HOUSE PROJECT: THE STORY SO FAR

HOUSE PROJECT: THE STORY SO FAR

We moved into our house a year ago last month. Crazy! 

After reluctantly letting go of half a dozen or so beautiful Victorian townhouses and character cottages stored up and fawned over in my RightMove favourites, this hulk of a 70's house came along like a thunderbolt of inspiration. Until this point we had seen lots of fairly average 3 and 4 beds {more like 3 and half beds, in many cases}, a few horror shows {I still wonder if that mangy dog shut in that utility room ever made it out alive} and a couple of possible projects that were just a bit toooo much work. I've always wanted an older property VS anything modern, it's all I've ever known growing up, but Mr L was the complete opposite {of course I married a little townie} so I've played the noble game one has to play at some point in every marriage that is COMPROMISE. 

I jest. I don't actually see this house as some sort of booby prize.

What really drew me in was the space, the light, the big windows, the generous garage and the garden. Oh the garden. It quickly became apparent that we wouldn't get all of this p-o-t-e-n-t-i-a-l in my cutesy country cottage, and I can add character and personality can't I, rigggght?

We bought the house from an elderly lady – she wasn't able to keep it due to ill health, so had left it empty for several months before we took ownership. It had been her family home since it was built in 1976, and it was and is quite apparent that they gave it lots of love and care, which took the pressure off having to move in and rip everything out straight away. Think pristine carpets and neatly painted and papered walls, just not in the colours you would choose. 

On the note of it being one whole year since we arrived, Mr L is always saying how we haven't actually got very far with the renovations – but I think may be forgetting just how incredibly different this place was when we arrived.

So, I guess we need to catch you up, right?

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen some of the updates over the last twelve months, but now I'll attempt to summarise them all into some kind of bumper house project extravaganza...

PRIORITY JOBS

We moved in just before Christmas, which meant we didn't have a lot of time at weekends to get started on anything major around the flurry of shopping, cooking and social gatherings.

However, we were keen to create a sanctuary; {and I would encourage you to do this too, should you be at just-moved-in-to-not-my-perfect-home} one room completely redecorated in our style/as we wanted it.

Newsflash: when you move house your possessions do not automatically unpack themselves into a beautifully styled arrangement in every room overnight. There are many painful weeks of faffing about, rifling through what feels like piles of useless crap {"why the hell did we keep this??"} and experimenting with rooms and furniture before it all starts to come together.

We attempted to eliminate as many boxes and piles of newspaper within the first few weeks as possible, but eventually realised we just needed to shove everything unpacked and ugly into one room and close the door. It allows the mind to focus on the rooms you can see clearly and to start thinking about your plan of attack...

Although we couldn't quite go full-makeover due to having to change the boiler and radiators a bit later down the line {next week! eep!}, we decided to do as much as we could to the master bedroom and make this our first project.

Our bedroom furniture was a wedding gift and came with us from the old house. Unusually ours it isn't the largest bedroom, but we do have fitted wardrobes at one end and an en-suite, so it's perfectly practical. 

We wanted a soft grey for the bedroom, and tried a whole bunch of shades before deciding on this one. It's a very calming colour even in our north-facing room, I absolutely love it. Huge thanks to my Mum who came up for the weekend and helped us paper and paint the walls – Mr L and I are useless at hanging the stuff, she's a pro, nuff said. Mum also blitzed the paintwork and gave everything a coat of white emulsion to freshen things up. 

The duck egg cushions were a bit of an impulse purchase from the Habitat sale, I'm not really a duck egg girl but I like their woven texture. We later added the floral one but TBRH I get so bored of cushions and change them every six months or so – it's a miracle they are still in here. 

As well as the obvious bits we also fitted a new ceiling shade, changed the curtain pole and hung some simple dark grey IKEA floor length curtains. Mr L also changed the sockets by the beds for those reet modern ones with USB plugs, whadda guy.

So amongst all the moving in and unpacking I don't think I took many before, during or after photos of the room... however here is a 'now' pic...

 Master bedroom

Master bedroom

Walls – French Grey Mid by Little Greene

Bedroom furniture – Teramo range by Ercol

Cushions – Habitat and IKEA

Lamp – IKEA base + shade we've had for years

Planter – TK Maxx

Ring basket – woven by yours truly.

Bed Linen – The White Company

Unsurprisingly I'm in the process of looking for new cushions for in here – and also some lamps. Not really sure whether I want to go super modern or a bit country with it. We did in fact order two beautiful mini Anglepoise lamps in black a couple of months ago from Amazon {deal of the day} but they had to go back as both had chips in the bases – so disappointing, they would have been stunning with the oak Ercol.

***

Other things we did around the house almost immediately after moving in, within a few weeks:

  • Put up some temporary IKEA curtains in the lounge {that didn't really fit the big windows all the way but at that point I didn't care, I just wanted something else to look at other than the old chintzy ones we inherited}
  • Ordered a white wooden blind for the front lounge window
  • Changed all the lampshades and light fittings for our own {bye bye, hideous smoked glass}
  • Ripped up the carpets in the bathrooms
  • Bought a temporary fence panel to keep the dog in the garden, for some reason they had removed the gate. Handy.
  • Bought a job-lot of good quality white paint

My advice at this early just-moved-in-living-in-cardboard-jungle-hell-stage is to try and make a few small and easy changes that will update the house to make it feel yours.

In an ideal world you would work room-by-room in a few months and have everything done, but...LIFE. Most normal people who aren't property developers or mega rich just don't have the resources or time to transform everything within a few months, so don't beat yourself up if it feels like you're facing a mountain of jobs. I mean, you are...we still are – but this is what you signed up for! If you wanted a perfect house straight away you would have bought that showhome new build with it's smaller garden and the neighbours squashed in right next to you, riiight??

Our approach with the house from the beginning has been to try and take it back to a blank canvas, which we can then style and update with colour and new or replacement furniture as we go. I once bought a house that I fully painted within six months of moving in – all the committed bold colours too – and I grew to really hate it {dark green hallway and stairs, anyone? Well it was 2006. Awful interior trends.}

I think it's very useful to keep things simple in the early stages whilst you're still settling in to your new home and deciding how you want it to work. A good six months of living in each room and working with the layout, existing furniture, light and space will help you to understand exactly what you need to change – so guys and girls, don't go rushing out to paint that wall bright red cos I bet your bottom dollar in a year you'll realise you should have painted the other wall because it gets less light {or you'll hate the red and wish it was grey or summat}.

Go slow, don't go too trendy and crazy at first and get your rooms in good nick – I'll write another post about this because I'm now going off on a tangent...anyway:

THE 'TARTAN' ROOM/STUDY

So-called because when we moved in the carpet was tartan. 

This little bedroom was next on our list after Christmas. I remember the in-laws coming round one day and sneakily peeling off some wallpaper in the room, the next minute we were all in there, stripping it back. 

Little did we know that underneath the anaglypta wallpaper was a thick legacy of stubborn paint, some of which had attached to the removed paper. The prep took FOREVER. It seemed mental wallpapering over a bumpy surface so the menfolk squirrelled away in there for weeks getting every last scrap of manky mustard paint off. 

 Study – Before

Study – Before

Now, disappointingly I don't seem to have a good after picture to share with you {remember the lost photo debacle of the summer} and this room is currently housing ALL of the rest of the unpacked boxes {yep, there's still a few all this time later} so I'll tease you until the next update on how it all turned out.

THE LOUNGE & DINING ROOM

Still not actually finished*

*Well, we've come a long way baby okayyy so I'm not going to get all depressed and miserable about the fact we still have things to do. We're currently having what I call an all-important 'interior pause': a time to take stock of what you've done, decide on what's missing, add in a few new ideas and chew on it for a while. 

Or if you like, stop because you're absolutely sick of the sight of decorating crap everywhere and just want to live in your room for a bit, y'know.

So, let's make ourselves feel better instantly here:

 The lounge – Before {Facing the front}

The lounge – Before {Facing the front}

Before – ugly fireplace, flock wallpaper, biscuity walls...

 The lounge – After

The lounge – After

After: ah, that's better. 

Here's another view of the other end of the room:

 The lounge – Before {Facing the garden}

The lounge – Before {Facing the garden}

Just to the left near the French doors is also the dining room, so it's effectively an L-shaped room.

I mentioned earlier that we changed the curtains and light fittings pretty much straight away, although we opted to retain the horrible tracks until after decorating, since they were mounted on wooden boards and adding a pole instead would just be an ugly non-fix.

The wooden blind at the front was also a really good way quickly update the room and add some privacy for during the day – this one is from Wilsons Blinds and is their Aspen Smooth in Glacier White. We went for the 50mm option with tapes which gives you more of a shutter-effect. I think it was around £100 and they are completely made-to-measure and easy to order. 

The biggest job of all in this room was tackling the gas fire and horrifically huge surround.

So, last summer we had a local gas engineer come and remove the old {and condemned} gas fire, leaving a big hole that needed blocking up. We then attacked the surround, armed with a chisel and hammer each. It was SO satisfying to see it razed to the ground! 

We then stripped all the flock wallpaper, cleaned the walls and sanded everything back.

The big hole was filled in with broken breeze blocks and cement until sealed {my FIL helped with this, he's rather a solider of support around here}.

With the fire place completely gone, we were left with a patch of uncarpeted floor and a huge blank wall. Now if I was a rich woman I would totally spend the cash on ripping out the carpet, adding a wooden floor with rugs and getting a chimney put in {we just have/had a gas flue} with a lovely wood burning stove, but, priorities n' all that.

For now the carpet patch is covered up by shelving and the TV unit and we will probably fix it with borrowed carpet from upstairs until the time comes to carpet the lounge. 

We painted the once-wallpapered wall with a few coats of white and then began to work our way around the rest of the walls, which were all originally painted straight onto the plaster. This meant that the paint was cracking and peeling off in places which unfortunately called for a complete strip back which took forever: hours and hours of scraping it all off by hand with a blade.

After a lot of sanding and prepping the walls we finally got paint onto the rest of the wall in the Autumn, quickly followed by new curtain poles and curtains. Never have I been so happy to see curtains up – having spent most of the warmer months without any drapery to speak of whilst we worked our way around the room.

Around the corner, the dining room is still the original biscuit colour {which is actually not that bad, just not very us} – we've paused on that, because we're actually thinking of painting it a much darker shade. Oh, and we're changing the floor in that part of the room, which might be the same floor as the hallway, so more pausing for thought whilst we juggle jobs...

THE GARDEN

One of the big draws of this house when we came to view it was the generous and interesting garden. So I may not have my open fire and Aga, but I have all the garden a girl could want {and be getting on with} for many years to come!

There's a big lawn {admittedly with a strange 'ole in it – which we think may have once been a pond}, lots of deep borders and shrubs and space to put in raised beds for veg and cut flowers. All in good time.

 The garden on a warm June day <3

The garden on a warm June day <3

We first hit the garden properly in the Spring this year, starting with a big clear out and mammoth weeding effort.

Now, truth be told I am not the most able gardener – I really enjoy it, but I don't really know what I'm doing half the time and I'm useless at keeping on top of it. I do however have a clear idea of the things I don't want in my garden, ably assisted by my Mum, who is a very experienced working gardener herself. I firmly believe that you shouldn't just keep things because they are growing – if you don't like them, get rid of them and replace them with something you do like. 

For some reason the former owners were big fans of 'swingers grass' which are actually massive great big ugly things that seed themselves everywhere. They have no place in my garden. We had to buy a mattock to get them out of the ground and their roots can be super thick and stubborn.

We also chopped down a load of dead conifer trees at the back of what we have grown to affectionally refer to as 'Treasure Island'. This odd raised bed/border is the eyesore of the garden and houses a horrid Leylandii, a couple of firs and a massive Buddleja {another plant I really don't like, despite it's butterly-friendliness}. It will be bulldozed in the coming months if I have my way. 

 Removing dead ugly trees from Treasure Island AKA garden eyesore of the century

Removing dead ugly trees from Treasure Island AKA garden eyesore of the century

 Overgrown border – Before

Overgrown border – Before

 Overgrown and now dug and weeded border – After

Overgrown and now dug and weeded border – After

It was clear upon first sinking a fork into the soil of the garden that the ground hadn't been dug for years. We have heavy clay soil here so just getting one of the borders clear and weeded took an entire afternoon.

We planted in lots of annuals including Nigella, Nicotiana and Cosmos as well as lots of Foxgloves which I absolutely love. I do prefer a cottagey garden than anything too formal and neat, although based on the amount of work in front of us we may have to simplify our planting and just go for lots of box, lavenders, roses and bulbs – all of which are just a bit easier to maintain.

 The dog sunbathing as usual...

The dog sunbathing as usual...

Other jobs we did in the garden this year:

  • Pressure-washed the ugly patio like new
  • Grew tomatoes and lettuces for salads
  • Planted fruit trees in pots for the patio
  • Added a trellis and solar festoon lights to the side of the garage, planted up with a Cobea
  • Planted lavenders in pots
  • Planted up a huge tub of sage, rosemary, mint and thyme for cooking
  • Bought more pots for winter bulb planting, planted with tulips from Mum

I'm excited for Spring already to be able to start phase 2!

THE 'PINK ROOM'

The largest bedroom is a light and bright south-facing room. We slept in here for 6 weeks when we first moved in/while we decorated the master and it is so much warmer! The plan with this room is to use it as a bit of a multi-purpose space; guest bedroom/studio/reading room {because I have so much time to lounge around and read books, obvs}.

We're still in the process of decorating it – the walls are now white {much to my little niece's disappointment, who claimed it straight away as 'her' room} and we just need to do the paintwork, fit new carpets etc.

It's on hold because the next job is...

BOILER REPLACEMENT

NOW we're talking. 

As I write this post it is snowing like a ski resort outside so writing about our efforts to make the house warmer is very fitting.

When we came to view the house we clocked the very old boiler {original brown and cream 70's beast} and it's neighbouring hot water cylinder, both of which take up lots of space in the kitchen which could be useful for more appliances. Obviously one day we will gut the whole kitchen and start again, but until that day we planned to at least replace and re-house the boiler somewhere else to free up room for a dishwasher, dryer and larger fridge. At the moment we don't even have space for any of those things!

So, next week we have workmen coming in to rip out the old boiler and cylinder, build the pipework up to the loft and fit the new boiler up there. At first I was a bit apprehensive about this but apparently it's quite normal practice and much easier than the alternative, which would have been the downstairs loo. The plumbers will also replace a number of the ageing radiators and flush the whole system, as well as fitting new remote-controlled thermostats so we can manage the temperature a bit better. We're not going full-modern and having Wi-Fi enabled heating controls or one of those Nest things, Mr L and I are rather sceptical about making our home an Internet Of Things. Which is funny because I work in social media and technology and him engineering!

Watch this space for more scintillating heating system news...

And our next house project update!

ceels xo

SOME EXCITING NEWS.

SOME EXCITING NEWS.

A LITTLE SUMMER TRIP TO DUBLIN

A LITTLE SUMMER TRIP TO DUBLIN