I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down…

Well, I’m sure Mr D wishes it was as easy as that..

Easter this year was a complete whirlwind. Not only in terms of the build, but our personal lives too.

It’s the first time that I’ve been forced to move out of the cottage, and most of you that know me well know that this is not a decision I’ve taken lightly, due to the fact that I’m so passionate about this old building and love being so hands on with the whole build.

But it’s the right thing to do for me and our little one in the way (I’ll cover building and renovating whilst pregnant in a future blog post). This post however is purely to take you through what Mr D has been up to whilst I was away, and talk you through the process..

I should stress again that although we are doing this all ourselves- Mr D is a trained builder with a lot of previous experience, (and he tells me he knows what he’s doing) so please don’t go knocking out gable ends without enlisting a builder and structural engineer first.

QUARANTINE

Although I had moved out for the week, Mr D and his brothers were still having to try and live amongst this chaos. This meant trying to seal off what little living space we currently have from the rest of the building site. We are also doing building work in the upstairs bedrooms, so this gives us very limited living space currently. They managed to seal off the dining room and kitchen (the two rooms which were to become one large space) so that it resembled something vaguely similar to the TV show ‘Dexter’…

DEMOLITION!

Once it was sealed, it was time to start demolition. We knew that this ground floor part of the wall was an original wall, and so knew that this section would come down easily, thanks to the original crumbling lime mortar.

What we didn’t expect, is to have a huge steel reinforced concrete ‘footing’ built on top of the original wall- and this also needed to come out.

This part of the cottage would have originally been single storey. Possibly a room where the people living in the cottage used to work (we are told it may have been a Dyers cottage for the local wool trade in the town) This room once had its own external doorway ( see image below) and its own open fireplace.

Over the years, the cottage has been extended. Someone obviously extended above this room, and when they did, we can only assume they decided to pour this reinforced concrete on top of the wall to level it off. This would have made it easier for the builders to lay on top of. It possibly would have also added an element of support too. Not ideal for Mr D and his brothers at this point though!

The original wall came down fairly easily, as expected. But it took a full day of chipping away at this reinforced concrete in order to get it to shift at all. It finally dropped, but then came the battle of having to try and break it up to be able to move it out of the house.

Once the concrete was down and broken up- it was then the boring job of trying to clear all of the stone and rubble out of the house, to make way for the RSJ’s.

Where the original wall was was so thick (almost 1m) we actually needed two identical RSJ’s either side of each other to support the wall above.

RSJ’s

I have no idea how they managed to lift these with only four people… but they did it and got them sitting nicely in place!

Serafin needed to do a bit of building up of the ‘pillars’ either side for these to sit on. You can also see in the photo above how some of the bottom of the wall above fell loose- so he’s now blocked all that back up too!

After a lot of heavy duty cleaning ready for my return, they sent me this photo. You can start to get an idea of how big the new space will be. The new glazed stable back door is also in!

The next step was to start getting the floor joists fitted in the room upstairs, and the oak beams for the glass floor. This floor will let the light from the two velux’s in the room upstairs, down into a portion of the kitchen. As you’ll see in some photos later on, the oaks are large enough to obscure any unwanted views into the bedroom- and the glass is right at the edge of the room against the wall, above where new worktop space will be in the kitchen. This means that you won’t actually be able to get close enough under it to see directly up, but will be able to slithers of the exposed stone wall in the bedroom.

I think it’s fair to say that the cats will love peering down through the glass!

Over the last couple of weekends Serafin has managed to get the floor down in the room above, run the electrics, build up the rest of the old stone wall where the boiler once was, finish plaster boarding and plaster, so things are really moving along. It would be easy to carry on from here, but as this post was purely about the knock through and the work the three Mr D’s managed to get done over Easter, I’ll save that room for a separate post.

Thanks for bearing with us, and a big thanks to Luis and Marcos for helping us out with everything, we couldn’t have done it without you!

Emma and Serafin x

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THE Aldi Interchangeable rocker

A little different from my usual building posts!

Those of you who follow our renovation on instagram will know that I went out and panic bought one of the Aldi rockers this week.

Although we have no where to put it at the moment, I knew I wasn’t going to find anything as practical and aesthetically pleasing for any cheaper (most of the rockers I’ve liked have been £600 plus- and that seemed a little excessive!)

So although the nursery is still a building site, I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. It’s had to go in our living room for now, but at £150, this seemed like an absolute bargain that I didn’t want to miss.

I trundled down to my local store after work, and the first thing that became evident was the size of the box. I was quite surprised, even though I had measured up the chair itself from the dimensions online. The store assistants were more than happy to help though, and got it out to my car for me on a palette.

(It’s worth me saying now that I have an Audi Q5- a decent sized 4×4 with a pretty large boot space, even better when you flatten the back seats….)

It took both the store assistants to lift the box into my boot (with the seats down). At first glance it seemed to be fine, but annoyingly it was literally a few millimetres too large to get the boot shut.

We came to the conclusion that we’d have to take it out the box, and once we’d done that it fitted in fine- but I’m sure you would still struggle in a smaller car. We definitely wouldn’t have got it in my husbands car, (Merc A class) even with the back seats down, so the Q5 came in handy here.

Once home, we needed to assemble it straight away as we have no where to store it (and I was eager to see what it was like anyway!)

Once the wrapping was off and I could see it more clearly, I was really pleased with the overall quality of the fabric, as well as the wooden legs.

The normal chair legs

It was also very easy to assemble. I’m a pretty hands on person but I’m sure even anyone who may be ‘flat packed challenged’ could assemble this… it was literally just screwing the legs in with an Allen key (all fixings and key provided).

We are also pleased with the size. Although it looks rather large where it is at the moment in our living room (we have so much crap being stored in here that this was the best position for it currently) I think it will be fab in the nursery. The size is practical not only for myself but also my husband to comfortably sit in, and I’m sure we’ll be changing the legs over to use it as an armchair in another room at a later date, once we’ve stopped feeding the baby.

Ok, so I do have something to admit… I have a thing against the colour grey (in terms of interiors anyway. No offence intended to those of you who love grey… I just don’t, for reasons we won’t get into now. I know many of you have beautiful grey homes!). I really didn’t want a grey chair in the nursery, or anywhere else for that matter. But I made the compromise due to the fantastic value- and I’m so pleased that I did. Unlike many of its competitors, it’s aesthetically pleasing AND comfortable, and being able to use the interchangeable legs at a later date is a massive bonus. No matter how we decide to style it in the nursery, I’m sure it will look at home.

If you’re expecting, I’d get down to Aldi as soon as you can… These are not available online, and they don’t deliver from store… so just make sure you take a car or van that is large enough!

Hope you’ve found this helpful, I’d love to hear what you think if you have bought one yourself?

Emma x

What’s your style?

We’ve only really ‘finished’ the porch and cloakroom in the cottage so far (I say finished…. it’s not really. We still have filling and painting of the skirtings to do, the toilet to buy and fit, and then the drainage and water to connect up… but in terms of the work we need to do in the rest of the house, I class this as finished!) 

These two rooms make up the first extension we’ve added to the cottage, but they’re also the smallest rooms in the house and we still have a long way to go.

Even though we haven’t technically finished them, I have had some lovely comments from friends, family and colleagues about the style and high standard of finish I’m achieving in these rooms. A lot of people have asked how I’ve put this together- with reclaimed bits and pieces, upcycled furniture, bargains from EBay, Ikea, Homebase and B&Q along with some more extravagant lighting fixtures and the limestone flooring (this is where we chose to spend a bit more money.) I always feel terrible, because when asked this question I always give the extremely poor response of ” I don’t know” . I don’t want this to come across as cocky (don’t get me wrong I realise that some people may not like my style) but I truely and honestly don’t know how I make this look like it does.

Some people spend hours online, saving pins and working out how they can create that look in their home. I too look at Pinterest for inspiration sometimes, and I’m a sucker for any home related magazine (much to Mr D’s disgust!) but to be honest, as much as I like the images that I use as inspiration, that’s exactly what they are to me. I may see a double page spread that I love, and everything about it looks beautiful, a glossy magazine home, but at the same time, I never want to copy it because it’s not me. It’s not my style.

The truth is, I don’t know what my style is. I haven’t got a clue, and a lot of the time I feel so confused by that. I love lots of different styles, country, scandi, industrial and rustic. I do worry a lot of the time that when we’ve finished the building and restoration work and the time comes to decorate the rest of the house, it won’t flow through from room to room because I love such a mis match of styles.

But I’m a creative, and I have to trust that. I work with my hands everyday, and I love texture. I sculpt and animate everyday. I have a keen eye for detail and I know what looks good compositionally. I am surrounded by so many creative friends and colleagues within the studio where I work, and these people provide me with inspiration everyday. Whether it’s someone making a prop that I love for the film, the clothes that someone is wearing, or someone doing an upcycling project at lunch time, I’ve discovered that I’m inspired by so many things. 

Many people have a ‘look’ that they want to achieve in their home, but I don’t. I don’t even know what my ‘look’ is, and this does scare me a little. But I like that feeling. I like the feeling of the unknown, not knowing what it will turn into, not having a room planned. I like being able to collect things as I see them, and building on the room, rather than going to a well known company and buying all their furnishings so that the room is finished in one go. 

I just want it to be personal to us, and to reflect who we are. At the end of the day this is all I’m trying to achieve. Somewhere that we feel is our home, and no one else’s. It’s unique to us. It’s obviously a bonus that some people like it too, and I’m really pleased that my unknown, spontaneous mix of many different styles appeals to other people. I hope to provide those people with some inspiration along the way too!


Watching Paint Dry… Valspar exterior paint to be exact! 

Paint…. I love paint. I’m an artistic, creative person who loves colour, so when Valspar said they’d like to make me part of their paint club, I was over the moon! 

This means they have supplied me with enough paint, primer, and all the tools I need (from my local B&Q) to finish a project of my choice. It’s such a fantastic opportunity and I couldn’t wait to get started!

This is the project I chose to tackle with their paint! 

We are replacing all of the windows in the building with new accoya ones, and so it was an obvious decision for me to choose one of these to paint, as I have so many to do! Along with this window, I also wanted to make our original cottage door look a little more appealing. It’s blocked up on the inside, so is not in working order- but none the less an integral part of the cottage’s frontage and history.

As our cottage has a type of listing on it, we have to apply for planning to change anything externally. We had already had a smaller window made and sent as a sample to the council (to decide on the material, style and colour) which had been signed off. So we knew we were able to crack on. However, this does mean that we are only able to use the colours that comply with the Cotswolds Design Code externally. We went with Willow- a grey/green colour which is a specific BS (British Satandard) number.


PRE PAINTING

I took this number along to my local B&Q, (along with my Valspar and B&Q vouchers!) where the staff spent quite a while looking for it on the Valspar system. We came to the conclusion that it wasn’t on the system, but the staff were very good and asked if I’d like to see a mix of the closest one they had. I obviously obliged, but unfortunately it was a very different colour to the BS colour I needed to comply. It’s worth saying that I had already had this colour mixed by a different company and painted our front door in it- so I knew what it should look like. The staff asked if I still had the tin, (which I did) and offered to colour match it for me next time I was in store.

Anyway, I took a swatch of the colour home to compare- but you can see the outcome here:

I went back to store with my old tin- which they colour matched for me brilliantly. (Both paints are on the swatch on the right) A big thank you to Alix and Cribbs Causway B&Q for being so friendly and helpful. 

Valspar had provided me with a voucher for not only the wood and metal trim (their external paint) but also a tintable primer, so they also matched that to my mixed colour in store to make sure I had the correct base colour.

My paint and supplies!

When I was ready to start work, I spent quite a while prepping the surface of the old door and the surround area (I didn’t have to do this with the window as it was new timber.) I needed to remove a little bit of render that was clinging on for dear life (it came off relitevely quickly with my hammer and bolster) and then got sanding and stripping the flaking paint.

I used numerous sandpapers in different grades to get a fine finish, and made sure both the window and door were dust free before priming.

PAINTING!


Before I started, We took the window apart and had it layed out all over the house to make painting of the sash quicker and easier (anyone who had painted sashed before will sympathise with how long it takes!)

The Valspar tintable primer/undercoat I thought was great. It can be used on internal or external timber, and has low VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) which means it’s better for the environment in terms of pollution. I’ve used many primers/under coats that are solvent based which not only means I have to paint things of this scale outside (awkward when your garden resembles a building site and you’re knee deep in trench life) but also is really difficult to paint with as they tend to be very thick and sticky. 

This in comparison, seemed like a breeze. It was fine to paint with inside the house (no harsh chemical smells for us or the cats!) and just as easy to use outside. I did the first coat on the window inside, and the second outside… purely because it was a nice day and I wanted to enjoy the sun! 

The primer was a little stickier than normal external paint – but I always expect that from a primer or undercoat anyway. It gave great coverage on the new wood of the accoya window, and was pretty good on the old brown door too. 

As I said previously, this primer was matched to my top coat colour in store and was a very pale grey. This is meant to create the perfect base for your top coat shade of paint.

The drying time was brilliant, and it was touch dry in no time at all. On the tin it states one hour to touch dry- but in my case I’d say it was more 35-45mins. I left it another hour until sanding and re coating, and this seemed absolutely fine. A much better option to the solvent based primers and undercoats that take 4-6 hours before re coating, and a blessing when you’re on a tight renovation schedule!

Next up was the exciting part, applying the top coat of colour (after I’d sanded obviously!) I painted the first coat of colour before the window was fitted, so that I’d only have to do the second coat whilst it was in.

I’d been so intrigued to see how the colour would match up to the original batch we had mixed by a different brand for our front door, I couldn’t wait to get the colour on! 

When applying the first coat of colour, I thought it seemed seemed like a rather thin paint (for an external paint) so I expected it to need a few coats, but after one coat I was pleasantly surprised with the coverage. It seemed to go on quite light, but dried darker to the exact colour I needed. 

These are pretty great results for a first coat of colour! I don’t know if the tintable primer has helped give this finish, but I was really pleased with the result. Drying times with this wood and metal trim were really quick too. Again, it was dry within an hour and I could easily re coat after two. Once the first coat was dry, we added the glass in the window, sanded down once more and applied the second coat. 

And….. here we are! ( If you’re still with me then well done) I’ll put the before photo underneath as a direct comparison…

It looks pretty good right? 

In conclusion, I think it’s safe to say I found Valspar’s external paint fantastic. It was easy to paint with ( I was really impressed by the primer/undercoat especially) gave fantastic coverage and dried quickly. The colour match was brilliant, and you can’t tell at all that my front door is painted with a different paint. Both the tintable primer and the wood and metal trim were a pleasure to work with, and the finish is fantastic. It’s so lovely that I actually had people stopping to ask what paint I was using, and most actually thought it was a well known designer brand!

Thank you so much Valspar for providing me with all of the paint and materials to enable me to achieve this. 

I’ll definitely be using your paint for the rest of external woodwork (8 more new windows and a back door!) 

You can’t beat a ‘proper’ camera…

There’s something about a real camera that you just can’t beat.
Being in the film industry and a creative, I’ve always loved photography. It was only when my brother rang me for camera advice before he went on his honeymoon, that I realised I hadn’t actually picked up my digital SLR for ages.

Modern technology makes it so easy to ‘point and click’ now a days. Whether it’s phones, tablets, iPods?!  We always have an easily accessible device that we can pick up and shoot with. I don’t think I’ve taken any of my progress shots of this renovation on my camera, up until now.

Let me know what you think, but I can really see the difference. Although my phone now has a higher megapixel camera in it than my SLR, there’s a quality to it that you just can’t beat. What many people fail to realise is that it’s not the number of megapixels that necessarily matters, it’s how you use the camera. 

I have a beautiful canon digital SLR (bought for me by my parents years ago as a starter camera) and I absolutely love it. I just NEVER use it. It’s terrible! I have a good couple of lenses too- but I find I have to make a conscious effort to get everything out, and remember how to work a camera manually. When I do though, I remember exactly why I love it. 

No filters or adjustments on this photo. Just pure Canon goodness. I’ll definitely be making more of an effort to pick it up from now on! 

Where did March go?

Wow, Spring! Anyone living in an old property will know the thankful feeling when the weather (and therefore the house!) starts warming up. Everything becomes a little less damp, and a little less drafty. I’d love to be able to enjoy ourselves a little more than we are currently in the spring sunshine, but at the same time I do not want to face another winter in the cottage with no insulation or render on the house! 

We’ve been so busy this past month, that I haven’t had a spare minute to write about any goings on at the cottage until now, so I’m sorry about that.

March has been a busy one! We’ve plaster boarded, built a wall, insulated, screeded, sanded, pointed, painted, chiselled, raked, plastered started thinking about finer details (lighting, sockets, doors) and sanded some more! It doesn’t feel like we’ve achieved that much where we only have evenings and weekends, but when I list it like this it does actually sound like we’ve achieved quite a bit! I’ve just surprised myself! 

It’s a really exciting time for us here, as we’re coming to the point now where both the porch and cloakroom are starting to feel like rooms. The plaster really transforms it from a shell, into something resembling a livable space. We can now start thinking about moving on to other rooms (yay!) and we’re so proud of how we’ve built the extension (although obviously new) in keeping with the original character within the rest of the property.

We still have one wall to hardwall and plaster, as well as a final sanding of the beams before sealing them. We also have the stone flooring and underfloor heating to lay. I also got my lovely reclaimed door at the beginning of the month, which will hang on a sliding barn rail (see previous blog post) as our cloakroom door.

I’ve been working on repairing and restoring the original stone which will be exposed in the cloakroom, but I’m almost there and then I’ll be able to point it all in! We’ve been working with the same lime mortar that we used on the exterior of the property, so we know it’ll look great and suit the stone.

The week after next we have both booked off of work as ‘holiday’, so we’re looking forward to getting stuck in to more extreme renovation work again! 

To get water into the new extension, we need to pull our lounge flooring up and lay the pipes under the floor. This is fine, as we’d be pulling the floor up to lay a wet system and stone flooring anyway.

Whilst we’re disrupting the lounge by pulling the floor up to get water into these two rooms- we’ll also pull the ceilings down in there to get all the mucky stuff (and ridding of asbestos) done at the same time. We also have some masonry work and beams to sand in the lounge before we’re able to put the new stone flooring down in there – so that’ll keep us busy for a good while! 

The plan is to get the lounge into a livable state again, and as with the cloakroom/porch, furnish and decorate at a later date. It’s more important at this time of the year that we are able to concentrate on getting the second extension up, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on over the next month! 

In other news, our windows and doors are also on the way!
Here’s some photos from the past month for you to enjoy! 

I’ll attempt to blog a bit more from now on!  

Emma x

How the cloakroom looks currently- we have ceilings!!!
A section of the cleaned stone
First hit of plaster on doorway
Porch with re pointed and painted original brickwork
My reclaimed barn door! I love it! This will be a sliding door into the cloakroom
Starting clean up on the masonry
Freshly screeded floor
Fresh stack of accoya- our windows and doors!
Sliding barn door track for our cloakroom door
I found this old Victorian wash stand on eBay! I’m currently restoring it and it will stand in the cloakroom with a new basin and brass taps
Insulation in!

Update!

Over the last month, we’ve seen some big things happen here at the cottage. Although we’ve only really been able to work on it at the weekends, it seems to have started moving relatively quickly. 

We’ve managed to get the first extension watertight (hooray!) after installing our first window, finishing the roof tiles and the lead flashings. All that is left to do on the external structure of this extension is to fix the facia boards once we’ve painted them and install the guttering and render, yet the latter two will be completed once the rest of the cottage is ready for that stage too.

Internally, we’ve also pushed on in the extension. We’ve removed all the horrendous concrete render from the old external wall of the property, and exposed some lovely old stone and brickwork. After much deliberation, (and my head ruling my heart) we’ve decided not to do too much with this masonry work. As much as the traditionalist in me is screaming to repair it all and keep it exposed, there are two main factors that are going against this:

1.)  Both the stone and brick work is in such a poor state, that the majority of it would have to be cut out and replaced, before obviously pointing it all back in.

2.) These rooms will be our entrance porch, and a downstairs cloakroom/bootroom. As much as I feel first impressions are important (and I’m not just taking property here!) It would be a rather ridiculous amount of time, money and effort for the two smallest rooms in the house- which we will hardly ever be in. We also need storage space in the cloakroom/bootroom which would cover that wall anyway.

So with that in mind, we have decided to repoint (in lime of course!) any parts of the brickwork which clearly needs it, but instead of completely tidying it up and exposing it we will wash it in white. As I said, these are the two smallest places in the cottage, and therefore can seem very dark. Hopefully the white walls will bounce off some much needed extra light. We will also do the same with the stone in the cloakroom/bootroom- but as we are having storage along that wall you will only see the stone work above the cupboards, going past the beams and into the pitch of our high ceiling. We will be exposing much more stone throughout the house, so will have plenty to be getting on with.

In other internal work news, we’ve also boarded the ceiling, which looks great. It’s really starting to feel like a room.

Next steps (and the final ones in this extension for now!) are to render the walls and screed the floor. We’ll then need to build a doorway from the porch into the new room. 

We’re currently looking at having a sliding door to save space, and hopefully can find an old reclaimed door- similar to something like these


Today, we started sanding one of the oak beams, and it looks fantastic. We’ll be continuing to work on this when we can.

So, in the next few weeks, we should have the rendering and plastering done, floor screeded, beams sanded and be able to move on to the groundworks for the second extension! We’re now in the process of having all the windows and doors bespokely made, so we’ll have lots to do fitting glazing units and painting those soon. I’ll also be thinking about the finish of the rooms, and starting to think about the processes of the next extension and sourcing materials. 

Here’s some photos for you to enjoy!

Partly sanded beam showing the true colour, and a test for the white brickwork finish. Lots of repair work still needed, but hopefully when finished and butted up against Cotswolds stone flooring this will eventually look great!
Boarded ceiling, the first real sense of space
Internal view of new, hand made accoya window
Watertight!
Closer look of fitted window
Watertight!
Finishing the roof tiling and flashings
Thinking like render colour. I love the organic colour of our lime mortar up against our window colour- so an hoping for a render based on this!
Second extension plans. The whole gable end is coming out (chimney breast and all!) and we’ll be extending two storeys on this side. Lots of lovely roof lighting going in, and a light well in the kitchen.