Monday, 29 March 2010

Steamy Windows

Things have been somewhat quieter in the house. The builders gone, for now (I miss you George) and the main focus is on finishing bits and bobs. I am fast learning that the real skill in renovation work is the detail... it requires far more patience, persistence and ability than any of this knocking down walls malarkey, therein lies the problem.
How hard can it be to wire in a spotlight, plumb a washing machine, wire up a cooker? Too damn hard that's how. So it is that we live with bare hanging cables, an ever increasing pile of washing (yes that is the smell you have all been wondering about) and a raw diet (which would be fine if it was vegetables and not digestives and dairy milk). I have, however succeeded in hanging some pictures in the bathroom (priorities straight see!).

In order to tackle these niggling issues, I choose the only option available to me, ignore them and find alternative distractions. Hence I have spent the last 3 days stripping wall-paper. The wallpaper in question looks innocent enough, pastel shades, floral design, shiny finish, but do not be deceived, with it's textured outer layer and uber thick lining, this is like no paper product I have ever come across. Yes wood chip, you should quake in its presence, you ain't got nothing on this bad boy. So it is, after 2 soaks with wall paper stripper, many many intensive steams from the steamer, hours of scraping with the brand new, oh so sharp, scraper it became a battle of wills, I would not be defeated by those pale pink flowers! The result a numb right arm, head to toe in mache like strips and still god damn paper on the walls. (I console myself that the manual labour is a good alternative to the gym which I no longer attend and the steam is a great substitute for the facials I can no longer afford!).

My other, slightly more dangerous past time is eBay. Friends have complimented my ability to pick up bargains on eBay, Freecycle, Preloved etc, however the truth is I have no other option. It is a simple equation, more cash available = less time and effort required. If I had spare funds I would indeed pop straight to John Lewis, but I don't, so to eBay I am bound and hours spent in front of my painfully slow laptop. EBay though, is dangerous, you have a spare minute, you have a little browse, something catches your eye and before you know it you have a miniature bath, too small for your bathroom or some french doors which may or may not fit into the intended wall.... and here they are. Pretty ain't they. (apologies for teeny tiny photo).

Bathroom planning is progressing, a few comedy visits from slick haired sales men who can barely conceal their racist, homophobic, sexist tendencies as they refer to the kitchen they designed for a gay couple (but they were lovely people!).
I have whipped up a mood board, I know what I want, alas it seems what I want isn't standard, so the question is, how to achieve kitchen of my dreams on budget of my nightmares... watch this space.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Never Ending Story

So, heeding the advice of all my renovating chums I am completing 1 room at a time, in order to see real progress, prevents losing all will to live apparently. I was very confident that the bedroom and bathroom were pretty much there, bar a little bit of snagging..... hmmmm snagging that just goes on and on and on and on...

Alas it is the small finishing jobs that really take the time and cause the most frustration. I have, in all honesty, painted the bathroom cupboards 5 times now, I have masking taped, touched up, re-masked, re touched up the edges until I can no longer see straight. HOW do you paint a window without getting paint on the handles? How do you beeswax right to the edges without marking the skirting? How do you stop the paint brushes from going manky, even after you have soaked them. These are life's big questions to which I will never know the answer!
I had been warned (many times) of the stress of a project like this, the strain on ones relationship, tempers would fray, arguments inevitable. But as the early 90's icon Sheryl Crow once said "No one said it would be easy, but no one said it would be this hard". A 6am wake up (body clock haywire) complete with hangover, things weren't off to a great start, 8am skip arrival, with nowhere to park didn't help, skip loading pre 9am... steadily milk for coffee - oooops, the final straw? A trip to Ikea, yup that should do it!
All we needed was curtains and a loo brush, how bad could it be....? Dear dear lord, 2 hours later with ear drums perforated from the sound of screaming children, we emerged, battle torn and barely able to look at each other, let alone speak. Still, we have curtains!

On my own personal going up and going down barometer.
Going Up:
Arrival of belongings post van Gate (sorry again Phil, see leather chair and lamp)
Small corner of the bedroom which I have styled (makes me very happy- see photo)
Curtains in bedroom (see photo)
Sofa's and a TV set up in the living room (Jeremy Kyle is accompanying me as I write)
Removal of skanky dust sheet that was red carpet in corridor, bare floor boards vast improvement
Bathroom very very pretty.

Going Down:
Quantity of mouse poo I found and swept up in under stairs cupboard. (No amount of naming the mice and pretending they pets will appease me with that scale of rodent guests)
Bath now leaking, dodgy washer or some such.
Shower head not working, lack of pressure.Still no actual lights fitted - loose wires and bare bulbs - industrial chic, yah?
Majority of house still squat like dust bowl.

Next stage, kitchen planning (and lots lots more snagging, obviously!)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Manic Monday

Now, much as I have grown to love the incessant feel and smell of dust and and thoroughly enjoy the company of the non English speaking builders, a girl can get too much of a good thing, and so, in a mad dash for freedom I headed north to see 'the family' (hear Peggy Mitchell). Alas, in the all absorbing world of home improvement no opportunity can be missed and so, after celebrating my Mum's 60th with some cupcake baking, a few days of country air and afternoon teas it was time for mission furniture....

Wonderful friends Debs and Phil very kindly lent us their beloved van to assist us on our mission and last Monday saw us up with the lark to set out on our mammoth day. . .

Step 1: Pack up and leave lovely, dust free, heated, cottage in the Lake District.
Step 2: Drive to Coach House Antiques. Now it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that my Mum is obsessed with this place and, thanks to her enthusiasm, so are my entire family, all her friends and the odd stranger who happens to cross her path. After years of admiring her purchases and having catalogues thrust down my neck today was the day I would finally visit the wholly land.. Obviously I was instructed to dress smartly for the auspicious occasion, sporting my best shoes and cleanest jeans clutching my Mum's membership card (semi religious institution, semi private members club) we arrived. I was not disappointed greeted by the enormous ornate mirrors and life size wall hanging silver angels I soon realised that this place is a veritable mecca of furniture. All your furniture desires in a fantastic range of styles for truly bargainous prices (it is trade only).

Obviously I am not yet worthy of the the real shop so I settled for the seconds outlet, entirely predictably, got totally carried away and within half an hour had a van full to bursting. Highlights including distressed leather wing back chair, dresser for the kitchen, and fantastic lamps a plenty.

Step 3: Collect second hand range cooker recently bought on Preloved, load up van.
Step 4: Drive 45mins to home of Mum and sister to collect various donated items - lamps, bedside tables etc, load up van.
Step 5: Drive an hour to Dad's to collect second hand washing machine, load up van.

Step 6: Set off back on the long long mission to London.

Despite the deafening rattle of all our new purchases in the van we were making very good progress. By 7pm we were optimistic that we could get home, unloaded, return the van and thank you gifts to its owner and be back for our first night in the squat by 10pm. When suddenly, as if from nowhere, as we cruised in the outside lane, totally without warning ans quiet as a mouse the van cut out... simple as that, just stopped working. (I am now thinking I didn't pay sufficient respects to the furniture Gods at Coach house).
We managed to glide over to the hard shoulder and stop safely, I assumed it was tired, a small rest and it would be right as rain... 1o minutes later, nothing, 15 minutes later after a chat with the transport police it was clear we needed to take action. The dreaded phone call to Phil... thankfully he was calm and even more thankfully a member of AA! After an hour freezing on the hard shoulder of the M11 whilst wagons zoomed past and shook the van and us to our core, we were picked up by the lovely AA man who towed us back to Stoke Newington. Wracked with guilt and full of apology we returned the now defunct van to await another AA man and a diagnosis.. fuel pump was the general assumption by one and all.

Eventually made it to the squat for our first nights sleep by midnight, exhausted, cold and guilt ridden. No radiator in the bedroom, no curtains and a window that won't shut, a kitchen with no cooker covered in 2 inches of dust, empty handed yet significantly poorer... welcome home!

I know what I like (in your wardrobe)

It's by Genesis don't you know!
As requested.... a couple of photo's to update. Full post to follow....

The auction wardrobe. Distressed bluey, grey in real life.

One of the (very) few existing features of the house, lovely original doors. We have had them stripped and I have just finished waxing this one with bees wax. Black floor also visible, alas not so shiny now covered in layers of dust. Radiator back in place, not quite working but hey, details, details.

Da daaa... bath in situ , the taps work and everything! (Alas same can't be said of shower at the mo).

Points of note note niches above bath, genius idea of Miro's. Just applied door handle - sourced from eBay, good replica of much much more expensive Victorian originals.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Guess who's back, back again

The boy returns. By popular demand. I'm back. Thanks for all the comments of support and for voting for me to return. I love you all.

Just a small blog posting today. My first experience at bidding at an Auction House. Brilliant. Just brilliant. So you go there, collect a number (lucky 83 as it happens) and then sit down and listen to the Auctioneer rattle through hundreds upon hundreds of items. The item I had my eyes on (lot number 589 for those that care) seemed to take an age to come round. Well over an hour. When it did, boy did I get a rush. The fastest 200 odd pounds I have ever spent....

Auctioneer - a distressed double door antique wardroom. Who will give me £150?
Si - Raises white number card in a trying to be cool discreet fashion.
Auctioneer - £160?
Other bidder - flick of the right index finger.
Auctioneer - £170?
Si - Slightly more panicked gesture.
Auctioneer - £180?
Other bidder - flick of the right index finger.
Auctioneer - £190
Si - another raise of the white card.
Auctioneer - £200
Starting to get annoying other bidder - gesture
Auctioneer - £220
Si - desperately fast raise of bidding card
Auctioneer - At the back of the room at £220. Any more on £220............ Sold to the gentleman at the back.
Si - yikes. Holds up number 83 card.

And that folks is how we became the owner of an amazing wardrobe. Disco. Photo to follow....

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Back to Black

Firstly may I apologise for the delay in posts, as warned by many house doer-uppers, the doing leaves very little time for anything else (eating, sleeping) let alone writing!

It has been a big week in the world of the house. Having left the world of full time employment I envisaged, relaxing lunches, trips to galleries, personal admin and obviously a couple of hours of painting here and there. Oh no, no, no.... Only now do I really understand the meaning of hard work.

After daily 12 hour stints I have hands tattooed with a combination of wax and expanding foam (gloves Sarah gloves!), repetitive strain injury from excessive roller usage and the smell of varnish permanently imprinted on my nasal passages (mask Sarah mask). I no longer have a social life and even when I have met friends for a brief hello I have no brain capacity to make conversation, unless it is about the best method for filling cracks in floor boards or some such!
But there has been progress... real progress. Having battled with the scarlet red carpet, floral lino and brown paint in the main bedroom we discovered some floor boards in pretty good nick. After warning of the perils of sanding and knowing I wanted to paint them we took the CRAZY step of deciding not to sand (I hear your gasps of horror, bare floorboards, unsanded, are you mad?!). Yes mad I tell you, mad. Step 1 undercoat, step 2 second layer of undercoat, step 3 paint mat black (realise that step 3 was an error, basically left with a dust magnet blackboard for a floor), step 4 paint gooey think satin wood black. Result beautiful shiny floor boards.

The bathroom tiles were finished, but as that well known Sarah saying goes, every silver lining has a cloud and the tiles (my foreseen pride and joy) were no exception. Everyone knows the key to a metro tile is their uniformity and straight lines. As we have built the bathroom from scratch we have new walls - straight, new skirting - straight, existing floor - wonky. Hence we are left with an uneven finish at the top of the walls. We have discussed many solutions and well, there aren't any. So we are left with only one option, we will all turn a blind eye and whenever any of you visit you will tell me very convincingly that you really can't notice.

This week I have trapsed London for over 6 house straight with Miro the builder and his van from one merchants to the next to source plaster board, skirting's, doors and windows. I have painted 2 rooms a bright sparkling white, and one bathroom a deep rich grey, I have sanded and waxed, I have scraped, rolled and varnished, bled and removed radiators, stripped 4 doors and one banister. I have consumed Yorkshire tea and digestives as though my life depended on it.

I now declare myself to be full time builders mate!