Our home is by no means finished; I’m not sure it will ever be “finished”. I am more of a serial re-decorator as opposed to a serial decorator. It’s not our “Forever Home”, but that’s not to say I don’t want it to feel like we’ll be here forever. When I walked into this house, I knew we would be at home here; I wanted to raise our children here (those hypothetical children who we are yet to bring home, of course). The street is a peaceful row of beautiful Victorian semi-detached houses, the gardens sprawling and sloped with lots of room to create an inside/outside space; and the neighbours and community friendly. I knew this was the house for us. (It also meant I could get a dog. Cue Boris).
The house was also appealing because it wasn’t in dire straits; it was workable without us having to get stuck in to major projects right away. Although it turns out that having a big garden was more of a challenge (by challenge I mean massive, time-consuming pain in the arse) than we had anticipated. I have lost count of the amount of hours we have spent out there; removing overgrown trees and shrubs from both sides of it’s entire length, and putting up a new fence (not to mention the decades of other people’s cr*p that we cleared from the bank at the back).
There were big changes we could make to this house without even having to consider extending or converting a loft. To me that felt as though there was lots we could do before we could afford the “big stuff”.
We started with new floors throughout the downstairs of the house. This was my husbands baptism of fire when it came to fitting wooden floors by himself. The sitting room was also, in a word, freezing. We re-tiled the fireplace ourselves (mainly me, with him shouting intructions as I wanted to do it all myself); then I painted the fire surround and we had a beautiful new Clearview logburner installed. This also involved us having to have the old gas-pipes (to the gas fire that had resided there previously) disconnected. Here starts a rather interesting tale of my husband cutting through said gas pipe on a cold January evening which resulted in an emergency house evacuation, a call to a plumber down the road, and of course a call to my father-in-law (parents can fix everything, right?). Once the intial panic was over we returned to a house with no heating or hot water until the kind plumber came to fix everything the following afternoon. Moral of the story? Don’t mess with gas pipes!
(The picture above also shows the plantation shutters we have had fitted in the sitting room. These are addictive; if you get them fitted then just be prepared to proceed to fit them in every room of your house as I have gone on to do!)
Another fireplace disaster came when my husband popped out into town for a quick haircut on Saturday morning in Spring a couple of years ago. After much talk and procrastination about how best I could rid us of the hideous gas fire and even more hideous fire surround in the dining room (anyone who knows me knows that I view procrastination more as an Olympic sport of how much I can actually “plan to plan”). I had my method straight in my head; unscrew the mantle of the existing surround; once the wood mantle was gone, just go at the seal of the cast iron fire surround with a hammer and chisel. Needless to say that he returned to a scene of me desperately grasping a fire and cast iron surround which was weighing me down in my efforts to keep it upright. Meanwhile as it had been pulled/ fallen away from the chimney breast, the entire contents of the blocked and bricked-up chimney had fallen across the dining room. Cue a weekend of “operation clear-up” and a lifetime ban of me attempting an further major DIY whilst he was out of the house. Once the drama was over we replaced the hearth and tidied up the bricks in the fireplace; before finishing it with a floating beam mantle. We’ve held back on a wood-burner in this room, as once major renovations begin this room is set to become part of a much larger kitchen-dining space.
Note; to all people reading this who deem it appropriate to block up beautiful, original fireplaces with hideous, modern, gas alternatives. I don’t think we can ever be friends.
Shortly after these fun and games were over we set to work on creating a downstairs toilet out of an oversized downstairs cupboard. I was seven months into living in a house that, quite frankly, I was fed up of having to let people traipse through to go upstairs when they needed a wee! We had the floor dropped in the cupboard, pipework put in and our clever plumber created the perfect little cloakroom within the space. I know it was just a toilet; but I felt as though this was the first project that we had been able to entirely put our stamp on; a room in the house that (however small) we had chosen each and every detail in. It was, quite frankly, the downstairs toilet of dreams (Well in my head anyway).
A couple of months later, by late Summer 2015, I was pregnant with Teddy. This was when the need for actual work in the house began. When we bought the house it had two generous-sized bedrooms; ours at the front, a further double bedroom opposite ours, and a BIG bathroom at the end of the landing. This posed three major problems for me; the nursery would be too big for a tiny person and I felt as though we were wasting space; where would anyone else stay if we had guests? Lastly, I was fed up with tripping over and walking into walls every time I needed the bathroom in the middle of the night, it was miles away. (For those of you who have never been pregnant, just trust me on this one, this adds up to a LOT of bathroom trips.)
Pictures below show the original bathroom when we bought the house (yes, that is a carpeted bathroom before your eyes); and the original spare bedroom when the builders had laid out the plan for the dividing wall.
So the plan (and I am prepared to take full credit for this, as it was absolutely my idea); was to split the existing spare room into two with a new wall. The half with the door that faced our bedroom would become the new bathroom (see what I did there, sneaky); and the other half would have an entrance door at the other end of the landing, that half would be Teddy’s room (or Baby Wright as he was known as whilst inhabiting my bump!). The existing bathroom? Easy; that would be ripped out and made into a guest bedroom, the perfect size for a single bed; but we would use our pull-out day bed so it could be turned into a double if needed. Done.
I cannot believe I made the above sound so simple. If I had known that my grand plan (which we were told would take 3-4 weeks FYI) would turn into an almost 4-month project, I wouldn’t have been thinking myself so clever. Especially when those tilers, plasterers, plumbers and electricians were still here at the beginning of April 2016 and I was a very tired, cranky and heavily pregnant lady (who hated all other humans being in my house. That includes husbands by the way).
During this time though, I had enormous fun choosing bathrooms, fittings and fixtures, tiles, new carpets and wooden floors for the nursery and spare room; and of course all of the pieces for Teddy’s room. We also decided to have new spotlighting fitted throughout the landing and corridors, entrance hallway and dining room; this brightened up the once darkest places in the house. We did all of the painting ourselves to finish using Farrow & Ball colours throughout (As a devout lover of neutrals I simply cannot tire of how many variants of “White” one company can produce).The wooden flooring in the two smaller rooms I felt were a particular triumph, so warm on your feet and made a once “un-lived in” end of the house suddenly feel cosy and warm; perfect for me and our new baby, I thought.
Note 2; after completing two tiled bathrooms in this house, I am never prepared to go without underfloor heating in a bathroom in any house we live in ever again. My life is just too short for dealing with cold feet. There I said it.
We’ve not taken on any further “big projects” for now; it’s not to say that we won’t or that they aren’t (always) in the pipeline. I think that after losing Teddy we’ve just been working on some smaller “feathering” as we gear up to the bigger plans. It’s always hard to look at your projects when the plans you had initially made for them don’t seem to make sense anymore. That’s something I think about often; what if?….