An Alarming Development

IMG_9013A reassuring red light sentinel flashes on the new external siren box. The ‘first fix’ wiring was done for the alarm sytem about two years ago but it has taken us this long to get around to having the system actually fitted. The company has been so patient with us, giving us a courtesy call every six months or so. It’s one of those jobs that has to be done when everything else is complete – in particular all the decorating. For a look at what was happening back then look here.

IMG_9009Alarm system brains and communication centre.

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Downstairs keypad.

IMG_9008Upstairs keypad.

IMG_9007Internal siren.

IMG_9003Passive infra red movement detectors (pet friendly).

IMG_9006Door contacts.

IMG_9005Shock and vibration detectors on windows and doors. It might all seem a bit much but we were burgled once in our old house so we are keen for it not to happen again.

Another job complete!

 

January in the Edwardian House

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Happy new year! We had a little snow earlier this month. It started coming down one evening and we thought it would probably melt by morning.

IMG_8680It stayed for a day or so though. Not much snow admittedly but this is the most we’ve had in the two years we have been in Leicester. There was even enough for children to make snowballs. Luckily it melted before it had a chance to turn into ice on the footpaths.

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We also got a new car for Christmas!

IMG_8694The bird feeder in the back garden is proving popular, particularly with the family of robins that live in the holly tree. They seem to regard it as their personal pantry and chase the other little birds away. This photo is a few weeks old – the robins now look more like tennis balls with beaks, so we think we are fueling a robin obesity crisis.

IMG_8711Ruby would love to catch one of the pigeons, which are also getting quite fat.

IMG_8746Speaking of husky animals. Oliver getting comfortable on the clean towels I had just put down for a few minutes.

IMG_8870I was looking through my January photos and realised that I hadn’t taken a picture of Rose all month! I headed upstairs immediately to rectify the situation.

IMG_8864She began to pose, as usual.

IMG_8869Time for a chin scratch.

The house priorities this year are carpet on the stairs and landings, finishing off the security systems, and  taming the back garden.

More to follow!

This week

IMG_4737A slow-ish week so far. I fitted the additional hooks in the coat room today.

20268008909_7469708394_zOn Monday this section of brickwork was repointed.

IMG_4748P, the decorator was here today doing some prep work on the top floor.

IMG_4738Yesterday the paint arrived for that room. It’s the total Farrow and Ball cliche, how I could I not do it?

IMG_4710And here’s a picture of Rosie in her crate. It’s an Aga crate and that’s a cashmere blanket, so she’s not really slumming it despite how it looks.

 

Stage 3 Preparations

IMG_3084I’m back from London where I paid my respects to Hodge, Samuel Johnson’s cat, at Dr Johnson’s House. Hodge sits on a copy of Johnson’s Dictionary next to some oyster shells. He could eat only oysters in his old age and Dr Johnson went to the market each day to get them himself as he didn’t want his servants to resent the cat.

IMG_3112Mummified Egyptian cats at the British Museum. The one at the back has the same expression as Oliver.

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On a walk around Marylebone we came upon this enormous crane.

IMG_3120It was preparing to lift this: an instant loft conversion. They rip the old roof off the house and drop this on the top – it has a stairway, a bedroom and a bathroom. Incredible. It must be cheaper in London to do this rather than build something by traditional methods – I imagine it would save on labour, access costs, scaffolds etc. It must be nearly impossible in London to park, receive and store deliveries, and would cost a fortune for skip licences. With this they just close off the street for a Saturday afternoon, bring in a huge crane and it’s pretty much done!

IMG_3523Back at home moulting season is upon us. Rose after a perfunctory brush.

IMG_3586Oliver’s fur was the worst. British Shorthairs have a double coat and this undercoat thickens in the winter. Rose inspecting.

IMG_3526And now for some house news. Yesterday a gas engineer was here connecting the lounge’s old gas pipe to the new system – here you can see the new copper pipe stretching along the back of the under-stairs cupboard. This pipe connects to the old pipe that goes under the terrazzo in the entrance hall and terminates in the lounge. My plan is to get a gas fire installed in the lounge but we needed to ascertain whether the pipe was safe to use, otherwise it would cost a lot more and we would probably have had to cut into the terrazzo to lay a new pipe. Good news – the pipe is safe to use, so now I can order the fire!

I have also been organising Stage 3: scheduling carpenters; arranging for D the floor guy to come and sand/polish the floorboards in Mark’s study; scheduling A, the other floor guy, to restore the terrazzo; scheduling the carpet fitters; scheduling decorators. Stage 3 will see the completion of the internal works.

Stage 4 will be the back garden.

 

Stage 2, Day 35

IMG_2814I spent the entire day sorting out “stuff”. New shed-like space under the stairs for tools (and WD-40) until I get a real shed.

IMG_2806I got everything out of the sitting room and dusted and vacuumed. We still need to restore the fireplace, do a bit of decorating following the damp proofing, and get carpet. And a bookcase.

IMG_2801D the carpenter was here and he secured the worktop in the utility room and fitted the up-stands (that vertical bit of wood is just keeping them in place while the glue dries. T the decorator also did a lot of the gloss woodwork in here too. Unfortunately decorators and carpenters are mortal enemies – it’s the issue of dust. In Stage 1 the decorators downed brushes and left when A the carpenter was in the front garden using the bench saw while the decorators were applying gloss black paint to the front door and woodwork. I did my best to coordinate them today but unfortunately a carpenter and a decorator ended up in the same room at exactly the same time. They managed to work through it though. I then moved a lot of things into the cupboards.

IMG_2817T also repainted the walls in the top floor bathroom to remove  the plumber’s hand prints.

IMG_2813And he applied what must be the fourth undercoat to these stairs. It’s all in the preparation. It’s practically glowing in there.

IMG_2803Gloss white in the toilet too.

IMG_2805P the decorator was also here. He had kindly collected the additional wallpaper I ordered and finished papering the guest room.

IMG_2818In a final push, A and D finished the front garden. Beds ready for planting. The two tonnes of gravel I helped haul from the truck  yesterday were laid.

IMG_2820Stepping stones to the gate.

IMG_2827It makes such a difference!

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And peace was restored.

IMG_2837Rosie not sure what to make of the quiet.

IMG_2882Ruby inspecting the work.IMG_2825

Apart from a few odd jobs to complete, this was the end of Stage 2 for my builder. Thanks JB!

IMG_0230How the house looked two years ago in the sale brochure before we bought it.

Stage 2, Day 33

IMG_2646P and T the decorators were here. Getting closer with the guest room challenge. Wallpaper.

IMG_2649Unfortunately the pattern repeat was so large they ran out! I got on the internet to try to locate two more rolls with the same batch number to ensure colour and pattern consistency. They should be arriving soon and P will be able to finish by the end of the week.

IMG_2663P the plumber continued his work.

IMG_2683Shower in the top floor bathroom.

IMG_2684Those electrics are looking increasingly scary.

IMG_2682New sink unit and tap going in.

IMG_2658The electricians were here too. They fitted switches, sockets and lights. Light in the utility room.

IMG_2645Light in the toilet.

IMG_2665Externally, the planter pavers were cut and mortared in.

IMG_2669New fence post!

IMG_2672Progress by the end of the day.

Stage 2, Day 31

I think this post will take the record for the most number of photos, so bear with me. Or scroll until you find something that interests you.IMG_2516Dawn, though it’s light here from around 4am. Sadly for the little tree on the far left it would be its last day. It was ugly, with prickly leaves, tangerine coloured flowers that turned into little sour purple berries that even the birds didn’t seem to like. We are taking the front garden back to a blank slate.

IMG_2522D and A did a lot of digging.

IMG_2524Still unearthing roots from the old silver birch.

IMG_2526These are some of the smaller roots. A and D were hacking at them with a saw but then decided to go and buy a giant axe.

IMG_2528They also hit a line of bricks running along the footpath. They were red bricks laid neatly in a header course so I don’t think they were foundations for a wall. My guess is that this was the original level of the front garden and these were the bricks marking the boundary. They were the same bricks that the  stump grinder hit in the middle of the tree trunk, which means that the tree, which was around eighty years old, grew over the bricks.

IMG_2546You can see that there is no straight line along the footpath so we will fix that.  You can also see how the ground level has risen, burying the bottom eight inches of the fence.

IMG_2547Progress by the end of the day. While all this was going on I discovered that Waitrose have an online Garden Centre that does home deliveries, great for someone who doesn’t have a car. It is the most brilliant site as you can search for any type of plant according to garden style, position, soil type, eventual height, flower colour, everything. I ordered all the plants for the front garden, filtering my choices to ensure they are all bee-friendly.

IMG_2525These pavers are going to become planters along the front of the garden. The larger ones are for stepping stones around to the side gate.

IMG_2562The carpenters were also here today. They finished fitting as much of the utility as possible, though the sink unit and worktop can’t be fixed until the plumbing is done. They made the cutout in the iroko worktop for the Belfast sink with a router. The offcut will be made into a nice chopping board.

IMG_2563Cornice work on the units.

IMG_2555They fitted skirtings, architraves and doors. This door for the toilet  has been reclaimed as it was originally the door into the old scullery, which became a kitchen in the 1950s and is now our breakfast room. It will look better when it’s painted.

IMG_2556New rim latch and knob. The dent in that panel was made when the door was in its original location – when opened it would hit the handle from the door on the servant staircase. I’ll have to remind T the decorator not to fill it as I like that it tells a story.

IMG_2554Now for our Alice in Wonderland door.

Favim.com-28208I’m less sure about the success of this one. This door has be re-sited from its original location, which was the cold store larder. In order to fit the new narrow space a great deal of the door had to be trimmed, so much so that there is barely anything left!

IMG_2553The door will be open most of the time though. I might do a trawl on eBay and see if I can locate a door more in proportion to the space. Once it’s painted, however, it may look fine.

IMG_2558They also built a shelf for that space above the door.

IMG_2550I got up on a ladder to see how it fits.IMG_2551

It’s a nice job and it will be a perfect place to store Chrismas decorations, picnic baskets and such.

IMG_2518Architrave around the stained glass toilet window. This is fast becoming my favourite room in the house. Perhaps because it’s the only room we have actually created from nothing. This was originally the covered courtyard space used to access the servant toilet and the coal store.

IMG_2543The breakfast room has become a building site. The servant toilet used to be about where the cat tree is sitting, and that space on the right with the little window used to be the cold store larder.

IMG_2541They also removed the suspect piece of picture rail in the lounge. When P the damp-proofer saw it a few weeks ago he said the swelling and cuboid-like cracking pointed, potentially, to dry rot.

IMG_2538No rot! It was just a big knot in the wood that had bulged out of shape.

IMG_2540Other cracks caused by the nails. That was a releif.

IMG_2544The carpenters also completed other little jobs around the house. The threshold from the hallway into the kitchen was fixed down. You can hardly see the plugs covering the screw holes.

IMG_2566They trimmed and refitted the top bathroom door.

IMG_2564Top floor cupboard door reversed and now with the rim latch refitted.

IMG_2565Original paintwork on the latch. As far as I can tell, all of the woodwork started out either stained dark brown or was painted this buff brown colour. You can see it also under the flaking paint on the door surround. At various other times the woodwork has been mint green and navy blue.

IMG_2567Little bit of skirting refitted in the top floor bathroom.

IMG_2157T, the decorator, worked on the servant stairs. Original dark wood finish to the stairs. I ripped out the original carpet runner last year. For weeks after we first moved in we thought we had some sort of gas leak in the back of the house but it turned out to be the smell of that carpet.

IMG_2158Door with its original stain. The darker brush marks were intended to give the impression of a more expensive hardwood.IMG_2521

Looking up the stairs. T painted the walls first.

IMG_2529Then the timber was given its first coat.

IMG_2530You can already see how much brighter it is going to be.

IMG_2023Looking down before.

IMG_2534And after.

IMG_2535The landing was also painted.

IMG_2537And the old servant bell.

IMG_2532Looking through to the guest room.

Much more to occur this week as we push through to the completion of Stage 2. The guest room is part of the Stage 2 challenge as it needs to be ready for Frogdancer, whom I am meeting up with in London next week.

Stage 2, Day 30

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When did we get to June 19? T, the decorator, continued painting the woodwork. Glossy white window sill in the guest bedroom.

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Bathroom.

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Top floor cupboard skirting boards.

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Guest bedroom. I’ll need to scrape a couple of drips off the tiles but finally there is no trace of the pre-1964 purple in this room.

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P also dropped by to paste some lining paper on certain walls. Servant stairs landing.

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D the carpenter, later joined by D2, began fitting the utility room units. They fit the space very well and I love how the colours are working together. It’s an Edwardian meets Beauty School Dropout kind of utility room with a hint of 80s Ruthless People and Back to the Future diner.

IMG_2417Lots of cupboard space.

IMG_2425Oliver was the first to inspect.

IMG_2431Inquisitive curled tail.

IMG_2460New sniffing zones.

IMG_2477Considering how high he can go.

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Ruby doing the same. Rosie didn’t come in, she likes to hang back and see what her brother and sister get up to. As the youngest, and lowest in their hierarchy, she doesn’t possess the same sense of entitlement that they do. Don’t worry, she’ll take over the whole place in her own time and on her terms, as youngest siblings often do.

Stage 2, Day 27

 

IMG_2351Today two carpenters, D and S, were on site working from 6am. On the external elevation of the conversion they fixed battens and boards to the block-work, fitted the window, and constructed the Tudor-effect frame. They have even filled the screw holes with dowel to give the appearance of pegs that would have been hammered into traditional mortise and tenon joints in medieval and Tudor architecture. They accomplished a lot, though I’m not sure the neighbours appreciated the power saw in the back garden at 6:30.

IMG_1484In my original, highly-detailed and accurate ‘plans’ you can see I envisaged a second horizontal timber above the window. In the end the proportions of the wall meant that this would have been an excessive detail so we dispensed with it. The omission of the extra horizontal highlights the vertical timbers and the triangular shape.

IMG_2350I then began seeing the same shape all over the house. Paneling on the stairs in the entrance hall.

IMG_2349Triangles in the dormer windows. T the decorator was also here again today. The top floor bathroom got its first coat. We are going with all white in this room.

IMG_2344It goes better with the travertine tiles than the magnolia wall colour did.

IMG_2347T also made a start on the not-creepy, but very triangular, top floor cupboard. There was a lot of old wallpaper to scrape off the original walls. Looking bigger and brighter already.

IMG_2364The stained glass leadlight window in the toilet looks great.

IMG_2362It will have a very deep sill – it almost looks medieval in its depth, like a mullioned window in a castle.

IMG_2367Thankfully the Edwardian glass appears to be obscure enough in terms of the privacy needs of this room.

IMG_2365Except for this central lozenge with its literally rose-coloured glass. Note the air bubbles in the hand-blown pane.

IMG_2363The carpenters also began to fit the architraves. They will be back later in the week.

IMG_2352It’s finally starting to warm up after a very cool start to June. The triffid plant is gradually taking over the back garden as it does each summer. It will grow white trumpet shaped flowers and then die off again in the winter, giving the hedgehog a nice little arbour to hibernate under. I just Googled it and it’s called Bindweed and is a pest plant.

IMG_2360Against all odds, something actually looks pretty in our wild, overgrown garden. A stray branch of a rose bush, engulfed by ivy and blackberries, reaches out eight feet above ground level to produce this! A dozen roses.

IMG_2357They smell divine, look beautiful but aren’t great for the bees as they are inaccessible for nectar and pollen. My eventual plan with the garden is to plant as many bee-friendly flowers as possible. This will do for now though!