Want It Done By Christmas?

Bathroom Moodboard by designbykaty.com

On a recent site visit to a prospective client, who wanted a quote for their kitchen and bathroom installation, my husband who runs Random Task Plumbing asked what they were having and did they have any plans he could see. The client didn’t know what they wanted, other than for all the works to be completed by mid December, in time for Christmas. Bearing in mind that the client hadn’t yet exchanged contracts on the property and presently lived in another part of the country.

Firstly, a detailed quote is impossible to give if you only have a rough idea of what you want, or don’t know what you want at all. Also any tradesperson worth their salt, will have at least a 2 to 3 month lead time, especially leading up to Christmas. Whilst basic help and advice can be given to guide clients regarding types of showers suitable for their water systems and the feasibility  to move the loo to a different location (soil stacks are often forgotten by clients) and draw a scaled plan, most small tradespeople don’t have the time to offer a detailed design consultancy. The fixtures, fittings and finishings have to be chosen by you, the client. After all it’s your bathroom, kitchen etc. and it’s imperative that you love the finished results, it’s your home.

Bathroom Moodboard by designbykaty.com
Detailed Bathroom Moodboard by Designsbykaty.com

So before calling a tradespersons to quote, take time over your plans, keep revisiting them and show them to other people. Think about how you will use the space and how you want it to make you feel. If this is difficult for you, then an Interior Design consultancy is invaluable. For as little as £95.00 a design consultancy could save you a lot of time and possibly money too. Good interior design is about planning, not just about carefully coordinated fabric and paint swatches. This consultancy maybe all you need to set you off to implement yourself. If you require more help tailored to your specific needs, these can be accommodated too, regardless of budget. Of course everyone has budget.

First floor plans of a four bedroom house
You don’t need such detailed drawings unless major renovations are planned.

Interior Designers use local trade, craftspeople and suppliers and only recommend those whose work and people they trust. When deciding, look at reviews, ask to see previous completed work. Personality compatibility also is valuable – can you work with them?

I understand that you want everything ‘done’ and perfect for Christmas, but be realistic with your time scales. Even when you’ve decided on your plans, fixtures, fittings etc. There are supplier lead times to consider too. The last thing you want is a half-finished job over the festive season, especially if planning to have guests.

assembled cupboard carcass's
Kitchen install in progress not what you want at Christmas
After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.
After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall

Once you have detailed plans, you can then invite local tradespeople to quote and provide approximate dates of availability. They will all be able to quote ‘from the same song sheet’, which makes price comparisons clearer. However, remember that cheaper isn’t always better, you often get what you pay for. Allow for a lead time on quotes being received too.

Tiling in progress in shower en-suite shower area
A half finished guest en-suite – not what you want when having guests
Completed Guest En- Suite
Completed Guest En- Suite

Plan the work in stages – what can be implemented and finished by your self-imposed Christmas deadline? Is this in the correct order of your work schedule? If so, fine. If not, then it’s far more beneficial to be patient and schedule the works for early in the New Year, thus eleviating the extra stress of Christmas and giving your home the consideration it deserves.

There’s  always next Christmas!

 

Adding Character to Your Home

Selection of elecltic Interiors for every room

 

Inject your personality, style and soul into your home and garden, not by sourcing everything from one high street shop. Your home will end up looking like a show home, far too contrived and bland. Whether you’re preferred taste is Retro, Shabby Chic, Vintage, Industrial, contemporary or even a mixture of styles creating an eclectic, individual home. By mixing it up a bit you’re creating a home which reflects you, and enhances your home. Take time to enjoy gathering ‘loved’ items. Homes and gardens evolve over time.

Selection of elecltic Interiors for every room
Eclectic interior ideas

If you’re looking for an unusual or particular item of furniture, lighting or accessories to add personality to your home or garden, the Three Wise Monkeys a vintage and arts emporium at The Saddlery, Woodcock Hill, St Albans AL4 9HJ   https://threewisemonkeysemporium.wordpress.com/ is the place to visit. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday 11am to 4 pm. Enjoy a morning coffee, a light lunch or afternoon tea in the newly opened vintage tea room and have a wander around two floors, packed with unusual items. Some will revoke memories of childhood ( scary, as some of us realize that we, too are vintage!), and some made by local artisans and crafts people, and a florist too, Flowers by Catherine.

 

A few pieces of furniture have been ‘upcycled’ into bespoke one-off  items, which could transform a room. Images show pieces by Carmel of Piece Unique and by me Sarah Maidment Interiors. We both take commissions  if you have your own item of furniture which you’d like customising.

 

You will also find Kelim rugs, cushions, and  stools and chairs upholstered in gorgeous Kelim rugs from Rug Addiction https://www.rugaddiction.co.uk/ . Other chairs re-upholstered, homemade cushions and artwork to grace your walls.

Kelim rugs, cushions and upholstered furniture
An array of Kelim rugs, cushions and upholstered furniture by Rug Addiction

If vintage clothing is your passion, Little Viking  https://www.littlevikingvintage.com have an array of dresses, jackets, shoes and bags for all. ‘Oh Sew Vintage’ for handmade dresses for all occasions.

 

You will also find every conceivable Doc Martin design boot you could ever wish for.

Selection of Doc Martin Boots, vintage heaters and lamp
Doc Martin boots, vintage heaters and lighting

Vintage books, comics, and  postcards can be found for collectors and unusual hand-made jewellery by local artisans.

 

Modern works of art and photography adorn the walls. This stunning picture of Nelson Mandela (below) taken by the photographer Greg Bartley would look amazing gracing the wall of a large room.

 

Limited edition framed photograph of Nelson Mandela by Greg Bartley
Visually stunning photograph of Nelson Mandela by Greg Bartley

IMG_6804Come and say ‘hello’ and meet Colin the resident ‘horse’ .

Fake horse called Colin
Colin, a reminder of the barns former life as a saddlery and stables

Larders and Pantries

Walk in pantry with shelves and storage jars
Walk in pantry with shelves and storage jars
A walk in pantry

Do you member a walk in cupboard in the corner of a kitchen with shelves for foods stuffs – the larder? Perhaps jars of conserves, a basket with fresh vegetables, meats and dairy produce and perhaps cakes too? In larger family homes there were large walk in pantries with stone or concrete counter tops, with shelves above. In some cases a sink too. These would be positioned adjacent to the main kitchen of course, for easy access in the usually north facing (coldest) aspect of the house. These were the mainstay of homes prior to refrigerators and freezers where fresh produce was kept to keep cool and lengthen their shelf life.

In an Edwardian house, I once lived in, we had a cellar, complete with a built-in ‘food safe’ which had a sliding door with fly mesh. This was so useful, especially at Christmas to store the turkey and ham. It was also a great place in which to hide ( outside of Christmas) which my children did when playing hide and seek. Except that it was too good – their friends gave up looking!

Above are images of a Georgian pantry meat or food safe and housekeepers pantry at Number 1 Royal Crescent Bath.  http://no1royalcrescent.org.uk/

As sleek and modern kitchens were introduced, along with more affordable refrigeration and later the freezer, the larder in the corner of the kitchen became obsolete and was knocked out to make way for the state of the art kitchen.

There is however, a return to the larder and pantry idea, and being re-introduced in many new kitchen designs, due to popular demand. These range from large ‘larder cupboards’ either integrated or free-standing with bespoke shelves and drawers to enable easy access to foodstuffs all in one place, hidden behind bi-fold, fold away doors or a sliding tamber, instead of dotted around the kitchen in various cupboards. Breakfast or drinks ‘stations’ too have risen in popularity, whose designs are similar to that of a larder cupboard. A friend of mine had a tea and coffee larder cupboard installed on her landing, so guests could help themselves to an early morning cuppa and chat, freeing up her kitchen so she could prepare the breakfast.

If you’re lucky enough to have the space, walk in pantries with bespoke fittings are popular too. These pantries can also include a sink and dishwasher to keep the kitchen clear whilst entertaining. Some pantries include wine chiller cabinets and fridges too. Although ‘white goods’ appliances generate heat, in which case it would be wise to install an air conditioning unit.

Remember you don’t want to have to walk the equivalent of 2 miles when preparing a meal, so think carefully how and what you cook and the frequency you need certain items to hand on a daily basis. This focus’ the design on the interior of the pantry to your requirements. If you don’t have an adjacent room to the kitchen suitable, but your kitchen is large, you could partition and area specifically for a walk in. Or build a wall of cupboards with everything hidden behind doors when not in use.

A kitchen plan including walk in pantry design
A kitchen plan which includes a walk in pantry design

Consider your lighting and sockets positions if you want to keep your coffee machine and toaster in the cupboard, a breakfast station if you like. Narrow shelves for herbs and spices – easily retrievable whilst in the midst of cooking. If possible, a cold stone, or concrete counter top which is cold and easily cleaned. Do you want shelves for storage jars, and preserves, perhaps drawers for fresh produce or items not used very often including crockery and large platters? Tailor the design to suit your kitchen working and lifestyle.

Bespoke larder and pantry designs available from Plain English, DeVol, Neptune, Martin Moore to name but a few who have now introduced these designs.

 

 

Design a Home and Garden that means Something to you

White Alliums' and dark tulips planted to gether

What does your home and garden mean to you? A place to relax, entertain and spend time with families. How do they make you feel? Our homes and gardens should create a feeling of happiness and well being – a haven of peace in a busy world, and reflect your personality and chosen lifestyle. Ha! in a perfect world I hear you say.

How often have you visited either a National Trust garden, https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gardens-and-parks,  The Chelsea Flower Show  or an open garden as part of the National Garden Scheme charity fundraising, https://www.ngs.org.uk/ and become inspired to create a lovely garden of your own, only to become despondent on returning home, faced with your own small patch of turf? We’ve also been guilty on the first of the warm, sunny days of rushing out to the local nursery or garden centre and purchasing seasonal plants for instant display, only to find that you don’t actually know where to plant them? Like all home and garden projects it’s down to good planning, you are, after all, creating an outside ‘room’ extension to your home.

Create a Mood board, after all many interior mood boards are inspired by nature’s colours’, textures and movement. Ensure that your outside space compliments your interior space, a cohesive, seamless boundary between the two.

Garden Moodboard for inspiration
Garden Mood board by thepapermulberryblogspot.com

Ten Guidelines on Planning your Outside Space

  1. Budget – How much are you prepared to spend?
  2. Measure your site.
  3. Note the aspect, is it North, south, East or West? This has an influence over choice of plants, and where you want your seating and entertaining area to be.
  4. Hard Landscaping – Hedges, fences, decking paths etc. working within fixed boundaries. Do you want a water feature? Do you want outside lighting? These should be incorporated into you plan now to allow for electrical wiring requirements.
  5. Soil. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky most of us have ‘rubbish’ soil – clay, chalk, sand, silt, loams and peat. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=179 (It maybe full of stones and builders debris too). To identify your soil type go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/htbg/module1/soil_types1.shtml  which offer great information other than purchasing a soil acid test kit. It’s important to choose the right plants for your soil if they’re to thrive ( not just the pretty ones). https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/beginners-guide/planting
  6. Collect ideas together you like from gardens, magazines etc. and think how you could incorporate some of these in your own garden. Also think about the transition from your interior to your garden. These should compliment each other and could be linked by either colour in the planting, fence or decking, or style of seating furniture and containers.  The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has an amazing website full of advice https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/design
  7. Prepare the planting border. Dig over at least fork deep, remove bricks, flints and anything else you may find and remove weeds. Then dig in well rotted manure. This is hard work, so not recommended on a hot day!
  8. Plan your planting scheme. Based on the aspect, space, soil type and desired final design and colour. Do you want a wildlife garden, attracting butterflies, birds and bees, a minimalist with maintenance to match? How much time, realistically are you’re going to spend gardening?

9. Now Buy your plants according to your list.

10. Compromise You maybe horrified by the price of your chosen plants, especially if selecting larger plants and shrubs for instant impact. Buy smaller specimens instead and be patient. Alternatively, consider scouring the clearance section for reductions, especially in the Autumn. O.K. they maybe going over for this season, but shrubs and perennials will come back next year to enhance your garden at a lower cost.

Be patient, gardens like homes evolve and grow over time. Below, are before, during and after picture’s of an overgrown and neglected garden, taken over two years.

 

The garden now, two years on. Just wondering how many beers had been consumed prior to cutting the lawn, judging by the stripes!

Preparing Your Home For Selling

For Sale/Sold Sign by Zazzle
For Sale/Sold Sign by Zazzle
How long will it take to sell your home?

Spring is a popular time to market and hopefully sell properties, and once that decision has been made, you contact your local agent for a valuation. Agents valuations are based on similar properties to yours currently sold or for sale in the area.

Now, if you’ve lived in your home for many years maybe it  has become a little ‘tired’ or dated’, but would rather sell ‘as is’. Possibly at a lower selling price and taking longer to sell, rather than face doing any work, spending money, in the hope that a DIY enthusiast will see the potential and relish the challenge, some do, many people don’t see the potential or want to undertake the work.

You can ask your agent (if your home is tired or dated) for two valuations – ‘as is’ and ‘tidied up’. Depending on the individual agent, they may advise that it’s not worth spending any money or the effort, as the return will not out weigh the costs involved. Or they may be happy to advise on both scenarios. If the agent offers both marketing prices, you can work out your parameters of what you would be prepared or need to spend for the ‘added value’ and make an informed decision on whether you should implement the improvements or not.

Kitchens and bathrooms are two of the biggest influences on a sale. The view often being, don’t change it, as whoever moves in will rip it out and put in new. Possibly, either straight away, in time, or just don’t want the expense and hassle. Again, compare the ‘added’ value’ and costs, this will help you make your decision. Think about your target market: who is likely to want to buy your home? What will they be looking for?

Front path and door of Victorian house
Ensure the front of your home looks promising.

Whether or not you intend to carry out any updating, your home should still be prepared and ready to market for great photographs for the internet, brochures and actual viewings. Cleaning, especially bathrooms and kitchens, de clutter, windows should sparkle. De-personalise by packing away personal items (well you’re moving aren’t you?) so prospective purchasers can see how their belongings will fit in or not. Don’t be precious, be objective and try to see the house as a commodity rather than your home. If you find this difficult, ask friends ( however they may not be totally honest with you) Estate Agent or Home Staging Professional for their view and recommendations. Refresh garden containers with seasonal plants to brighten up dull corners of your outside space.

Case Study – Before and After of a ground floor flat which I completed last year for marketing and selling. The flat had become outdated and ‘tired’. This was the hardest job I think I’ve ever carried out, the flat had belonged to my dear mother.

The target market was an older individual or couple, perhaps downsizing or retiring, who would probably want to move straight in and not have any or very much to do.

Living Room

Working with a neutral palette to create a cohesive look in a small flat, all the rooms, including the paint work was painted the same colour. A new cream carpet was laid throughout. In the living room the 1960’s fire-place and surround was replaced with a smaller contemporary model. Although excess furniture and personal effects have been removed, we re-used some of the existing furniture and rearranged its layout.

Kitchen

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the ‘before’, of the kitchen, but the units were dark brown wood, beige work top and beige speckled tiles with an occasional fruit or vegetable tile – a 1980’s throwback. The units were in good condition and the design layout worked ergonomically, it was just that it looked dated.  Painting the cabinets an off white, replacing the work top and changing the tiled splash back to white metro in brick style made the kitchen much brighter, more contemporary and up to date.

Guest Bedroom

The guest bedroom was originally very cramped and cluttered. By removing the shelves, wash basin and tiled splash back and a single bed more space was created. Freshly decorated walls and cupboards which were fitted with new knobs, and a new fitted carpet laid. Again,  some of the original furniture and accessories were re used during the bedroom re-design.

Main Bedroom

Main Bedroom. The textured wall paper was removed, and the walls and woodwork were repaired and freshly painted in the same colour as the rest of the flat. The curtains and track were removed, leaving just the blind. The  furniture layout was rearranged, excess furniture was removed, and some items from other rooms were introduced. A new carpet was laid.

Shower Room

Small shower room
Shower Room

Although this work was done prior to the staging of the flat, it would have been necessary to include refurbishing the bathroom. The original pink bathroom suite was replaced with a large 1200 mm walk in shower, with room for a stool if required. The walls were tiled to full height on all walls. A vanity basin provides storage.  Extra storage ( not seen) was provided by a tall cabinet. The adjacent toilet has the same wall tiles and an extra high toilet was installed.

By investing time and money the property increased in marketing value by £35,000 and sold very quickly. But do your own sums, it’s all in the numbers!

Images by Sarah Maidment Interiors, Sign by Zazzle, Front door by rhsblog.co.uk Pots by http://www.etthem.se

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House Before and After Pictures

Front porch of renovated 1930's house

I have now compiled ‘before and after’ pictures, with the occasional ‘during’ photo (remember it always gets worse before it gets better) which I hope you’ll enjoy and give you momentum to commence or  finish your projects.

The renovation and restoration of a 1930’s house is finished! Are you ever finished in a home? Probably not.

Front Elevation

Before – Sad and neglected                                        After – Restored and extended

Hall

Before - The original 1930s' entrance hall prior to renovations.
Before – The original front entrance hall prior to renovations.
Original 1930's entrance hall
Before – The original hall was dark and poky.
Acro props before steel beam is installed
During an internal hall wall removal.

 

After - The finished entrance hall in a 1930's house
After – The completed entrance hall

Sitting Room

Before - The sitting room with the original 1930's brick fireplace.
Before – The sitting room with the original 1930s’ brick fireplace.
After - The original 1930's brick fireplace cleaned up
After – The original 1930’s brick fireplace was retained, so too were the original Crittal French doors.
Before Original 1930's sitting room complete with Crittal French doors and brick fireplace
Before – A 1930’s sitting room with original Crittal French doors and brick fireplace.

Kitchen

Before - The original 1930's dining room
Before – The original 1930’s dining room
During - The wall dividing the kitchen and dining room has been removed.
The dividing wall between the kitchen and dining room has been removed, to be re-positioned.
After - the completed new kitchen
After – The completed kitchen
After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.
After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall. Original servants bell box is re-hung – shame no staff though!
Open plan kitchen/diner/day room with bi-fold doors onto garden.
View into dining/ day room area from kitchen
Before- original 1930s' dining room
Before- the original dining room prior extension and renovation work – damp wall is now where clock is hung.

Living Room

Rear Footings 3rd feb 2015
Before – Laying the foundations
Painted Stove and Fireplace
During – Marking the wall for the multi-fuel stove
Trescotte Sitting Room Afer 073
After – The finished sitting room

Family Bathroom

Before- A tired and dated bedroom                         After – A family bathroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom during construction
The first fix electrics in the master bedroom
After - Large master bedroom with Heals four poster bed
After – The finished master bedroom
master bedroom with four poster bed from Heals
After – The large master bedroom complete with a four-poster bed from Heals.

The Loo

Before with original cistern          After – Re-sited and restored cistern

Guest Bedroom

Originally a landing with airing cupboard, bathroom with separate loo. Now a guest bedroom, painted in ‘Setting Plaster’ Farrow and Ball http://www.farrow-ball.com/setting%20plaster/colours/farrow-ball/fcp-product/100231

Rear Elevation

Before – An overgrown garden                           Waiting to mature!

However carefully one plans either a renovation or restoration project, it rarely comes in on budget – it’s usually over budget. This is not just because of unforeseen problems like discovering structural problems once the work has commenced, it can due to adding a few extra plug sockets here and there (it all adds up) or choosing high specification kitchen, bathrooms and fittings. Usually it’s because we’ve under estimated the basic build/renovation costs – raw materials labour plus VAT.  Comparing your projected budget spread sheet to the actual costs spreadsheet, helps analyse where you under budgeted or over spent.

Did we go over budget? Yes, we knew we’d go over budget when we decided to install the Sonas system. However, the original quote was less than the final invoice due to the time-lapse between the first fix and completion – the labour and equipment had increased in price. The quote was valid for 30 days only, lesson learned.  The building material costs were higher too, despite having a breakdown of these costs from the supplier which our budget spreadsheet was based upon. Generally, the majority of people under-estimate their expenditure.

With the uncertainty of property the market, and the impact Brexit may have, many home owners are opting to improve their current home instead of moving. Having had nearly forty years experience in renovating properties, although home values may dip from time to time, they always go up, and on the whole a good investment.

If you think I can be of benefit to you and your project, whether big or small just contact me.

Floor tiles on cloakroom floor     http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/patisserie/sucre-1 and entrance floor  http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/casino-floor/mode/grid

Artwork by Kim Major George  http://www.majorgeorge.co.uk/

 

 

Old House, New Home. What’s Your Next Move?

Before- Front Elevation of a 1930's house

Renovation, restoring, extending, decorating of tired old houses is a passion for some, a nightmare for others. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and am I’m currently enjoying Old House New Home on Chanel 4 http://www.channel4.com/programmes/george-clarkes-old-house-new-home. The joy and sense of achievement after all your hard work ( and cash) when it’s finished for you to enjoy and live your life is a celebration indeed.  For some it’s a way onto the property ladder or an upgrade to a larger home, hoping for a cheaper purchase price, which will increase in value when completed – hopefully worth more than they’ve spent, and to live and enjoy their old house, new home. Some lenders will require the house to be habitable though, insisting on there being a bathroom and kitchen.

Of course there is always competition, winning these properties from other like minded people or property developers and builders. The latter looking for pure profit of course, and may renovate as quickly and cheaply as possible for a quick return. If the plot is large enough a developer is likely to demolish the existing house and build a larger one, two or possibly more (subject to planning consents).The latter option is not so easy for non builders or developers due to mortgage restrictions although there are some specialist companies who offer this type of lending, and information can be found on  http://www.buildstore.co.uk/   I personally dislike the waste of demolishing a structurally sound house, requiring work, but see the attraction on saving 20% on the VAT bill. It’s also not very green or ‘eco’, unless replacing with an ‘eco’ ‘passive’ house.

Extending our existing homes if possible has become more popular due to the high cost of moving – stamp duty, legal and agents fees, plus the extra on the purchase price for that extra bedroom, living space or bathroom.

Whichever way you decide to move, renovation project or extending, the ordinary home owner has a distinct disadvantage  – VAT. 20% is a high proportion of the budget.(Barn conversions and some renovation projects and building your own home are zero rated).  VAT is on fixtures, fittings and labour charges. If a dwelling has been empty for longer than two years or more you may be illegible for a reduced rate of 5%. For details go to https://www.homebuilding.co.uk/ To encourage and help ordinary folk, the Government should lower the VAT threshold on renovation projects. It’s greener too. Years ago, grants were available to help fund bathroom installations (if there wasn’t an inside bathroom), damp and woodworm treatments. Alas this help has long gone. Wouldn’t it be helpful to bring funding back for essentials, subject to certain criteria – income and length of residency, perhaps to assist those on lower incomes make a home of their own?

With the housing crisis, and lack of affordable homes especially in certain areas, a lot of young people with the dream of owning their own home is just that, a dream, despite working hard. There are Government schemes – Help to Buy ISA where the Government will top up your savings by 23% (up to £3000.00). The drawback being that the house you buy must have a purchase price of up to £250,00 .(up to £450,000 in London). Mmn. Try finding a house in the home counties for that price. The Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee is a better deal, it lets you buy a home with a 5% deposit. The guarantee is to the mortgage provider, not you as a buyer. The purchase price is up to £600,00, which is more realistic in the high priced London area. However, you still have to prove you can afford to make the repayments of course, and with the average living salary, its still a tough call.

Hard earned cash pays their rent, living expenses and student loans, with little left to save for their deposit. House sharing in your twenties is not the same when in your thirties, especially if you want a family. This is now a major decision factor too, maybe putting your life ‘on hold’. You can’t make the home your own either, due to tenancy agreement restrictions.  Are we regressing to earlier decades, when complete families lived in a few rooms in a house shared with others? In 1918 the majority of households in England and Wales were rented, with just 1% socially, rising to 31% in 1981. Today the highest percentage of renters is in London, along with the highest property prices.

The newly built starter homes on big estates are, in some cases, poorly designed and cheaply built, with little more than a ‘postage stamp’ for a rear garden. There are great architects who could design  well planned homes, which could adapt to the changing needs of the occupants over the years  to extend if need be, i.e. the option for a loft conversion. The ‘Lifetime Homes’ concept was developed in the early 1990s’ by a group of experts including Habinteg Housing Association and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to design homes to support the changing needs of the individuals and families at different stages of their lives. From raising children, coping with illness or reduced mobility.    http://www.lifetimehomes.org.uk/pages/revised-design-criteria.html

Shelter are currently running a campaign to celebrate 50 years, called ‘What does home mean to you? https://england.shelter.org.uk/ to raise funds and awareness of the housing crisis. So what does home mean to you?

House plan found on Google search, unfortunately without reference to the designer, for accreditation.

 

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – As the Dust Settles

After - The completed front elevation of a 1930's house

As extensions begin to settle, and fresh plaster dries out, cracks annoyingly appear in your newly painted rooms and skirting boards will move slightly. One of the most time consuming things on a major renovation project is the snagging. How often have you gone round the house with a bowl of mixed filler, filling in accidental knocks (leave settlement cracks alone for at least six months – they will return or get bigger) odd scratches and holes, to find you’ve mixed up far too much filler. You dispose of the excess filler, only to discover more holes! These of course have to be sanded smooth and touched in with a little matching paint. We have an assortment of paint pots, brushes, filler and sandpaper stacked in one room specifically for this purpose. I will be very glad when these can be stored on shelves in the garage. It’s a good idea to keep the paint used in case of small minor repairs required at a later date.

Snagging goes hand in hand with what I term as ‘The Builders’ Clean’. This is a mega clean. Paint splashes on windows, doors and frames need to be removed with either a small amount of solvent (if UVPC frames) and scraped gently off glass with a razor blade to avoid scratching the glass. This is prior to actually cleaning the windows. The dust will continue to settle and reappear despite your best efforts for some time. However, it’s surprising what a huge improvement these small repairs and cleaning make to the finished house – it actually looks finished.

It wasn't as bad as Miss Havisham's house in Great Expectations
Too be honest, it wasn’t as bad a this!

Finally, we were ready to lay the carpets to the first floor bedrooms, landing and stairs. I chose a plain grey carpet for all these spaces, creating a cohesive look. Grey is a wonderful neutral colour which can be teamed successfully with many other colours, which enables individual character and style for each room. Once the carpets go down, you really feel that the house is almost finished. I was also very pleased to see the back of the dusty floorboards (despite the repeated vacuuming) and noisy stairs. The carpet came from a nationwide carpet shop, who use subcontract fitters. Although we had quite a large area requiring new gripper, underlay and carpet fitting, the rooms were void of furniture, so it made the job a lot easier and quicker. However, I was disappointed to discover that the fitters don’t dispose of the waste and cut offs. They simply bag it up for the customer to dispose of. I have a skip, but what about everyone else? Another trip to the tidy tip? It would be even worse if you had old carpets to remove prior to fitting the new.

The rooms looked much better having carpet, and would have looked amazing if the fitters had bothered to vacuum the carpets before rushing off. There was fluff everywhere, which was also floating around as ‘tumble weed’ downstairs. What happened to pride in your job, leaving looking as best you can? As I was vacuuming the carpet, I noticed in several places that the paint on the skirting board had been damaged by the carpet fitter’s tools. More snagging!

The Sonos System has been connected to the speakers – we have music! Needless to say that my husband and son have enjoyed ‘playing’ with the radio and music selections in different rooms. We have had to have boosters fitted in a few rooms though, due to the poor broad band service speeds available. BT are currently advertising fibre optic service on the television. Why are they advertising a service which is unavailable to so many people?

I have recently received a letter from the local council notifying me that I’m now liable for the Empty Home Council Tax Premium. The council explained that it is one of their priorities to increase the amount of available and affordable housing in the borough. Councillors have introduced this council tax premium for properties which have been unoccupied and unfurnished for two years or more to encourage empty homes back into use. They didn’t specify exactly how much more I had to pay, only that the increased charge would be 150% of full council tax for the property.

The house, when purchased was uninhabitable, and we received six months levy on council tax charges. During this time we had plans drawn up and submitted to the local council for planning permission (permission took twelve weeks) then we had to submit drawings to building control, which took another month, all before we could actually commence work, which took another six months before being habitable – just, (although not finished). Since the initial six month levy period, we have been paying the full council tax charges, despite being unable to move into the house, not until my present house has sold. I can understand and appreciate the councils intentions of encouraging occupancy of empty homes due to the housing shortage, but not all circumstances are the same. The extra council tax was certainly not in our budget or even contingency. Allow for it in your project!

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Useful category for filing purposes

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – The Great Interior Design Challenges

Buffering Symbol
Buffering – When will it end?

The image above via Google search is not of my new induction hob, but the infuriating buffering symbol we’re all familiar with.

The Open Reach engineer arrived on a re-scheduled appointment and connected the land line and internet connection. I explained my dilemma of broadband speed availability to service my requirements. He carried out a speed test for me – 1.70Mb. (However this was near the server, and my house has a lot of steel in it which does not help either). He explained that our connection came from the exchange which was 3500 metres away from my house. This connection has no fibre optic. There is a junction box cabinet 2000 metres from my home which does have fibre optic, which ideally I should be connected to. Unfortunately B.T. have not put in enough lines in to the junction cabinet to service everyone, and until they do we have to settle for poor service. So whichever service provider you choose, the internet speed will not be any faster.  Gigaclear an internet provider was awarded a £10m contract last year. This is the first time a company other than BT has been awarded funds from the “superfast extension programme”, which is cash from central and local government, overseen by the government’s Broadband Delivery UK. It’s time for  BT not to have the monopoly.  The village isn’t particularly rural either, and know that some towns have the same problem. It’s not just for entertainment value either, many people are working from home and a good service is a necessity. Interestingly, on Right Move http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale.html or Zoopla   http://www.zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/  the internet speed availability is stated on the listed properties and I have heard of cases whereby potential buyers were put off a property purely by the broad band speed, as this is a necessity to them. However, the company Right Move and Zoopla use for their broadband speed information is not always correct, so do your own research, and don’t be put off by a properties speed as listed on these sites.

I’m all for up-cycling, re-cycling and re-purposing furniture and objects where possible, and enjoyed watching   The Great Interior Design Challenge    http://www.sophieanddaniel.com/          http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04nj4d5/episodes/guide    re-purpose items given as part of the challenge to incorporate in their rooms. I was given a collection of odd items of furniture from a friend’s garage – a wooden bed head, metal bed parts and a small table. I discussed various options with my carpenter Tom, and to ensure that I wasn’t dismantling furniture of any value to incorporate into the boot room – shelf, boot storage and coat hangers and hooks.

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Bed head, and tables prior to re-purposing

A bracket for the shelf was made from the metal bed frame, a carved detailed piece of wood was used for the hooks to hang from. The table top and bed head have been re -designed for boot and shoe storage.

I bought a dressing table from my friend too, who was slowly clearing out her old family home. A mahogany veneer with a swivel mirror, glass top, original Bakelite knobs and carved detailing. There was a little damage in places caused by years of use. This type of furniture is currently out of vogue and therefore no one wants them. I needed a dressing table for the master bedroom, so painted the dressing table (including drawer interiors) with Annie Sloan ‘Paris Grey’ Chalk Paint.       http://www.anniesloan.com/annie-sloan-products/paints/chalk-paint.html   To enhance the carved detailing I applied a coat of dark wax diluted with a little white spirit, wiping away the excess. This also gave the dressing table the appearance of ‘antiqued’ or ‘aged’. The Bakelite knobs were put back on, and I now have a bespoke item of furniture. So glad this didn’t end up in landfill!

We found rolls of fabric in a cupboard, one of which was still wrapped the original paper, complete with sales label. Un- rolled, the fabric by Sanderson, who are celebrating 150 years this year.     https://www.sanderson-uk.com/shop/fabric/?act=ssocomplete    is still as good as new.  We still have the whole nine yards! The design is very 60’s/70’s and can’t presently find anywhere to reuse it. I’m open to offers!

 

We also discovered about two yards of 1970’s cotton dress fabric – cushion covers perhaps?

 

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – Don’t You Just Love Technology?

Sonas System image via Pinterest

 

Sonas System image via Pinterest
Sonos System

It was suggested, prior to the first fix electrics to install a Sonos music system.  After much thought and discussion about going over our original budget, we decided it would be a good idea. TV and internet ports were also installed in some bedrooms as well as the living areas, the idea being that family members could use the internet independently to stream films, games etc.  Our electrician laid all the cables and the builders left gaps in the ceiling ready for the speakers. The mass of wires leading back to a cupboard where the system will be controlled from. The installers of the Sonos System wanted the house to be virtually dust free before fitting.

Ceiling Speaker
An unobtrusive ceiling speaker

Sounds good, and so far so good, until we came to install a phone line and broadband. An internet search of post code speeds and providers showed lots of options and costs too, including BT Infinity, Sky Fibre Unlimited, EE and TalkTalk. BT Infinity showed the estimated speed at 22.8 – 38Mb. As a current BT customer I organised the contract and booked in an installation date. However, when reading through the info received BT had estimated the broadband speed at 1Mb – 4Mb. This is a huge difference, especially when streaming films, downloading computer games and music. I questioned BT about the speed, and they explained that half the village did indeed have fibre optic cable, but my house is in the half that doesn’t; and they had no plans in the foreseeable future to install the other half. So we have all the technology wired in, but inadequate broad band service to actually run it all at the same time.

Broad Band Speeds for your area can be found in the internet
Broad Band speeds for our post code found on the Internet

A neighbour came by just by chance with some information about a company who provide a better broadband speed of up to 40Mb. He had just set up an account and had the system installed, due to his frustration with BT. This sounded promising.

The system works via EE’s 4G mobile network. The company will install an external antenna which connects to a 4G modem and allows for both wired and WIFI access through EE. It is also possible to move your current landline number to an internet based phone system, removing the need for a BT landline. The cost of this phone system is £2.50 a month line rental and 1.2p per minute for calls. A typical cost for the installation is £799.00, plus system interface and configuration charges plus plugs, plus plus….. But then we may save on call charges etc.

Two contracts are offered, either a 30 day rolling contract offering 15GB for £20.00 or 25GB for £30.00 per month. Or 24 month contract at £28.00 a month for 25 GB or 50GB at £55.00. Checking our current average monthly data usage (currently unlimited) this was insufficient for our needs. The maximum for a consumer available is 50GB a month, but we can add more at £15.00 for 10GB. The company didn’t specify whether that was £15.00 for each additional 10GB on top, but guessing it is. This makes a huge difference to the cost. If your usage comes within 50GB, then it’s sounds like a great system in rural and not so rural areas. Anywhere in fact BT haven’t bothered to install sufficient fibre optic cable, despite the Government promises!

So where does that leave us? Well, with BT, as there appears to be little else we can do.  Unfortunately, BT failed to turn up at the appointed time and date. Neither did they call or text to say they weren’t coming. For a communications company their communication skills are shocking. So back to the buffering and waiting for things to down load. Don’t you just love technology?

Selecting tiles for kitchen
‘Mood Board’ of tiles and work top

The work top in the kitchen has been installed by a local stone supplier, who have a huge range and choice of materials and colours to choose from. They also template and fit the work tops. I was lucky enough to find an off cut of Silestone which was suitable, and therefore a little cheaper. Silestone is a composite stone, offering hardwearing capabilities, and is less expensive than granite. Again shop around as prices vary enormously between suppliers. I have chosen to tile the splash back rather than have an upstand, to make the space more cohesive. I didn’t want an upstand with a tiled or glass backing behind the hob, which would break up the run above the work top.