a whiter shade of grey

Well, this has been a long time coming. Loooooooong time. Little Betsy is the reason. See, we’ve had the paint for months, but how do you paint a room (clear out the furniture, both get stuck in with painting, don’t use the room for the duration and avoid the woodwork for 4 hours at a time…) when there’s a small, hairy thing bouncing around the place wanting you to throw Mr Hedgehog for her?

We’d planned on doing the kitchen and dining room in one go, and even, if booyaa could take a day off work, possibly adding in the hallway to the same mammoth painting session. I reckoned 3 days would cover us to get the whole lot, start to finish, done. But we just can’t do that with Betsy around. For a start, she barks and cries if she’s shut out of the room we’re in, so you can imagine her being locked away for the entire day, three days in a row. Well, we finally had a breakthrough. This is another of booyaa’s “this might be a really stupid idea but what if…” absolutely brilliant solutions to a problem we’d been stuck on for weeks. We’ll do it all in tiny bits. It’ll take three weekends or more, and it will be harder work, with all the getting out/putting away and tidying up in between, but at least we’d get it done. So that’s what we’re doing.

weekend one

We started with the kitchen. On Friday evening we planned our strategy and after breakfast and a long walk in the park to tire out little Betsy, we got stuck in. We took down the last bit of broken blind fitting and all the pictures, filled some holes and repaired some massive dints in the corners at the edge of the kitchen. Then we cleared some of the bigger items in the kitchen, and moved the rest all on to one of the worktops. booyaa took some of the cupboard doors off, to make it easier to paint in the tiny gaps between the end cupboards and the wall. We covered the other worktop with a pile of old plastic dustcovers, and got to work with the basecoat.

Covered up kitchen, featuring blotchy basecoat in the background there

Covered up kitchen, featuring blotchy basecoat in the background there

The basecoat, bought on special offer from Wilko and an absolute bargain, is designed to cover strong colours and smooth over fine cracks. We figured it would be a good base for painting over the horrendous ox-blood colour in here before repainting in the very light colour we’ve chosen. I hoped it would also deal with the satin finish of the existing paint. Have you ever tried painting over satin paint? The fresh paint smears all over. It’s a real pain. And of course there’s also the grease that’s bound to have accumulated over time on all the surfaces. Did it work? Why yes, it did. It’s quite tricky to apply on rough plaster like ours, and you need a fairly stiff brush to get in all the little pockmarks. If you have crisp, smooth plaster then I expect it would go on fine with a roller. But then you probably wouldn’t need a crack-filling paint… Because the basecoat is so thick (it’s basically Polyfilla plus white paint, let’s face it) you have to leave it for 6 hours to dry. We tidied up and left it overnight.

Next day I decided it looked like it had covered enough of the dark red to start painting the light grey emulsion I’d chosen, so after breakfast I got started with my favourite cutting-in brush. For such a small area – most of the kitchen is cupboard or window – it took me forever to paint it. But I still managed to get the first coat finished with time for it to dry so that I could do the second coat before dinner. All this time booyaa was trying to keep Betsy entertained. She spent most of the weekend sitting at the baby gate and crying for me. I’d go over to say hello every now and again but she was quite seriously put out. She might have had a few more treats than are good for her this weekend, just to keep her sweet.

After a very welcome hot shower and lovely dinner I sat down for a rest/play with Betsy while booyaa tidied everything away. On Monday morning we marvelled at the brightness of the kitchen. On Monday evening we kept turning the lights down because we don’t need them on full now that the red isn’t sucking the light out of everything. Remarkable. We had to rehang the cupboard doors because you know once you’ve moved them you’ll never get them to sit quite the same ever again… and put the clock back on the wall, moved things back how we’d had them and so on. And then I really looked at the new wall colour and decided that yes, it works really well with the cream tiles and the cream/dark grey cupboards. Yes, it’s the colour I wanted and it’s going to look great in the dining room. It’s so very much brighter, lighter, cleaner in here, it’s great. But… I don’t know, there’s something I can’t put my finger on. After living with it for a week I think that it’s a bit too cool (not as in not warm, though it’s that too, but mostly I mean chic, grown up) and it looks like something out of Living etc rather than my house. Bizarro.

Hipster kitchen

Hipster kitchen

I’m looking forward to seeing the transformation of the dining room. It’s going to give so much light back to the room. Which is a good thing, really, since the low over-the-table light means it’s generally dark even with the light on.

weekend two

booyaa has taken the Monday off, so we have a whole three days to tackle the dining room. We’d originally said we’d do the dining room over two or three weekends. We’d get the ceiling done first and then do two walls at a time. This is to reduce the amount of furniture-moving we need to do. It’s mostly down to not having somewhere to put everything while we’re working, since we need the living room free so Betsy has room to play. But also the sideboard is absolutely chock-a-block with glassware and crockery and you have to empty it before you can move it. Where do you put all that stuff? You can’t just leave it on the dining room table for two days or you’ll be eating off a tray on the kitchen floor…

Saturday morning: same ritual as last week. Homemade bread for breakfast then a long, fun walk in the park so that Betsy Boo is happy and tired out, and therefore easier to look after for the rest of the day. Move things all over the place. Into the garden, the downstairs bathroom, in the spare room, fold this away, put this back in the loft, and so on. Cover everything with dust sheets.

I’d planned out how to maximise the time working versus waiting for things to dry, so we’re doing things in possibly an unorthodox manner. We start by painting a border of basecoat around the join of the ceiling so it can start drying to let us do the ceiling today, then onto the rest of the basecoat cutting in. While I’m cutting in booyaa is using totally cheating liquid sander on the woodwork. Then I sit in the garden enjoying the lovely afternoon sun with Betsy while booyaa rolls the walls with basecoat. We have to go over it in places because the basecoat is so thick it’s hard to apply and the pockmarked plaster is quite deep in places and needs stippling to cover it up. Yet again I’m wondering just how much effort to go to now to avoid seeing tiny red dots on the wall later.

Blotchy basecoat (see also: grotty dip'n'strip doors)

More blotchy basecoat (see also: grotty dip’n’strip doors)

Next up I do the cutting in on the celing before booyaa rolls the rest of it. And that’s day one of this weekend pretty much over. We’re both exhausted and after cleaning brushes and washing rollers we opt for pizza from the local takeaway and an early night.

Sunday: up with the lark (that’s the Betsy alarm for you) so after breakfast, booyaa takes Betsy for a walk while I go straight back to the painting. I start on the cutting in and discover that I’ve completely lost my cutting-in mojo. I discovered while doing the living room that with a good angled brush and some patience I can paint a pretty good neat line freehand. No more low-tack tape that peels off your paint when you remove it. No no. But today I can’t paint a straight line. Panic! I decide to go as close as I can to the ceiling join and recognise that I’ll just have to go round with a tiny paintbrush later. While I take my turn to Betsy-sit booyaa comes in with the roller and gets the first coat of emulsion on the whole room before lunch. Whoop! While we’re waiting for that to dry we also do a coat up the stairs. We’re just doing up to the bannisters where the walls are pretty scuffed, so it’s pretty fast work. Then we get a couple of hours downtime. We get dinner ready to go in the oven. Early evening we get the second coat on in time for the dinner coming out of the oven. We are super impressed with ourselves.

Same wall, with one coat of paint on (Betsy's jail through the door on the left)

Same wall, with one coat of paint on (Betsy’s jail through the door on the left)

Monday: going to be tricky today. I’ve set my out-of-office so we can both concentrate on getting the woodwork done. We do the first coat of eggshell and true to our experience of Farrow and Ball eggshell elsewhere in this house the first coat looks awful and ohmygodthiswillneverwork. We have a four-hour wait before we can do the second coat but Betsy has very definitely Had Enough. She sits and cries through the bars of her little prison. I’m aching and fed up too.


Dining room and kitchen at dinnertime

Usually I do most of the woodwork. booyaa doesn’t really have the patience, but given how very much I don’t want to paint another stroke, he takes over and finishes the second coat on the skirting board. We decide to cut our losses and leave the door surrounds and the radiator until next weekend. We clear up, put the room back together enough to have dinner at the table. It’s already feeling worth the effort. The lampshade I bought months ago with this paint colour in mind and that’s looked entirely uninspiring next to the ragey red all this time, has finally come into its own. I knew it would be just perfect in here. And despite our not-such-a-great-idea determination to have a low light over the dining table (which makes the rest of the room very dark since there’s no general light in here) it’s actually not dark in here at dinner time.

The lampshade that now looks lovely.

The lampshade that now looks lovely.

On Tuesday morning it’s the greatest pleasure to walk into the dining room and see that lovely calm colour and the room bathed in light. We don’t get much natural light in the dining room because next-door’s extension mostly keeps us in the shade, but what little light we get can now bounce around the room thanks to the pale wall colour. I always felt that the red colour was an angry colour and sucked in every drop of light, but I hadn’t realised how much. This is a tranquil, light space.

weekend three

We finish painting the door frames, do a couple of touch ups where the emulsion was a bit thin and put up some pictures. After three coats of eggshell on the woodwork we decide that the superquick, seems-too-good-to-be-true liquid sander is indeed too good to be true. Next time it’s elbow grease and a coat of F&B undercoat before we get to painting the eggshell. Another lesson learned.

Our last task for this room will be a separate project. We need to take off the doors, give them a really good sand and repair them. Then we can get started painting them. They’ve been dipped and stripped (we didn’t do it) but they didn’t come up very clean, one of them is in a bad way, so we’re not going to try to keep them bare wood. They’ll be painted dark grey to match the kitchen cupboards.


Wilko own brand Basecoat undercoat and filler
Polyfilla Liquid Sanding
Farrow and Ball Cornforth White Estate Emulsion (walls) and Estate Eggshell (radiator, skirting, door trim). Wimborne White Estate Emulsion (ceiling).
Still to come: F&B Estate Eggshell in Down Pipe on the doors.

more floor

The floor in the living room is laminate straight over concrete. A couple of the neighbours have concrete floors in the front room, so I think something must’ve happened to make people rip out the wood and lay concrete. (Flood? Though I can’t see how the river could get this far. Really bad woodworm? Possibly. After all, there was woodworm elsewhere in the house. Some bonkers 1960s craze? Who knows.)


laminate flooring and gas pipe running along the top of the skirting board

laminate flooring and gas pipe running along the top of the skirting board

Anyway, I’m sure you can imagine that makes for a cold, cold floor. Not such an issue in summer, but it was very chilly when we moved in early Spring, and we’re not looking forward to an icy floor through the depths of winter.

Because the floor’s concrete we don’t have much room to manoeuvre. We don’t want the whole pneumatic-drilling-the-floor kind of work, so we had to find a way of insulating and recovering in less than 2 inches before the door wouldn’t open. You can buy sheets of polystyrene insulation which are about an inch thick. Bingo.

So, this week the builders came and took off the skirting boards and lifted the laminate flooring. Then the gas engineer came to move the gas pipe, which was running along the top of the skirting boards, and lay it out of the way for when we get a woodburner. This step wasn’t linked to the new floor except that since we’re lifting the floor it seemed like a good time to do it. (You can see the pipe above the skirting in the photo at the top.)

One wall of skirting had been routed out to hide some cabling. We didn’t see that until it became clear that the skirting was somehow tied to a plug. Interesting.

concrete floor, new pipe, cable routing

concrete floor, new pipe, cable routing

The next day the sheets of insulation went down, followed by half a tree of tongue and groove. The old skirting boards were reused. The badly damaged pieces were flipped over. We considered getting new skirting but we had enough to reuse so it seemed pointless to buy new.

And now it’s time to sand everything, floorboards, skirting, cupboard doors, the lot. Then we’ll be repeating the process from the dining room of staining and varnishing the floorboards. Cue aching arms by Sunday evening.

Saturday and Sunday

The stickers on the floorboards were an absolute nightmare to get off. I tried a combination of damping them with water and scraping with a metal spatula and soaking off the adhesive with rubbing alcohol. I was concerned we’d end up with square patches, so, while I sanded the rest of the woodwork that I’d started on Saturday, booyaa sanded all of the floor with the orbital sander.

By then we were both exhausted, but we found enough energy to stain the floor. That was my job. When you start painting on the stain you panic that it’s horrendously dark and artificial looking and you’ve made a huge mistake. But we remembered feeling this way with the dining room floor and that turned out really well once it was finished. And, as I carried on painting myself out of the room, the first boards were drying and starting to look like old pine, as planned.


action shot of me painting on the scary brown stain

Then I went to have a long, extremely welcome shower while the stain dried. Then first coat of hard wax went on. That was booyaa’s job. It’s really hard work. You have to drag the applicator in one firm sweep from one side of the room to the other, with no stopping and going back over because that will make it patchy. It takes 4-5 hours to dry, but we’re leaving it overnight to be on the safe side.

Clean up time and dinner. Luckily dinner is easy. So very tired.

Tomorrow the second coat of hard wax varnish goes on and we’re done.



tongue and groove stained and varnished

All done! New floor!

The wood isn’t as attractive as the wood we have in the dining room. They’re different products from different places. In the dining room the grain is really nice with a few knots and the planks are quite wide. The living room wood is narrow, it was much paler to start with so the finish is lighter now, and there aren’t that many boards with attractive grain. The knots are weird, triangular shaped, like the wood was cut at an angle. I’m pleased that most of it ends up being covered up by rugs and furniture. But is it warm? Because that was the main reason for doing this. And the answer is: yes it is! I mean, it’s not like having underfloor heating (I wish) but it’s markedly less chilly than before.

And now it’s time to paint the living room. I’m getting fed up of spending my evenings at the dining room table.

endless DIY

Sometimes you have to remind yourself to take a break.

We don’t go out much and we’re not big tv watchers either, but we do have one hobby that will take up as much time as we give it. That’s LOTRO, also known as Lord of the Rings Online. It’s a massively immersive game where you take your character into a rich, visual interpretation of Tolkien’s Middle Earth and there you interact with hundreds of other characters played by other real people, just like you. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun, I know, but we both love it. We play together, helping each other out and fighting orcs, goblins and trolls together. We could easily (and sometimes do) spend three or four hours playing. And sometimes we take a break for dinner before going back online for another couple of hours.

But when there’s this much DIY on the to-do list, well we tend to limit our game time to an hour here and there. This weekend we had a long session, to the detriment of our sleep patterns… A couple of weeks ago, after long sessions of DIY every weekend, booyaa went on strike, as it were. He downed tools and we spent the weekend playing LOTRO and cooking nice food, and we tried to simply enjoy our house for a couple of days. That was really nice. We’d both like to do that more often.

So we’re talking about rounding up some of the bigger projects. Looking at what we can complete and trying to have some time off before we start anything new.

So, current state of play for the bigger projects.

  • Finish off the dining room fireplace – we’re getting someone in to do that for us. Just waiting for them to slot us into their schedule.
  • Finish off the floor in the dining room – that was supposed to happen this weekend but one of the steps in the process took longer than expected and held up the whole project. Hopefully we’ll get the rest done next weekend.
  • Decorate kitchen, dining room, living room and staircase – all in one go, as soon as we’ve got the fireplace and floor finished in the dining room. Again, we’re not doing this ourselves. We’ve got quotes and it’s honestly not worth the hassle. Outsourced!
  • Landscape the garden – we don’t think we can afford to get someone in to do this (though we haven’t requested quotes) and it seems like too much for us to do ourselves, so we’re scaling back our plans and going to build just one flower bed for now. As long as there’s something to enjoy this summer.

Since we couldn’t work on the newly-sanded floor this weekend we spent about half of our time doing some of the smaller jobs that have been on the list for weeks. Plenty of things we’d started but never finished, or we were waiting for something to be able to complete it. Or just excuses ;) But we tore through a bunch of stuff:

Re-fitted the bedroom blinds and curtain poles (one of the blinds had a dodgy mechanism so we were waiting for a replacement; in the meantime we realised we’d have to move it around so that we could the drill into the tight corner we had to deal with). Now, to make the curtains. (Procrastination klaxon!)

We have a built-in cupboard in our bedroom. It’s just a rack of shelves in an alcove, nothing fancy. We’ve had each of the shelves piled up with bags of out-of-season clothes, spare duvets, guest bedding and so on. But we have so little clothes hanging space in this house, just the one tiny wardrobe, that we decided to convert it into a wardrobe. We’ve put two rails in, one at the back and high up for dresses and coats and the other at the front lower down for shirts. It’s a bit weird, but the space was too deep to waste. We’ve still got the highest and lowest shelves to use, too. So all in all, it’s maxed out all the possible storage space.

Following on from this, we sorted through some of those bags of clothes and bedding and vacuum-bagged as much as we could. Each of the bags then went into a plastic box and in the loft, out of the way.

Emptied the garden shed. We didn’t have much choice about this: someone answered our ad on Gumtree, so it had to be done! With any luck they’ll also take some of our gravel to use as a base for the shed.

booyaa fitted the TV bracket in the living room. We started this weeks back, but the wall crumbled and we had to fill it with polyfilla, then we couldn’t get the huge bolts lined up and had to redo it. Ugh. It’s a very unforgiving piece of kit. You need a specialist drill bit and screwdriver because the bolts are so long and the slot is too wide for your average screwdriver. But at last it’s up and the tv is hidden away in the alcove. We can stop using the hallway shoe cabinet as a tv stand, to my immense relief.

Lastly, we hung up the hanging plant pot in the bathroom for our spider plant. It’s been sitting on the windowsill for weeks. Tiny job, but still.

And that’s where we’re at with tiny jobs. Next weekend we’ll revisit the dining room floor. The major jobs on the list will take up the next four to six weeks, but we’re not doing most of it, so it looks like we’ll get our weekends back very soon. Hurray! More time to enjoy the work we’ve done so far.

kitchens of distinction

We’ve got a new kitchen!

We haven’t bought a new kitchen. We’ve upcycled what we had.

We renovated one worktop and installed one new worktop which we needed in order to fit the dishwasher. Then we had the cupboard doors painted and added new handles.

The kitchen is from Ikea, I believe. A bit of detective work shows up Ikea stickers here and there and I recognised the handles. So it’s not going to last forever. I think Ikea is brilliant at getting you a well-furnished, good-looking home on a tight budget. Most of their cheaper stuff doesn’t last and the more substantial stuff fails on the surfaces. Things tarnish and scuff easily. At least, that’s my experience. This kitchen is sturdy enough. The soft-close mechanisms have failed. The paint finish has worn or cracked in a number of places. What looks like steam damage had made the cabinet above the cooker swell. One of the drawers looked to have swollen in a similar way, making the edge all wavy.

So, we sanded off the swollen bits, took off the very boring handles and polyfilla-ed the resulting holes. There’s a small cabinet without a door where the microwave sits, so we filled in the spare holes there, too. It looks much neater.

Then Mr joiner-painter came and did the painting. The original colour was a light cream, and the top cabinets have been repainted in a warm white. That needed one coat of primer and two top coats. The bottom cupboards were painted dark grey so that took two coats of primer and two top coats.


Top cabinets are painted in Farrow and Ball Wimborne White.
Lower cabinets are painted in Farrow and Ball Down Pipe.
Cupboard handles are large ceramic knobs in Lime Zest from


We could have had new doors made fairly cheaply, so was it worth it to do it this way?
Paint. There’s still plenty of primer and paint left over, and it will get used on other projects. It’s already earmarked and was planned in advance to keep costs down. But still, it was £74 for the two cans of primer and two cans of paint.
Mr joiner-painter charged us £140 for a day and a half of work.
The new handles cost £33 (we needed 11).
The new worktop, joinery and oil all together came to £220.
So, not quite a new kitchen but it certainly looks like it, and all for under £470.


The colour of the lower cabinets is just stunning. On the website the paint colour looks like a darkish, dull grey. In real life it’s a beautiful, rich colour. It changes depending on the light — I’m finding this is a speciality of F&B paints — from a greenish grey to a deep bluish grey to almost black. The top cabinets are a warm white colour. They don’t change as much as the lower cupboards, but the overall effect is a clean, bright not-quite-white.

This is the kitchen on the day we moved in.

Day 0: kitchen

Day 0: kitchen

This is the kitchen this morning (I was going to wait until the kitchen was clean and tidy, and the shelf next to the microwave needs putting back…. but you might never get a photo if I wait until it’s perfect.)


You’d think we’d had a new kitchen fitted.

Close up of the drawers with their new shiny handles.

drawers smoothed, painted and sporting their new handles

drawers smoothed, painted and sporting their new handles

let there be light

At last, we have lights!

living room light fitting

living room light fitting

The living room light is from Habitat. It’s a plain black fabric shade with a copper lining, plus a replacement rose and cable (the existing light was an all-in-one) which is also black and copper. Looks a bit pants with the blue walls in here, but once we go dark grey I think it will be just perfect.

dining room light

dining room light

The dining room light is a trusty Ikea industrial style metal pendant. It’s huge. The cable is draped over a hook so that the light shines over the dining table. We’ll need a lamp or two in here, though, as the room is quite dark now that the main light is now low and off-centre.

pendant light shade at the top of the stairs

pendant light shade at the top of the stairs

The hallway pendant is one we bought five years ago. It was a treat. It was quite pricey, but we saw it in Heal’s in Kingston and both loved it. It matched the duck egg accessories in our bedroom at the time and, well, we splashed out. The duck egg doesn’t go so well with the colour of the bedroom walls here so we’ve decided to put this up at the top of the stairs where the patterns it casts make quite an impact.

Habitat light fitting is the Pendel in copper with the Grande shade.
The industrial style pendant from Ikea is called Foto and comes in various colours in the smaller size. We opted for the extra large one in dark grey here.

down and out in Paris and Colchester

We’ve become plongeurs. With no dishwasher for the first time in oh-so-many years we’re taking turns with the Marigolds to manage the pile of dirty dishes I magic out of thin air each day.

I love cooking for us, but it’s tempting to choose freezer-to-oven-to-table dishes so that we don’t have piles of utensils, pans and bulky casserole dishes to clean afterwards.

Light, though, at the end of the shift. Today we had a dishwasher installed. Since we’re making do with the kitchen as-is we also have to make do with a freestanding dishwasher. So I bought a black one, perhaps this can be Darth Maul (slender, matt) to accompany our Darth Vader (broad, shiny) fridge-freezer. A local plumber has a handy joiner-painter dad and between the two of them they moved the sink, pulled out one of the cupboards and plumbed in the dishwasher.

dark and moody dishwasher

dark and moody dishwasher

We swapped the stupid tap, too low to rinse a casserole dish under, for a super tall one. Shiny.

tall and shiny

tall and shiny

Next, Mr Joiner-Painter is going to paint the kitchen cupboards for us. This will help mask the bodged cupboard that’s become dishwasher space, and the unorthodox black appliances will blend in, too, since the lower cupboards are going to be dark grey.

Onwards and upwards.

Dishwasher is a slimline Beko DSFS1531B in black. I bought it from Next Domestic Appliances. They’d sold out of the one I wanted in John Lewis… I wouldn’t normally use anyone buy John Lewis for a substantial purchase but buying from Next turned out to be fine. Customer service and delivery process was easy and helpful.
Tap is a Ringskär in chrome finish, £80 from Ikea.
Fitting by Hughes Heating/Hughes Home Improvements, who are super friendly and helpful.

keep on movin’

We have so many interdependent tasks and just can’t get it all done at the same time. Every Friday we make a list of Things To Do over the weekend, and we never finish them all. Most frequently it seems the problem is that we’re not accounting for problems which arise part way through. Like the crumbling plaster everywhere. Nearly every time we want to attach something to a wall or ceiling we have to fill the intended drill hole with Polyfilla (other brands are available) and wait for it to set before we try again.

But the real issue is that there’s nowhere obvious to start. So many tasks are linked to others, it’s really hard to choose the next thing. After a chat with a wise friend I realised the truth I’d known but not recognised for some time. Just get on and do something. Pick the thing that most appeals at that moment. Or the thing that’s going to make your day-to-day life easier. Just do it. (Other trainers are available.)

So from now on it’s just about looking at the list and doing one of the things on it. Accepting that I can’t do everything. Acknowledging that it will take time. There’s no van waiting round the corner with an instant makeover team and tv crew ready to transform the house in 2 days. (Thank goodness, really, as their décor choices are generally dire.)

So this weekend we did a little bit of gardening and planned the first phase of turning a yard full of gravel into a gorgeous garden. We got the kitchen ready for the dishwasher installation. We’ve given up trying to fit the new lights, and are going to pay to make it someone else’s problem. A few things went up in the loft to free up some space downstairs, and we crowbarred all the guest pillows and duvets into vacuum bags and shoved them in the sofabed. Vacuum bags are such a godsend. And we finally ate the slightly scary salsify. (It turned up in the veg box and we had no idea what to do with it. Hugh Fairly-Longname suggested roasting with garlic and lemon, so we did, along with beetroot and blue potatoes.)

We’ve met a few more neighbours. booyaa got help off a lovely couple and their daughter when the topsoil delivery arrived but our wheelbarrow wouldn’t move. And he chatted over the back fence to the guy next door who was procrastinating over mowing the lawn. But that was a great opportunity to chat about the ridiculous tree in the garden that backs onto ours. We’re going to team up and sort it out.

Next weekend is Easter, so we have 4 solid days. Might manage to get the carpet up finally. And I have to make four curtains (*procrastination klaxon*).

Come back to the 80s with me.

lost weekend

Lost to busy-ness, that is. Though we did manage a sneaky gaming session on Sunday night. But you don’t care about that, do you?

Saturday morning, what was left of it after we had our leisurely hot cross bun breakfast, was spent re-assembling our garden furniture and relocating a few things out of the big shed. One of booyaa’s work friends needs a new shed and the one left here by the previous owner is just too big for us, so that works out. We just need to do some rehoming. I finished painting the bathroom. In the afternoon/early evening we put up the library shelves (see previous post).

Today we also had a brief investigate of what lies beneath the carpet in the hall and dining room. More on that later. We ordered some fancy AV kit so we can shove the cable box and DVD player in the fitted cupboard in the corner of the living room and an infrared doobie to relay the commands from the remote control. That means the lovely AV unit can go next door. Not family pet “next door” but in the next room. It’s going to be set the challenge of being a sideboard in the dining room. It’s far too low and doesn’t have a great deal of storage space to be a sideboard, but it matches the cabinet which stores our plates and glasses and at some point I’ll get a glossy floating shelf to put above it and it will be fine. It will. *determined face*

On Sunday we planned to replace two light fittings (living room and dining room) but our crumbly plaster got the better of us. The fittings just wouldn’t stay put, so we ended up polyfilla-ing as best we could and we’ll try again once that’s set.

Our arty light fitting.

Our arty light fitting.

We put up the towel rail and loo roll holder in the bathroom. Still to do: put up the blind (again, a fail today because the plaster crumbled) and put up the mirror. The fixings are currently MIA so that will have to wait a short while.

I’m not as good as painting straight lines as I used to be. Have invested in blue masking tape.
Walking up and down steep stairs all weekend makes you achey.
120-year old ceiling plaster crumbles as soon as you look at it.

* Internet-speak. Short for “Things I Learned” or “Today I Learned”

body in the library

I love this story, and especially the way the Bantrys pronounce library in this adaptation. But fret not, there isn’t a body in our library. But there is a library!

We have a shortage of space for my books. I don’t have that many, honest. But we’ve had to put our large shelving unit in the loft as it’s too big for where we’d hoped it would go. The boxes which used to live on top of the bookcase in my study won’t fit on the top here as the ceilings are much lower, so they’re now using up valuable shelf space. The solution (I’m so proud of this!) was to put a high level shelf along two walls of the guest room. And that will take the book overflow quite nicely thank you. Project ‘Turn the guest room into a library’ is go!

We ordered some white painted wooden shelves and brackets from Ikea. We carefully measured and marked a neat line as near to the ceiling as we could go whilst still fitting large paperbacks.

Action shot!

Action shot!

Then, after putting up the third shelf we found that despite our careful measuring, using a spirit level and making a template, going easy on the crumbling plaster, accounting for wobbly walls and lack of a right angle in the corner, etc. etc. the fixings on the brackets varied by a couple of milimetres. So we’ve still ended up with an uneven line of shelves. Cue forehead slapping. Still, looks great, doesn’t it?

Slightly wonky shelves on very wonky walls

Slightly wonky shelves on very wonky walls

We’re considering painting the shelves and brackets to match the walls, so they blend in a little. But I’m very happy with them anyway. I’m also tempted to arrange the books by colour. One day, when I’ve finished all the other jobs.

Put a book on it.

Put a book on it.

to dos (and to don’ts)

Plans. I have a to-do list.


To-dos on the wall. The dining room has become one giant chalkboard.

We have some amazing ideas for renovating and improving the house and garden. We have a “what if…” plan, because why not? And a slightly less ambitious one.

All of the upgrades depend somewhat on finances; plus what the architect says will or won’t work for rearranging the space.

Things we plan to do:
Let’s call this phase one, though even so it will probably be done over the space of a year or two. It’s also very much a cosmetic phase.

Living room
Open up the fireplace. We might get a stove rather than reinstating the fire
Upgrade the laminate to real wood boards (or paint it for now)
Buy new furniture that fits the space

Dining room and kitchen
Rip out the carpet and restore the boards
Paint the kitchen cupboards
Restore the wooden worktop with sanding and oil
Install a dishwasher (means converting a cupboard)
Possibly open up the fireplace here, too, but use as a wine store (I know. Very 70s of us.)

Nice paint colour to bring in some warmth
Accessories should brighten it up
Might swap the light fitting (it gives off a greenish light)

Rip up carpet, restore boards
Swap light fitting
Hang pictures

Only the small bedroom which will be my study really needs decorating
Renovate old chest of drawers
Possibly paint cheap wardrobe until we get a fitted wardrobe

The long game
The ambitious plan is dependent on money and architect’s say-so. It’s not outrageous. There are no only-in-London huge new extensions made almost entirely of glass or magicking a third floor by excavating the cellar. No. Much more modest than that, but still substantial.

The plan, if it will work, is to turn the loft into a dual-purpose study and storage area. The way the stairs sit means we should be able to put a second flight of stairs directly above them to gain access to the loft. The room will be split in two by the staircase but that works for us, and would be perfectly usable for a twin bedroom. But you wouldn’t get a double bed up there.

Then the study will turn into a bathroom. The guest room will remain the guest room, so visitors get an en-suite bathroom and we have to use the cloakroom downstairs in the middle of the night.

What cloakroom? Aha. The current bathroom will lose the bath, the loo and basin will stay put. Where the bath used to be will become a utility area, with the washer, the boiler and some storage.  This area, along with the back lobby, will be incorporated into the kitchen. We’ll upgrade the kitchen at this point, with new cupboards and worktop, and maybe, if I’m very lucky, a bigger cooker.

If a full loft conversion is not feasible for financial or practical reasons then we’ll try to at least turn it into a usable space for my home office but with a fold-down staircase. Then the bathroom and kitchen will go ahead the same. Obviously having a three bedroom house with an upstairs bathroom is worth more than a 2 bed with a usable loft space. So… well, we’ll see.

We used to have an allotment, so growing our own food is a hobby. We recognise that such a garden won’t allow us to go all Tom and Barbara so we’ve reconciled ourselves to having a couple of veg planters for tomatoes, salad, a courgette plant and then we can stick some beans in the flower bed and put a potato bag on the patio.

Get rid of the gravel
Downsize the shed
Paint the fence
Create a patio area for table, chairs, bbq and our collection of potted plants
Create a large flower bed in a curving sweep, packed to the gills with scented flowers in summer and good autumn-winter colour shrubs
Make a small patch of herb lawn for summer enjoyment
Build two raised beds against the back wall of the house
Rose and honeysuckle arch at the gate
Shade garden along the side return with some brunnera, heucheras maybe a hosta or two
Path and patio areas will need landscaping materials, but we can manage with bits of gravel for the time being