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…

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Merry Christmas!
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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!
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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:

photo 1
Ikea kitchen done good
photo 2
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.

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 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…