2016: A year in DIY

And so goes another year in the house. A year of slightly failing to blog, but actually, not failing at all where DIY and house progress was concerned.

I started this year disappointed with the slow progress we were making with the house, but I end the year feeling very proud of ourselves, and with a sense that we have very much turned a corner and the end is in sight. Which, is a good place to be, finally, after 3 and a half years!

Last Christmas I was lamenting the fact that our upstairs bedrooms were still unfinished. This Christmas we hosted six people, in our three, almost complete, spare bedrooms. Sure, one of them was just painted white and had no floor, but it did have a window that finally closed, a blind that worked and a room for a double bed.

This year was the year that we dug deep into our own DIY skills, (well, hard work rather than skills) and took on as much of the remaining work as we could. Furniture was ripped out, floors pulled up, ceilings and walls were painted and flat pack furniture was put together. Even if painting my first ceiling ended up with me having a face like this:

My face after painting the ceiling

Our own bedroom sadly remains unfinished, for now, (while we prioritised readying the guest rooms for Christmas) but our biggest transformation is in our loft conversion. Badly done in the past, we always planned to redo the whole thing, but time and money told us we probably weren’t going to do that for a long time and so during the May Bank Holiday we just resolved to paint the whole thing white and see what we could make of it. The transformation is remarkable; a room gone from bright pink and purple, with a fogged up window, half a floor and a lime green bathroom, into a clean and serene guest room. A new floor, new glass for the window, ripping out old fitted units, a lick of paint all round and suddenly we have a beautiful space that we almost fought over this Christmas. (See gallery below)

And we finally have a kitchen roof that doesn’t leak! This was the year that we closed our eyes and swallowed the cost of a new flat roof, and thank god we did as the mess our builder found when he pulled it off was unbelievable. Three different layers of essentially a patched roof over the years made it pretty obvious why we’d had so many leaks. A hot week in August saw the laying of a new liquid fiberglass roof. Only marginally more expensive than asphalt but much, much durable – it should last years!

So, without further ado here’s how things have come along this year in the house…

Spare room 1

Loft conversion

Kitchen Roof

Final spare room – still missing a floor

All in all, a lot achieved!

The Christmas deadline pushed us on, but it was worth it that’s for sure. We now have 3 spare rooms! And we filled them with our family. It was busy, noisy, the cats hid under our bed for most of the period, but it was great fun and we loved every minute.

And now, we sit still for a while…

img_2095
Merry Christmas!
img_2174
And they all had a jolly good time…

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and wishing everyone a peaceful New Year.


What we used/bought:

  • Paint for the first spare room was Green Blue, from, you know it, Farrow & Ball. We just loved this shade.
  • Cornicing was from a great place in Leytonstone. Made to order, fast and fitting available.
  • We must have made a least a dozen trips to the wonderful Webster’s in Forest Gate, for paint and materials. Love them.
  • Our favourite, basic, white paint for walls and skirting became Johnstones, which we bought from Webster’s above. Goes far and great coverage.
  • IKEA provided our daybed for the loft that transformed into a truly enormous king size bed. Comfortable and not too tricky to put together.
  • My good friend saved the day in our makeshift bedroom with a raised double airbed, a lot like this one. It was incredible and I am very tempted to buy my own now!
Advertisements

Two years a homeowner

Last weekend it was two years since we got the keys to our house: two years since we spent the weekend assessing what we might want to do in each room; two years since we started ripping up carpets and digging into walls to rewire. Boy, how the time flies.

It’s been so long since a blog that there has been so much progress in the house! The bathroom was finished around 8 weeks ago and we are so so happy with it.

We’ve gone from this dark dingy room:

Old bathroom

To this – beautiful, bright and suddenly spacious:

Shiny and new
Shiny and new

We changed the layout slightly from previously, moving the sink and toilet from the window wall to the wall opposite the bath. This meant we could take our window down a few more brick lengths to let as much light in as possible. I love the new window so much, and it’s so light in there now we barely need the light on.

We also had to move things around to fit our bath in…IMG_0147

We couldn’t quite fit a freestanding bath but we went for the Clearwater bath which is flush to one wall – which is actually great in terms of shower splashing!  We did go to town slightly in this area…couldn’t have this bath without a fitting shower and tap, and we fell in love (and therefore sign of our budget) with this Burlington mixer...*swoon*

IMG_0445 IMG_0446

But my favourite bit by far is the fact the mirror we found in our cellar when we moved in two years ago, that I cleaned up when sorting our spare room fits perfectly in the bathroom. Makes me happy every time I go in there…

IMG_0187

So happy with this room now it’s complete!

After many tester pots the pale green is Teresa’s Green – applied in many coats over the course of a weekend, and I also painted my first ceiling too! (Not in green though, obvs. – though our previous ceiling was BLUE which didn’t help the light…)

And then it was on to the next room straight away and finishing off our living room. Now we finally have shelves, a new floor, skirting boards and books in there! It is starting to really feel homely…(after two years!)…
IMG_0329 IMG_0354

And on the subject of books, this last few months I’ve been reading:

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin – recently been working on the books alongside the TV show at work. If you’re a fan of the show, the books really do add an extra dimension, just need to set aside the time!

Hausfrau byJill Alexander Essbaum – had heard a lot of brilliant things about this debut. It’s an incredible voice, but I found the main character so frustrating that I’m not sure if I loved it or hated it!

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker – had long admired this cover but didn’t know a lot about it. But, I loved this so much. A smart, complex and compelling thriller – I just could not put this down. A great holiday read!

– Disclaimer by Renee Knight – now, I knew many people who loved this but it just wasn’t for me. There’s a great twist, but I just didn’t believe the behaviour of the main characters, so that ruined it for me. Still, one I’ve talked to many about after finishing!

Currently reading: The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett – I cannot praise this highly enough. Beautifully written, ‘Sliding Doors’-esque drama, with three versions of one relationship. Completely wonderful, and also a stunning hardback package too.

—-

Next on the house agenda is our en-suite which we are splitting in half to have a wardrobe and smaller en-suite. Pre-plumbing is happening now, so upstairs in a complete state, but progress should be shown soon! Next time…

Bathroom under construction: the foundations

So spring is upon us (as much as the weather doesn’t want us to believe it) and we are finally a few weeks into our bathroom reconstruction.

I say reconstruction as it really is that rather than renovation, in that very little that was there before will remain. Including four levels of previous flooring (!), the bathroom layout and a frustratingly too high window.

We are lucky, in that we have a separate toilet in the loft, and a shower cubicle in what’s left of our ensuite. So, we are surviving through the concrete, plumbing and dust. I would say we are approaching the halfway point…I hope.

So this was where we started:

Old bathroomAnd here’s the progress so far (click one to launch gallery)…

Basically none of the sexy stuff yet but actually the really important stuff is done. I missed out the day that our builder laid out our new bathroom suite with bits of the old one to find that if we had the sink we wanted, paired with the bath we wanted you might have to wash your hands from the bath…so we had to make some changes to our choices…

Instead of completely freestanding, we picked this Clearwater modern bath instead – which sits flush to one wall (to give us more space) but still has the desired effect, and I love it (well, I hope I will).

In place of our swanky sink (boo hoo, I am still sad about that…) we are going for a smaller traditional sink from Heritage, and matching toilet (our desired toilet was also too big…).

Our tiles were an easy choice, thankfully. Floor: Grey City Limestone Matt Tiles. Walls: White Gloss Smooth Brick Tiles. Fantastic service from Walls and Floors.

Next week: window gets finished, wall tiling starts…and our builders’ wife likely goes into labour, so we will be taking a rest for a week or two!

——

In other news, this month I’ve been reading:

A Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins. This thriller has dominated the charts here and in the US. I was definitely gripped throughout, but I did see the ending coming
– (For work) The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, by debut Jo Cannon, which we will publish next Spring. To say I loved this was an understatement. Very Mark Haddon-esque. Look out for it next year!
– (Again for work) – Nelly Dean by Alison Case – out in August. Wuthering Heights from the servant’s perspective. This is superb. The most fantastic voice – reimagined gothic fiction at its best. Don’t miss it.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Bought this on a whim after seeing great reviews following the film – found it compelling, inspiring, emotional and made me want to go off and trek through California for a year!
– Currently reading – So, You Have Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Fascinating exploration of public shaming including through social media.

Until next time…

Looking forward to spring

This is pretty obvious, given the weather today and how bleak it’s been, but – I have more than one reason for looking forward to spring. And that is that work is about to being again on our house – hurrah!

It’s been almost a year since I last opened my “House Work Planner” spreadsheet and since then there hasn’t been a lot of progress in our house. But, we certainly haven’t been doing nothing. During that time our household has acquired two cats, got one new job that has taken up many hours, written at least one book (not by me), travelled round Southern California, survived an office move and got a new mortgage. The last of which means, hurrah – work can begin on our house again!

So, that is why I’m looking forward to Spring.

Because in just under a month, our builder will be back and ripping out our bathroom. He has to start outside with our ancient pipes and drains, and then gut the whole bathroom before he can do anything. I’m trying not to think about that stage. Instead, I am doing the exciting bits – obviously – and dream shopping for bathroom fittings.

This is our current bathroom, complete with makeshift shower held up by a decorating pole and NHS curtain.

Old bathroom shower pole come decorating pole

It’s not hideous but it is dark, and so very blue. And always just a little bit damp. I dread to think what is lurking under the lino…(Poor Kristian…our builder).

So, I think after living with this for the last 18 or so months we will be going clean, and bright. And likely white, with one bright colour splash somewhere.

I took a walk to Romford Road today to visit the excellent TJR Bathrooms, which has a surprisingly good range of lovely bathroom fixtures and fittings. There I was before I went, saying, ‘look, I definitely don’t want to spend a fortune on the bathroom’. But, ahhh – but then I picked up a Clearwater ‘Simply Exclusive’ bathroom brochure. Disaster.

My current shortlist should budget/bargain hunting allow is:

This beautiful Clearwater Roll-top basin with stand –

Swwon
Swoon

Perhaps paired with this Modern Free-standing bath, again from Clearwater –

ImageGen.ashx-2
Pass the sponge

And, oh definitely need one of these:

Heritage Heated Towel Rail
Heritage Heated Towel Rail

Hmm. I think I might have to do some shopping around. But, for now, I will carry on dreaming!

———–

In other news, I’m adding a feature to this blog – stolen from a friend and colleague Be Nourished. Seeing as I read so much in my job, I thought I’d share my recent reads and soon-to-be-reads with you.

So, this month:

– The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton. Stunning debut I thought and one of the books last year that everyone was talking about. Weird and wonderful, not perfect but I loved it.
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. God, I loved The Rosie Project so much, and this sequel completely lived up to the first book in my eyes. I laughed and cried in equal measures. I love Don Tilman (though think he *might* be hard to live with)
The Wronged by Kimberley Chambers, for work – East End crime/drama at its best. If you love Eastenders, or anything to do with The Krays, you’ll love it. Coming in March – can’t wait to work on this one.
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins – this debut went to Number One last week in the Hardback charts on its first week of release and surprised everyone. I’ve just started reading it, it’s definitely compelling so far.
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – maybe my favourite author, I’m halfway through this and it’s as good as I thought it would be. Just need the time to get back to it! (You can probably tell I read a lot of books at the same time, bad habit of my job)

On my to be read shelf:
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan – been hearing a lot about this haunting collection of essays and stories. Bought in Waterstones January Sale and staring at me on my bookcase.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – gift from a friend at another publisher, have been wanting to read for ages. Might be next on my list!

Let me know if you’ve read or reading any of the above and what you thought!

Until next time…

 

 

Forest Gate: the vintage revolution starts

Hello. It’s been a while. I have been neglecting my blog over the last six months – big time.

To explain…firstly, I started a new job in April – one which I am loving but one which takes me from East to West London, and back, on a daily basis (oh, roll on Crossrail. So long Abellio Greater Anglia and your constant broken down trains), which combined with longer hours makes for not much time at home.  Secondly, after the craziness in the house of last year and the feeling of constant building site, we have stepped back and taken a break. Thirdly, due to the second reason, we pretty much spent our initial house budget, so it was time to save, ready to start again.

In that time, things in Forest Gate have gone kind of insane. The house prices have gone through the roof (turns out it’s a good time to remortgage…!), open house viewings are apparently attracting over a 100 people a time (really???) and we made it into the coveted ‘Let’s Move to Forest Gate’ Guardian slot – which may have something to do with all of the aforementioned things.

Also, to my surprise, we seem to have gone ‘Vintage’. Yes, you did hear me right.

I lived through the vintage revolution in Stoke Newington, when it seemed every other shop was a Vintage or Retro clothes or furniture shop. Forest Gate’s not quite there yet…but Vintage Fairs ARE.

Last week – I trotted a few roads away to Hampton Road with my other half’s mum, to check out the first ‘Retro Sunday’ at BB’s.

absofab vintage

I wasn’t sure what to expect. My last local antique/jumble sale visit was to St Mark’s Church on Lorne Road last October, where it was 20p to get in and pretty much everything was around 10p. (As an aside, that was excellent. Picked up a set of short stubby french-style wine glasses at a bank-breaking 7 glasses for 70p. It almost felt mean to only pay that. A year later they are still serving us very well!) But, the mention of ‘Retro’ normally puts the prices up to pounds not pence.

And yes, it was actually a real vintage fair. And a great one too! We keen bees turned up as it was opening and I headed straight to the clothes rails. I feel I’ve learnt a few things on vintage clothes recently when in my last job I worked on the book to go with Dawn O’Porter’s This Old Thing Channel 4 TV series (expertly compiled and edited by fellow Forest Gater @pixiecake). I’d always wanted to shop vintage, and had the occasional thing, but there hasn’t been much opportunity in this part of East London. Until now.

The cardinal rule being, just try it on – I spied early on a fab, chess set dress – which was unlike anything I’d seen before. There were no sizes on anything but it looked about right so along with a cute tea dress I went into the loos with my shopping buddy who’d also picked something up, and with the help of a borrowed mirror tried on our finds.

And voila! I fell in love with the chess set dress. And here it is in all it’s glory:

For £30 I have bagged something nice and unique, and from just down the road. Definitely a good Sunday.

There were a lot of clothes, some home ware (though not as much as I would have liked) and vast amounts of buttons, jewellery and knitting patterns (we bought most of them).

Tips for next time (there’s another one same place on 5th October): take more cash (No cards accepted). Be prepared to rummage (sure I missed stuff). Get there early (only two loos for trying things on!). Buy some cake (why didn’t we?).

Thanks Absofabvintage for organising it. Apparently there was another evening event at The Wanstead Tap this week which I sadly missed.

The revolution has truly started…and I am excited. (Though, will still be looking out for those 20p jumble sales…)

——-

Next time – Victorian Bathroom Inspiration. That’s our next project…

When routine filing uncovers the history of your home

On Good Friday we spent the entire day doing household admin. Going through all those piles and piles of paper that we’d moved from drawer to drawer, cupboard to table and back again (while my filing cabinet restoration project has somewhat, halted to say the least) – to see what we needed to keep, what we could shred and what we might have missed.

Here’s a snapshot of what our table looked like during this process and how much recycling we made:

photo 3
So much paper
photo 2
So much recycling

About halfway through the process we found a folder left for us which contained house documents, certificates and instruction manuals. We’d only ever glanced at it like you do, put in the pile and forgot about it while all of our work was being done. But, now, as we started to go through it we realised it contained something a bit more special…

It contained the transfer deeds for some of the previous owners of this house.

With information dating back to when it was first built.

Beautiful old documents – typed on thick cream paper, with red seals and string threading some together. I was a little over-excited to say the least.

There were some fascinating details that came through in the documents:

1972-1800 land passing hands
1972-1800 land passing hands
  • It looks like the land for our house was transferred between a few vendors between 1872 and 1885, when it was eventually sold by The Manor Park Cemetery Company (of Sebert Road) to a Cattle Dealer, Richard Mallinson from Harrow Road in Leytonstone (ironically where a friend of mine lives now) for £272
The plot that was bought in 1885 for £272
The plot that was bought in 1885 for £272
  • £272 seems to have bought him a large patch of land between Lorne Road and Tylney Road to build houses on Godwin Road. It looks like ten house were built.
  • The sales stipulations on the land state that nothing shall be erected within 10 feet of any road, no house should be built valuing less than £175 and those houses must be of the same elevation as houses in Chestnut Terrace, Chestnut Avenue.
Sales stipulations for building on the land
Sales stipulations for building on the land
  • In 1914 the owner dies and the land passes between his various sons and grandsons until our actual property is sold in 1957 for £1200 to a Printer who lived just down the road.
A mortgage taken out?
A mortgage taken out?
  • In 1962 it looks like the owner mortgaged the house (or freehold?) to the County Borough of West Ham, Essex (which Forest Gate was originally in) for the sum of £675.
Formated of the London Boroughs
Formated of the London Boroughs
  • Next set of docs shows how the property was transferred to the London Borough of Newham from the Essex County Borough of West Ham when London Boroughs were established in 1965.
1979 sale to husband and wife
1979 sale to husband and wife
  • The next sale takes place in 1979 for £16,600 to a husband and wife as joint tenants on the property (the first time I see a woman mentioned at all on the deeds)
  • The last sale we have record of is in 1993 which we think would have been for significantly more than £16,000 I expect!

I have probably misinterpreted some of the documents but I found it completely fascinating to see this little history of our home and its previous owners. Looking around now it’s crazy to think of this area as just land prime for development – where land was bought for £272 and ten homes were built that are still standing today.  I wonder what those original land owners would think of the Forest Gate boom that is happening right now!

Coming from a family of local historians this has prompted to me to start a bit of a hunt for information about Forest Gate in the times when our houses were all being built. The excellent blog E7 Now and Then will be a good place for me to start along with the trusty Google…

If anyone knows anything more about the Mallinsons, who seem to have owned the freehold on this land for over half a century, please get in touch!

 

 

On floors, doors and skirting boards

I never thought I’d be so excited to have skirting boards. But, there you go.

Work has finished on our kitchen/diner, finally. We have a floor! Skirting boards! A new door! A roof that doesn’t leak! True progress indeed.

We wanted to keep the original floorboards in the dining room, but an old chimney hearth which we unearthed meant it was going to be extremely costly to remove and replace along with get the old boards up to scratch. So, we decided to bite the bullet and get new floorboards. My other half’s uncle – who’s renovated lots of houses –  recommended engineered floor boards, which have real wood top layer and then easy fitting underneath. Another trip to B&Q found us these. Also on recommendation we decided to lay them horizontally so they line up with our tiling, and give a sense of a wider space. We couldn’t be more happy with the result in the end:

photo-37It’s amazing what a difference having a new floor makes. For the first few days I kept forgetting and being nicely surprised every time I walked into the kitchen.

Next up was the skirting, door frame and finally new door to our cellar top. For the last, hmm, two or three months we have been staring at a mess of tools, buckets, recycling while we’ve been waiting to finish this stage. Et voila. Here’s to skirting boards and doors!

photo 2 photo 2

It’s mostly nice just not to constantly be sweeping up bits of food and cat biscuits out of the holes where the skirting boards where missing…

Skirting boards and door are primed and ready to be painted. I think, knowing how long this might take me, and the precision of the work, I might treat myself to a painter/decorator for this one. It will be the very final thing we need to do in the kitchen diner. Then it’s just selecting the pictures for the walls and we’re done. One whole room will be complete!

When I think of this room when we moved in – not much natural light, dark cupboards, low lights, dark floor and dark work surfaces – it was definitely a room we didn’t like spending that much time in. Now, it’s totally become what we wanted it to be – the heart of the home.

BEFORE
BEFORE
AFTER
AFTER

To say we are happy with the result is a bit of an understatement…

So, who wants to be next to come for dinner?