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.

image
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.

 

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – Wind in the Willows

Mole from Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows

 

 

The wind in our willow and the only mole was ‘Mole’s Breath’ by Farrow and Ball.

We were very upset one morning looking down the garden. The whole of the lawn was covered with a fallen tree, battered by the wind from a storm the previous night. The tree had been a magnificent weeping willow and we installed a light especially highlight it when dark, with plans for a shaded seating area below its boughs.  Now all that remains is a broken stump – two thirds of the original size, not quite the ambience I had envisaged.  The willow had been key to the garden design. I really miss that tree.

 

Luckily the tree had not fallen on either our or our neighbours shed, however, it had to be cleared and removed as soon as possible so as not to damage the lawn further. Another huge job which took several days.  The tree had to be cut into manageable pieces to move it – logs for the multi-fuel stove, smaller twigs, branches and leaves. This was done in the relentless pouring rain. We had toyed about making a willow fence which was a nice idea but we really don’t have the time, know how or inclination.

A willow fence looks lovely in a garden
Making a willow fence from our pile of debris was beyond my caperbilities!

We hired a shredder so the smaller pieces could then be used as a mulch on the borders to help keep the weeds down. Its been so mild this winter they were continuing to sprout, along with the lawn. But, instead of raking the mulch over the borders my husband placed small neat piles and I now have what looks like termite mounds (or mole hills for that matter) all over the borders.

 

I had applied one coat of deep grey paint to a wall in the study, behind the original brick fireplace some months ago, prior to the wooden floor being laid.  Unfortunately it had dried in patches of lighter and darker tones, despite the wall having been prepped with a mist coat of paint over the bare dried plaster. I thought it was just a dodgy tin of paint although bought from a reputable company. My husband said it was the way I had painted it? –  I purchased another tin of exactly the same paint, and this time my husband painted the same wall. This also dried in patches. He applied a second coat, but with the same results. Dark at the edges where applied ‘cut in’ with a brush and around sockets, light where applied with a roller, and lighter still showing the outline of the plasterers mesh.

 

I abandoned this make of paint and purchased Farrow and Ball’s Mole’s Breath – being a similar colour to my original choice. http://www.farrow-ball.com/mole’s-breath//farrow-ball/fcp-product/100276    One coat of paint was applied and dried perfectly. Having already experienced problems with patchy and colour differentials in the master bedroom, I felt the company should be told about the problems with their product. After several weeks of email exchanges containing pictures, receipts of proof of purchase and batch numbers I received a refund for the two faulty tins of paint and a £5.00 gift voucher for my trouble. This hardly covers the time and expense of repeated wall painting. I just hope that the paint product problems will be investigated by the company concerned and rectified.

 

Farrow and Ball – Mole’s Breath dried uniformly and a great finish.

The wood flooring has now been laid to the ground floor. What a difference it has made to the whole house. Not only covering up dusty concrete floors, but means we can now fix the architraves and skirting boards to the walls. These can now be prepped for painting and a final coat of paint applied to the ground floor walls.

 

Although mild for the season, the underfloor heating has been switched on low to gradually acclimatise the wooden floor. This will swell and contact, as will some of the doors, which may need some adjustment.

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (17) What a Load of Rubbish

The Front Porch
The Front Porch
The Front Porch

Although we enjoyed the ideal weather in July ( I warned you I was way behind with progress updates) we were still waiting for the roofers to return to finish off the garage, porch and boiler room rooves. Once completed the render can be applied and then painted. We are also waiting for the electrician to come and complete connecting the light switches and sockets, so we can have light and power. This would certainly help with the tangle of assorted extension leads around the house.

New wiring, along with current supply is the power hub
Electricity Hub and tea making station on what was the pantry shelf

 

The front of the house is finally being cleared of rubbish and transformed from building site to drive. We hired ‘grab’ lorries to take away the enormous pile of Earth, brick and stones. Although not cheap, these lorries can remove and takeaway far more debris than skips, which is more cost effective in the long run. Our eight yard skip ( one of many to be hired from this company during the whole renovation) was now full to bursting, and I rang the company to collect it and to hire another in exchange. The company I had used had recently been bought by another larger waste management company, who had no record of me, my skip, account number or address, so wouldn’t come and remove it. They asked if I was sure it was their skip, to which I replied, it’s bright red with your company name painted on the side. Despite this, they still insisted that the skip didn’t belong to them. Not sure what to do with a full skip sitting in the drive, I asked for their advice. One man suggested I pay for the skip to be removed and emptied. I had already paid for this service when I first hired the skip, and was not going to pay again. I suggested to them that as I required another skip, and they couldn’t find my account, that I would have to go to another skip hire company for them to collect the full skip and deliver another, and that the new company could keep the skip. I was told that I couldn’t do that, as the skip didn’t belong to me. (Well I had paid for it, and you keep telling me it doesn’t belong to you). Over several weeks phone calls were exchanged, and became a source of amusement to everyone on site. In the meantime, I hired a skip from a different company so we could continue with clearing the site. Eventually they found my account, and came to collect the skip. Quite a cheer went up! I was asked if I wanted another skip, but declined their offer, it was too much like hard work.

Some of the earth left at the front of the house was piled up with a digger to form a raised bed, in front of the hedge, and a retaining barrier was created using sleepers which were bolted together for strength. A stone slab footpath was laid to one side, for ease of wheelie  bin maneuvering on collection days.  Dragging a heavy bin over gravel is no fun. One was poured and spread over the cleared drive area and flattened with a whacker plate to form a base for 20 mm pea shingle to be spread out on top to form a drive. What a difference, the whole front facade was transformed. It actually looked like a drive. We spent another sunny Saturday planting  some herbaceous plants in the rear garden with my mum. Although her gardening days have gone, she enjoyed directing us from her wheelchair, and a day in the garden was enjoyed by all.

A Saturday was spent sorting out numerous stacked boxes, containing, what would be the fitted kitchen. First we separated the unit door fronts from the carcass’s into different piles, and set to constructing the units as per instructions. Each one was labeled on completion with masking tape for identification purposes, and roughly placed as per the kitchen plan. We needed a quiet day, without interruption or people wandering about, so we could concentrate. The cupboard fronts were left packaged and safety stacked until the units had been fitted to the walls. The majority of our kitchen order had arrived as promised, apart from the dishwasher and hob, to which we received no reason for non delivery from the suppliers. The washing machine did arrive, although damaged, so was returned, with the promise to deliver another within the week. Needless to say this didn’t happen, and after several weeks of phone calls I eventually returned to the shop to chase not only the washing machine, but also the hob and dishwasher. Fortunately this did not delay the initial unit fitting. Apparently the washing machine delivery people didn’t think we still wanted the washing machine. Really? Why would we purchase something that we didn’t want? The washing machine finally arrived the following week. The dishwasher was crammed into the rear of my car, but we had to wait another two months for our chosen hob, as there was a manufacturing fault which had to be corrected.

The kitchen at least was beginning to look like a kitchen, albeit with a temporary ply work top and no splash backs. But to have running cold ( still no hot at this stage) water from the sink was luxury indeed. We’re constructing our own central island unit, with a ‘pop up plug’.

Sensio PowerPod 13A 3-Gang & Dual USB Pop-Up Power Socket Black Nickel

http://www.screwfix.com/c/electrical-lighting/pop-up-sockets/cat6040010     This plug can be pushed in and out of the work top when required, comes with a useful USB port,  and has been designed around standard available units. The kitchen cannot be completed with kick boards until the flooring has been laid.

Aperture waiting for screens
Aperture waiting for screens

The kitchen flooring cannot be laid until the glass partitions have been sourced and installed. I have scoured salvage sites, Ebay and  companies specializing in steel framed doors and partitions.The former drew a blank due to available sizes and difficulty in transportation. The latter much too expensive. Discussions with different trades on site on other possibilities was solved by our excellent carpenter Tom, who suggested using Tulip wood and staining it, and put us in touch with a local small family run joinery company called Goodwood  Joinery. We had drawn out a scaled plan, which Tom then re measured which were sent to the joiners. There was an 8- 10 week delivery lead time, and we would need to order and put in our own safety glass, and stain it ourselves, but we had plenty of other work to carry on with, and the partitions only delayed the finished floor being laid. With lots of trades in and out of the house, this was probably fortunate.

The central boarding has been removed and wooden spindles inserted into the original aperture, so we can retain the original oak banister rail. These will be a time consuming job to paint, but has opened the space, and allows for more light through the  hall.

The roofers arrived! They have now completed the tiling on the remaining rooves. The electrician arrived! I shrieked a thrill of excitement when the lights went on, and we could finally boil the kettle from a wall socket, rather than disconnecting someone’s tool, or worse radio!

image
That’s more like it!

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (15 ) Getting Plastered!

The garden path being laid down the garden
The path being laid down the garden

Each trade moves projects forward, but when the plasterers arrive with their skill ( along with the mess) covering the walls, suddenly rooms begin to take shape. Our plasterers have also rendered round the exterior windows, doors and block work. Once completed and dry, we were itching to stabilize and then paint the render, to tidy up the exterior a little after looking so sad for so long. This won’t be fully completed until the side boiler/ mud room, porch and garage have been finished.

Once the plaster was dry the walls were ready to be painted with a ‘mist’ coat, this being a watered down trade white emulsion. Applying this base coat to new plastered walls will save on the finished emulsion paint coat required due to the porousness of bare plaster. It also shows up imperfections in the plaster which can be filled and sanded if necessary, leaving a smooth even surface for the final coats of your chosen colour. Also, if having metal light sockets and switches, the base mist coat will prevent moisture transgressing and causing discolouration  after the second fix electrics. The house suddenly became lighter and brighter. The ceilings had two coats of their final colour  but just one coat on the walls as the skirting boards have yet to be fixed in some rooms. I would wait for the comments from the different trades as they viewed my chosen colours’ being applied, which is mainly a neutral palette of soft greys. “What colour  do you call that”? They would ask. “Corpse Dick” I would reply. Taken aback I explained and showed them my niece’s comedy sketch about Farrow and Ball   http://www.farrow-ball.com/colours/paint/fcp-category/list and interior designers. https://sinteriors.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=161087&action=edit

Other colours chosen to prevent the house from appearing too bland are similar to the popular choices from the 1930s’, which I found under the layers of wallpaper and can be bought from many paint companies.

Craig and Rose available at B and Q, Crown, Dulux, Little Greene Paint, Fired Earth, and of course Farrow and Ball, to name a few. One of which was called ‘Fresh Plaster,’ from Craig and Rose, which of course caused amusement and comments from the plasterers. I have used this colour in a north – facing room as it’s a warm colour. Remember, ceilings do not have to be white. In some cases this can cause the wall colour to look different than you intended. The ceiling can be painted the same colour as the walls, giving the appearance of a higher ceiling. This also makes the cutting in (where the walls meet the ceiling) a lot easier. If you have a hall or landing with a lot of doors, which don’t have any architectural appeal, by painting the same colour as the walls the appearance is less like a corridor because the doors blend into the walls. This is a popular current trend, but ensure that an eggshell, or paint specifically for woodwork finish is used and available in the same colour as the emulsion  Not all paint manufacturers produce all finishes in all colours’.

My biggest painting challenge was the Master Bedroom with its high vaulted ceiling. I had to climb a ladder onto a tower to enable me to reach the ceiling with the roller. I then had to climb down and ask someone strong to move the tower along a little, only to climb up again and paint the next area of ceiling. Progress was slow, over several days, but who needs a gym with all that exercise? Being such a large room I needed gallons of paint and good natural day light as the electrics had not yet been connected. Once completed and the paint dry, some of the walls appeared to be patchy and slightly different colours. This was due to different batches of paint of the same colour, despite my order for all the paint made at the same time. The only way to rectify this was to repaint the wall with a final coat of the same batch number paint. I must say I was very relieved to escape this room and move onto the next!

A tower used to reach the ceiling
A tower used to reach the ceiling

Our neighbour came round one afternoon, concerned about the fence boandary  and his hedge, wishing to see how we had dealt with it, since laying our new garden path alongside the boundary. The ancient, now rusted wire fence and remains of the wooden posts – hidden for decades behind over grown shrubs and trees was still there, where it had always been. He wanted to ensure that we knew where his boundary was, up to the remains of wire fence, and that the hedge was his. The wooden fence, such as it was and what remained of it was rotten and leaning inwards towards our garden due to his overgrown hedge and would need to be cut back before a new fence could be erected ( by us). This was pointed out to him, but he didn’t cut it back, he said ” as it didn’t effect him”. So we cut out the problem branches and returned the debris as it belonged to him, and our skip was already full.

In the main sitting room the new fireplace wall was divided into three equal sections. The centre section being left as bare plaster ready for the bricks which would be laid behind the multi- fuel stove. The two side sections were painted in. This was a compromise to the completed brick wall. Great discussions on the final design of the fireplace ensued. The finished height of the hearth ( so logs could be stored underneath) and the size of the multi fuel stove. Due to the volume of the room we only required a stove with a 5 kW out put, to avoid cooking ourselves. However, we wondered if the size of the stove would look too small in the room. Pencil mark measurements were made on the plaster and we painted a ‘stove’ in situ to visualise the space. The original quote we received from a company we had used before was very high, not due to the stove itself, but for the building of the hearth with a granite top and flue installation. They were not forthcoming or helpful when I explained I just wanted the stove and flue installed. Our builders are very caperble of building the hearth design with bricks, and making the hearth from cast concrete. This was the finished look I wanted to achieve. The hearth was constructed in a wooden frame and strengthened with steel wire. Coloured concrete was poured into the frame and left to set. Once dried and set it was removed from the frame and lifted into place by four men and secured. It looks amazing and was achieved at a fraction of the cost of granite. We sourced the multi fuel stove and flu from another company and installed by approved fitters. The long established installers thought the hearth was solid York Stone and couldn’t believe it was cast concrete.

The company who made our steel lintels also make a small selection of iron work railings,  and made to measure the Juliete balcony for the Master Bedroom. I was glad once they had installed this, so I could open the French doors and let some fresh air in and finish off the rear elevation.

Christmas Past, Present and Those Yet to Come

Lighthearted view on why we keep our Christmas traditions
Lighthearted view on why we keep our Christmas traditions
A lighthearted view on our Christmas traditions and why we keep them.

I wonder how many people retrieved their Christmas decorations from the attic or from the back of a cupboard this last weekend, ready to decorate their homes during the coming weeks. My large boxes of decorations have grown in number from one to four, adding to the collection over the years. I don’t use all the decorations from all of the boxes, just selecting a few depending on the chosen colour to blend and not compete with the rooms decor or theme for the current year. However, some favourite ones are used each year evoking memories of Christmas’s past.

Vintage glass baubles. image from mahoninghistory.org
Vintage glass baubles. image from mahoninghistory.org

I have vintage glass baubles, still in their original boxes, given by mother during a house move, which remind me of our Christmas trees as a child. In another shoe box are an assortment of decorations my children made whilst at school, one of which is a felt ‘Father Christmas’, which now has a boot missing, but is always hung on the tree. The Angel or Fairy is the same one I had as a child. I did give her a bit of a ‘makeover’ a few years ago with gold ribbon and new wings, although now rather tired and jaded again she sits in pride of place on top of the tree, above the star, always last as the crowning glory. There is a green luminous rubber spider, once retrieved from a cracker which always creeps onto the tree – hung to irritate me of course. I remove it, and it manages to reappear as if by magic! The ‘tinsel issue’ always appears too. I prefer ribbon wrapped round, the others like tinsel. Silver tinsel can look great in the right setting – but not mine. It’s amazing too, how quickly foil wrapped chocolates disappear, completely on their own of course! However you choose to decorate your tree, like your interiors, ensure it reflects you and your personality.

 

Some decorations have been bought on holidays, beautiful Indian beaded stars, bells and trees. I have a Waterford glass Angel with a message etched onto it, given by friends. I think of them always whilst hanging it from a branch. We gather together to decorate the tree, and put on what the kids call ‘Cheesy Christmas music’, which is a family tradition. This year my son put on a South Park Christmas CD, which just wasn’t the same!

 

Choosing the right tree is not to be taken lightly. I love to observe people buying their trees. Without being sexist,  guys will generally walk in, pick up the first tree he comes to and is ready to go to the pay desk, until his partner stops him. Women tend to pick over several trees, and any  ‘possibles’ are held by the partner whilst she scrutinizes them. The trees are held patiently – sometimes offering suggestions which are often ignored. You spot the ‘perfect’ tree someone else has picked out and hover nearby hoping they will reject it, and eagerly pounce on it if it is. Conversations maybe struck up with other tree shoppers on the merits of each tree. Some people sing or hum along to the Christmas music being played, unaware that they are doing so. This process will continue for a while, until the perfect tree has been found, or the partner has really had enough!

The 'perfect' tree. painting by Carl Larsen
The ‘perfect’ tree. painting by Carl Larsen

1. Remember the tree will look smaller amongst the other trees when buying. Trees tend to ‘grow’ when placed in it’s designated area in your home.

2. Choose the position carefully. Furniture will often have to be re-arranged to accommodate your tree, but not to the detriment of comfort or the view of the T.V. Consider access to a plug socket for the fairy lights and ease of switching them off and on.

3. Height – measure your ceiling height. You don’t want to pay extra if paying by the foot only to find you have to cut off the top or bottom of the tree in order for it to fit.

4. Shape – Not too busy at the bottom, with a sparse top. A graduated triangular shape is ideal.

5. If placing your tree on a table top ensure it will not be too heavy to lift or for the surface to withhold the weight.

6. Think about the container  or stand for the tree, ensuring that it is stable and fit for purpose. You can always cover a plastic bucket with a grain sack, (a sheet of  crumpled Christmas wrapping paper is a poor effort) place in an attractive garden pot. Trees last longer whether with or without roots if you can water them.

 

My ninety year old, partially sighted mother puts up her small table top imitation tree each year in her flat and hangs the same decorations. The tree and decorations are from 1982, so very retro! The tree and decorations were my sisters, now sadly no longer with us, but the tree is bought out each year in memory of her. Although she lives alone, my mother enjoys the pleasure her tree gives, and thinks it’s worth all the effort.

I’m sure in Christmas’s yet to come, many decorations  will evoke memories and traditions carried on by future generations. Happy Christmas!

Image from flickr.com

 

Planning Ahead – Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House

Present front elevation of the house. This is about to change.
Present front elevation of the house. This is about to change.

We have now received planning approval for our extension. This is great news, but has not been without changes to the original plans. The Planning office objected to the position of the boundary wall in relation to our neigbours, and wanted it bought in by at least a metre. Our plans had been based on the existing boundary, where the garage now stands which has stood in this position since it was built in the 1930’s. This was no longer acceptable. Our architects amended the plans by moving the side elevation in by one metre, but elongated the rear dimensions, so as not to compromise on the design. This was accepted by the planners. Sometimes compromises have to be made. We are now just waiting for our architects to complete the Building Regulation drawings.

We received a letter from our neigbour, from whose boundary we had to build away from, expressing their concerns, and asking about the Party Wall Agreement. I have replied, stating that an Agreement will be drawn up, and that every effort will be made to avoid too much disruption to her whilst the work is being carried out. Good communication is essential concerning all parties to try and avoid conflicts.

Now we have actual scaled drawings, we have been able to plan the kitchen and bathroom layouts, as well as the electrical schematics to be put on the working drawings. Our landscaping plans have been roughly sketched out but not drawn to scale as yet. These drawings need to be done now to allow for the exterior lighting and power points to to be laid in the right positions at the right time during the work and not to be treated as an after thought, retro fitting can be expensive. Also positions of outside taps etc. need to be thought about and planned. These drawings will then be sent to contractors for quotes.

In the meantime the bathroom and kitchen have been stripped out ready for internal wall removal in the existing layout. Unfortunately one of the original basins I wanted to re use was cracked, so had to be skipped. All other salvageable items are now stored safely off site. We had hoped that these internal alterations would have been done by now to push the project on, but builders would prefer to carry out all the work in one go. Our scheduled start date on site is the first working day in the new year, so lots to plan now.

Whilst away on holiday lots of ideas have been gathered from the hotel we stayed in. Inspiration and ideas can be gleaned from everywhere to either copy or adapt to your needs accordingly. The hotel had been architecturally  designed to blend in with it’s location. The dining rooms, bedrooms, bars and lounge areas have been decorated in a French Colonial style, which suited the buildings, setting  and the islands history which was on a beach in Mauritius. There were lots of ideas, not only for the restoration of our 1930’s house, but also for other projects.

The  flooring in the main areas impressed me. It had been laid with a charcoal coloured polished concrete, and marked with lines to imitate over sized stone slabs or tiles. This choice of flooring is ideal for ‘hardworking areas’ in a home and relatively easy to achieve if laying a new solid screed floor. With under floor heating laid beneath the finished concrete layer to prevent it feeling cold in the winter. Concrete is an adaptable medium which can be coloured and patterned to imitate tiles and wood. The same concrete and finish can be laid on a terrace or patio thereby continuing the flow from the inside to out. If you have a large outside space, you could  add interest by creating zones for eating by putting a different pattern in the concrete or mixing with decking or slabs. There is a decking material made from bamboo and resin which is available in different colours’, and is a sustainable product which lasts longer and is fairly maintenance free, which is worth looking at if considering a decked area. I have found conflicting information regarding the costs per square meter of concrete floors. Some sites state that it is cheaper than tiling others say it’s more expensive, so shop around to find the best deals. For more information go to  http://www.madaboutthehouse.com/should-i-have-polished-concrete-floors/   So it is difficult to compare with the cost of laying porcelain tiles, which is the cost of the tiles plus labour of between £30 to £40 per square meter. Another material which is eco friendly can be found from http://www.concreateflooring.co.uk

Our hotel room had a small courtyard partially covered with a wooden pergoda with a glass roof and greenery. Something similar to this I feel needs to be erected at the rear of our 1930’s house from our dining room. This elevation faces due south and needs shade on hot summer days. It would also provide a structure for lighting for outside dining. A glass roof of course would be unsuitable due to the ‘greenhouse effect’. A solid roof would make the interior too dark. Greenery such as a wisteria or grape vine look lovely, but can take years to mature. Some pergolas have canvas covers which can be operated manually or automatically when cover is required. This option provides the flexibility needed for the English summer, especially if the canvas cover is water proof! http://www.shadefxcanopies.com/blog/

Some images are from Pinterest.

Light My Fire! – Ideas and Advice for Open Fires, Wood Burning Stoves and Decor

Advice and ideas on open fires and multifuel stoves
Advice and ideas on open fires and multifuel stoves
Advice and ideas on open fires and Multifuel Stoves

As the evenings draw in and get cooler we are forced to retreat once more indoors for the evenings, we long to ‘cosy up’. Nothing quite fits the bill the same as a fire, be it open, woodburning or other fuel. With a fire lit, the room immediately becomes welcoming and creates a focal point. In our 1930’s house, we have an original brick fireplace, which we intend to keep. However, as this room will be used as a family room or office, I doubt very much if we will ever use it. With this in mind, we have thought about a small wood burning stove to fit into the existing aperture. This would keep our options open. I’m rubbish at lighting open fires and find a stove is far easier. In the new sitting room (when it has been built, subject to planning approval) we would like a large woodburning stove. This stove will not have a chimney breast, but will be placed against a flat wall, with the flue going out through the outside wall. This gives a challenge to the design of the surround and focal point of the room, which needs to include wood storage of some description too. I’m working on this, but need to decide on the stove first. Here are some considerations and advice to think about.

1.Open Fires – If you have a chimney breast, but the fireplace has been long removed, you can open this up to use again. There should be a heat resistant hearth, a fire back to enclose the fire, a lintel to support the the brickwork above, a flue and a chimney. You will need to check that the chimney is not blocked with debris or ‘capped’on the chimney pot. It is also important that smoke is drawn up the chimney and doesn’t billow into the room. This can tend to be more of a  a problem in open fireplaces. Contact The Solid Fuel Advisory Association http://www.solidfuel.co.uk/frame/800index.html who can advise you and suggest approved merchants. The chimney needs to be swept too. Depending on the fuel you intend to burn, this has a has bearing on the choice of grate to go in the fireplace. Seasoned logs (at least a year old, otherwise the sap will clog up the flue) wood pellets, coal or coke or a mixture of these fuels. Check if you are in a smoke controlled area with your local authority first. Remember that wood needs plenty of dry storage space, and be cut small enough to fit in the fire.

2. Wood Burning Stoves – When choosing a woodburning stove the style is not the only consideration, but the size and heat output of the stove in relation to the rooms capacity. Too large and you will ‘roast’, too small and it will not provide sufficient warmth. The basic calculation is to divide the volume of the room in cubic metres by 14. This gives you the heat out put you need. It is advisable to purchase a DEFRA approved stove. Stoves have become very popular over the last few years, and create a real focal point, whether traditional, cylindrical, wall mounted or raised in a simple hearth. The design and fire surround should be in scale with the room.

3. Flueless Fires – Just because you don’t have a chimney breast, it  doesn’t mean you can’t have a fire. Opt for a flueless design. These fires are super efficient, with running costs on average a third of the price of comparable conventional fires. Another option is a balanced flue fire, which has a sealed glass front and a direct vent to the outside. Flueless options can be run on gas, electricity or bio-ethanol. Gas being the cheapest option at present, providing heat over a longer period of time. Bio-ethanol is generally the most expensive option, and can cause condensation, so are best used for shorter periods of time and used more as a feature.

4. Fire Surrounds – Position the mantle shelf either below or above the halfway point between the ceiling and the floor to avoid cutting the wall in half visually. The mantle shelf should not over hang the chimney breast and looks best being the same length as the breast. Always choose a larger surround than a smaller one to make a statement. Architectural salvage and reclaimed surrounds, whether wooden, stone, marble tiled or cast iron can look stunning in either traditional or modern interiors. If you’re prepared to put in the work to restore the surround this will save you money, as fully restored can be pricey. You can make your own surround from timber, and if you’re going to paint it use a heat resistant paint.

5. Fireplace Wall and Mantle Shelf Decor – This is an important part of the rooms decor. Hang a large single painting or statement mirror centrally over the fireplace. The fireplace will ‘anchor’ the piece. Hanging a television over the fireplace has been a popular choice  for some, but personally the T.V. tends to be too high for me, and I dislike the blank dark screen as a focal point and prefer to place the T.V. in a less obtrusive place, perhaps hidden from view when not in use. There are T.V.’s available which look like a mirror when switched off which is ideal, but are expensive. A set of prints or an eclectic mix hung above can work well too. Try painting the chimney breast a darker shade than the surrounding walls, or paint the whole wall a darker shade than the rest of the room.

The mantle shelf holding a small selection of decorative items to enhance the wall hung decor, fireplace, and room, adds the finishing touches. Create a vignette and treat as a whole entity. Small framed photographs, candles or ornaments. But remember less is often more, so don’t over do it.

All images from Pinterest

Ideas and Advice on Interior Design – All Done in the Best Possible Taste!

Ralph Lauren Home
Ralph Lauren Home

We all do it,  pour over beautiful photographs of interiors in magazines or watch the home improvement programmes on T.V. longing to recreate the same in our own homes. You perhaps feel inspired even, but then you look around your own interiors with dismay, the mis-matched furniture bought or given over the years, the cheap blind at the window having seen better days, the decor looking tired or dated. Our meagre budget prevents throwing everything out and starting again from scratch. View this as a positive thing, homes evolve and tell stories about our lives and reflect personalities.

There is no such thing as good or bad taste,  it’s your taste, and I believe in adapting and recycling your present home. If you don’t know where to start or what your taste and style is, an Interior Designer’s job there is to help you. A professional does not have their own style to dictate to you, their first job is to help you discover your own style and interpret it into your own home.

Below, I have some listed points which I hope will help you.

1. Choose an item you already own and love and such as a rug,  a painting or  an item of furniture  to use as a starting point.

2. Don’t rush the process. Put your own mood board together consisting of those drooled over magazine photograph’s, swatch’s of fabrics and floor samples you like. This helps you focus on your taste, style and how you can interpret the look you want with what you already own.

Grey Bureau with wallpaper and fabric swatches - Mood Board
Grey Bureau with wallpaper and fabric swatches – Mood Board

3. Up-cycle old furniture by all means, paint is the great transformer. My husband often asks me that if he stands still long enough will I paint him too. Well I might!  But don’t apply paint to a beautiful antique piece and replace the original handles with cheap new ones. An antique can add interest to the room. If you really dislike it, then sell it and use the proceeds towards something else for the room.

A painted Gustavian finished cupboard from Pinterest
A painted Gustavian finished cupboard from Pinterest

4. Edit your room by removing items and pare down your displays for more impact. Less is more, when applied correctly.

5. Start with a base colour. Take the ‘little black dress’ for example. You can dress it up or down, layer it, add different colours and accessories according to the seasons. use this as a guide for your rooms, the same rules apply.

6. Don’t be afraid of colour. If you like colour then use it. Opting for safe neutrals will not necessarily bring you joy. Paint one wall as a focal point, adding cushions and throws to add punches of colour.  Colour can lift your spirits.

7. Badly hung wallpaper or badly painted rooms compromise the finished effect, so take time and care over this.

8. Poor lighting is detrimental to the feel of a room. Lighting is an intrinsic part of the room. Use dimmer switches and table lamps for flexible lighting schemes.

9. If new lampshades are not an option, cover your existing shades with wallpaper or fabric remnants.

10. Change the bedcover in your bedroom, it’s the biggest feature and can alone can make a huge difference.

Changing your bedding can instantly change the style and mood of your bedroom.
Changing your bedding can instantly change the style and mood of your bedroom.

11. Don’t just go with the pack. If you want fitted carpet instead of wooden flooring – go with it.

12. Try re-arranging your furniture. Either measure the room first and plot on paper to make sure it will fit, or use masking tape on the floor. This avoids unnecessarily moving heavy furniture.

13. Add a vase of flowers or plants.

14. Display a collection you own on a wall or shelves.

Successful interiors make you feel relaxed, ‘at home’. No one wants to live in a museum, show home or bland box. So whether it’s  Ralph Lauren, Conran, or Cath Kidston inspired, it is your home and it should reflect the way you like to live and be as individual as you are.

In the famous words of William Morris

William Morris Quote
William Morris Quote

All picture’s other than my own are from Pinterest.

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.   http://www.farrow-ball.com/   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 http://www.littlegreene.com/paint/colour/period-paint-colours/1930s-colour-paint also have historical paint colour’s  according to dates, as do Fired Earth http://www.firedearth.com/paint 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.