Hatfield House – the best ceilings in the world ever…

This week I was near London with the eldest child whilst she was performing as part of the Hatfield Chamber Music Festival.  We had an hour free afterwards, and although this was not much time at all, it seemed madness not to go into the house and have a peep.

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Hatfield House is the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family. The Estate has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. Superb examples of Jacobean craftsmanship can be seen throughout the House. I got very over-excited looking at the wonderful portraits, all of my history lessons at school, (and I was a bit obsessed with the Tudors), came to life again as names and faces appeared.

 

 

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It is an iconic building in British architectural history.  Thousands of hand thrown bricks in red clay, and a lot of glass leaded windows.  The turrets are also very similar in style to Hampton Court and the Tower of London.  It is also famed for its beautiful knot gardens and parkland:

But is THE CEILINGS which amazed me.  The most ornate plaster work, pargetting, gilding, embellishment and decoration is pretty much in every main room of the house.

The house is a perfect example of layering throughout time.  Jacobean tapestries, Renaissance art, victorian gilding.  It is a total overload, but it works.  It was nice to see a house which the Georgians had not ‘modernized’ as was their habit.

I really recommend this house to visit, and I shall be going back for a full day to take in everything in more detail.  Even the stable blocks have been restored with a lovely restaurant and boutiques, (eyes were on the Interiors Shop there but I ran out of time).

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An evening event at Anthropologie

anthropologieI will be at the Anthropologie store in Bath this week on 22nd September, where there is an event showcasing Bath design businesses, ranging from food to drink to decorating to arty crafts.  There is also late night shopping, a glass of fizz, plus food and drink tasters.

I teach art and craft courses through The Workshop Cabin, and we will be highlighting what craft activities and sessions will be coming up in the autumn and spring. There are some great ideas, like workshops for Hen parties who often come to Bath, where they can make table decorations and wedding favours for the Big Day whilst sipping some Prosecco, (always a plus!).  Plus there are courses in paperwork, plaster, sculpture, photography, wood carving and more.

The Workshop Cabin is also offering new event design services for any size of gatherings; weddings, parties, special occasions, dinners and so on.

Tickets are available here which are reedemable against any store spend over £20.

 

My best bargain purchases…

Or, Thank You to charity shops and modern house builders…

As summer slows to a halt and I start moving indoors more, I have started to cast the eye over the house once more.  You know the drill… time to start tweaking and changing and improving.

I have had a bit of a purge recently of overflowing cupboards, and whilst doing it I noticed that a lot of my furniture and household items are bargains bagged from charity shops, auctions and even the odd skip.  Not a lot is new at all, not that I would not love to go on a splurge in some of my favourite shops.

Most items of furniture that I have found have been mainly tall or long, and lingering in junk shops.  We have very high ceilings in our house, so the taller pieces of furniture fit brilliantly and most people cannot fit them into their modern homes.  As long as the basic shape of a piece is good, then it is amazing what some paints effects or a refurbishment can create.  My friend Gaby has the best comment for when a bargain priced item is found, she says “it would be rude not to…”.  Therefore in the politest fashion I can justify snapping things up.

This very tall Victorian glazed mahogany cabinet came from a Charity shop.  No-one else wanted it as it is a whopping 10 feet tall.  I backed the inside of the cupboard with some printed burlap that I had left over from an upholstery project, and it was ready to use.  Total cost £90

In the hallway, this orange-toned pine sideboard was very large and lingering in another charity shop.  A dash of Annie Sloane graphite chalk paint that I already had, and it was transformed.  Total Cost: £80

Whilst at the same shop, I also snapped up this large mirror for just £10, a lick of paint transformed it:

This armoire came from the same charity shop as the tall glazed mahogany cabinet.  A makeover with some leftover chalk paint, and a beautiful wallpaper in the panels turned it into a real gem.  Cost: £40 for the cupboard and £42 for the wallpaper on sale down from £90, (costly wallpaper, but I loved it!).  So a total of £82.

A chair destined for the bonfire was overhauled with leftover paint, braid and upholstery tacks.  Total cost: £10

This tall glazed painted cabinet was found at an auction house.  I left a bid with the auctioneer as I could not stay to watch the auction, assuming that I would not get it.  Amazingly, (and probably as again it is a very tall piece), I won it.  I use it to store all of my arty crafy bits and pieces.  It was already painted in a colour very similar to other items in my house, so I did not have to do a thing to it.  £40 in total, brilliant!

These are only some of the projects that I have done in the house.  If I had more space I would keep going as I do love storage cupboards, but there is not really a free inch of room anywhere.  So for all of the above, it cost just £312 and some elbow grease.

However… there are other things to get as bargains apart from cabinets that I can fit/squeeze into the house!  This weeks bargain has just occurred with just a simple click on ebay, and I am massively excited as I have been coveting these style of chairs for yonks.  They are lightweight chairs, made from cane and in the Chippendale style.  Jonathan Adler does them for a whopping £695 each for the armless versions, and I have been searching for cheaper options for a good year.  However, they are all very expenisve and also hard to source.

So for the total sum of £145, I have managed to get hold of 6 chairs, which when painted should look great.  I currently have Georgian chairs from my grandparents house in the dining room, for some reason I was given mainly carvers and they are really heavy and dark. They also trap people’s fingers when we have up to 12 for lunch at Christmas and we have to jam every one in around a larger table.

 

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It would be bad to paint them as they are good antiques, so I am going to pass them onto other family members to enjoy.

Here are what is turning up tomorrow, I love the ogee style shape to the tops.  They just need some cushions and paint and they should look fantastic.  More to follow….

Meis – Colour, colour and more colour

I have been away to the Lycian Coast this month, and whilst based in Turkey, I took a trip over to Meis, the easternmost Greek Islands.  It lies just off the coast of Turkey from Kaş , and I had been recommended to visit by local people where I was staying.

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Meis is knows as such by the Turkish, whilst the Greeks call it Kasterllorizo or Megisti.  This is the most beautiful little island.  The ferry only takes about 20 minutes to get there from Kas, and it is like being transported in a time warp to another place.  It also has the smallest duty free I have ever seen:

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As the boat approaches the harbour, the main town area comes into sight.

All of the houses are painted the most beautiful colours, like sugared almonds.  Inhabitants are not allowed cars, not that there is anywhere to go in them, and there is one taxi who seems to go round the island in circles a lot. I also met a few Australians, with Greek heritage from the island, who are known as ‘Kazzies’, and who have returned to live in this beautiful place.  What a homeland to have….

I pottered around and took a lot of photos, many of the houses are being restored by descendants of the original families.  Others are just waiting for their turn… Continue reading

Removing Garden Decking…

Or, where big spiders really live…

When we moved to our current house, the prior owner had been a bit of a gardening wizard.  She even opened the garden to the public in the National Garden Scheme whereby money is raised for charity by allowing the public into homeowners private gardens.  No pressure then to try and keep up her good works!

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Fast forward a few years, and I think the garden is not quite what it was – although I do try hard to keep it up.  One area especially had become very tatty, some decking next to the house.  England is just not a good place to have wood as flooring outside; there is just too much water and damp, and it becomes slippery, green and needs a lot of TLC.  So for a few years I have dutifully stripped it back and re-oiled it each year, but even that did not really help it survive.  It started bowing and felt quite unsafe, so the joists below had definitely started to rot.

Here it is already looking quite tired:

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Before & After: The house renovation is complete.

Finally, it is done….

For those who have noticed a somewhat silent blog recently, I do have a very valid reason as I have been slogging away 7 days a week over the last couple of months to get this house completed.  My life has been consumed by this project, but I now it is done I think I have enjoyed it…(?!)

I have learnt many new things; how to fit door architraves and skirting, mix plaster, fix windows, mitre corners properly and much more.  I think I have used about 125 litres of white emulsion, and got a sort of snow-blindness by the end of it.  My hands are like a workman’s, and I am exhausted and have spent hours in builders yards and sourcing things online to get the best prices  But it has been worth it, and I am on budget which is a miracle…

In the middle of the job my builders’ firm went bust, which could have been a total disaster and left me up the creek without a paddle so to speak, but we managed to muddle through and finish the renovation.  My builders honoured the contract and worked extra hours unpaid to finish the job, so someone up there was watching out for me I think!  It meant a 3 week delay on the build, and that I had to learn lots of new skills pronto, but circumstances meant that I just had to forge on.

Here come the before, mid-point and after pictures…..

The facade of the house…. from grubby magnolia to zingy blue… I got over vertigo on that scaffolding after a couple of days, and it was a lovely view…

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The garden…. from rubbish dump to a much more elegant space…

The once small and festering loo… now a wall has been moved to create a spacious shower room…

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A large curved shower

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Simple clean lines

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Children’s Art Week

In-between the ongoing house renovation, I nipped up to London for a week to run an Arts Week for  the KS1 classes in a school.  The children were aged 4-7, and I had 270 of them over a week to create 3 large pieces that could be kept on permanent exhibition in the school.  This seems to have become an annual event, and although it is the most hectic and pressured timescale, I absolutely LOVE doing it.  The only downside is the amount of stooping I have to do to get down to their level, plus trying not to touch heads in case I catch nits.  So far no nits, and Pilates sorted out my aching back and knees.

Artwork 1:

This was done by 90 children in Year 2 (ages 6-7) over one and half days.  They were staggered into groups of 6 throughout their allocated times.  We took the artist Paul Klee as a starting point, and looked at his landscapes.  I love his little villages and towns.  We showed the children his work, talked about his art, and we broke down his style into a series of shapes and perspective tricks so they could get inspired to create.

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The children started by hand printing miles of coloured paper and card with patterns in acrylic paint.  These were then cut up into various sized rectangles, squares, triangles and semi circles.  A huge MDF board was primed, and a basic sky painted and sponged onto it.

The fun then began when we got the children to work out a staggered townscape.  They had to think about perspective, layering, scale and so on, and work from the back of the town forward as they created a collage of the shapes.  Finally they added embellishments with inks and created line drawings on top to enhance the details of the buildings.

Finally the piece looked like this, brilliant and colourful, the children named it ‘City of Lights’.

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Artwork 2:

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House Renovation Diary Part 3

The renovation continues.  We are more than half way now, with a final push this next month to get it all done. The garden is landscaped and fenced, the kitchen is being fitted, the shower room is half in and tiled, and the bathroom awaits its turn this week.  My hands look appalling, all nails broken, with sugar soap having seeped into my gloves so they have puckered alarmingly.  I am getting through mountains of hand cream to try and repair the damage.

Main receptions and bedrooms are now mainly painted on newly plastered walls and ceilings, I am waiting to do most woodwork like skirting and architraves until the builders are out as the dust is chaotic. New doors are primed, painted and hung.  The main stairwell which winds up through the house has been lined and painted.  We only have two more walls to be plastered in a hallway and a bathroom.  The final job will be laying the flooring throughout.  It has been a 7 day a week job for me, and I am shattered, but I can see the end now.

So, here are some things I have learnt over the past couple of weeks:

  • Plaster can take a long time to dry when you want it to.
  • Plasterers are the MESSIEST people, although the walls and ceilings they work on are smooth perfection, the rest of the room, (especially the floors), look like a plaster bomb has gone off.  I have spent many hours scraping dried hunks off floorboards, windows, skirting and doors.  After some chatting up, I persuaded the plasterers to clean up as they went, but only after we were 6 rooms into the project…
  • When re-plastering walls, you might as well replace all skirting and architrave as the plasterers are also vandals who yank the existing ones off, cracking them in the process.  I have extra hours to do now repairing the damage.
  • New plaster also drinks paint, even with mist coats.  My initial estimate of 30 litres for the whole building is now at 90.  Luckily I have discovered Leyland’s acrylic based emulsion which is a one coat wonder, or I could be into the hundreds in terms of litres.
  • Always make friends with the Builders Yard staff.  I have managed to snitch a couple of free deliveries already, and they are experts at getting me in more paint from the manufacturers pronto when I clear their stock!
  • Chose water based satinwood for spindles and architraves, and oil based satinwood for doors and skirting.  The latter take the hardest knocks so need the 16 hour dry time, whilst the former can take the 4 hour version and get re-coated faster.
  • Builders thrive on a lot of tea, Krispy Creme Donuts and praise.  Apart from one errant Electrician who has vanished on a stag week to Bulgaria, mine are all pretty much present and correct.  We did have a few days to wait on wet plaster, but otherwise they have been pretty good so far.  The electrician returns this week, hopefully not with shaking hands from too much partying as he finishes the 2nd fix.
  • Always make sure you lock your ladders, I have had a couple of spectacular tumbles so far.  The worst day however was when my mum appeared to help paint and slid to the floor as the steps buckled under her.  The guilt was unbelievable, but she was OK if not a bit shaken.
  • Following on from that, invest in a small platform.  Much more comfy than balancing on a step ladder.
  • Invest in a strong metal extending pole for rollers.  Some of the ceilings in this house are 12 foot and the stairwells up to 20 feet, and the pole makes painting a breeze.

Here are some more in progress pictures, remember the crappy garden full of brambles, mattresses and rubbish?

Before:

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And now:

 

We found a patio area and an old lined formal pond under the mess, as well as a lot of bicycle parts!  So we re-used the pond as a formal bed planted with box which will grow into a cute hedge with a Bay tree in the middle, and relaid new stones in the patio area surrounded with Cotswold chippings.  New lawn and a variety of ornamental grasses in the rear beds finished it off.  The garden was also fenced for privacy.  I will add lots of pots of flowering plants when the house is marketed, plus more seating in the front patio area.

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House Renovation Diary Part 2

For the last few weeks I have not had a minute spare to post anything, and have been trying to juggle the renovation, still do another existing part-time job, carry out my school Governor role, look after my kids and still run the family home.  I kid you not, this is multi-tasking to another level.  Luckily, we women have brains that can compartmentalize and manage these feats, otherwise I should be a gibbering wreck being carted off to an institution for intense therapy!

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My view for the next few weeks

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So, since the last post the house renovations has been cracking onwards.  All of the walls have been stripped bare, discovering along the way that the original builders glued woodchip wallpaper straight onto bare plasterboard in some areas, which is impossible to remove without damage. At least 3 walls had this finish so we had to budget for more extensive works to them to get them sorted out.  Who invented that paper and why?

I had to source a building team pretty quickly, and was amazed at some of the outrageous quotes that came in from various trades.  Differences for wiring quotes, as an example, were from £2,800 to £10,000 for the house.  The phrase ‘are you having a laugh?’ came to mind (and more explicit ones that I will not share)..  However, perseverance and a lot of cash deals sorted out a great team.  I then contracted the builders to come in and do the following lengthy list:

Plasterboard where necessary all ceilings and aforementioned walls, re-plaster all rooms  in the house, re-wire and chase in all new electrics, re-plumb, move two walls, install new central heating and radiators, hang & fit all new doors,fit two bathrooms and one kitchen… the list goes on and on.  I also have a gardener stripping out the hideous junkyard that was the garden, with new lawn, planting and fencing coming next week.  My main job is decorating both internally and externally, chosing the kitchen, bathrooms and flooring.  I have been sourcing new joinery and hardware for all the doors in the house, and am become a wizard with my tape measure and minute measurements!  I am also on first name terms now with trade suppliers at the Builders yards in the city.

I asked my building team to start from the top down so I can at least prep the new plaster with mist coats whilst the messy work is being done.  We are at the stage of first fix electrics being finished, and 50% of the house is plastered.  Most floorboards are up and the debris is incredible.  It’s a dust bomb basically, it even gets in my teabags somehow.

Stripping a room, can someone explain the painting method on the door to me please?

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So here are some photos of the works so far.  A small loo has the wall smashed down in preparation for extending it into a shower room.

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Kitchen Inspiration

The Fixer-upper continues…

I am going to re-name this house’ The House of Onion’.  Two weeks of stripping back layer after layer of wallpaper, only to find some areas had wood chip paper stuck onto unplastered plasterboard.  AAAH!  Major replastering was expected as there will be a re-wire, but even so I just hate that paper!

But I digress… After stripping out the hideous kitchen that was, I have been planning the new kitchen.  I need the best look for the best price, and am going on the following sort of vibe: shaker-but-industrial-but-not-clinical if that makes sense.  The kitchen also needs integrated appliances as there is not a separate utility room.  The tones are mushroom,soft grey and white.

I used the following images for starter point ideas:

Some additions of black and dark grey in the room really punch it up a bit too.  I think a slate grey dark worktop and dark grout will ground all the neutral tones.

So now that the look had been sorted, I went down to hunt for reasonably priced cabinets ate various suppliers.  I tried Howdens, Ikea, Magnet and Wickes etcetera.  All were actually quite expensive when you added in the appliances, feet, plinths, and extras that are needed.  The best price was from B&Q, and they also drew up my layout for me so I know what to order.  The plans don’t do it justice, but I can see in my mind what it will look like at the end, however it gives an indication of what goes where.

So from this….

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It will go to this:

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But it will be better in the flesh!  I have picked a range called Brookfield in a tone called Mussel which has a wood grain.  The worktop is double thickness 50mm and matt.  The tiles will be metro bevelled with dark grey grout.  Hidden away in the cupboards are also a dishwasher, boiler & washing machine.  The double oven and hob are ultra modern black glass and chrome to keep up the punches of black needed in the room.  The sink is square stainless steel and the cooker hood is also the same material  The door and drawer handles will be cup ones, again in stainless steel.

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Still umming and ahhing about what floor to put in as it will be across the whole ground floor including the kitchen.  I am thinking maybe a pale grey to keep it light, but I also do like wood, and dark grey… any thoughts gratefully received!