A sigh of relief

We made it to Christmas – and an almost complete kitchen and lounge.

We served Christmas dinner in an unpainted, but newly plastered, room  – but made it work, with the help of paper chains and garlands!

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Kitchen revamped from dark:

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To light:

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Ikea kitchen done good
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Just missing skirting boards and something for the far wall
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Painted glass splash backs will eventually match the colour of the dining room walls

Lounge gone from dull:

Living room (sans much furniture)

To bold (and Christmassy):

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We’re loving the Orangery.

Someone said to me, when you’re living through all the mess of your renovation you can’t see the end, but once it’s done, you start to forget it quicker than you thought possible. Obviously at the time I didn’t believe it could be true, but, remarkably, it was. We finished the last bit of work almost a week ago (placing the splash backs, moving furniture back into the living room, rearranging furniture from various parts of the house) but I am now already completely in love with our new rooms. The kitchen is so light and airy, and seems bigger than ever.

(And it was fab to christen the space on Christmas Day with so many people in it. 11 to be exact. And no major breakages.)

We are particularly happy with our table. We’ve always wanted a farmhouse feel to our kitchen (even in East London!) and found a table on ebay that we liked and then found the maker and his entire range online. They makes tables to order from reclaimed wood, with any changes you want (painted legs, drawers added etc). Much discussion has been had about where our table might have come from – the latest theory is we think it’s made from old scaffolding planks. Who knows? But either way, we totally love it:

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Things to finish off now are: paint the dining room walls, fit new skirting boards in both rooms, fit the window sill in the kitchen, stain and polish the floors and rehang the original doors. But, that’s nothing compared with how far we’ve come, so we aren’t too daunted.

And in the meantime, we have our feet up for a few days. With a functioning kitchen, a warm lounge, and dust free (ish) spaces to enjoy.

Until January, at least.

Living through dust, or, a kitchen transforming

I have neglected the blog recently. This is because since I last wrote, we haven’t had any living space. About a week after the living room started being torn apart and put back together, we started on the kitchen.

Anyone who’s ever lived through having a kitchen refurbished knows the upheaval that comes with it: the lack of sink, oven, washing machine; the constantly feeling of dust, EVERYWHERE; the longing for the day where you can cook a meal again and wash up in the same room (slash, load the dishwasher). It’s certainly a test of wills, I tell you.

Luckily we just happened to be away for the very worst part of the refurb which we were thankful for. While we were swanning around the US, our builder was ripping out our kitchen, finding the walls in a bad state, rebuilding them, reskimming them, and starting to lay a new floor.

We dismantled as much as we could before we fled the scene:

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Bye old kitchen…

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Everything had to decamp into our spare rooms…including the new kitchen which was delivered (Thanks Ikea) just before we went away, and single-handedly carried upstairs (all 83 packages) by my other half. Goodbye spare rooms, for now:

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So…when we returned, what did we find? Well, actually, things had moved along nicely, and despite feeling like you constantly can’t find anything, and getting sick of takeaways, we shouldn’t complain that much. In two weeks things have been moving pretty quickly…take a look:

We have been mucking in as much as we can to help speed things along. My other half has been helping with laying the underfloor heating mats (a very straightforward way of getting some heat into our very cold kitchen, and easily bought online), and we have spent each weekend since being home painting…not always what you want to do after a busy week, but suddenly we can see the light.

This coming week should see some big things being done. The sink should be functioning in the next few days, the wall cabinets should be going up, the final coat of paint going on. The tiles we raced around to buy before we went on holiday (just from B&Q, but we’re very pleased with our choice in the end) should be unearthed again after being covered in cardboard all week (to avoid paint spillages…). The lounge is being painted so we can move back into it.

We have just over two weeks to get ready for Christmas, and I *think* we will make it.

The next part to do is the diner. And if we don’t quite finish that, what better way to say ‘Merry Christmas’ than by handing each relative a paintbrush  with their turkey and putting them to work, eh? Certainly one way to work off the Christmas dinner.

Downstairs transformation begins

Two weeks ago we had a surprise call from our friend who was scheduled to do work on our house. He had finished a job early and was ready to start, a whole month earlier than planned.

This was obviously great news. But, inevitably panic ensued. For the week before he started suddenly we had to:

  • Pick a kitchen
  • Plan a kitchen layout
  • Order a kitchen
  • Find and buy floor tiles
  • Make final paint decisions
  • Buy paint
  • Try not to have heart palpitations

Needless to say it was a pretty stressful week, but with much help from relatives – and lifts to B&Q and Ikea – we got there. Work started on Tuesday, and while we’re waiting for delivery of the kitchen, it was decided to start on the lounge first.

Here’s how it was looking as you know:

I almost miss this now
I almost miss this now

And, here’s this week’s progress, click one of the images to load the gallery:

The lounge is totally out of action now, and with the kitchen about to be started, we have had to decamp upstairs.

View from the bed
View from the bed

It’s weird. It feels like we’re living in a cheap hotel room. It’s not normal (in my opinion) to have so many electronics in the bedroom. Though, there is the added bonus of watching Newsnight in bed. Oh the luxury.

Next week work on the kitchen begins. The upstairs is filling up with different pieces of furniture moved from different rooms downstairs, and I’m now about to dismantle the kitchen and pack away all the things only recently unpacked.

But, with the help of Ikea, B&Q and the excellent Kristian – we should be on the road to revamp shortly. 6 weeks till Christmas…when we are hosting 9 other people and ourselves.

*heart races* *breathes deeply*

It will be fine. Honest. I’m the picture of calm.

Making filing more interesting – part two

A few weeks ago my lovely other half spent a whole day doing our household admin. And we still had nowhere to put it. We hadn’t had much time to progress on the filing cabinet – we needed to speed up so we could start to use it!

So, after the clean up last time, it was a case of sanding down the cabinet using medium to rough sandpaper. The more you sand, the better the primer takes.

Got through a lot
Got through a lot

We took all the drawers out and took off all the handles. Some were filthy, so needed to be cleaned, again, and then something stronger was needed. So we popped to our friendly DIY store on Woodgrange Road for some silver polish. It’s funny how some things don’t need to evolve as they are already as good as can be:

SILVO - I remember this from my childhood
SILVO – I remember this from my childhood, works like a charm
What a difference (top vs bottom)
What a difference (top vs bottom)

Then it was time to start the primer. Two coats, on all surfaces (including the drawers and the insides. We are nothing but thorough).

Farrow & Ball Primer for Dark Tones (for metal)
Farrow & Ball Metal Primer for Dark Tones
The drawers were tricky, and drippy...
The drawers were tricky, and drippy…
Even the primer looks nice
Even just the primer looks good…
Primed and ready to go
Primed and ready to go

The primer dried pretty quickly over a day or two, and so, it was time to get the colour started. We were excited to see if we had picked well.

Inside first
Inside first coat (a Friday night paint job)
Top coat...
Top coat…(the next morning, note: daylight)
Now for the outside!
Now for the outside.
Et voila!
Et voila!

So, the two coats are on. And phew, we love the colour! (Blue Ground)

But next, and finally, the drawers need to be done. But, oh, they are not going to be easy…We can’t do all the sides at the same time as they need one clean side to stand up on. So, maybe that will be a job for me for this weekend.

This project has taken the best part of a month so far, but it is nearly there. And its been fun. It’s nice to see something you are making come together.

Final post and hopefully the finished thing coming soon. I, myself, can’t wait to see it.

The spare room develops…

I found this rather beautiful old mirror in our cellar – a lovely gift left by previous owners from the past. It just needed a good clean and then I thought it was a good find for the spare room, so our first guest, staying soon, could see themselves.

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Mr Muscle gets to work
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Cleaned up nicely

Having the cleaning bug, I got to work on the spare room again. I cleaned the windows, and window sills. I re-made the bed. I cleaned the shelving unit. And then I dropped the cloth on the floor and when I picked it up, there was a cleaner, much darker patch and I thought, ah, there are decent floorboards under all this dust. So, out came the bucket and sponge and suddenly I was revealing rather nice, old, floorboards.

Before and after as it happened
Before and after

I wasn’t sure about having floorboards upstairs but it was amazing what a bit of fairy liquid did. Suddenly all thoughts of carpet were gone.

And then it was on to finding some pictures to put up. While the renovation happens our pictures had been safely away in bubble wrap, and before that they were in storage for months, so unwrapping some of them was like saying hello to some old much-loved friends.

I bought this one online after a trip to Chicago and have always loved it, and the colours:

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My other half got me this great print (bottom left below) from a shop in Columbia Road for my birthday shortly after we met. It used to hang above our sink in our flat in Stoke Newington and amuse me. The illustration next to it is from The Gruffalo’s Child, which I got when I worked on the book in my first job…

SING!

And here is the mirror in place below…along with a gorgeous screen print that was given to me by the very talented picture book and general graphic/digital artist Tom Percival as a gift when I left my second job:

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Extreme close up
Extreme close up

Pictures have basically gone up wherever there were holes in the walls to cover up…so it’s a little random I must say, but, it’s just so nice to have pictures on walls again, and suddenly, suddenly we have one room that seems lovely, even before we paint it. Here it is (with much thanks again to our inherited bed, delivered and put together excellently by my friends)…

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And finally, we needed to shield some unsightly piping and remains of the built in wardrobes before they all get boxed in, so we pinned up a simple white sheet, which though was a pain to put up, seems to have done just the job we needed it to.

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And here we have it, our first room – one that I would genuinely enjoy spending time in:

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The spare room exists…

While there hasn’t been much building work progress, as I mentioned in my last post, we have been continuing to find things to go in the house – to try to make it liveable for the time being. So, when a close friend who is also doing some decorating, offered us a double bed for our spare room, we jumped at the chance to take it off their hands.

As we are likely to have family staying with us over Christmas, we knew we had to get the spare rooms in some sort of order soonish, so getting this bed gave us a reason to finish clearing all the boxes and rubbish out of there.

A few weeks back, my other half organised a junk clearance company to come and collect all the building materials and things we’d ripped out during the rewire and plumbing work we’d had done. They were fantastic and I jumped up and down in the new spaces we had that were finally clear.  So after a quick hoover, and moving of some doors from the room (we have four original doors which need to be stripped and rehung at somepoint which are stashed away now), we were then ready for our new delivery.

So, here’s the spare room progression from moving in to now.

The week we moved in.
The week we moved in.
Have I made any progress? 8 weeks in.
Have I made any progress? 8 weeks in.
Remains of the old built in wardrobe
No boxes but, the remains of the old built in wardrobe
What a difference a bed makes!
What a difference a bed makes. 12 weeks after moving in we have a workable spare room.

We still need to repair a wall, revamp a window, paint, and decide on what to do about the floor but, for now – it’s starting to look like a room. And cosy! I even picked up a cute clock just in Ikea at the weekend which I thought gave it a homely feel.

So. Now. Who wants to be the first guest?

Making filing more interesting – part one

It’s been a few weeks since I blogged. Hey, I guess I have been having a life outside my house! Yay me.

We’ve both been busy, and the house has been having a quiet period. And while it does we have been looking around for things to go in the house when its done. One thing we talked about getting for a while was a filing cabinet. Anyone that owns a house knows there is a lot of paperwork that goes with it. And while my professional filing strategy is filing paper in the BIN as long as I have a digital copy, that doesn’t quite work for household admin. You always need to know where to find your mortgage agreement, council tax bill, driving licence etc, so, we wanted a filing cabinet. And personally I think they are one thing that can be practical, but beautiful, if you get an old one or work one up.  So, we have been on the lookout.

A few weeks ago I visited this Discount Office Furniture warehouse in Manor Park, E12 after a recommendation by a family member. They have a great selection of used office furniture – desks, chairs, filing cabinets, bookcases – and the occasional gems. We went back last weekend for another look and found the below, and old 15 drawer filing cabinet which we liked the look of:

Complete with old stickers
Complete with old stickers

We talked to the guy in the warehouse about advice for revamping it, and the first step in the process was to get it all cleaned up, before sanding it down if we wanted to repaint it. So far, we’ve just managed the cleaning part but we have ordered some paint for the next instalment.

Cleaning it up actually took a while. It had a lot of residual glue marks from old stickers on it (why do people use stickers when the handles have a place to put paper labels?) – so we grabbed a bottle of white spirit, a bowl of soapy water and got cleaning:

Elbow grease
Elbow grease

I was on quality control duty while the other half white spirited and scrubbed at the leftover glue:

I sent a few back
I sent a few back

The inside was pretty filthy so I grabbed the soapy water and a scourer and got to work:

cleaning inside
Looking better

And then it was putting all the drawers back in, and drying it all off before making our own labels:

Cleaned up nice
Cleaned up nice

Pretty pleased with how its looking so far.

While making our own labels we found a few old ones from the previous owners. It seems this was no ordinary office filing cabinet:

Also found one that said 'Information Profiling'. Hmm.
Also found one that said ‘Information Profiling’. Hmm.

This may have held a few secrets in its time. And I’m pretty sure our paperwork will be far less controversial than the ‘Stop and Searches’ that were previously held in here.

While the original unit looks great, we decided that it might be interesting to paint it with a bright colour to make it more of a feature. We’ve picked ‘Blue Ground’ by Farrow & Ball which might not be a usual filing cabinet colour but we’ll see what happens. The next stages are to rough it up with sandpaper (apparently the rougher it is, the better the paint will take), give it a coat of primer and then two coats of the paint (Farrow & Ball do metal paint versions of all their colour options). We’ve gone for a silky finish rather than matt or gloss, which I hope will echo the original metal finish.

So, the paint has arrived and now we just need to find the time to get the next stage done. Which, is easier said than done.

Part two to come soon…

Lounging

As you know, the building site continues. But as we have to live in it for a while, we have decided to try to make it as nice as possible. (As nice as it can be with holes in your walls and random patches of paint everywhere).

So, I have been unpacking more and more and rearranging rooms to make them as liveable as can be. The lounge is looking more lounge-like. This is what we had for a while.

Living room (sans much furniture)
Lounge, before (and without much furniture)

The one comfy chair situation was not one that could last long when there are two of you living there. Try watching a three hour film on a deck chair and you will know what I mean.

This room doesn’t need much work really but the work isn’t going to happen for while. The plan is we need to re-plaster (it’s crumbling), then paint (we picked the colour ‘Orangery‘ already) and then hope to be able to restore the original dark wood floorboards that should be under this bamboo flooring. They look okay from the cellar, but who knows what we will find when they come up. Oh, and we also need to replace the skirting boards too. And this is a room I said didn’t need much work.

But, as there isn’t anything structural, it isn’t a priority yet. So, we need to make nice for now.

First step was thankfully being offered a sofa on loan, which has been gratefully received and much lounging has already occurred. We then moved an old shelving unit from upstairs (which we aimed to throw out, but now I’m pleased we never got round to it) and today I have filled it with just some of our books (we have way too many). And with some pictures unwrapped and balancing precariously on shelves and fireplaces, it’s just starting to look just a bit cosy:

lounge sept 13-1

That will do for a while.  We have a few weeks without workmen coming up, so I did an epic clean today so we can enjoy the dust-free weeks.

The dust-free weeks until we get our kitchen ripped out and redone, and then all the dust in the world will be upon us again.

But, for now, I have my feet up on the (borrowed) sofa and I’m not thinking about anything else but lounging.

Complicated bathrooms and building sites

It’s a happy day in E7. Today our slightly odd en-suite was mostly ripped out. I say slightly odd as the loo in the en-suite was a Saniflo toilet. This is one of those loos that doesn’t need to be plumbed in, and has a macerator underneath it. It’s a solution for spaces where you can’t make your bathroom waste pipe reach the soil stack, without making major alterations to your house. However, as we found when we moved in, our one was very loud (not ideal in the middle of the night) and quite smelly. We are lucky to have a main bathroom downstairs so we haven’t been using it since we moved in, so when we had a plumber coming to do a few other bits we decide to get rid of it!

The ensuite before
The ensuite before

And it's gone!
And it’s gone!

We’ve been consulting with builder and plumber friends and they think we should be able to plumb in a toilet, its just going to be a bit tricky as we need to run pipes underneath another room. Or raise the floor a little.

Luckily, this is how the other room looks at the moment:

Not too much problem disturbing this room
Not too much problem disturbing this room

This did have a fitted wardrobe at the end until today and a lot of leftover pipes from an old boiler, so our plumber has been working out which ones he can remove or take elsewhere. The plan, in the near future, is to try to run our waste pipe under this floor (our spare room) and out the back. At least the floor already had to come up when we rewired, so the disturbance has already been started, and we don’t need to use this room for a while (sorry would-be overnight guests!).

The current en-suite is long and thin, and we are hoping to split the room into two, and use one end for a wardrobe, and the other end for the bathroom, moving the toilet as close to the back of the house as we can (which should mean it ends up just behind the wall in the picture above where all the pipes are). We have some complicated decisions to come about where to put doors, whether to change windows, and exactly how much hanging space we need in our wardrobe area – but that is the fun part to come!

For now, we no longer have an old Saniflo in our bedroom (essentially, as the en-suite never had a door) and while our house is becoming more like a building site as the days go on, it all still feels like progress.

In the meantime I will be dreaming of the massive luxury of having space to hang clothes and being able to go for a quiet wee in the middle of the night without waking the neighbours.