toasting marshmallows with Silent Night in the background and the tree in the corner (it would also be snowing and we would be in the Cotswold's not Hackney). So the chimney sweep arrived, 6.45am, 2 loud, cock-e-neys (Dick Van Dyke and a small child that went scurrying up the chimney in his flat cap). Delighted in showing us the brush sticking out of the top of the chimney, delighted even more by informing us that the cost of getting said fire working would be £1700. Marshmallow over a candle anyone?

2. The downstairs loo, fitted by building team number 1 leaks. I don't mean from the loo (although that too has been plumbed illegally!) or sink even. No, no, it leaks through the wall. The ground water from outside is seeping in through the wall and soaking the floor - nice! To be honest, the downstairs loo is a disaster, a botch job, I hate it and would like to pull the thing down and start again.

But folks, you live and learn - on we go!

The countdown has begun until the return of the builders. Ah how I longingly await the dust in the hair, coffee all over the worktop and 24/7 demanding phone calls. So before it is gone forever, I thought it only fair to show the hallways and ceiling as we currently know and love them. (the carpet will stay - OBVIOUSLY!)

The coving has been bought, radiator search on, the door is making great progress. I am still faced with a couple of serious issues to resolve.

1. Lighting - Current thoughts are repeated non statement lights in downstairs hallway with one statement light over stairs. However, having recently snooped on house down the street with a statement light on entry, I may be changing my mind.
Budget for lighting, is, well nil. Therefore I am trying be creative, I recently saw the lights above in a shop window and think a smaller version may work. Also considering something imaginative with clusters of vintage light-shades. Thoughts?

2. Colour - see shades of grey above that have been on the wall for about 4 months, obviously it has always been intended to be grey. However, something has happened to me, I do have a bit of a temperature so it may pass, surely just a little glitch in sense, but.... I think I might be going for... wait for it.... stop me if you will... yes I may have lost my mind...... WHITE.
There, I said it.

Saturday, 25 September 2010


The current phase chez house is all about preparation. The builders make their long awaited return in a couple of weeks for the next (and hopefully last, whoop whoop) building phase. Having learned from previous encounters the plan is to get all our ducks in a row in preparation for the onslaught.

Today's mission, coving. This took us back to my favourite DIY store in archway, I honestly love that place. The sheer variety of paints, varnishes, tools and tiles, the hundreds of staff (mostly called Dave) who really do know what they are talking about, the way they give you 10% off everything to make you think you have scored a bargain, it truly is a renovators paradise! Coving ordered - check.

Meanwhile the door work continues. Stripping was completed thanks to purchase of a blow torch, a genius little tool which has now leapt straight to the top of my 'what's hot' in DIY tools list. Sorry nitramors you have been way surpassed, this bad boy achieves in minutes what would take you hours - Fact! Undercoat applied, door furniture purchased, just the wood filling, more sanding, glass fitting and final paint job to go. Yup definitely worth buying a second hand door then, thousands spent in man hours alone on that bad boy! Colour has been discussed, black has been considered, I even paid it lip service for a while there, yes it's classic, yup timeless, yup goes with any other colours. But, let's be honest here, it just isn't grey.

Debate has also ensued on the colour of the exterior plasterwork. Although a fan of the classic white, it won't shock you to hear that I am inexplicably drawn to houses who have painted their exteriors a dark shade of grey. See photos, I am torn, this is clearly a trend which will date relatively fast and may soon look tacky? We have done the exterior window as an experiment. Opinions welcome....

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Knocking On Heaven's Door

The garden is proving to be a real success. Due to absolute lack of knowledge or skill we are taking the best route available, total avoidance, which basically means that no end of dull tasks are being completed. Shelves in under-stairs cupboard built with paints and DIY materials neatly stored - check, plug sockets hanging loose in bedroom for last 6 months installed - check, mismatching light switches replaced - check; patchy paint work that needs touching up - check; progress on garden...... hmmmmm.

My personal distraction is project front door. My recent smug satisfaction at the purchase of 3 reclaimed doors is fading fast. Yes I knew they would need a little TLC, but a little TLC has become ALOT of work, and I am only on stage 1 of door number 1. Stage 1 = paint stripping, a couple of hours I thought - a couple of weeks more like.

Nitramors, disgusting chemical that it is, is one of my favourite DIY products. Amazing to watch the paint squirm and bubble under its toxic power and so satisfying to peal off multiple layers in one go. But this door...Layer upon layer upon layer of primer, matt, gloss, this door has seen many incarnations - its blue period was a highlight, the brown not so much, I wonder how it will feel about it's new life in grey, if we ever damn well get there. It has literally become a battle of wills, I have dealt with damp, animal infestations, crumbling walls and rotten beams, I will not, cannot be beaten by a door!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Dry Bones

Firstly my I apologise for my absence, I know this must have left a glaring emptiness in your lives for a while there.. but fear not... I am back, the house is in one piece (mostly) and the rennovations continue.

You will be pleased to hear I have not been wasting my time indulging in summer revlery (much), oh no, faithful as ever to my cause I have been attending a course on interiors styling. Oh yessir plans, mood boards and cuttings galore a legitimate excuse to sit round and discuss the merits of grey with people who actually care!! It has only increased my love of all things interior and the desire to somehow get paid for my relentless enthusiasm.

Progress in the house has been slower of late, part inundation of numerous guests, part (mostly) lack of funds. It's an expensive business this renovation lark and much as I would plow on relentlessly I am lucky enough to be surrounded by wiser folk who remind me that beautiful tables and lights are all well and good but you do need food and electricity to accompany them!

Still, manual labour costs nothing and so it is we set too on the garden. My house skills may be ammateur, my gardenning skills are zilch! Some things are obvious, the current placement of enormous metal shed in the only spot that gets sun all day might not be ideal? The crazy paving looks shabby (not in a chic way) and the oversized beds full of weeds need some attention, that's where the knowledge ends!

Thanks to hints and tips from green thumbed family members we know what we are aiming for, simplicity and low maintenance being the central themes, we now just need to figure out how in God's name to do it! Preliminary efforts have been valiant, the boy ripped down the ugly shed and filled skip number 5 in record time. We have dug, ripped down rotten fencing, moved soil, removed literally panes and panes of glass and litter.

Along the way I uncovered a sufficient number of bones (yes bones)burried in the garden to leave me convinced that I may well have bought the house of a murderer (the boy insists the bones are not big enough to be human, but still.... gagtastic!). The results of our back breaking labour.... a large patch of sand and rubble!

Current debates - decking versus stone, grass versus paving, shed in the garden or round the side... As well I know, there is nothing like learning on the job, watch this space... it could be interesting!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Green Door!

Yeah managed to get in the legend that is Shakey!

Delighted with today's random discovery.

On the weekly trip to Screwfix and B&Q spotted a rather nice front door outside a run down old shop. On closer inspection turns out the owner is the 'Daddy of doors'. Clearly he has found them in various skips, or from builders pulling them out of houses but another mans trash and all that.

So some quick measuring and a trip to his yard later we are now the proud owners of some new old doors and some rather beautiful locks. We are in desperate need of a new front and 2 internals, the locks not entirely necessary, but lovely to look at. Relatively speaking a bargain, a lock that would set you back £40 at The Architectural Forum for £8. They may need a bit of love but, I got alot of love to give. Oh I love a spot of reclamation, made my weekend!

Friday, 16 July 2010