Over the last 8 weeks I feel like I have lost my voice. Not literally but digitally. And I wanted to give you a little update if you've noticed things have been rather quiet on the blog and being generally behind on every thing else! I have what feels like months and months worth of posts that I am desperate to share, but the house we saw and fell in love with almost exactly two years ago has well and truly taken over our lives since before the Easter break. I've been sort of fighting against it, wanting to rush posts out that are not quite finished, worrying about traffic dropping, tempted to blast out some "traffic friendly" posts I can share to the American foodie sites for a quick fix and feeling like a bad blogger for not scheduling old content if I haven't got anything new to share but after a weekend away at the Sisterhood Camp and endless chats with blogging pals, I'm starting to feel more comfortable with the temporary slower pace, more confident that when you post from your heart, with your voice, about the things that interest and inspire you, hopefully your readers will come back again for the next post. I know it's not forever and soon things will calm down. That and fast internet is finally coming to the village hoorah!
While every slow little step we take towards finishing each room feels like a mini milestone in itself the reality of living and working through a renovation project has been so much more distracting than we thought. All four of us have felt the unsettledness, the time that a house project demands of you and how it restricts you. Evenings need to be spent sorting, moving, preparing for the next day and you feel frustrated and elated all at the same time. That and birthday season with boys who don't really understand the nights spent until gone midnight creating their elaborate ideas for invitations and making up party bags. It's my fault really, I've nurtured this insatiable enthusiasm for birthday parties, I only have myself to blame when Sammy's eyes lit up as he drew out his idea for scroll invitations. With a wax seal of course!
I've been frustrated that you can't give your all to a blog like you want to, but relieved that the walls feel warm for the first time in a long time. We keep joking that the promise of a new bathroom will make it all worthwhile! And then there's that fear of missing out that creeps in, that you are not at some of the lovely events you see popping up on Instagram and twitter and then slow to post about the ones you do make it to. What is it the wise old owls say? Comparison is the thief of joy? Yep so so true. It's ok if you can't keep up everything, if you don't have superhuman powers.
The thing we have learnt about an old house is there is often surprises lurking behind the walls. Not anything scary or sinister, we did think the house was riddled with bird's nests until we realised it was actually a paper type material they must have used for insulation, but floor joists aren't where you expect them, there are masses of impenetrable stone where you least expect it and where you most want to fit new wall lights or plug sockets and nothing is level!
But that's really what we completely adore, the old beams across the living room ceiling, the stable cracks in the walls that you can't help run your fingers along as you walk upstairs. I just will love it a little more when the dust settles... and I can clean it away!
For anyone having gone through or going through the same thing you will know it really tests your love for a building when your clothes come out of a sealed plastic box covered in dust (HOW do it get in there?!) and when you know there is a lot more to live through before you can re carpet and the images of holes in the walls and wires out of the ceiling will become distant memories.
Over the Easter holidays we were a family of nomads moving between family and letting the team of plumbers and electricians rip through the house. To say they destroyed it would be an understatement and I am so grateful to our family who put up with our piles of shoes at their front doors and wet towels over the banisters. I don't know what I expected, I knew replumbing and rewiring was a big job but when you actually see the walls with great huge channels ripped out of them, floor to ceiling grooves 5 inches thick it makes you clutch your face in disbelief. The contractors were brilliant and had warned us there was no way we could live in the house during the main part of the job and joked when we started unloading the cars the day before the boys went back to school (yep I said they were brilliant, a whole team worked the weekend till gone 9pm to get us back in) that I would have been in tears if I had visited and seen the horrendous state of everywhere earlier in the week.
It's funny in a way because that complete destruction has in fact been less of a distraction than putting it all back together. Something I wasn't expecting at all. I'd forgotten about plastering, patching over the new pipework, undercoating, skirting boards and the fact that absolutely every wall in the house would need redecorating. There was one wall, that wasn't to be touched, going up the stairs but unfortunately one of them had a slip with the drill from the other side and left a great jaggedy hole coming through to the staircase! But having seen the mucky fingerprints it was no bad thing that this area got added to the never ending list.
Renovations aren't pretty but they are clever. We know the fabric and foundations of the house need to be fixed first and the fun stuff like floor tiles and kitchen cupboards have to wait. It's like investing in the house all over again and protecting it for the next generation. So here's a little update of where we are...
Living out as opposed to in boxes still! Most of our clothes are still packed away but thanks to my lovely mum who came to dog sit for us I now have an old rail from my brother in law's shop with a load of summer dresses rescued from a dusty holdall and we've used Ollie's old nursery chest of drawers for our everyday bits like underwear and pjs.
Our lounge still looks like this... But with a fresh coat of paint. We chose a beautiful pale grey colour called Dimpse from Farrow and Ball, a slightly warmer tone than this original Blackened which has more of a blue undertone. I am DESPERATE to remove the mattress that is out of shot and put the room back together. Over Sammy's birthday party weekend we had to just shut the door on all the mess and sleep amongst the chaos on the mattress on the floor. I know it sounds awful having a bit of a moan when we are so happy and lucky to be doing all this work to the house, but you know that feeling when you have been away on a wonderful holiday but coming home to your own bed feels so marvellous? It's a bit like that. I just want to be back in our bedroom, in our bed.
The master bedroom sits directly above the lounge and the space mirrors the size of the room downstairs. A third of the room behind the wall with the head of the bed is where the ensuite and wardrobe area is. Well was... Rich and my brother in law Andrew spent a whole weekend tearing it to shreds!
We want to make the space more usable, the ensuite was originally fitted with a bath and for us we would much prefer a lovely big shower. I adore having a bath in an evening but we are morning shower people! When we first moved in I ripped up the carpet which in hindsight was a big mistake - my best advice for anyone who is taking on a house that needs work - live with it! Just for a while anyway. Because the windows are so bad and draughty the room was exceptionally cold over the winter and after 2 harsh freezing seasons I realised just how much of a difference it would have made to have left the carpet. To help preserve some heat and also the difference it might have made the the boys' attic room above. Our bedroom has 3 outside walls so we weren't helping them above us either!
My sister came down for a weekend and we cleared the room - which is why it looks so empty in this picture! I have totally fallen out of love with the dark wood furniture and think my best bet is to give it a chalk paint makeover when we are ready to move all the furniture back in place. The ugly surface pipes have now all disappeared and we have moved the radiators under the windows. When we came back to live in the house it was like walking into a sauna we couldn't believe the difference!
I am so so tempted to sand and paint the floorboards but wonder if carpet is a better option now we have lots of lovely heat to saviour.
It's a bit of a mess as you can see. With random Christmas decorations still not moved back into the loft after they ripped out the old tank. We have built the space for a new ensuite in place of the old one, moving the whole room back about a foot, lost the old wardrobes and instead are going to build storage behind the beam on the opposite wall. It will feel cosy but we are a family with a lot of stuff! I have a love affair with tongue and groove panelling and think we can make the frame and router plain doors to give us that effect. I'll let you know how we get on. As much as I'd love to make the room feel as big as possible this is a country cottage house and storage space is one of our highest priorities. The boys share a room and already their wardrobe is bursting with school uniform and weekend clothes, and they are only going to get bigger and the clothes will get longer and bulkier!
The ensuite is, well pink. Peachy pink to be correct and was looking very sorry for itself. But the space is great, we have enough room for a double shower tray and we think we can transform it into a modern bathroom. It still needs to feel traditional but I can't wait to have a sparkly new white suite and get planning on tile choices and accessories.
I am going to collaborate with Wholesale Domestic on this project and can't wait to show you our inspiration and ideas. Why is it that the smallest rooms in the house are the ones that often get you the most excited?! It's a room that has very limited wall space, has a limited number of configuration options but I literally am counting the days until it is finished! To have a beautiful tiled floor to step into, clean fresh grout on the walls and bright lighting will be incredible.
So what do you think should we keep a sink unit or go for a free standing basin and toilet? I really like the idea of opening the room up as much as possible and thinking about some kind of shelving above the sink instead of a big cabinet... hmm decisions decisions.
Ok so these photos are nothing short of ugly ugly ugly but I love that we will have a record of all the progress. I have dreams about a gorgeous fabric window seat pad opposite the bathroom door and there is just enough room in the space infant of you in this picture, under Sammy's very helpful measurement note to the builder to fit a small chest of drawers or chair.
By starting again with the internal walls we have the chance to wire in sockets where we really want them and Rich has a thing for hotel room light switches. Wiring lamps into the sockets so they turn on and off from the wall, bed height level switches and usb plug sockets for our phone chargers.
At the moment we are heatedly "discussing" the options for bedside lamps. I have my heart set on scissor style lamps that you can push and pull out from the wall, like the old fashioned round bathroom mirrors but Rich thinks they are quite a permanent option. On the basis that this is meant to be a forever home I think we are safe to make a big commitment to wall lights don't you? He bought the old little cream ones as a stop gap when we moved in and I can't stand them! They are not really offensive but would look much better on a window ledge or smaller side table. Tell me you are with me right?
The utility room is the next big project. The kitchen is a mammoth, humungous task that is many years away but we use the back door every single day so it's a good place to start. We use it as a laundry room, pantry, boot room and general dump these bags of rubbish that don't belong anywhere room. But it needs proper storage, a new ceiling, the new boiler has gone in where the old shelves were which we used as a larder and we are planning a proper fitted unit system to tie it all together.
I may or may not have been one of those mad customers in the kitchen showroom who squealed at the thought of finally owning one of those spice racks that get fitted inside a pantry door. Something all little girls dream of I'm sure!
It's a really good size but we need to use it wisely. My priorities are to fit as much as possible in without closing the space completely up as it's a galley shaped room. How we have managed to amass so many coats is beyond me, but we need somewhere to hang them. So ideally in the gap where Rich is standing I'd like to have a run of coat storage with shoe storage underneath, because the wicker baskets we currently have are overflowing and you end up wearing the same pair over and over because your others are buried!
There's a window on the wall behind the washing machine so it is a light room but I really have a thing for slate coloured floor tiles so am currently on the hunt for some large square ones that aren't too thick as we can't change the height of the back door. And although this will be replaced (you can't really tell from this photo but the bottom of the door doesn't sit flush so there's a huge draught coming through all the time) when we have finished, the concrete floor means we need to choose relatively thin floor tiles as opposed to heavy real stone.
So inside looks a little white and empty. Everywhere has had a new coat of paint, the skirting looks fantastic, who knew new freshly painted skirting could make a room feel so alive again, and outside looks a little something like this. All the windows you can see at the back of the house are being replaced next week for new wooden windows with lovely brass window furniture and will be painted in our favourite Farrow and Ball Purbeck Stone. Because the house is Grade II listed we had to make a decision right at the start as to which colour all the outside woodwork would be painted in. We needed to repaint some of the very old windows just to see them through one last winter and had to submit a planning application fairly soon after we moved in.
The listed building officer has been brilliant, really open to our long term ideas for the conservatory (which if I won the lottery would knock straight down) and processed all our applications promptly. We were granted permission to replace the plastic windows you can see with the hatched effect with timber windows in the same style as the old french doors. So everything will match in together and I think it will make a huge difference not only to how warm we can keep the house but also the look and feel of it too.
So this is why my posts have been delayed lately, and this week it will probably feel like waiting for a bus because I have a couple of posts ready to share in the next few days! It's been quite an incredible few months, I've met some inspirational people, been on surreal trips and have a photo library bursting at the seams.
So pop back tomorrow and see what I have in store.
And as I type this my prototypes for my backdrop product idea are at last being printed! I really hope that the phrase good things come to those who wait is true and that when I share them you will like what you see!
Thanks for sticking with me :)
I'm working with Wholesale Domestic on our ensuite renovation project and will be sharing our ideas and our progress over the next few months.