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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The bathroom has been replaced with something that you might actually want to use, (and I am a total sucker for metro tiles…).

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Classic bathroom suite

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Metro tiles

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Very shiny taps!

 

The house is on three floors; the stairs running from middle to top were tired and needed new plastering on the walls, decorating and new flooring.  Every spindle had to be stripped back, sanded and repainted.  A hideous task, but this staircase was the only original period Victorian element left in the house so I had to save it.

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A lovely original staircase

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A huge wall awaiting art

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Much better lighting now

The stairs running from the middle floor to the lower ground floor were dark and spooky, so new plastering and lighting was installed…

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Looking to the lower ground floor

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LED lights installed to light up the landing

The 4 bedrooms, (or 1 reception and 3 bedrooms as the house can be configured in lots of ways), are all of a similar good size with a large walk in closet each, and they were totally replastered, rewired and renovated.  I also added lighting inside the walk-in closets as I know ladies will relish seeing their clothes properly!

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A sneaked-in decorative door

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and another one…

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Rooms can be configured as the homeowner wants

The lower ground floor reception room was damp, dark and not a place you would want to spend time in.  New plastering, wiring, flooring and an opened-up chimney breast ready for a woodburner was installed…

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LED lighting brightens up this space

The kitchen….  This is the terrible state we started out with dangerous surface mounted wiring, mouldy walls and floors.  But it had huge potential.  The whole thing was gutted, re-wired, replastered and renovated ready for a new kitchen…

And now… a neutral shaker kitchen with metro tiling, and lots of integrated appliances hidden away behind doors.  The pantry area is really sweet, and the new owner can add lots more shelving if they want to the side walls in this nook.  There is room for a huge table, a dresser, a refrigerator, it opens onto the garden and so on, and I think this will be the hub of the house.

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The kitchen installed

So to recap, this house was totally gutted.  All new wiring, plumbing, heating, plastering, garden landscaping, doors and joinery, new bathrooms, a new kitchen, new flooring and 125 litres of white emulsion, not to mention all of the woodwork paint.

The house is now up to date and ready for some new loving owners to move in and make it their home.  I found it a real challenge to keep it all neutral given my own preferences for dark colours, but I know people like to make their own stamp on a house, (although I managed to sneak in some trompe l’oeil doors and a few groovy lights).  Tomorrow the agents appear, and it should be on the market by the end of the week.  Job done, and I really, really need a holiday…..

 

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

PROGRESS

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!

Chandelier Turns a Room Into a Forest from Bored Panda

Different lighting can completely change the look and feel of a room, but this incredible chandelier from Hilden & Diaz will take you straight to the jungle with just one click! Created by Thyra Hilden and Pio Diaz, “Forms of Nature” chandelier is a beautifully designed bundle of white tangled branches, casting shadows on the walls that look like forest trees.

Source: Chandelier Turns a Room Into a Forest | Bored Panda

House Renovation Diary Part 1

Biting the bullet…

I have been away from the blog of late, and here is the main reason why.  I have gone into partnership with a property developer as the designer and project manager, and we have the following property to turn.  It is a 3 story Victorian house in central Bristol which we purchased at auction.  That in itself was really exciting, I have never been to property auction before, and my business partner had the most rigid arm when it came to our lot!  It seems crazy to buy a house in less than 5 minutes, but it is a lot easier than going the usual protracted route.  Here is the street it is in.

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So, the house.  For years it was owned by the Local Authority, and they are now selling them off.  So it has been structurally looked after, but the interiors are somewhat horrible.  In fact they are really dire.  The only original feature left is a lovely winding staircase.  Everything else has been ripped out over the years, so a lot will need replacing.

The house has 2-3 reception rooms or 3-4 bedrooms depending on how it is configured.  There is also a large kitchen-diner and 2 bathrooms.  It also has a garden, which is a good size are rare for a city center house.

Prepare yourself, this is what it looks like now:

Wallpaper over wallpaper, electrics in conduit on the outside of the walls. layers of cheap flooring.  I am seeing a lot of skips outside to take the debris as we strip it out.  The kitchen and bathrooms are particularly choice!

 

We take possession in early April, and then it will become a whirlwind of activity as we strip. purge, re-wire, re-plumb, move walls and fit new bathrooms and a kitchen.  The garden also needs landscaping, fencing and clearing, at the moment it is a breeding ground for brambles, debris and rotten mattresses.

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I will continue the story as it slowly evolves.  We are looking at a 3-4 month turnaround.  For now, I am trying to juggle other work with planning this renovation, so my other blog posts may fall by the wayside a bit.  Wish me luck!

Has anyone else out there taken on something that looked this bad to start with?

Heals – A rather fabulous shop

I was in London yesterday, whiling away the time whilst my eldest daughter was singing in a concert.  Heading to the Tottenham Court Road, I visited Heals, a fantastic furniture emporium which I have not been to for at least a decade.  A lifetime ago when I lived in London and was furnishing my first apartment,, it was THE place to get your cool, edgy statement pieces.  Happily, it is still just as cutting edge in design as I remember.

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The first thing I saw on entering was Abigail Ahern‘s flower shop.  These are the most realistic blooms and plants I have even seen.  The cactus’ especially intrigued my youngest daughter who was with me.  She could not believe they were not real and kept stroking them, with no spines and spikes to hurt her little hands.

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You can order these on-line if you cannot get to London from her on-line shop, and I guarantee they are worth getting.  They are amazing, and you would probably end up watering them by mistake.

We then headed into the shop where I was assailed by the most beautiful lights, they are like huge teardrops in hand blown glass.

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There are well priced selection of wall lights.

IMG_2320IMG_2321Then on to the scented candles to smell some delicious scents, and where the Tom Dixon candles are sublime, if not unbelievably pricey.543205Every item is chosen carefully to represent the best in design in Heals.  This new cinema chair is very sweet too…

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And I feel that the Pinner bed would look great in my spare room.  Like a modernist colonial upgrade.

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This is tableware called ‘Ink’.  Each blue and white motif evokes classic Delftware porcelain and 1950s Midwinter ceramics.

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I recommend a visit to anyone who loves interiors when in London.  And if not, the website is well designed and ships internationally.  A final swoon over Abigail Ahern flowers designed into a huge hanging beast of beauty….

 

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