Category Archives: DIY-tastic

In which there is some gardening

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I have to admit, my enthusiasm for home improvements is pretty low at the moment and still recovering from the epic work we did on the house. But the itch for DIY never completely goes away if there is still stuff to be completed, and boy are there definitely things to be done on the garden.

This is what the garden looked like when we bought the house in September 2013:

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After being neglected for a year, and used as a building site for balcony construction, by this spring it was running a little wild. We cut down the insanely tall and light-blocking leylandii and a hell of a lot of shrubs earlier this year, having a mad chipping and burning session. We then did nothing over the summer and it ended up looking like this.

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In order to create what we wanted, we decided that the best course of action was to start afresh, strip everything back to nothing and have a blank space to work with. Although it doesn’t look like it, there are some great plants in there that are well worth keeping and destroying these would have been a real shame, so we hired a gardener I’d met at the allotment in order to dig them up and pot them. Best decision ever, I have to say. I could have done this, but crucially I didn’t want to, plus this guy has way more knowledge than me and made sure the plants made a happy transition from ground to pot. After four days of his hard work and a session with his rotivator when the ground was clear, this is what we’re left with:

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Unlike the house, there’s no deadline with this so we can take our time over what happens next. We’ve got drawings, we’ve got ideas, all that needs to happen now is for me to get more enthusiastic about actually doing the work!

Oh, and in line with the rest of the country, it’s been a great year for our apple tree. Eight bags picked and still so many on there!

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In which there is a house tour

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Our balcony was finally finished over the bank holiday, and so coinciding with S taking some photos of the house with a wide-angled lens, I thought I’d share the fruits of our labours over the past few months.

When we moved in, the house was stuck in a time warp. The electrics all pre-dated the 1977 colour change, there was no central heating and the bathroom still had the original 30s tiles (sadly not good enough to keep). We were only the third owners since 1936, with the couple before us being in there for over sixty years. It was described as “in need of some modernisation”. It definitely needed TLC. A friend of mine called it “retro”, which I think was rather too kind! This is what it looked like before.

Living room

Living room

Dining room

Dining room

Kitchen

Kitchen

Front bedroom

Front bedroom

Back bedroom

Back bedroom

Bathroom

Bathroom

Small bedroom

Small bedroom

There were loads of great original features though — internal doors with Bakelite handles, the leaded glass front door and picture rails in most rooms. S loved the cellar and the garage as potential bike storage/workshop space. And, of course, the view. The view is what really sold it to us, being high up and looking out towards South Bristol and Somerset. We knew there was so much potential for it to be an amazing house.

Over ten months we stripped wallpaper, knocked down a wall and an outhouse, did the bonding plasterwork, dug the foundations for the balcony, put in a lintel, rebuilt a wall, sanded and polished the floors, built shelves and painted. A lot. External contractors rewired it, installed central heating and a woodburner, swapped windows and doors over in the kitchen-diner, did the top coat of plaster, put in a new kitchen and bathroom and built the balcony.

And here’s how it looks now…

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Seeing these photos side by side makes me realise how far we’ve come from that day in September 2013 when we fell in love with the view. Every time I put my key in the lock, I still get a thrill to see it all complete, and I genuinely can’t imagine living anywhere else now.

For those of you interested in the details: all paint Wickes white trade matt with a top coat of Dulux matt soft sheen in brilliant white; kitchen: all units, sink and worktop from Wickes; dining room: tiles in fireplace from http://www.milagros.co.uk; bathroom: suite from Bath Store, tiles from Topps Tiles; living room: floating shelves built by us using batons, tongue and groove and redwood planks; cat: photographer’s own!

In which we have a new house

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There has been a somewhat deafening silence on this blog of late, mostly because my days have been consumed with last minute DIY and packing. Because, finally, we’re in our new house, after ten months, seven trades, eight rooms and more trips to B&Q than I can count! It was a lot of hard work, but so worth it.

Olivia is now settled in, after a two week imprisonment during which she wasn’t nearly as grumpy as I thought she would be. The two cat flaps and tunnel made of four extenders she has to use in order to exit the house aren’t her favourite, nor is Billy, her doppelganger next door who has already ambushed her in the garden, but she loves sitting on the bedroom windowsill and taking in the view.

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S and I have also settled in well, despite the extra five minute walk to work and the station that the new house entails. For the fact that our bikes are now out of the house and in the cellar, I’ll take a longer commute. And S has celebrated his new storage space with the purchase of yet another bike (n+1 is the magic formula!).

We’re still unpacking the two spare rooms and the balcony is yet to be built (touch wood it will be up by the end of the month), but as soon as all these are complete, I will definitely be posting some photos.

In which there is a lot of white paint

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Go to the office, come home, eat a quick dinner, head over to the other house, paint. Repeat. At weekends, remove the office, add in more painting. That’s been our life for the past month, as we’ve gone through 100 litres of paint and given each room three coats of emulsion and gloss.

But, but the end is in sight. The bathroom is complete, and the white Metro tiles with black grout look fab and give it a vaguely Art Deco air, which fits in well with the 30s style of the house. The majority of the emulsion-ing is now finished, and my parents are lending a hand this weekend to knock the glossing on the head. The kitchen has been delivered and is residing in the garage, ready for fitting next month. (Finally, finally we have a dishwasher- roll on it being plumbed in!) We’ll be hiring a sander next weekend and transforming the floors, and then when we return from our (much looked forward to and needed) holiday to Croatia in September, we’ll be putting the finishing touches to rooms, such as building floating shelves, restoring the original Bakelite door handles and getting everything clean, ready to move in.

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The new bifolds with our glorious view

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Woodburner, new hearth, fresh plaster, coat no. 3

And we should find out next Monday about whether our balcony is approved, so please send prayers to the planning gods for a successful outcome. Otherwise it’s a big drop out of those bifold doors!

In which there are some sub headings

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You know when there’s so much going on recently that you don’t know where to start? My head is so full of different things at the moment that sub headings will definitely come in handy here.

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The plum tree in our new garden in blossom earlier this year

The new house

We’ve been working super hard for the past few months and have made massive progress in a number of areas, from wallpaper stripping to completely demolishing an interior wall and putting up a lintel. For the latter, my dad, civil engineer and building surveyor extraordinaire, kindly did the calculations required to ensure the house wouldn’t fall down, and then he, my mom and my brother came down for the weekend to help us actually do the deed. Teamwork really did make the dream work, as by Saturday night the wall was down, the lintel was in (and we were knackered).

The house has also now been re-wired, so is no longer a fire hazard, and at the moment the plumber is working his magic on a central heating system, with the bathroom fitter and woodburner fitter hot on his heels later this week. We’ve ordered windows and bi-fold doors, the kitchen fitter is primed and waiting, and we should hopefully be making a decision soon about our balcony. S and I have the week off following Easter and are hoping to get some more stuff done, including removal of the mini mountain of rubble in our back garden and doing bonding around the new electrical sockets (i.e. putting a thick first layer of plaster in before the real plasterer makes it all smooth and shiny). Not the most scintillating of jobs, but all things that get us a step further to actually being able to move in. And I continue to thank my lucky stars that we have a warm, cosy house to return to once we’ve done with DIY for the day, that has central heating and warm water and sockets that don’t present a danger to life and limb.

My job

I had a feeling that once I accepted a job with this company that good things would come from it, and I was right: I’ve been offered another maternity contract which flows seamlessly from my current role, as an editor on two craft magazines. I’ll be starting my new job at the start of June, and am very excited to be entering the world of cakes and knitting. I’m also hoping that there will be freebies!

Life in general

The weather is warming up and, as always, the weeks are flying by. There’s a lot of lovely stuff coming up soon and over the next few weeks – time off over Easter, a visit from best friend Z all the way from Australia, a friend’s hen, a trip to Edinburgh to see my friend and meet her new baba. And of course, the promise of balmy nights by the water, barbecues in the sunshine, hot air balloons in the sky, being able to wear flip flops – all the things that make a Bristol summer so lovely.

So there you go – that’s me in a nutshell. How are you all doing?