Making Plans

elevationWe’ve been here for six weeks now and our architect have been working on the plans for the renovation and extension. We are almost there, I think, apart from a couple things such as window size and placement, particularly in the kitchen.


The main building work will take place at the back of the house. Here you can see Oliver, Ruby and Rose having a rare glimpse at the kitchen, which would have originally been the scullery (the wet area of a kitchen but also the place where water was heated and clothes were washed). Note the original red quarry tiles. Beyond you can see the breakfast room, which is where the kitchen and range cooker would have originally been. As this was built as space for the servants, all windows look out onto the side, rather than the garden. Our challenge is to incorporate these servant areas into a more modern, family-friendly scheme.

IMG_0838Through the kitchen is the original larder, which was used for the cold storage of food before iceboxes and refrigerators were invented. It’s freezing in there even on a warm sunny day.

IMG_2684Just outside are the coal store and the original toilet for the servants. We will be building into this outdoor space. Our plans are to reconfigure these areas to create a new kitchen, utility/laundry room, walk-in pantry and a toilet. We are hoping that our budget will also mean we can build a sunroom leading out into the garden. During the planning process this sunroom got bigger and bigger until it was a massive family room attached to the kitchen, and the breakfast room became a “snug” for watching TV in front of the fire. When we did some sums about building costs we soon shrunk the extension down again! We figured that we wanted some money to renovate the rest of the house, plus we already had a breakfast room, formal dining room and a sitting room, so it was getting a bit excessive to have a snug and a family room too.

DINING AREA copyThis is a 3D view of the plans from the breakfast room. Oliver, or is it Ruby, is sitting next to the door into the walk-in pantry, which is currently the back door out of the kitchen. We are leaving the large original sash window in place rather than blocking it off. We are doing this for two reasons. First, we don’t want to interfere too much with the original fabric of the building. Secondly, it will allow extra light into the breakfast room as we will have some sort of patterned etched glass inserted, which will allow light from a skylight in the pantry to come through.

IMG_0857You can see in this picture how much light that window lets into the breakfast room, so we didn’t want to block it off completely. This way we also save an original feature – the sash window. The door through into the kitchen will all be opened up like you can see in the 3D. The door on the far right will remain, as that leads to the servants’ back staircase and rooms above.

KITCHEN 2You will then move into the kitchen. To the left is another door, which will lead into the utility room and toilet. The figure is standing where the current stone larder is. Beyond this, budget permitting, will be the sunroom. If we can’t afford to do it now, the beauty of this plan is that we can add it later. There are windows and doors now leading into the garden and also the courtyard outside the dining room.

IMG_0839There will be a bit of gardening to do as well in order to see out of the new windows…

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 11.50.51This is the plan for the back of the house – the room labeled “dining area” is the “breakfast room”, everything else is labeled correctly. The one issue we can’t get around is that there is still a bit of a walk from the kitchen to the formal Dining Room, which really will only be used for entertaining. Putting a door from the kitchen into the dining room courtyard adjacent to the current dining room french doors will bring it together as much as we can – in summer you will just be able to pop out one door, into the courtyard and then into the other room. We had considered building out from the dining room instead but there was going to be issues with light in that room, plus all sorts of added problems because we would be building on the boundary of our land where it meets the neighbours.

We are really happy with the plans and are hoping that we will be going to tender for builders some time in November!

Fireplace Reveal #1

IMG_0723Our laundry/utility room is currently set up in the back bedroom (originally bedroom number seven), which used to be a servant’s bedroom. The other day I decided to sneak a peek behind the panel which had boarded up the fireplace probably since the 1950s. In the picture above you can see that I had already removed the panel but I restored it for the purpose of taking the photograph as I forgot to take one before I started. Imagine the board glued on and painted over, completely sealing the fireplace.

IMG_0725When I pulled the panel off there was about a foot of rubble built up in the fireplace – this would be a combination of dust and dirt, bits of the chimney masonry, soot, bird droppings and so on. I got a mask and gloves on and started to shovel the dirt out.

IMG_0727The fireplace is made of metal and has this lovely Art Nouveau style detail. I doubt it was painted purple originally so my guess is that it was perhaps the 1960s before the fires were boarded up. If you look in the shadows of the fireplace at the top left you may be able to make out a little claw hanging down. When I pulled on the claw the skeleton of a small bird fell onto the pile of dirt.

IMG_0729Poor bird. He must have fallen down the chimney and died there.

IMG_0733Underneath the carpet were the original hearth tiles, completely undamaged! It will look great once it’s all restored.


Hughie the tree man

051013-6Here’s Hughie the tree man about to tackle the yew tree by the front door. Whilst I love yews trees this one is planted less than a foot from the foundations and had to go.

151013-7As Hughie removed sections of the tree, the side window by the front door was slowly revealed.

051013-5Here is the ‘After’ picture. Much better!

051013-4Next to go was the enormous silver birch. Not only was this tree too close to the house, it had rotten sections in its trunk and branches and grew at an odd angle, posing a real danger to the house and passers by.

051013-2On the top floor Ruby wondered why there was a strange man climbing the tree.

051013-1It took Hughie almost a full day to cut the tree down.


The end result was terrific. We could finally see the house! It made the whole street look a lot better too. We saved some of the logs to burn in our future wood-burner, some went to a neighbour and the rest to various people driving past who stopped to ask if they could take some away.

Plumbing Update

We spent the first weekend in the house with blocked kitchen and bathroom sinks. Sometimes they would go down a bit and I would take the opportunity to wash some dishes. Eventually the sinks blocked completely and we had a clean dishes crisis. On the Monday our architect and his assistant spent a few hours here working on the measured survey. I was able to give tea and cakes in clean dishes. By Tuesday all I could offer them was one clean cup for a hot drink and two wine glasses for water.

The plumber arrived early on Tuesday afternoon. He said he would try to clear the pipe blockage but he wasn’t sure he would be able to. When he started to examine the vinyl flooring in the bathroom and asked which way the floorboards ran I started to get worried and had visions of our one functioning bathroom being ripped up to gain access to the blocked drains. First though he had to gain access to the pipe behind the bathroom sink. As he fiddled with the pipes I told him that there was standing water in the pipes and offered to fetch a towel if needed. Just as I said that he released the pipe and two sinks worth of water raced across the bathroom floor. I took three towels to mop up the mess. My main worry was whether the caustic soda I had poured down the pipes was going to give the plumber third degree burns. Luckily there was no chemical reaction.  After about five blasts of the plumber’s special drain unblocking tool the drains ran clear again! Hooray! I arranged for him to come back later in the week to do a couple of other jobs – the toilet was making a dripping sound, the tap in the kitchen had seen better days and all the pipes under the kitchen sink needed sealing. We also had no idea where the stopcock for the water was located.

When he came back later in the week, the plumber replaced our kitchen tap and sealed all the pipes. He replaced the toilet’s flush mechanism and we also discovered that the house has four separate stopcocks. Not a bad day. The next day the toilet’s flush mechanism got stuck. The plumber had put silicone around the flush button as it didn’t fit the European toilet perfectly. Unfortunately the silicone was impeding the flush button and kept it depressed, meaning water was continually flushing through the toilet. When he installed the new mechanism the plumber explained that if this didn’t work we would need a new cistern/toilet. As we plan to replace this top floor bathroom eventually we decided we would live with my temporary fix, which involves the use of a biro to flush the toilet…

Over the last couple of days the power pull cord for the electric shower has been getting stuck. Rather than lose our shower we have decided to just keep the power on permanently. We hope that will stop future problems. To be honest though, it makes you so grateful every time you turn the shower on and have hot water. The same with the clean drains – I never appreciated the simple things we take for granted such as a sink of water happily gurgling down the drain.