The Great Brick Hunt…

I didn’t do my usual weekend blog last week, as…well, we didn’t do any work! Saturday was a road trip to Stoke to pick up the chimney pot we bought on Ebay the previous week, on the way we stopped at five, yes five, reclamation yards. I couldn’t believe there were so many in such a small area while Googling, and felt sure at least one or two would be goners, but no, I can confirm, all open for business. I wondered if the industrial downturn contributed to the area becoming a bit of a reclamation hotbed, it saddened me to see all the disused potteries, once home to master craftsmen whose wares were transported all over the world, but now unloved, left to decay…much like the glass cones in our home town.20140620-222713-80833895.jpgI regret not buying these glazed bricks from the first yard, they would have been a nice feature in the garden somewhere, but alas, I stayed focused on my mission…Find bricks for chimney rebuild!

The other three yards failed to inspire and we got bored of looking at bricks and decided the builder could put the dodgy ones out of view. I almost had my fill of looking at antiques, but then we arrived at Les Oakes, they don’t have a website, but you’ll find them on Facebook.

20140620-224130-81690590.jpg This is a gem of a place, a little like reclamation-Narnia. The collection is housed in several surreal barns, built fairly recently but bejewelled with stunning period windows, plaques, pediments…and anything else of interest the builders could lay their hands on. Their stock includes an amazing collection of, well, everything really! A lot of it is in the dark, and dusty, but that’s how it should be, there’s an air of special things lurking there. We left with a chair, awestruck.

20140621-204119-74479653.jpg The chair is intended to be one of our dining chairs, it may or may not make it into the final line up, but we’ll certainly be back at Les Oakes yard, frequently to pick up some of their fabulous furniture. Last stop, we collected the pot. Back at the ranch, some flowers have managed to raise their heads above the dreaded weeds. I love these poppies…

And I’m pretty damn smug about this rambling rose, how very British summertime! It’s laden with beautifully scented buds and is magical in the evening with the fairy lights twinkling away.

I’ll leave you with a couple of views from atop the scaffolding, our wobbly roof, and even wobblier chimney, a little more about these next time.



Rain Stops Play…

What a week! It’s been a non-stop but fun few days. Starting on Thursday evening I took a cookery glass learning to make Dosa at the Loaf Community Bakery & Cookery School. It was great fun and I feel pretty confident I’ll be able to make the five dishes which we learned at home… One day. There was also the opportunity to purchase some of their ridiculously good bread, the sourdough is amazing and I’ll be on another class soon to learn how to make that!
Friday evening was tidy up and prep night. Boo. But we had the Dosas for dinner. Yay!
Saturday morning was set to see the arrival of Dennis the plasterer and the scaffold guys, the rain and wind were so bad the scaffold got pushed back until Sunday. One out of three ain’t bad, and Dennis got the lounge finished and rough coated the hall. It’s good to see the back of those holes! 20140610-194014-70814820.jpgRonnie filled holes in the kitchen ceiling. My dad painted the cloakroom. I peeled paint off the library ceilng rose, it needs a little more attention, but it’s difficult to know when to stop given that we’ll eventually be admiring it from eight feet below, rather than eight inches below, atop the ladder. The difference is quite dramatic, who’d have thought such detail lay below the gloop?

20140610-195657-71817991.jpgI also peeled paint off the stools we bought at the flea market, then waxed the seats (I may have used a tiny bit off wood dye to give the new wood a little, erm, heritage!) I’m really pleased with the results, a nice little bargain!

The scaffold guys arrived on Sunday morning and spent the whole day erecting the scaffold up to the chimneys. These pictures show it from the side and front elevations.


I planned to climb up to have a good look around, but was only brave enough to go onto the first staging. Ronnie clambered up and descended looking a worried man, not because of the dizzy heights, but because of the state of the roof. There are holes and dodgy slates everywhere. The ridge tiles are all in place, so that’s one positive.

20140610-200224-72144756.jpg The builder is due to start tomorrow rebuilding both chimneys. He’ll be taking them down, cleaning off the bricks and rebuilding, hopefully straighter! Once that’s done we have to climb up the scaffolding and drop down chimney liners, and ‘pop’ this crowning glory (yet another Ebay purchase) on the top, eek!


What a Difference a Day Makes…

Yesterday started bright and early as Dennis the plasterer was arriving at 8am, so our usual Saturday morning lie in followed by lazy breakfast was sacrificed…boo! The day went in a bit of a whirlwind, and I didn’t take any ‘before’ photos, but here, in a nutshell, is what we did:

1. We DPC’d the garden. Doesn’t everyone?. We pulled out all the pesky weeds (for the third time) and then covered the ground in a layer of DPC, which will stay down until Christmas (probably longer truth be told, I intend to be sitting snuggled by a wood burner by then!) blocking out light should (we are assured) will kill the weeds once and for all and leave us with lovely healthy soil.

20140601-201508-72908077.jpg 2. I nailed fairy lights along the top of the garden wall, I got told off as apparently this was not a priority. Whatever. Dennis sided with me, that I should do it if it made me happy. We like Dennis.


3. We harvested our first Lansdowne produce: 4 dinky potatoes (and 2 quite big ones, which it took me several hours to work out were the seeds.) We ate them before I had chance to take a photo.

4. We visited an African themed garden centre, Akamba, they had some great animal sculptures made from recycled metal and incredible exotic palms. A slightly surreal oasis, Akamba has a great restaurant where we enjoyed delicious a Caribbean lunch in the sun – bliss. Akamba (and the weather) bought back memories of holidays, and gave us a good dose of garden inspiration, we need an exotic hut in our lives for starters!


4.I spent a couple of hours trying to strip stools we purchased last week. It may take a ‘couple’ more to get them looking ship shape.


5. I finally built the Abbeville bench I purchased a few weeks back from The Great Little Trading Co which sits between the garden and cloakroom doors, couldn’t fit better had it been made to measure! Needs painting and a cushion making, but that’s waaaay down the list. It’s really going to transform a dead space into useful storage.


6. THE PLASTERING STARTED!!! I’m so upset I didn’t take any pictures yesterday morning when the walls were mainly brick, but here is how it looked at the end of day one, and today, end of day two.


Finally for this week, a few people have asked where we found our garden bench, it was The Barn At Studley, where you’ll find some beautiful home and garden wares, we’ll be back there for more garden features, once those weeds are dealt with!


This weeks news…

This week has been a mixed bag, most notably the electrician has been and finally connected the extractor and hob! Hurrah! The bad news is that it failed to occur to us that our pans wouldn’t work with an induction hob…fail!

20140510-211914.jpg We had intended to spend the afternoon getting the last teeny-tiny bits of wallpaper off in the hall in readiness for the plasterers to start, unfortunately about another ton of plaster came off, depressing…we thought we were past that stage. The silver lining was that we found the old servants bell system! “Ding Ding, might you come and clean the plaster up please?!”

20140510-212554.jpg We (I) have also sorted out the Kitchen fittings, so everything now has it’s place…

20140510-213135.jpg Ikea drawer fitting, the baking drawer.

Another Ikea fitting, cleaning drawer.

20140510-213310.jpg Ikea drawer fitting and genius lid rack, admittedly less useful now I’ve had to throw out all of the pans, minor hitch. The freshly painted pantry now holds most of our provisions, storage solutions include Ikea mini shelves, tin rack (Ebay, from USA), can holder (for essential Diet Coke storage) and lots and lots of coffee jars with blackboard labels (Ebay again, this time from China!). This is the how it was a couple of weeks ago…

20140511-105541.jpg And now…

20140510-213810.jpg Last but not least, we hung the back-of-door spice rack, simple yet useful.

20140510-214043.jpg We had a few hours skulking round some local rec yards, one had some garden pieces when we are ready for them, and reasonably priced floor tiles to replace the few lost ones in the hall.


20140510-221334.jpg We found this little fireplace, it’s on the ‘maybe’ list for the guest bedroom.

20140510-231025.jpg Next week should hopefully see the plasterer appointed and we may finally make a decision on floor tiles.

Weekend Black Hole

We seem to have been busy all weekend, but not actually achieved very much… There’s been a few of those weekends recently.

In no particular order, here we go…

1. We removed the ramp going from the hall to the kitchen, I was uber pleased, as against all the odds, the tiles remained intact under the concrete, result!

The concrete is now out in the yard, if you look carefully you’ll see Dottie is evidently not the first cat to make a nuisance of itself in this house!

20140506-194740.jpg2. Tidied a tiny patch of the garden, about 0.5%, if that, but I popped in some flowers, and flowers ladies and gentlemen, make me happy. I’m very pleased with my azalea in its chimney pot.

20140506-194855.jpg3. Mum and Dad gave us this garden ‘to do’ blackboard, sniggering that we’ll need ‘considerably more writing space’ to list the tasks required to get the garden looking half decent, oh, how we laughed.


4.Picked some lily of the valley, I tried in vain to grow these at Ivy Cottage (my previous house) but here lots and lots have popped up, and they smell just incredible.


5. Excitedly Ebayed my old dining chairs…out with the old, in with the older.

20140505-203427.jpg We visited Peppermill Antiques yesterday and they have the most amazing dining tables…I usually spend hours, days, weeks searching for a piece of furniture before I find the one, but here I was spoiled for choice. They even had kitchen stools I liked, though no stock till July… Argh!

6. Ronnie finished off excavating the library fireplace. Looks amazing, I’m looking forward to curling up in front of a fire in there one of these days.


7. Received my lovely new string bowl from Maid Of Clay. Who knew I even needed a string bowl?! Adore.

20140506-201014.jpg8. Bought a stool for the lounge, onto the ever growing project pile for him. I’ve been after a footstool for a while, I bought this then found a much better one a few in the next antique shop. It had claws for feet! Boo.

Meanwhile, in the garden, Dottie found all of this quite exhausting…


Any Old Iron?

Well and truely behind on the old blogging! Had a couple of ‘lost’ weekends. The first was spent in our hire van moving things here, there and everywhere. Firstly we collected the contents of my previous garden, which has been expertly cared for my my Aunt & Uncle over the last six months, thanks!

20140415-200725.jpg They also looked after a whole load of wood which we’ve been hanging onto for a few months as Ronnie assures me it will be transformed into decking, or raised beds, or a treehouse at some point in the future (actually, not a treehouse, that’s what I’d like it to be made into… But let’s face it, it’s never going to happen!)
While we had the hire van for the day, we took the opportunity to deposit some stuff at my parents house, in the time it took me to take their things to the door, one of their neighbours popped out and slung his tat in the back of the van thinking we were scrap collectors!! Cheeky blighters!! We then drove the ‘scrap’ van to collect a MASSIVE sheet of MDF which will become the new kitchen bay windowsill. More excitingly, we also picked up a Victorian shelf unit we’ve been offered by our friends June and Martin (June is our chief curtain maker… More about that in future updates!) They had it displaying all sorts in their deli, but even before that, it had started off life in a local public house.

20140415-220945.jpg This picture does it no justice at all, it’s currently parked in the hall – We’re hoping it will go on our kitchen wall. I also organised the kitchen storage and pantry at long last, I’ll post that later…who knew kitchen storage was such an issue?
Our second lost weekend was spent in Barcelona, a few days meandering round it’s beautiful streets in the sunshine was perfect. We came back with these additions to our luggage:

MORE Spanish ceramics (slight hoarder issues), random ingredients, overpriced salt we don’t need but just look at that beautiful little pot! Oh, and this silver ring made from an antique spoon handle. I love a bit of re-purposing.

20140415-221938.jpg Last but not least, we picked up this little framed tile effort from a bric-a-brac shop for a bargain 10 Euros. It commemorates the Gracia festival, which was where we stayed so it’s a perfect souvenir. Actually that wasn’t quite the last purchase as I also acquired a few shopping bags from Zara, but we won’t go into that hey!
Back to reality now, we came home yesterday to find the manky tree in the front garden is a flowering cherry, and very pretty it is too,

20140415-222845.jpg Summer is just around the corner! Back to the grindstone, Today was spent chipping the lino tiles from the kitchen floor, what a joy, tomorrow will be much the same.

20140415-223041.jpg And in case I ever finish the floor, Ronnie has issued me with an (extensive) do list, in priority order to keep me busy… Thanks for that.

20140415-225853.jpg Someone take me back to the beach!

This weeks news…

So, three days later than anticipated and more white-van-man visits than we can count, we finally have gas AND the road has been reopened. The road closure was supposed to be for a few hours but extended to three days, principally it would seem, because the team were too disorganised to collect the huge collection of barriers, signs and cones that had amassed in front of the house. All rather embarrassing really, but the neighbours have been really quite understanding, publicly, at least.

Look at the state of this!

20140329-201616.jpgToday we’ve been on the lookout for kitchen floor tiles, I’m not impressed with the selection I’ve seen, all a bit ordinary. We have decided on a couple of things though, firstly we want ‘rough edge’ tiles, like these, but nicer:

And secondly we want to use some tumbled pebbles, like these, but cheaper!

20140329-200955.jpg We’ve had chippies in to quote on a few jobs we need doing in the kitchen to move things along, like fitting the cubby hole window, extractor hood and finishing off a little paneling here and there. Once he’s done, we can then have the hob and extractor wired. Finally for this week, we had the guy from the fireplace company come to do a survey… He seemed a little…shall we say ‘overwhelmed’, it’s strange how normal living ‘on site’ becomes and it’s only when visitors arrive with their little shocked faces that we remember the scale of it all! Anyway, in a nutshell the chimney breast in the library is likely to collapse, and behind the board blocking the fireplace in the lounge there is…dead pidgeon, ta da! We were told this on Thursday and he’s still there, Ronnie won’t touch it and I’m sure as hell not going to, it’s probably been there for 50 years, a few more weeks won’t hurt, right?.

Cooking on gas…Nearly!

Today was spent digging a trench from the side gate to the road, what fun! This is in preparation for the gas line to be fitted, we’ve saved about £500 doing this, so as much as I moaned (and I really moaned) the saving was worth the effort. It was also quite nice to be out at the front of the house chatting to passers by, many of them are older folk who knew the previous occupants, they all want to know how we’re getting on and wish us well, which is super.

20140322-181603.jpg We’re slightly concerned that there doesn’t seem to have been any notification to our neighbours that the road will be closed, except a tiny sign on a lampost at the very end of the street, so there may be some drama this week!

I’ve also been on the case trying to mend the stool that the pesky electricians broke. Here is how it looked a few years ago when I first bought it…

20140322-182318.jpg After much stripping, waxing and upholstering it looked like this, shown in our last home…


And after the aforementioned electricians got at it, it looked like this…!

20140322-184107.jpg Not only has the poor old thing lost a leg and it’s mouldings, it’s having to lie on the vile carpet. After a bit of nailing, a lot of gluing and some serious clamping it was on it’s way back to health.

It’s now looking much better after a bit of filling, sanding and polishing, and will be going into the guest bedroom word of warning to friends and family that may stay in future….It might be wise not to sit on it for too long!

This weekend has finally seen an end to the hours, and hours, and hours of scraping and scrubbing of the exposed brick wall in the kitchen.

20140323-211724.jpg It looks a little patchy in this photo, it’s far from ‘perfect’ as each brick is different, but I’m super pleased with it, I can’t wait to get it sealed and hang my Thai mirror on it.;

Turning Point?

The sun is shining today, just a little bit, but plaster dust is slightly more bearable when the doors and windows can be flung open without fear of freezing to death. I’ve spent the day stripping paint and paper from the hallway, I thought this job had been checked off, but alas, Ronnie today declared the job a fail and I was sent back to do it again. Humph. We’ve taken the skirting off in the hall to allow the D.P.C. guys access, it also meant I could finally check over the whole of the original floor, it’s all looking good with the exception of a couple of missing tiles by the doorway and a few gloopy, gluey patches where carpet has been stuck down in the past, it seems a million years since we got rumbled by the Estate Agent ripping up the carpet to see what was lay beneath the horrid carpet and found our fabulous floor.

20140216-171305.jpg The kitchen arrives on Saturday, so next week will be a flurry of last minute quotations for fitting. The remnants of the room divisions have been taken down at last, which really seems to have opened up the room. We’ve got a few little jobs left to do before the fitters arrive, such as ordering door furniture, cleaning up the exposed brick wall and trying to find a stained glass window we can use in the panel between the arch and the dining table, sourcing worktop, oh and a corner unit…quite a lot then really! Eek! I also want to improve the cupboard doors, I’m planning on adding beading and painting them to match the Ikea units.

I mentioned last week that the structural repair guys had managed to put the Helifix bars into the gable end without leaving a trace, it’s stopped raining long enough for me to take a picture today – Ta da!

20140216-200630.jpg Lastly, our other house is finally set to exchange, so we should actually have a budget very soon. Hurrah!

Windows, Wires & Webbing…

The old (ish) windows at the back of the house are now gone, I thought I’d be quite sad, as aesthetically they were ok, but in terms of energy efficiency and security were rock bottom. We chose Georgian style replacements, though we’ve no idea what would have been there originally.

20140126-184830.jpg I’m really quite pleased with the results. Much lighter than I was expecting and due to a few little suggestions from the fitters, they open really easily, the deep bay in the kitchen had been impossible to reach previously. We also had the old breakfast room door replaced. Our neighbours told us when they moved in they had the original door there, which was a stunning stained glass piece. We however, had a horrid, rotting, wooden door. We decided to replace it with skinny French doors, the fitters warned us against this as they were worried about seeing more frame than glass, but they actually look really good. They will work really well as we wanted to be able to leave the doors open onto the courtyard in Summer, but a regular door would have opened onto the library window. I’m not very fond of the Georgian detail in the top pane, I’d assumed it would be clear. Lesson learned… Spec EVERYTHING!

I did take the time to do a full design for the front door, as I wasn’t confident the guys had grasped quite what I wanted, seems this paid off as we’ve got pretty much what we asked for, with the added advantage of a handle, which I left off plan!

20140126-190419.jpg The neighbours popped round to say they love it, hopefully our house won’t be the ugly duckling of the street for too much longer!

Also this week the rewire has begun, there are floorboards and holes all over the place, and every floor, wall and ceiling is strewn with wires like gigantic grey spaghetti.

20140126-190717.jpg The cat seems to think she is living in some sort of feline theme park, her current party trick is burrowing down from the craft room floor and emerging in the top pantry cupboard, I’ve given up worrying what she gets up to, as there’s little we can do to prevent it!

Every evening we’ve been marking out switch and socket positions, it feels luxurious to be able to have everything exactly where we want it. Also great to get back from work and see there’s been progress in our absence as there are now plenty of people on site. We’ve marked out the kitchen too, though I got told off by Ronnie for drawing on the cupboards as apparently text would have sufficed and my pictures are neither professional or necessary… They make me snigger though.


We’ve met a couple a few houses down who have a similar level of work to do as us. We actually viewed their (beautiful) house before we bought this ours, at the time we were scared off by the amount of work required, though a year or so later we jumped in with both feet into a similar wreck! It’s going to be good to potter down and see what they are up to, and I’m sure they will be pottering to ours too.

Finally for this week, a quick update on my upholstery project, aka ‘The Damn Chair’. There was a class locally yesterday, so I had a few hours off renovation, at least of the bricks and mortar variety. I’ll post more about this project at some point as it’s a long, long story, but here he is at close of play yesterday:

20140126-191819.jpg After several years and more money than I dare think about, it’s very nearly there!