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!


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
Closer look of fitted window
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.

Sledgehammer fun!

We’ve had a rather productive weekend here at the cottage.

Saturday was spent doing the exciting stuff- pulling down the existing ceiling and getting the sledgehammer out to completelely knock through the wall to the extension.

Porch ceiling down
Wall and ceiling down- knock through completed

As you can imagine, we then had a lot of clearing up to do!

The next step was to run the electrics, and this meant thinking about the type of lighting that we’d like, as well as where we’d like switches and sockets. After much deliberation, we managed to get a few of the cables run in before it got too late last night.

We’ve decided that we will sit up lighters on the beams in both rooms, shining up into the pitch above. A wall light in the porch (it’s only a small space) and I’m hoping to get something like this hanging in between the beams from the pitch in the extension..

Lighting ideas

We continued to run and tie the cables in on sunday. Once we’d done this, we spent the rest of the day thoroughly insulating the roof space.

Insulation started, and an example of the first fix of electrics installed
Emma insulating!

So the insulation is now complete and will hopefully keep much of the draft out from now on. The last few roof tiles will be delivered tomorrow, so hopefully we can get these on in the coming week.

We also got our first, tiniest window which will go in the extension this week, and it’s absolutely stunning.

First timber window

This has been bespokely made for us from Accoya wood. We still need to get the glazing unit made to fit, but now we have the measurements we can go ahead and contact the relevant people to do this. We’ll then have a meeting with the council and make sure theyare happy with the detailing and glazing, and also discuss the finish before going ahead with the rest of the windows.

We are going to do a few stained samples, and a few painted. We have a good idea of what colours we would like, so pop back soon to find out more.

Hope you’ve all had a great weekend!

A post long over due!

So, 2017! With it being the first day of the new year I thought it only fitting to write the post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while now, and look forward to what this year brings in terms of the build/renovation at our little stone cottage.

It’s all become very exciting recently, and we’re so proud of the work we’ve managed to get done so far. We’ve got to a great point with the first extension just before Christmas, getting it more or less water tight before we had to stop for the holiday. We were relying on materials to be delivered before Christmas, that still haven’t arrived, so we were forced to stop anyway until normal working hours resume.

I realise I haven’t posted any photos of the extension, so I’ll do a quick run through of various stages of the build, up to where we are currently.

 In my previous post in the summer, you will have seen that we had started digging out the bank to create the foundations for the extension. Because of the bank and the need to support it, our structural engineer drew up some plans for some reinforced steel foundations, and here they are. The rebar was made to order, and although it’s not clear from these photos, was angled to sit at three different depths. Once the rebar was in and the drainage, we could pour the foundations in and we’re ready to roll!

 We then started getting the supporting wall up, again with reinforced block work (you can see the rebar just coming out of the block work). This was very tricky as there is so much stone in the bank, and it actually collapsed on the block work at one point which nearly made our hearts stop. 

Supporting internal wall, tanked.
After tanking the supporting wall, Serafin then worked his little socks off even more and spent a couple of days in the pouring rain getting the block work up to ceiling height. To keep some character in the new extension, we had decided to add two oak beams, that would run the width of the house. This meant that they would run through both the cloakroom and the porch, and we would raise the ceiling into the pitch to gain complete exposure of the beams.

The beams were so large that it took a lot of help to lift them in (thanks guys!) but they are all settled in now and will look fantastic once sanded and treated.

 The guys worked so hard that day to not only get the beams in, but also cut the roof timbers. It was so exciting to see these going up, as we really started to get a good sense of the size and shape of the build. 

Now that these were up, we wanted to try and get watertight as soon as we could. Serafin continued building the block work up, felt and battened the roof, and then tiled as much as he could before running out of materials. 

So it shouldn’t be too long until the tile delivery arrives and we can finish the roof. It’s looking fantastic and I’m so proud of all the hard work Serafin has put in to get it to this point. 

Because of the Article 4 Declaration on the cottage, and the fact that none of the windows are standard sizes, our new windows for the whole house are being bespokely made to the approved plans. We will use this small one in the extension as a sample for the council to view and discuss the finish with them, before we give the go ahead for the larger windows and sashes.  We have received a photo this weekend of the progress, and this little one looks stunning.

Like I said, we will discuss the finish and glazing with the council, and once decided will work on the finish ourselves (whether painting or staining).

So I think that’s where we are currently.

The plan is to get the window in, run the electrics and get the internal walls boarded. At that point we will probably start the groundworks for the second extension, and will use this one as a temporary kitchen whilst we rip everything out of the other part of the house. We’ll get that up, knock through, and then do the internal work and finishes throughout at the same time. Easy right?

I’m sure that plan will change!

Doing this small extension has made us realise that although it will take us longer, (with us both working full time) we will do the larger one ourselves too. We can do it, and although we will be living in a building site for a while, it makes so much more sense financially. It’s also a great feeling to renovate, extend and create our home together with our own hands. 

Hopefully they’ll be many more updates this year!

Have a great 2017 everyone, look forward to speaking soon.

Serafin and Emma x

We’re back, and meaning business!


After a long year or so away from any building work at the cottage, we were finally handed our building reg drawings last week and are ready to crack on!

We’ve decided to start with the smaller extension on the ‘front’ end of the cottage, doing everything we can ourselves just to see how long it takes us. We are both working full time as well, so this smaller extension will be a good test to see whether we need to think about getting any help with the larger extension on the other side.

The plan (at the moment!) is to get the cloakroom/downstairs bathroom built and tied in with the existing porch, and then carry on through and work on the lounge. We can then use these rooms to live in whilst we do the major work on the rest of the house. 

So this week, we’ve cleared the bank, and started digging it out. The cottage is built into the bank, so we’ve had to dig back to into it to find the line for the extension. This also meant lugging around a lot of stone and concrete, as well as many, many tip runs! 

We’ve done well, and feel like we’ve accomplished a decent amount in the time we’ve had. 

We had a site visit from our building inspector regarding the bank and how we were going to support it with the new extension. After discussions with the structural engineer, we’ve decided the easiest way is to encorporate reinforcements into the block work of the new extension, and have a raft foundation. We just need to wait for these drawings from the structural engineer and then approval from the building inspector  before we actually start this. 

So that’s where we’re at for now. The next step is to think about drainage and the new manhole that we’ll need. That’s this weeks job whilst we’re waiting on the design from the structural engineer.

I’m not sure if many of you remember what it was like before (you may find som pics further back of our old log store) but this is where we are now.

Welcome to our cloakroom!

The Diaz’s xxx

Decisions, decisions.

I can confidently say there are not many things that stress me easily. I am genuinely fairly easy going, and Serafin with his Spanish blood definitely has the ‘mañana’ chilled out attitude to life. Yet recently, the set backs we’ve encountered and decisions we feel have been forced upon us have undoubtedly tested these traits. The overall good news is that we’ve finally had our plans approved for the two extensions either side of the property. The bad news is, that they have been approved on the condition that we render the building in lime. We always knew that rendering in lime would be the best thing for the building if for any reason we did have to provide a rendered finish, but we were truly hoping it wouldn’t come to that. Unfortunately they are adamant that they do not want the original stone exposed, which is such a shame on many levels which I have mentioned in previous posts. We are trying to look forward now though, and therefore have two options:

  1. Pay for more drawings from our architect  and provide a follow on application to the council. Here we can apply only to change the external finish of the building, without affecting other details.
  2. Render the cottage in lime, adding extra unforeseen costs to the project.

Many discussions have been had over these two options, and what the best step is for us to take. This is obviously an incredibly hard decision for us. Our love for restoring historic buildings is taking us one way, yet time is taking us  another. After putting so much hard graft in to restoring much of the stonework already, it’s absolutely gut-wrenching to think of it being covered over. Our hearts are telling us to provide the follow on application, and to fight for the stone…

The main problem we have with this is that we’re not sure how long this will take. We need to make a decision (and act on it) fast, before the winter comes so that we can make the house more draft proof- and therefore warmer. We’re sitting in the lounge with blankets in August, so hate to think what it would be like if the external work (including windows) doesn’t get sorted before the winter. We are certain that the follow on application will be refused, so in that case would then need to go in front of the planning inspectorate for appeal. At the moment there is at least a twelve week delay on the application being looked at, and then we’d be waiting a further  significant amount of time for  the decision.

After discussing this for weeks, we have come to the conclusion that we should get some quotes in for the lime to see what we’re looking at. Yes, it will be a shame. But the main thing is that it will still protect the building, take care of the damp issues and therefore be a huge improvement to the cement render which is currently on the property. No it’s not what we wanted personally, but we believe that if we’re going to get things moving before 2016 this is now the best and only option for the cottage… If we can move our budget around to accommodate the change.

Windows are also a condition on the approved plans. Our architect will need to provide separate drawings showing sections, mouldings and the style. We are still hoping to change the windows so they all match and are the same style. Therefore because of all of this, I’ve been trying to become a little more enthusiastic about lime rendered cottages…

Here are a few images we’re using for inspiration.

windows and lintels render render and windows image image

I’d really like to be able to keep our lintels exposed as some of the cottages have done. The decision will again come down to planning, but as we are going through the trouble of replacing them all with reclaimed oak, I think it would be a nice way of keeping some character within the property.

We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, so for now we’ll wait and see if the price is right. If not, we may have to re think all of this once again!

So that’s where we are at the moment.

Fingers crossed!