Our first lesson in home renovation has been that everything always takes about twice as long as you think it is going to take. It’s early January (Happy New Year!) and Mark and I thought we would probably have builders signed up by now but we are, in fact, still in the planning stage. We spoke to some neighbours recently about the work they had done and it appears that it’s nothing out of the ordinary for architects to take several months to get to the stage of tendering, so we have stopped panicking about it. Instead I have been taking the opportunity to do some archive work to record the house before the renovation. 183 photos of door knobs so far, for instance. The door handle above is the one on the ledge and brace timber door to the coal store outside. This is where our future utility room and toilet will be…one day.
The benefits of a long planning stage are that you have plenty of time to think things through and make refinements. For instance, we only recently decided to knock through the wall, pictured above, between the entrance hall and the breakfast room. We were originally planning to leave the breakfast room door where it was, to the left under the staircase, but this change will open up the whole space and provide a sight-line all the way to the rear of the house. I was wary for a while about such an idea because it would fundamentally alter the architecture, unifying what were meant to be very separate spaces between the servants’ part of the house and the family’s. The breakfast room was originally the kitchen. Beyond were the scullery, larder, privy and coal store as well as the servants’ staircase leading up to the servants’ bedroom. It made sense though to update the layout and make the house more amenable to modern living. Our architect was also in favour of it and he has a lot of experience with building conservation, so we didn’t feel too bad in the end making such a drastic change. It will also make a great ‘before and after’ photo!
We have also decided to do away completely with the planned sun-room at the back of the house. Over time the planned room was getting smaller and smaller until one day Mark and I mapped out the room with a tape measure and concluded that it was just going to be too small to be of much use. There wasn’t going to be enough new living space to justify the cost. What we plan to do instead is to add an ‘orangery’ in the future. It’s more substantial than a glass conservatory and can be used year-round.
Meanwhile, we continue to rip up carpet and dismantle old shelving units and so on. I have been working with kitchen designers and also planning bathrooms and en suites. I am continuing to work with our architect on services plans (electricity etc.), door and window schedules and the builder’s specification document. Hopefully it will be going out to tender next week, which means it will probably actually go out in two week’s time…
There were also great post-Christmas sales at the House of Fraser and John Lewis so I saved a fortune on lights!