Home Office Haven

This weekend has been, like many before it, DIY-tastic. I popped out to a party this afternoon and in the meantime Kevin put the finishing touches to the shelves in the little bedroom that we will use as an office. To put this in context, let's start with the "before" photo:

So here are the new shelves, finished today (the nice contrasting wall colour was the result of me popping to the DIY store and trying to guess which colour paint would be the closest match ... I've already been assured there is something wrong with my colour sense!):

And here's what they looked like an hour later, when I got some stuff unpacked onto them - they're really deep shelves and they are going to hold a lot of "stuff" :)

I'd also like to give special mention to this guy:

I had a build-a-bear voucher for Christmas so I went and chose this traditional style bear. He is stuffed really hard, so although he isn't cuddly, he is still soft and can sit up on his own. He'll be supervising operations in the new office and keeping me company when I am working here. All in all, I think its coming together rather well - all I need now is some ideas for small-scale woodwork projects to take care of the many offcuts that are lying around downstairs. Suggestions in the comments box please ...

Tinsel Tree

Christmas really is upon us - well, it isn't but I'm out every night this week and I need to be delivering presents by the end of it. So today sees everything (apart from the home baked gifts) complete and wrapped and ready to go.

This year we have our own christmas tree for the first time - it looks amazing and I love it!! Here it is to get you in the mood:

Happy Half House-Year

Today marks six months since we picked up the keys to our first home, a lot has happened! I thought this anniversary (is it strictly an anniversary, if its less than a year?) would be a good time to have a quick recap on what's been going on here.

The first thing we did was ring a locksmith and get the locks changed. Probably an unneccessary expense but we'd completed on the house and bought the contents at short notice so it seemed prudent. Since we'd taken out house insurance with the mortgage we were happily covered from day one without having to mess about with any more paperwork.

We didn't expect to be buying the house contents, and we certainly didn't expect to get as much as we did. Although we don't have a lot of furniture we had too much to fit into a house that was already full of a dining table, a king size bed, a king size wardrobe (its big anyway), a single bed, another triple wardrobe, a dresser, the entire contents of a kitchen ... you get the picture (and remember those wardrobes were full of clothes!). We spent four or five days with all our stuff stacked in the front room and no idea how to solve the jigsaw puzzle of unfolding everything out into the house.

We held the housewarming 5 weeks after moving in and I think the house looked its best that day. We'd had the roof and guttering mended and patched up, and we'd chopped the weeds back to a manageable height (short enough to stand the barbecue on top anyway). Lots of friends joined us and almost unanimously described the house as "having potential" - by the end of the day we were wondering whether everyone thought we were mad.

Since then we've become an auntie and uncle which is fun, and we've had a lot more building work done in the house. There was no central heating so that has been added, and the boiler moved out of the living room (we think that room may have been the kitchen at one time, its not as random as it seems). In addition we've had the whole house rewired. Both these jobs have been disruptive, destructive and very messy!! Having not changed the bag in our vacuum cleaner for about three years, we're now on our fourth bag in six months, that statistic goes some way to describing how much mess we've dealt with. When we first bought the house and I blogged about it with some photos, someone who had been here said to me "what doesn't come across in the photos is the DIRT"! The only way to describe how filthy this place was when we bought it, and then again when we had the heating done, and then again when we had the wiring done, is to say that its the only time I've blown my nose and observed that my snot has changed colour...

Today the house is a bit of a disaster. Its clean (we had visitors earlier) but every single room has at least one hole in the wall/floor/coving/all of the above. There are floorboards damaged in quite a few places and lots of disused sockets and switches hanging about the place. It looks a LOT worse than it did for the housewarming but strangely I feel a lot better. Less than a year ago I blogged about pulling out of a second house sale and I was feeling really low about it. 12 months on and we've bought a much nicer (and bigger) place, paid 10% deposit and fees, had the roof sorted, survived the trauma of having the place flooded, put in central heating and had the place rewired. I really feel, despite the mess that we've done really well to get this far. And now, the workmen are gone, and we can make the place our own. We can start decorating and putting up shelves in our lovely deep alcoves. We can choose new floors to replace the ones that got damaged. Perhaps over the winter I'll find time to sew the bedroom curtains I bought the material for in about July.

The plan for now though is to start repairing and sorting everything out. We're starting with what will be a little study - mostly so we can practise on it before moving into more high-profile rooms. We'll then decorate the living room and replace the (currently missing) floors in the hall and living room. That'll take us well into the new year and will still be lots more holes to repair and fill ... so here's hoping for many more happy half house-years to come!

The Tradesman Cometh

The house, as I may have mentioned, has been in disarray lately. Since buying the place at the end of May we've had the guttering and verge boards replaced, central heating fitted (involving moving the boiler), and the entire house rewired including the bonus addition of smoke detectors, outside lights, switches that are halfway logical, and a bonus extractor fan. I think its probably best if the stories of an electricity supply which has no earth, sockets were seen to be melted inside, junction boxes in every wall and floor, and the moment we discovered that turning off our electricity at source turns off next door's as well, are all saved for another day.

All the building work has meant that we've done almost nothing to the interior of the house, knowing there would be mending to do when it was finished. So now I have channels in the walls:

Unfortunately due to the complications of doing the wiring (the electrician says he's done hotels faster than he did our place), there has been some damage that we didn't anticipate. Not all the the floors are going to back the way they were, so we may have to live with floorboards for a while. I was surprised to find that the floorboards in the hallway are painted:

We've done well to get all the work done quite early on, but its going to be a long winter of learning to DIY - wish us luck!!

PS If the title doesn't mean anything, then you need to know of The Gas Man Cometh.

Haywire Rewire

I've been away for five days, and got back home yesterday (Thursday) early afternoon, due to work Friday as usual and then head off a weekend away. While we were away the electrician was coming in to rewire our house - an expensive operation but a very much-needed one. The inside of some of the sockets had melted and the consumer unit regularly emitted sparks!!

Picture the scene, I flew back into the country yesterday, got back to Leeds, got a taxi home, and was wandering up the road looking in my bag for my keys when I realised I could hear something. Hammering. Coming out of my open front door into the street accompanied with a lot of brick dust.

We went in to the house to be met by an agitated electrician. He's had a nightmare of a time with our house, the existing wiring was a mess and had junction boxes everywhere so he's ended up drilling into more of our (solid brick, even on the internal) walls and pulling up more of our floors than he'd expected. So the floors are mostly up on the ground floor and they haven't started the basement yet, i.e. they're a bit behind schedule, and putting all the floors back down and making the house safe for habitation wasn't going to help.

So I went in the house, opened my suitcase, removed the bag of dirty washing, replaced its void with clean underwear and t-shirts, shut the suitcase again and put the suitcase, the rucksack I had with me when I got home, and my laptop into the car. My employers were relatively relaxed about me working remotely today so we headed off a day early for our weekend in Northumberland and today I've been working from my parents' place in Alnwick.

Fingers crossed when we get home on Sunday things will have calmed down a bit ... although I suspect the mess will still be eye-watering!

Hot House

Well, not hot exactly, but definitely cosy – we’ve got central heating :)

We have had a few people round to quote for it and went with the guy who actually came round when he said he would, and wasn’t the most expensive. Well they turned up at 9am on Monday morning and it was all finished by Wednesday afternoon!

The mess was quite astonishing, I think because we have solid brick walls, so any drilling means brick dust over everything around1. They brought the water pipes up through the house in the hallway, and then along each floor in turn. The boiler went into the smallest bedroom (rather than being in the living room which is where the old one was – strangely) and that room definitely came of worst. There was also a gas fire removed from that room so we’ve got a gaping hole where there was a fireplace about thirty years ago – and the hole contains the guff that has fallen down the uncapped chimney in the intervening period.

The pipes were run under the floors, which means we’ve had every carpet in the place lifted, more or less. Happily the plumber was quite clever about not lifting floors which were difficult, such as the laminate flooring in the living room or the stone tiles in the bathroom. Presumably this is to avoid trouble for him as much as to save our floors. Having had the floors lifted through most of the house, I’m pleased to report that we have got the original floorboards intact and in good condition throughout which is nice. I’m not sure we’d expose them but they are a nice feature if we did decide to (or decide we can’t afford carpets…)

We went for a lovely big boiler which will hopefully cope well with driving two bathrooms and a kitchen, plus any additions that we make over the coming years. Certainly it drives both the heating and the shower effortlessly. Anyone who has stayed with me will know the “trick” to the shower involving running a hot tap (marked cold) while you shower – this is now eliminated :)

All in all it was well worth it – although the mess has to be seen to be believed and I did find it quite upsetting since we had just started to settle in really. Perhaps I’ll post some photos of the places which suffered rather badly – the much-hated living room panelling came off as well and its not pretty!

1 Where “everything” includes matresses, beds, towels, and all the computer kit that was upstairs! I’d have moved stuff out of the way if I’d had any idea which places were best to move them to.

Garden Digging Party

Last weekend we held a garden-digging party. Mostly because we have been failing to dig the garden in a timely fashion and its the time of year we should be turfing it. Personally I’m not mad about digging gardens but obviously my friends are as there were five of us digging plus one efficient tea-maker and and a 4-week-old mascot.

The weekend started with the garden looking like this:

And by the end of the next day, we had got to here:

There’s another chunk to go and a couple of paving slabs to move but we should be ready to turf quite soon – thanks to everyone who helped, I don’t know how we’d have managed on our own!

Tile Transfers

Our house has a cellar, which contains the kitchen. The steps down to it are very sterile white tiles and have been described as being “morgue-like”.

I have been thinking of painting some of the tiles, or even retiling although that seemed rather extreme as we’re likely to change the cellar a lot in a few years time. So I bought some very inexpensive tile transfers from the local hardward store, and applied them immediately allowed them to collect dust until my sister came to stay this weekend and put them on the tiles so now it looks like this:

And here’s a closeup:

It definitely ranks as an all-time best DIY quick-fix, in fact I can’t think of a better one. Suggestions welcome :)

First Edition Painting

In case anyone thinks its been a bit quiet on the house front, I’d like to reassure you we’re still pottering away here. We’ve got a loo roll holder and a towel ring in the bathroom, Kevin’s fixed the bedroom door’s rattling and we’ve also painted our first wall!

Wall is possibly an exaggeration since I only painted the top 18 inches of it but we have to start somewhere. I disliked the terracotta paint in the front room as soon as I saw it, here it is:

I put up with it for a while but then I bought red curtains and it had to go!! Here’s the new look front room.

 

I can’t show you the dresser against the new paint to compare it because we moved it get to the wall. The top part lifts off – and its too heavy for me to help Kevin lift it back on, so its on the floor until some strong person visits us!

How does your garden grow?

I’m so organised that I forgot to take a before photo, but for those that this means something to, here’s my new-look front garden:

Previously it was a bit of a mess, with gravel just dumped on top of bits of plastic sheeting and weeds coming up everywhere. We went to the garden centre and bought a few bags of slate chippings, some edging stones and some weed-suppressing membrane.

We raked all the gravel to one corner, put in the new flower bed and laid weed-supressing membrane on the exposed ground left over. Then we raked all the gravel onto the new membrane and laid membrane on the other bit of the garden. To plant the shrubs we just made cuts in the membrane and put the plants in with potting compost and slow-release fertiliser, then raked the gravel all around them.

 

Finally we scattered our few slate chippings on top of the gravel – its an instantly much nicer effect and without either paying for or carrying vast quantities of them as well! We can add a few more bags of chippings in the future, perhaps.

Thanks to mum for helping us get this sorted! All that’s left to do is to plant some bulbs and then try to keep it looking as nice as this :)