Monthly Archives: April 2012

Sow’s ear to silk purse

Me and Wickes tile and melamine primer have been spending a lot of time together

Good grief.  I know that everybody on DIY forums goes on about how boring kitchen cupboard painting is, but it is PROPER boring.  And rather hard on the back.  It doesn’t help that I’m doing it in brief snatches when small person is asleep (i.e. Sunday afternoon and school day evenings).  But I’m getting there (except for the doors, which will be sprayed by a French polisher when he returns from his holiday).

What started as a battered, mouldy in places and yellow pine/fake pine laminate car crash is slowly taking shape.  The plan was to go for Farrow and Ball Pavillion Gray (why the American Spelling, F&B?), but now that it’s covered in white primer I’m seriously contemplating going for a white finish.  This is in no small way related to the fact that the Artex wall finish is a bugger to ‘cut in’ around neatly.  I also suspect I will need fewer top coats if I go white.  And when it is inevitably chipped the white primer won’t show through.  Hmm…

In other news, the decorators have finished, the builder’s coming on Thursday to complete his snagging list and the carpets are being fitted next Wednesday and Thursday.  The removals people are also coming next Thursday afternoon to MOVE US IN!  There is a small chance that the carpet fitters will still be working as the removal van arrives.  But I’m sure it will all be fine (she said, smiling somewhat maniacally).

As I finished tonight’s painting session I needed a little lift, so I fitted the paper shade in the  sitting room.  I absolutely love it, particularly as it was the last one and reduced to £6.  Yes, £6!  I probably should have waited until we had carpet.   But I did enjoy ten minutes’ day dreaming under it before I locked up for the night.

Bargain paper lamp shade from Next


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Our bedroom

So finally a few before photos……..

As you can see the hideous wallpaper was put on with real care and attention!

The stone fireplace was painted white and the cast iron insert had been painted with black gloss paint I think.

And under the radiator there was evidence of wallpaper from a long time ago!

There is the remnants of a pull switch to control the big light which I am definitely going to restore to its former glory, there’s one in the spare room that we’ve been sleeping in since we moved in and it’s really useful and a bit retro i think!

So we’ve done most of the work in this room now and I’ll be taking a few pics this week to post soon and once the floor, walls and fireplace are all sorted then the real fun can begin, making it beautiful with fabrics and furniture!  I’ve been scowering the internet for months now looking for inspiration for this room and collecting it all on my beloved Pinterest board – Night Night Sleep Tight – .  Here’s a few of my favourite pics

House and Garden via Dahlias, Dreams and Damask.
I love the colours, in particular the rug, the white walls, the baskets either side of the fire (i might get some to keep my scarves in).

Via Marlow 35
Lush floorboards and floor length curtain and mustn’t forget the lovely white walls!

Really like the neutral aged walls, old suitcases (I’ve already started a collection for on top of my wardrobes), gilt mirror and beautiful chandelier.

Looking forward to the completion of the blank canvas, not long to go now!


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From archeologist to desecrator: modern style in old buildings

Those poor blokes are still painting!  I am so grateful that we don’t have to do it as there is a tremendous amount of work there.  Every day I return to the house to check progress and love what I see, but I’ve been thinking, am I respecting its past?  Reading the Victorian Society’s pamphlets on caring for a Victorian home I’m not too sure.

Victorian Society pamphlets: you too can live in a museum*

We’re in the process of having it painted pure brilliant white from top to bottom.   We will end up with a blank canvas as opposed to the tired, multicoloured place we started with.  The Victorians didn’t have access to bright whites: 19th century chemistry didn’t provide the pigments.   I don’t want to live in a museum, and I strongly believe that homes must be adaptable as times change (outside toilet anyone?)  The dingy reds, browns and greens of the 1800s did a great job at concealing soot stains but I’m not sure I could live with them (nor the cluttered, ostentatious styling).  But is painting the house white and filling it with brightly coloured modern textures and images as wrong as the artex and swirly carpets of which I am so critical?  I guess it’s more reversible.  Here are some examples of that epitomise the white-and-bright-and-grey look I love…

Laeticia Lazerges' home via Design*Sponge - that tablecloth fabric is discontinued and I was green with envy when I saw it!

Luke White for Living Etc

EST Magazine via Design*Sponge

Let’s see what I can conjure with 60 litres of trade matt emulsion, two legendary tradesmen and a bit of imagination…

*I love the Victorian Society but feel like a naughty schoolchild for using ‘modern’ paints, fitted carpets and lusting after a side return extension: all no-nos to them!

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Our new home, a work in progress…….

We moved in around 5 months ago and tangible renovation progress has been slow.  We’ve spent time and money on lots of unseen things on the roof that, amongst other things, has made the house water tight again and allowed us to use one of the fireplaces having had the chimney stack rebuilt and a reclaimed pot put back on.    The first of 3 that need doing to enable us to use all of the fireplaces in the downstairs of the house and our bedroom.  We also did a rush paint job on one of our reception rooms to cover up the mysetrious yellow staining on the lower walls (possibly dog wee – yuk!) so we could have Christmas dinner for the family in there.  Overall our new home is livable but very tired having been rented out for a number of years and after rushed DIY efforts in the past, and regrets over not having done things properly the first time, we have decided a one at a time approach to each room is the way to go to get things right and stay sane whilst living amongst all the mess.  The first room we’re working on is our bedroom, before photo’s in next post………….


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Chim, chimney…

Bert (the worst cockney ever)

House work (as opposed to housework) is gathering pace.  Yesterday I met with the stained glass lady from a local craft centre who is hopefully going to restore the stained glass front door.  Unfortunately she informed me that the glass was installed in the 1980s.  It’s still beautiful and I’m treating it as a piece of art, even if it’s not original.  And yes, I did just refer to a piece of 80s restoration as ‘art’.  More on that when the quote comes through.

I also met our friendly local chimney sweep.  He did a lovely job and reassured me that both main reception room chimneys are in full working order.  Contrary to my romantic notions of sweeps, he wore a baseball cap and used a giant vacuum, but he did have lovely brushes and cover everything with dust sheets like my childhood favourite Bert.  I was left slightly aghast by the speed at which the ‘smoke test’ whooshed up the chimney.  Having been used to a log burner (80-90% efficient) it’s going to take a while to get used to open fires (80% heat lost up the chimney).  For now I will pop chimney balloons up all fireplaces in the house to keep the drafts at bay until the burning season.  And then weep as most of the heat from our fuel disappears up the chimney.  One day we will get inset wood burning stoves that sit snug in the existing fireplace, like this:


insert wood burner

The only snag with the chimneys (there’s always something isn’t there?) was the lack of chimney pot for the sitting room that means the weather has unbridled access to the interior brickwork.  When the priority jobs are done I will have to get hunting for a replacement at architectural salvage yards.  Let’s not think about how much that will cost for the moment.


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Another discovery


I love this house. Once you look beyond the eccentric colour schemes, dust and artex it has such lovely bones. I was pottering round with a screwdriver removing funny little corner shelves and brittle, yellowing curtain tracks. I couldn’t resist sticking the point of the screwdriver down the crack in the boarded-up second bedroom fireplace (can you spot a tool-related mischief theme here?) I expected to find a gaping hole, or a dodgy old gas fire, but lo and behold there was a beautiful cast iron fire surround, albeit covered in bird poo.

It has me wondering whether it was covered because the previous owners thought it was ugly, or a risk to small children, or something else?



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The big, expensive, boring stuff


Most of our budget has been swallowed by essential jobs that the last owners didn’t keep up with. However, the decorators started two days ago, the building work is mostly over, and the whole place smells of paint (cue deep inhalation: mmm). The only DIY at this stage has been demolition work. And yes, paying decorators is rather pricey but our guys are more odd-job men who paint (i.e. half the price), and if it was left to DIY it would take us 2 years and possibly cost our marriage. Perhaps one day I will write a post about sourcing tradesmen who won’t be offended when you are looking for a basic, quick job (“That’ll take at least four coats of emulsion, love.”)

Work so far:

  • Tear out all existing carpets, curtains and other fittings (antihistamines and inhaler essential)
  • Rip out the most offensive kitchen units (so much fun)
  • Replace and relocate decrepit boiler (plus several radiators, thermostats and get-under-the-floorboards pipework)
  • Raise lintel in kitchen and skim ready for range cooker
  • Replace consumer unit to something that might actually prevent electrocution
  • Replace all ceiling roses to hang at ‘design height’ (low-hanging, much to the perplexion of the electrician)
  • Fix gutters to prevent further damp due to water pouring down several exterior walls (which the previous owners managed to ignore despite mould growing in their bedroom)
  • Fit new electric shower

Before we can move in we still have to finish the decorating, carpets, kitchen cupboard makeover and some extra security. One we’re in the fun will continue as the budget allows with disintegrating exterior masonry repair, bathrooms, windows, garden, porch, hedging and more. Never mind the creative, colourful stuff which is off-limits (save for Pinterest) until the big jobs are finished. Or my lovely mind’s eye concertina door extension. This could take a few years…

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Today I am an archeologist

We’ve been in 2 weeks and have had a few really lucky period features finds.  First, the hall floor…

We always suspected there may have been a lovely minton tiled floor undereath the hideous blue carpet.  On completion day, once I had run around from top to bottom like an excited toddler, I set straight to tearing up a corner of carpet.  Here’s what I found (excuse the dodgy photography):

Today I returned while things were quiet to remove the carpet gripper rods that had been nail-gunned into the tiles :(.  There wasn’t too much damage, and when the budget allows, we’ll get a proper restoration job.  While I was grubbing around the skirting boards with a chisel I thought I’d explore the lino that someone had laid over the last two feet of hallway.  By explore, I mean take a chisel to it – it was rather exciting and about as far as I’ll get to an Indiana Jones-style archeological dig.  I half expected to find concrete or worse, but can you believe somebody laid linoleum over this beauty?!

It seems the Victorians were into chevrons too.

Coming up, a minging bathtub, a concealed fireplace full of bird poo, and a kitchen cupboard full of mould.  Yum.


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Get ready for a slew of ‘before’ shots…

So we’re in. Well, we have keys and a mortgage but we’re living down the road while the mucky jobs get sorted. We’ve been having fun filling a skip with hideous fixtures and fittings. Here I am enjoying my first beer in our new garden.


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Enjoying my new surroundings!

Having been away from Southport for 15 years it’s great to get out and about and rediscover the wonderful things it has to offer, since we’ve been back we’ve been to the beach, down the pier and visited some of the lovely parks.  This weekend I visited Broadhursts, my favourite book shop with KB, my old school friend and fellow book-worm.  We had a wonderful afternoon perusing the treasure trove of old and new books that they have over multiple floors.

The fire was lit which is always a treat and as always they wrapped our purchased books in brown paper and tied them with string which i love!

I bought two cook books, one cake and one curry and an old book called “The House next Door” by A&C Askew.

B, I’ll have to take you there when you visit!  I hope things are taking shape at the new house!



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