Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Labour of Love

It's been so long since I've written anything here at all.

Ed and I finally got the keys to our house at the end of October 2009. We were disappointed when we stepped inside. It hadn't been properly cleaned and there was lots of rubbish to get rid of - broken pictures, odd bits of junk. So we spent our first day just cleaning.

We soon discovered that the oven didn't work - we tried cooking a pizza and managed only to defrost it! It turned out that the previous owners had been going down to the shed at the bottom of their garden to cook on a camping stove - amazing! Ed's folks lent us their convection oven/ microwave. After a while, they said we could keep it, because they'd bought a new one. I changed the filter on the extractor fan to get rid of the smell of fish. Ed's Mum helped us clean up the gas hobs and we could use them for cooking again.

We ripped out the hallway carpet that smelt of dog and looked very dirty indeed, but decided not to put down fresh carpet until we had painted the hall.

We discovered that the old lathe and plaster wall in the larder under the stairs was crumbling, so we had to pull it down. The plaster was made from lime, sand and horse hair and the original lathes were nailed on with square head iron nails. It could well have been as old as the building itself (1850s). I had wanted to keep the old plasterwork, or fix it up somehow, but it just wasn't possible. I would have to go and shave some horses for a start to get the horsehair, and I can't imagine that they'd have been best pleased about that! So, to spare the horses, we had a plasterer put up some plasterboard and once the plaster dried, we painted over. The end result was clean looking walls, with the old lathes hidden beneath, should anyone want to see them in a few decades. Ripping out the old plaster produced this fine, dry dust that seemed to get under the facemasks and settled over everything we owned. Thanks to Kate, who did the bulk of this job.

By this point we had already painted the master bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. The wooden floor was waxed and polished. Curtains and blinds were hung up and furniture moved in. We bought a king sized bed from John Lewis for £275 and a mattress from Furniture Village for £299 (reduced from £999). It was incredibly heavy, but it seems to be great quality and tough enough to last for years and years - we hope!

Ed wallpapered the living room due to this room still having the original lumpy-bumpy walls. We realised that trying to take off the lining paper etc. would result in a cracking and collapse and we'd have to get that plastered too, and this would cost us time and money. It was the first time that Ed had done any wallpapering and he really struggled to get a good finish on these walls. At least he is tall and didn't have to use a stepladder, as I would have. The end result is quite beautiful. We used Laura Ashley wallpaper so that the fine quality would help hide the lumps and bumps, which I think worked.

And so, in these different ways, we personalised the house and began to feel like it was ours.

Unfortunately, we had a lonely Christmas after contracting both the Norovirus. We were horribly sick and were aware just how contagious it was, so shut ourselves in to try and contain it. All in all, we were sick for about 1 month, having also caught the flu at the same time. Worst luck.

Our To Do List for when we are fully recovered :
  • the hallway (strip old gloss paint, repaint, paint walls and ceiling, lay carpet)
  • the larder (shelves need putting up)
  • the spare bedroom (ceiling, walls, skirting and carpet, furnishings).
  • mirrors (I have no idea how I look anymore. The largest mirror I have is 8cm in diameter! Mirrors will also help to reflect light in the smaller rooms.)
  • door frames (need to paint or sand down to original wood)
  • built in wardrobe (needs finishing)
  • the shed (needs painting, securing and to be supplied with electricity)
  • the garden (sawing back the budleias, growing flowers, deciding what to do with the tiny pond).
So still lots to do! I think we will be working on this for a long time to come. I think it is really a labour of love. Big thanks to Kate, Gerald and Valerie for all their help.


grace said...

Sounds like you've made quite a bit of progress. If you have time, before and after photos are always great for blogging. :) I know I'd be interested to see the progress you're making and I can live vicariously through you.

Charlie Bluefish said...

Thanks Grace... I've been meaning to do before and after pics, but it's hard to remember to document things when there is so much to do. And my mobile phone camera has packed up working, but perhaps I can borrow Ed's digital camera. Big love x