Kitchen Projects…

It’s been all go the last few weeks to get the kitchen finished before Christmas and all but a bit of snagging, we’re there. I’ll post before and afters in the next couple of weeks once the dregs are done, but in the meantime, I wanted to post a few ‘mini projects’ that we’ve done in the kitchen.

First up, the cubby hole in the kitchen has two beautiful carved sections, they are Victorian and I like to think original to the house, though clearly not in their current position. I toyed with the idea of stripping them, but they are so intricate it would have taken forever and I was fearful would they have an air of (very) Shabby Chic, heaven forbid, so I decided to gild them, the result had a definite feel of ‘Bollywood prop cupboard’ I panicked I’d wrecked them and ran some brown paint over them, then some dark varnish and finally attacked them with wire wool… I’m pleased with the result, though not at all what I set out to achieve.

Before & After…

And both sections shown together, one with flowers and one with fruits…perhaps telling the story of the seasons?
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/180/57909570/files/2014/12/img_4750.jpg It’s difficult to show the positioning of the cubby, this is about the best I can do…

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/180/57909570/files/2014/12/img_4752.jpg Pretty pleased given that a year ago it was a cold, damp and useless area at the top of the hall…

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/180/57909570/files/2014/12/img_4753.jpgWe needed a couple of shelves for cookery books etc. Wherever possible we’re trying to avoid off the shelf products, (except the Ikea kitchen #budget) so I sourced natural edged, made to measure shelves from the very helpful Ben Loughrill
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/180/57909570/files/2014/12/img_4551.jpg These had a couple of coats of Danish oil, which, never fails to amaze me how much it improves the look of timber. I then set about marking out the wall for the brackets, easier said than done as each hole seemed to hit a different substrate, including the metal casing of the electrics, oops.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/180/57909570/files/2014/12/img_4547.jpg We then cut segments out of the wood to accommodate the column and finally screwed into place.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/180/57909570/files/2014/12/img_4760.jpg The little hand-forged hooks, like the brackets, and most other things in this house, are from Ebay. Since putting up the shelves for our books, I’ve decided I prefer to display a random selection of tat on the shelves, and said books, cause of all this fuss, have been relegated to the pantry.

The last little project was door handles for the pantry and boiler cupboard, I searched and searched for some pewter handles that had a bit of a vintage feel, without being ‘antique’ style…it proved pretty hard on a sensible budget. I eventually ended up with these, from, you guessed it, Ebay, they were £12 for two pairs. When they arrived they were in Homebase packaging, I assume someone bought them and didn’t like them.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/180/57909570/files/2014/12/img_4764.jpg I also got this little collection of old keys for just £3.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/180/57909570/files/2014/12/img_4414.jpgWe fitted the new handles, painted the door black underneath the keyhole, drilled a hole, sawed the business end off the keys and glued them into the holes.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/180/57909570/files/2014/12/img_4331.jpgThey look great but visitors DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT turn the keys, they will fall out, and there may be tears.

A Year In The Life…

A year (and possibly a fortnight, y’all know how it is) after we got the keys for Lansdowne I thought I’d show progress room by room compared with the estate agents photos. Some rooms are much better, some much, much worse…


Agents Photo…


It Got Worse…


And Now…


We’ve stripped millions of layers of paper, chipped off plaster, had DPC fitted and replastered. Skirtings have all been removed, repaired or replaced. Ceiling has been sanded and filled (x 5). Room has been rewired and had central heating fitted. Fire surround has been stripped. Fireplace has been opened out and had liner fitted. We’ve done first coats on all walls.

Still to do…

Floorboards to be stripped. Fire to be fitted. Final decoration. Window repairs booked for Spring…followed by blinds and curtains. Lighting to be fitted.


Agents Photo…

IMG_4431.JPG And Now…


Prob best we gloss over this one! In here, we’ve had Helifix supports on outer wall, DPC internally, taken out THREE fireplaces, stripped ceiling rose…and then filled the room full of crap! This room will be replastered once aforementioned crap is dispersed to the relevant rooms.


Agents Photo…

IMG_4430.JPGAnd Now…

IMG_4642.JPGWe’ve knocked down a few walls, exposed a brick wall, put DPC in some walls, windows in others, replastered and painted. We’ve had new windows, taken down, insulated and renewed the ceiling, rewired, fitted (arguably too much) lighting, fitted floor, heating, shelves, oh and fitted a kitchen!

Still to do…

Grouting and sealing of floor, replacing socket covers, paint snagging , door fitting (I have more Ebaying to confess to…) a MASSIVE clean up operation and then, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll have a room finished! Yes that’s right, finished! I’ll do a game show worthy reveal post in the next couple of weeks.


Agents Photo…

And Now…

IMG_4647.JPGThe breakfast room is no more… It’s now part of the kitchen diner, as is the funny little atrium that used to be at the top of the hall. The cupboard door is the same, but everything around it has changed. We’ll be fitting a wood burner where Dottie cat is sitting after Christmas.


Agents Photo…


And Now…


We’ve taken off plaster, retired, replastered, fitted heating and knocked out the fireplace.

Still to do…

Fit new fireplace, sand floor, repair the ceiling, decorate and disperse junk.


Agents Photo…

IMG_4426-0.JPGAnd Now…

IMG_4465-0.JPGWe’ve nuked the weeds three times, each time they came back with avengance. Finally we laid black polythene down for 6 months, which we have on excellent authority, will kill the weeds, dead. We also had the huge holly tree taken down. The garden will be fully landscaped, hopefully, though rather optimistically for next Summer.

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.

A kitchen, a sofa and a robbery that wasn’t.

Oops, missed a week. We’ve both been in the sick bay with a bug, so progress has been slow… We’re recovered now, so full steam ahead, phew!

We’ve been given this lovely little sofa after eagle-eyed June spotted a neighbour throwing it out… It’s now on my ever-growing list of things to up-cycle. Sweet, isn’t she?

20140311-214721.jpg Last Saturday Ronnie and I ventured into the village for some breakfast, when we returned the workmen mentioned Ronnie’s friend had been round to borrow his electrical saw from the shed, we’d not been expecting anyone so after a quick ring round, we decided that the saw had been stolen by an opportunist, which was pretty much what we deserved for leaving the shed open with valuables inside. Oh well.
The kitchen fitting is almost, very nearly complete. It took the fitter quite a lot longer than he anticipated but we’re really pleased with the results so far.

20140316-181215.jpg These pictures show where the two walls have come down, the first just behind the new breakfast bar, the second came off the yellow wall in the background. The stained glass window I bought will drop into that yellow wall one if these days!

20140316-181228.jpg The breakfast bar has achieved the divide we wanted between kitchen and dining areas, we still need to get the extraction hood fitted. I’m still upset I missed out on those old school stools on Ebay, they would have been perfect! The exposed brick wall can be seen in this picture too, sooooo many hours of scrubbing, but it’s looking good!



20140316-182639.jpg The oven and microwave sit just got the right of the hob.

20140316-183507.jpg The corner by the pantry has worked out ok, and now houses the fridge freezer and some cupboards, next weekend I plan to sort out the cupboard doors…new hardware, beading and a good few coats of paint. Dottie cat has been ‘helping’ in the kitchen by sitting in the box of handles, refusing to move.

20140316-185000.jpg Finally for this week, the ‘stolen’ saw was returned. A red faced couple knocked at the door and basically they’d arranged to borrow some tools from a friend of a friend and gone to the wrong house, they only realised when they returned it! All’s well that ends well, they bought us some wine and chocolate to apologise, and the saw made a lovely job of their new kitchen floor!

Comings and Goings at Lansdowne.

This week has been one of comings and goings. Coming, most notably was our cheque from the sale of Ronnie’s house, and with almost as much excitement (from me) my three Ebay purchases from last weekend, goings were my little round table and the giant holly tree.
The garden looks a lot bigger without the tree, but also more ‘normal’, and I don’t like normal. You can now clearly see the original Victorian fence to the right of the garden, we’ll need to lose this to put up a new wood fence fairly soon which will be sad, but I think the days of a 3ft fence dividing neighbours are long gone, especially when you own a crazy cat, and them, and even crazier dog. I hope to be able to use the old fence to divide off a little vegetable plot at some point.

20140302-193227.jpg On Saturday I collected last weeks Ebay steals, I’m totally, and utterly in love with my window, I’ve looked at sooo many, but when I met this beauty, I knew it was the one for us. .

20140301-194815.jpg It’s going to look stunning when it eventually goes into the alcove. I also picked up the mirror which I can’t wait to hang, it will be opposite the French window so should make the area feel much more spacious than it actually is. The guy I bought it from had stuffed bats hanging from his hallway ceiling, so I expect the mirror is glad of a new home!

20140301-194658.jpg Finally on my little road trip, I collected the corner cupboard for the kitchen, it’s actually much nicer than I expected and I feel quite sad that it will most likely end up being repainted to match the units, I love the little lock and key.

The DPC has gone in this week, along with the base plaster. It’s good to see the back of most of the bricks and house feels a lot more finished than it did last week. Some bricks we didn’t want to see the back of though were the ones that form the library fireplace. It’s not especially pleasing to get home from a day at work to find that the bricks we painstakingly removed plaster from have been plastered over again! The DPC guys are coming back next week to correct their mistake and get the plaster off again, hopefully the chimney won’t fall down in the process.

20140302-191927.jpg I’ve got upholstery class next weekend, so I’ve been doing a little bit the dreaded chair to hopefully get it somewhere near finished in class. Progress on the exposed brick wall in the kitchen is a bit slow, it’s difficult when aiming for a rustic look to identify quite what ‘done’ looks like, it’s definitely NOT done yet though…homework for the week…I think. The kitchen fitter starts on Thursday, excited, much. We’ve been getting the last bits and bobs finished in preparation today, we cleaned up the areas where the two walls have come down and found the old quarry tiles a few inches below the current floor, I’m afraid that’s where they are going to stay as they are now covered over again ready for tiling.

20140302-192934.jpg We’ve also chosen our worktop, we’ve gone for the 40mm oak, it’s the middle one on this picture.

20140302-195741.jpg And finally, I (re)found this tea pot, we found it in the garden on moving day and rediscovered it in the depths of the last kitchen cupboard to go today. It’s quite sweet!


Hitting the wall…and other areas of the house.

So, this weekends checklist:

1. Kitchen delivery – Check, what better to be doing at 7.02 on a Saturday morning.
2. Kitchen fitting quotation – Check (under budget!)
3. Ebay kitchen bar stool purchase – Fail (‘sniper’ app failed to snipe!)
4. Holly tree felling – Fail (gardener didn’t turn up, currently 37hrs late)
5. First plaster coat – Check
6. Kitchen wall renovation – Almost check (ran out of brick acid…and patience)
7. Ebay window purchase – What? It wasn’t on the list?! Erm… Check!
8. Ebay mirror purchase – Check (I’m a better Ebayer than the app!)
9. Scrap metal collection – Fail, apparently our local scrap dealers only work weekdays!
10. Coffee trunk listed on Ebay – Check (to pay for the window, obvs)
11. Ebay corner cupboard purchase – Check
12. Collect light bulbs from Post Office – Fail

Kitchen delivery: Ikea turned up on time to deliver the kitchen, slightly concerned by the minimal volume of the boxes – currently all stacked in the downstairs loo! Seems Ikea really are the masters of compact packing, or half the order is missing, we’ll find out soon enough.

Kitchen fitting: Looks like Miles will be our kitchen fitter of choice, likely to start a week on Saturday as we have another weekends snagging to do before they start.

Kitchen stools: I smugly trotted off shopping safe in the knowledge my super-duper new app would get my stools for the best possible price. Seems I should have stuck to the old method as someone else got these beauties for £15 each, raged!

20140223-220759.jpg Tree felling: The tree surgeon failed to show, maybe he fell out of a tree?! He did arrive earlier in the week to clear the garden though, not quite sure how he did it, but looks like there’s been some sort of apocalypse!

Plaster: Ronnie filled all the holes the electricians made, ready to be skimmed by the proper plasterer.

Kitchen wall: This is to be exposed brick, but was covered in a huge amount of mortar and plaster. I used brick acid to break down the mortar, washed it off and scrubbed with a wire brush for HOURS! Needs a few more hours work and then a coat of sealant, really pleased so far though.


(Accidental) window purchase: I accidentally bought this for the wall between the kitchen and alcove.


(Intended) mirror purchase: I’ve been after one of these mirrors for a while, usually about £195, I’ve picked up this one for £80, kerching!

20140223-223819.jpg Scrap metal: What sort of a scrap dealer does not work weekends?! They don’t make them like they used to. The scrap pile has grown further over the weekend and now includes the old fridge freezer. The lot should have gone when we get back from work.


Coffee trunk listing: I’m sad to let this one go, but although this house is twice the size of the cottage I bought the trunk for, it just won’t fit anywhere.


Corner cupboard purchase: Ikea strangely, only make wall corner cupboards in white, so I’ve been on the lookout for something I can paint to tie in. This is what I’ve bought…

20140223-222311.jpg This has already been ‘up-cycled’ (as the cool kids say) and I was intending to get something I could renovate myself, but this was a bargain and just needs painting in a slightly darker colour.

Light bulb collection: Getting dimable bulbs has been a nightmare, and an expensive one at that! Delivery was attempted while we were out, so I went to collect them from the Post Office, which, apparently closes at 11.53am, not 12.00. Oh well, we’ll wait until next week then, light is over-rated anyway.

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!

Kitchen planning, light souring, oh, and window distractions…

Last weekend was mainly kitchen planning. Before we set off to Ikea though, the third of our potential window restorers came round to measure up for a quote. The first two guys have still not got back to us after a month…grrr! This gentleman was a knowledgeable sort and has a method to fit double glazed panels within the existing frames, which incredibly after 120 years are in good condition. This is great news as it means that we’ll be preserving more of the original windows, and will save some money as we’d expected to need replacement windows. We’ll be increasing energy efficiency from level 8, down to 1.9, which is apparently quite good. Modern UPVC replacements would bring it down to an excellent level, but there has to be balance in all things. The window man also pointed out the top opening windows in our bedroom, we’d assumed these were fixed as they are downstairs, but once we got up to look they do indeed (or at least should) open. I was excited (genuinely, actually, excited) to see that we also still had the original ‘Monkey Tail’ window stays:

There are two upstairs which are too high to be seen, so we’ll replace them with repros, polish them up, and pop them onto the bay window in the lounge for all to see. I couldn’t resist ten minutes with Nitromors and wire wool.

20140112-224440.jpg I’m continually amazed by the amount of sheer hard work that went into Victorian properties. I love my work as a designer, I constantly look to add detail to everything I do, but we live in an age where the actual product manufacture is often the quickest part of the process, these window stays will have been hand forged by one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of filthy-faced metalsmiths working within a stones-throw of the house, and they are as good today as the day he made them. Perhaps those forgotten skills are why our windows have lasted over a century…I do so love the Black Country.

Ironic after that little rant, that our kitchen comes courtesy of Ikea, I have my ideals of a locally handmade masterpiece, but also, god damn it, a budget. I did spend a long period of my childhood in Sweden, which has to count for something! To avoid being total Ikea-whores, we’re planning to mix their Lindingo units with more bespoke detailing, and a couple of vintage pieces we’ve accumulated, apparently the cool kids call this an ‘Ikea Hack’. After hooooours on their planning tool we’ve arrived at something like this:

This is looking from the back door through towards the hallway, exposed brick far right, used to be the breakfast room. The gap is where the wine fridge sits, it’s so complicated to ‘import’ appliances on the kitchen planner that you actually need a glass of wine to cope! This is the vague look I’m going for in the kitchen, which looking at Interiors trends is the same as everyone else this season, oh well.

The units are Lindingo grey, with solid wood work top. I’ve sourced handles separately, as well as some amazing brackets inspired by Ironbridge, a local landmark. Ikea don’t make a decent corner cabinet so I’m on the hunt for a Victorian unit I can paint to match. We are also going to have a big blackboard from The Timber Shack. Appliances were all bought in the January sales, and are currently piled up in the breakfast room. There are another couple of pieces that I’m excited about putting into the kitchen, both from local pubs, in a round-a-bout way…

And finally, stop press, I’ve saved some money! I’m the type that looks at ‘splurge or save’ magazine comparisons and inevitably chooses the splurge, so was actually quite smug when I found this Dunelm light for a third of the price of the Garden Trading produce I’d been intending to buy, that said, It’s not arrived yet, so could still end in tears when I see it.


New Year Update…

Gosh, where did the last few weeks go?!

Christmas is now but a distant memory, the nativity folk are packed up snug and warm in their little tin until next year, and the tree is stripped of his twinkling lights. We had a lovely break with family and friends, and didn’t do much on the house…Instead we ate biscuits, watched films and chilled out…and very nice it was too!

But, before I put Christmas to bed, I wanted to post another of my latest finds, these retro Santas. Centre back and his wonderfully camp mate on the left are cool, they can stay, the other pair are being evicted though, look at their evil little faces!

On the subject of finding things, I found a £20 note on my doorstep this morning, then this afternoon I was poking around pondering the fate of my filing cabinets in the craft room when I found a book of 100 First Class stamps jammed underneath, bit of a result as they are worth around £50, and the cabinet only cost £30 from Ebay – Lucky me!

Progress on the house is ticking along, new windows are due to be fitted in the back of the house in the next couple of weeks, along with a new front door. Bit sad as the 80’s wooden windows are pretty, but the heat loss through them is ridiculous. We are lucky to have the original front door, though it’s in need of a little TLC.

We’ve been talking lots about the pros and cons of restoring original features, left to my own devices I’d be living in a museum, Ronnie in contrast, would choose a space-pod type abode, our compromise is to ensure we keep as many features as possible, even adding a couple, but to make sure we live in the 21st century, with all the comforts that brings. As much as we love the original door, it’s draughty and not very secure. The previous owners had added a horrid glass secondary door, we’ve decided to follow their lead, updating with modern door that will show the feature door behind and improve our thermal qualities and kerb appeal!

This is how i hope we’ll end up looking once door and glass are in place, along with our new slate sign and light.

I bought an antique letterbox to be used in the new door, which I hope will dull a little of it’s new-door-on-the-block sparkle, I guess this is exactly the type of compromise that works for us.

Through our letterbox this week, we received a parcel of original deeds for our property.

It is incredible to see how the house has changed hands, and names through it’s history – It’s been given several names over the years including Lansdowne and more recently Cheericote, there’s a lot of research to do to see what secrets I can uncover…

Almost there with the wallpaper! Boom! There’s only a tiny piece above the stairs to be done, which we’ll need some sort of magic beanstalk to reach.

Most rooms are now a bit stagnant, as we wait for the rewire to start in a week or so. There’s lots to be done, but I have started to have a think about how each room will look. I’m a great believer in having an object you love as a starting point, to build a design scheme around. My ‘object’ for the lounge is this canvas, from one of our holiday images.

Love the striking yellow, black and white and think it will help to blend our eclectic collections of ‘stuff’ vintage (mine) modern (his) and oriental pieces (ours) from our travels. This is the room as it was when we moved in:

And I’d like it to look a little more like this, but nicer, obvs. I’d normally be quite shy of bright colours, but every room in the house has been vivid yellow at one stage of its history, which is somewhat reassuring.

Finally, I’ve spent hours and hours and hours on the Ikea website planning the kitchen (then photoshopping potential Ebay purchases over the top). To be continued…