Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – The Work Begins.

I arrived at the house with a car full of stuff, wallpaper steamer, scraper, and bin bags.  A basic tool box consisting of various screw drivers, a Stanley knife, duct tape and crow bar. Crow bar? Why did my husband give me that I wonder. I had also bought three important items too, the radio, the kettle and loo roll.

It was very strange and eery entering the house; It was cool despite the warm day and smelt musty. I popped on the kettle and opened windows where I could, as some were painted shut. My plan is to strip off the paper to the walls that are being retained. This probably appears to be a futile job when such a lot of other work is required. However, from past experiences of electricians and plasterers they have an annoying habit of plastering over wall paper in places, leaving an untidy finish. One then has to strip the paper and make good, double doing the job. This is also a job I can get on with whilst waiting for planning permission.

I removed the faded, rotting curtains which still hung at the windows and tried to remove the rail with the crow bar (he knew it would come in useful). The curtains at another window came down very easily, complete with the rail!

I carefully unscrewed the original white glass splash back from behind the basin, both of which I would like to re-use in the downstairs cloakroom, and placed it in a cupboard for safe keeping. Not so successful was my mirror removal and I promptly broke it in two. It was the first mirror I have ever broken and was mortified by the thought of seven years bad luck which lay ahead of me. But then I thought of my sister who has broken dozens of mirrors in her life, and she is one of the luckiest people I know! However, the mirror had been in the house since the 1930’s and I show up and break it!!   Unfortunately the original basin in the master bedroom we will be unable to clean up and re-use due to a large crack in it.

Original bedroom basin (minus the cupboard)
Original bedroom basin (minus the cupboard)

The wallpaper I believe is from the 1970’s , blue and pink vymura. The top layer peeled off quite easily leaving the backing paper securely stuck to the wall to be removed with the steamer, scraper and a lot of elbow grease. Luckily there was only one layer of paper in this room, and as it was removed it gradually revealed surprisingly good plastered walls, void of too many cracks. This bedroom had originally been painted in a soft ‘Duck Egg Blue’ which was funnily enough the colour I had been thinking about painting it , the look was lovely in the sunny light. this bedroom.  An interesting archive of paint colour’s were uncovered too from the different rooms. A green, which reminds me of Farrow and Balls ‘Arsenic’ and ‘Charlotte’s Locks’ a bright orange being among them.   Discovering archive paint colour’s and wallpaper can help you with creating authentic period colour’s and designs in a restoration project. The Little Greene Paint Company also have historical paint colour’s  according to dates, as do Fired Earth All companies work with English Heritage and the National Trust on house restorations. The only room to have more than one layer of paper is the sitting room where a 1950’s (I think) design wallpaper was uncovered. I periodically cleared up the soggy mess of stripped paper to prevent it sticking to the floor boards and removed the gunk which had also stuck to the bottom of my trainers.


The huge cypress fir tree in the front garden has been felled, the shrubs removed, hedges trimmed and other trees reduced in size. You can now see the front of the house and gain access  more easily ( when the stump and shredded wood have been cleared that is) and is so much lighter inside. There will be plenty of space  for a driveway and room for skips and materials when work commences in earnest.

The rear garden has been cleared too. ‘Cleared’ being an understatement. Despite an agreed list of works required and a walk through with the contractor, the garden is now void of the mature Rhododendrons, lilac bushes and a plethora of other shrubs I wanted trimming and not removed. It was only the brambles,  weeds and the trees on the list removed. Unfortunately I was unable to visit the house whilst the contractors attacked the rear garden, due to family commitments and to check that the work was being carried out as per instructions.However, if an agreed list of works is drawn up, why can’t this be kept to without the necessity of site visits? Advice – always visit the site before work commences to clarify  the agreed written works and price as quoted,  During, to ensure work is being carried out as agreed, and to discuss any unforeseen problems and extras uncovered as the job progresses. And after work is completed to ensure that the job has been finished to a satisfactory conclusion and the site is cleared (if this was quoted for in the agreed price) before settling the bill. Any issues you have, then amicably discuss a satisfactory conclusion for both parties.

I had specified no bonfires, when asked by the contractor prior to the quote, and a shredder was hired, working flat out spewing wood chippings onto the drive to be removed by a ‘grab’ lorry. But when I saw  the, virtually cleared rear garden, a large, very smokey bonfire had been lit and been going for sometime by the look of it. The day was very hot and sunny and people had their windows open. I told them to put the fire out. It was then I met a neighbour. She came storming down the garden and let fly, with full throttle to the contractors about the fire. Quite right too. I apologized profusely and introduced myself. Not a good start, but we made our peace. The contractors did carry out unforeseen extras hidden by brambles, including a long forgotten fruit cage which must have been wonderful in it’s hey day. The contractors did a pretty good job overall, just a shame about the Rhododendrons! The light floods into the rear of the house and the garden looks huge.

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