The Wardrobe Conundrum

IMG_1523Thanks for all your comments on my wardrobe conundrum. Debby wanted to have a look inside.


This is how far we can open the doors at the moment. As you can see, there is a handy top shelf, room in the bottom for shoes and a hanging rail as well as some hooks along the back. It needs freshening up with a coat of paint inside. It’s deep enough to hang shirts and jackets.

Mark isn’t keen to lose the wardrobe, and as I started to consider in detail how I might break it apart with my rubber mallet, I started to feel sad too. I have thought of every option for furniture placement – even using my furniture placement plans with all our furniture to scale (yes, I’m like that).

I was, however, starting to think along the same lines as Debby when she suggested using wall/overhead lighting to read by. So here is my compromise.

IMG_1516I dispense with both bedside tables and use them in the bay window on either side of a Louis XV chair with lamps and ‘objet‘. I then shift the bed about six inches to the left ensuring that there is enough clearance for opening the wardrobe but also getting through the bedroom door (not pictured but to the left). I then have my pair of wall lights fitted above the bed, with a switch you can reach from bed, like in a hotel, instead of bedside lamps. By the way, that radiator behind the bed is going to be moved.

$_12This morning I bought this off eBay. It is a small antique mahogany wine table that I will use next to the bed for the alarm clock, a book and a night-time glass of water, which is all that’s really needed. It will take up much less space that the current bedsides and it is small enough that it won’t look unbalanced, particularly if I place the wall lights in a balanced position over the bed.

This way we save the wardrobe. If it was demolished we would have to buy a new wardrobe anyway for another position in the room. We then later have the choice to get rid of the wardrobe if it doesn’t work out, but at least we will have tried. In the future, if the wardrobe were to go, I would make sure the doors and frame were retained so that it could be rebuilt in another bedroom. But for now the wardrobe will stay. As Konni said, once it’s gone it’s gone. Plus I got to do some shopping!

IMG_3103Last summer on my Derbyshire jaunt I visited Chatsworth. I quite like the idea of a writing desk at the end of the bed. Also notice only one bedside table. The lamp on the desk¬† balances it out. I could always do something similar if this plan doesn’t work, just with less chintz.

IMG_1526Did I tell you we have two original Edwardian wardrobes? This is the other one, in Mark’s future study.

IMG_1527It’s much shallower than the other one though. I can’t bring myself to break up the pair. At least not yet.


House Tour: Master Bedroom

2013-06-10 at 1.09.45 PMThis was the enticing image of the master bedroom in the house sale brochure. Through the window you can see the branches of the silver birch that we had cut down just after we moved in. In 1960s Britain it was the height of sophistication to have hot and cold running water in the bedroom, hence the sink in the corner that blocks the door from opening into the adjacent room, which I assume would have originally been a nursery or a dressing room. On the plus side it is a very big room with lots of afternoon light. Loads of original features too.

IMG_1522Look how bright it is now that the tree has been cut down. Today Mark and I ripped up the carpet and discovered that the floorboards have been painted around the edges of the room. Eventually we will re-lay carpet so we are not too worried about the condition of the boards. You can also see that we are living out of cardboard wardrobes.

IMG_1517The black suitcase is my ‘chest of drawers’. It kind of feels like we are staying long term in a run-down boarding house.

IMG_1518Our plan is to remove the basin and reinstate the door, turning the room next door into an en suite bathroom.

IMG_1515Behind my other ‘wardrobe’ is the collection of very expensive light fittings that I bought (luckily) before we realised how costly everything else was going to be…at least the house will have fabulous lighting. You can also see the blocked up Art Nouveau fireplace that I will restore at some point.

IMG_1521Removing the carpet revealed the original green Edwardian hearth tiles. Many of them are cracked and in quite poor condition, so I am tempted to just carpet over them. I will have a closer look and see what I can do.

IMG_1516Now for my conundrum. I can’t bring myself to have the original built-in Edwardian wardrobe destroyed but it really affects the balance of the room. If it were gone I could place the second bedside table to the right of the bed and then have two wall lights in the alcoves on either side of the fireplace. I have measured and there is no other wall where I can put the bed. Also the other alcove is wider than the one with the wardrobe so I can’t even have the wardrobe moved to the other side. The other day I was watching an interior design makeover show and the judges went into a bedroom in an Edwardian house and exclaimed “Oh, I’ve never seen a built in Edwardian wardrobe before!” There’s no way I can get rid of it, is there? I think I will just have to live with it. What do you think?

IMG_1520Once Mark had finished helping me with the removal of the carpet and went back upstairs, I thought I would see what was behind the bulging plaster in the other alcove. I turns out that the paint and lining paper were holding the plaster in place. I knocked the whole lot out and got back to bare brick. It made quite a mess. Mark doesn’t like it when I start destroying the house but I tell him that it has to get worse before it gets better! I started to pull off the lining paper on the ceiling, as you can see, but then had visions of the entire ceiling coming down so I stopped. Even I have my limits.

dar-zaragoza-6-light-pendant-90cm-cream-zar0633-11306-pThis is the light I have bought for the bedroom. My concept is hotel chic with striped Laura Ashley wallpaper.

img-thingThe wallpaper.

dar-zaragoza-18w-wall-light-cream-comes-with-shade-zar0133-18le-11291-pThese are the matching wall lights, also bought. If I can’t do the wall lights in the alcoves I will have to rethink. There is a smaller version of the same light going in either the kitchen or meals room, so I can always use the wall lights there instead.



Spring for the butterflies

IMG_1514It was 18 degrees today and we are expecting a spell of warmer weather so I opened the coal store door to warm up the room and rouse the butterflies.

IMG_1513Within a few minutes this one jumped out. She was making her anti-predatory wing hissing noise and displaying her wings, which look like a pair of owl’s eyes, in case I was a bird or mouse thinking about eating her. She folded up again with her wings together and kept very still again. Underneath, their wings are almost black so they look like a dead leaf. While she remained there a few more fluttered out and up into the blue sky. When I came back to check an hour or so later she had left. About two thirds of the colony had also gone. Some of the others are either still too sleepy or don’t trust that the weather is warm enough. Admittedly it is freezing cold in the coal store. If I hadn’t opened the door they may well have spent the entire summer in there and not noticed!

The Hibernating Butterflies

IMG_4818This winter we had some guests: in the coal store there are about forty butterflies who have been hibernating through the cold months. Technically they are dormant rather than hibernating but it’s pretty much the same thing.

IMG_4819When the weather gets too cold adult butterflies seek a dry place in which to wait for the spring. Sheds and outbuildings are preferred as they are warmer than the outdoors. They are also relatively safe from their predators – spiders and birds.

IMG_4824I am not entirely sure when they will leave. I am also a bit worried that they won’t be able to get out of the coal store when the time comes. I want to encourage them out at the right time, so I think I will have to do a bit more research.

UPDATE: I found more information here. It is still quite cool at the moment, though the spring flowers are out, so I think I will wait for a warm sunny day and open the coal store door.

House Tour: Mark’s Future Study

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 14.47.09This is how Mark’s future study was shown in the original house sale brochure. Mark wants this room as his study because it is large and has a nice view of the back garden. It also gets morning sun.

Screen shot 2013-06-10 at 1.09.35 PMHere is the room empty. This room was also George Fraser’s study, so Mark will continue the academic tradition. The walls were lined with bookshelves with all sorts of labels.

IMG_1099Of the labels still remaining and readable: Tudor Poetry, Middle English, Old English, Shakespeare, Metaphysicals, Milton, 18th Century, 19th Century, Romantics, Scottish Poetry, Anthologies, Durrell, Pope, Japanese, English Language, Foreign Languages, Burns, Italian/German/Russ., Spanish/Latin American. I’m sure I remember a Yeats and a Wordsworth as well some time when looking through the house.

IMG_2718 - 2013-06-11 at 17-17-09The first thing we did was rip up the old carpet, which I posted about here. The shelves weren’t of the best quality so we had to remove most of them as well.IMG_0880Carpet gone and red hearth tiles revealed.

IMG_0899Shelves gone.

IMG_1109And gone. At some point the whole room was painted a mustard yellow.

IMG_0801Mark’s future study also has the worst leaks in the house. The first time it rained heavily we roamed the house searching for leaks. We were fully expecting them is this room as the ceiling was stained and sagging, verging on collapse.

IMG_0802The water drips out of the crack just a few centimetres from the electric wire. The issue is the dormer window in the room above. The lead work around the dormer needs to be repaired. This will stop the leaks and allow us to repair the ceiling.

IMG_2719 - 2013-06-11 at 17-17-12The shelves on the other wall aren’t in bad condition, so we may keep them for now. The main issue is that if they stay I can’t strip the wallpaper on that wall. I could still paint it, plus when it’s full of books you won’t notice. The radiator is moving though, so there will be a big gap in the shelving.

March Update #2

In my last update I told you how JB the builder was revising his quote based on my new design. The good news was that the cost came in significantly cheaper. The bad news was that it was still over budget. I sat down with him for a second time and continued to rip things out of the specification until we got to the right number. It meant that we have decided to do the renovation in two stages, leaving for later the utility room and downstairs toilet. JB had an inspired idea though – if we moved the boiler from downstairs to the airing cupboard in the bathroom we would have room for a small “utility closet” under the stairs! It also means that the boiler will be much closer to the hot water tank, which is a good thing.

We are still to-ing and fro-ing with the quote as both the plumber and electrician are revising their figures. I also had a visit from a structural engineer who will do the calculations for the structural work and give us a more accurate figure for that. JB is currently on holiday overseas but we will meet up again when he gets back the week after next. We are still aiming for a start date of April 7. I hope to have all the wallpaper stripped before they begin, so I’d better get to work!


House History #5 Graffiti

IMG_4782When I was doing some garden clearing last weekend I noticed that the back and side wall of the coal store had some writing etched into the brickwork. The letters AFR are repeated several times. When I later checked my house history files I realised that there was only on person this could be: Andrew F Rutherford. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Rutherford family lived here between 1952 and 1958. Andrew was the son of Mark and Annie and was born in 1940, making him 12 when the family moved in. Some time in his teenage years he stood at the back of the house, in a spot not easily observed from the inside, and carved his initials into the wall.

IMG_4783There’s more below but I can’t make it out.

IMG_4784Then, at the back of the house, is the date 1961. Below it is written K Fraser. Kate Fraser was the youngest child of George and Paddy Fraser. Born in 1952, she was nine when she wrote this and was actually the last child to grow up in this house.

IMG_4785Just to the left is a drawing of a face. I can’t quite work out whether that is meant to be a moustache.

March Update

I need to be careful what I write publicly but let’s just say that we have parted ways with our architect (whose name I have edited out of past posts – luckily I only ever used their first name).

As the first couple of tenders for the work came in from the builders it became clear that we weren’t going to be able to do everything that we had wanted to do, let alone the extras that we had been encouraged to add. I was so glad I had already bought my lovely light fittings but there was the real prospect that there would be no electrical wires installed to turn them on!

Within two days (and over two sleepless nights – sending emails to myself at 1, 2 and 3am so I didn’t forget my latest thoughts) I had completely and radically revised the project, discussed it with my preferred builder and come to an understanding with him. Final costings are happening this week and work will begin in April! I always had several back-up plans if our first ideas weren’t feasible, it’s just that if we had better advice we would have instigated them sooner.

Ironically the builder I selected was JB, the very first builder I ever contacted when we were considering buying the house in June last year! Even at the time I found his phone conversation very helpful, so I am glad that things have come full circle and he is going to be working on the project.

My design is actually quite inspired, if I say so myself, and it saves tens of thousands of pounds! If you want something done, best to do it yourself! Part of it comes from having lived in the house for almost six months, so ideas keep forming and circulating.¬† If we still can’t manage with a builder overseeing the project then the next step is for me to put on the hard hat and project manage it myself, but I don’t think I have the experience to do that. Maybe next time!

JB is confident we can do the revised project on our budget but I don’t want to speak too soon as the final figures won’t be in for a few more days yet. However, with the days getting longer, the sun coming out and the daffodils and crocuses bursting through the ground declaring that spring is here, it feels that our long winter on the top floor may soon be coming to an end!