After weeks of dust and disruption, where every day starts with the arrival of the builders, I was looking forward to spending louche days in pyjamas. I pictured wine, box sets and lengthy baths and well-needed time away from the day job. But I knew I was never going to relax in a space that was shrieking for attention. So just before Christmas we pulled out all the stops to create a small space that gave the eyes a rest from the repetitive evaluation of the fixtures and fittings and lack thereof. A mist coat was applied to the bare plaster walls, floors were mopped and the old decommissioned bathroom was turned into huge cupboard where we hid all the building detritus.
With just days to spare, two wonderful things happened. The stonemason appeared and fitted the fireplace and my builder plumbed in my new oven. Though I’d already made alternative arrangements for Christmas dinner it was amazing to be able to bake and roast over the holidays. Even making cheese on toast seemed like a wonderful treat. One of the best things about this project has been learning to appreciate every aspect of modern living anew.
A young friend stops by and gets the best seat in the house.
I’ve been going to bed and fantasizing about paint colours every night for weeks. It seems for the last few years everyone has been painting their walls grey. My last living-room was grey and even the property developers on the place next door have painted every room grey so it feels like time to move on, but what to? While browsing the annals of Pinterest I came across a pond green bathroom. I rather like murky colours and when contrasted with the crisp white porcelain it seemed an invigorating combination. So I took to the unfinished bathroom with a tester pot, it was scary and I wasn’t sure, so I emptied the whole tester pot on the wall and still wasn’t sure. Clearly I am going to have to go the whole way.
The colour, the movement of the fabric.
Tentative dipping of the toe…
I’ve been camping inside my own house for a little while now. It’s had tremendous highs, little-bear creates-seafood-extravaganza-on-two-ring-electric-hob and vicious lows, large-slug-climbs- up-drain-into-bathroom-basin (and refuses to exit).
The advice from everyone was create a room in the house that’s comfortable and clean, a retreat from the building site that is currently my home. I’ve now had several little bedsits within my house and no sooner do I become comfortable, I am moved on by the building juggernaut, typically plastering, which introduces a wet earthy smell to the house and covers my whole world with a thin layer of dust and mud. But there have been two glorious things both utterly primal (the reinstatement of broadband was just merely nice by comparison) and that’s fire and water.
Let’s start with the fire – amazing! In my living room the original Victorian fireplace had been removed but the chimney remained and was clearly just begging to be lit. What I didn’t know was that sometimes they have a little shelf inside that they close to stop heat escaping so yes the room became a bit OK a lot full of smoke but once that little error was remedied it was frankly beautiful.
And the bath. Well up until now I’d made do with a glorified lean-to and hose. Enter the bear and friends, yes the walls hadn’t yet been built nor was there a means to drain the bath but they managed to tap into the water supply and create an oasis. I had my best bath of my life on the first floor landing.
Today is one of those bad days where the dust, the mess and the persistent company of builders feels like an insurmountable weight. Today I caved over the positioning of a light-switch. On screen it seems terribly insignificant but right now I feel that rolling over to the builder’s opinion may serve as a permanent plastic monument to a moment of weakness.
Last week I instructed the builder not to erect a partition wall until I could get home and approve its width – fast forward two hours and I arrive home to find five feet of wall, thirty centimetres too wide. He had decided that he understood what I wanted and progressed anyway. It took so much courage to tell him to take it down but I managed and felt the happy surge of relief when my instructions were followed. But here we are just a few days later and I buckled on the light switch and now I will have to live with it. Granted there are definitely times when builder-knows-best but this wasn’t one of them. This was an aesthetic choice and I should have stood my ground. It was the equivalent of letting your Dad choose what kind of shoes you should wear.
I’ve been having these little wars of attrition throughout the project and it’s led to several little compromises on ‘the vision’. A little bear reminded me today that I am paying him and not to be bullied but sometimes while juggling the things of life, work, and this project something gives and today it was the light-switch.
Renovation is full relentless decision making. Little ones like; what type of light switch do I want? medium sized ones like should the bedroom door open to the left or the right? And huge ones like should I knock my two receptions together?
I’ve decided after much prevarication to partially knock out the wall between the two reception rooms. My first thought was to keep them separate, the first would be a living-room; sofa, TV etc and the second a home-office , books, writing desk, day bed perhaps. But then I realised that actually I was designing a room for the life I wished I had. The fantasy where I carry out a job I love that pays really well and allows me to work from home sitting at my beautiful desk, gazing out of the double doors and into a well cultivated garden.
The reality is that I work in an office 9-5, five days a week and that beautiful study would end up a dusty relic. The problem with un-used rooms is they end up becoming big storage areas for anything and everything. I had one of those in my last property and I would occasionally think wow I haven’t been in that room for six weeks and the dust would grow like tumble-weed.
The inspiration below
So this is the new horizon,instant pro there is now light from both sides, so far there aren’t any obvious cons. I will need to buy more furniture to fill the new space but that is really a pro. The hideous window at the back will be replaced by something suitably Victorian. The only question is around the fireplace.. the previous owners removed the chimney breast and I’m wondering whether to restore it.