Spring in the Edwardian House

IMG_9732This is the first Spring for the front garden since it was completed. For early colour I recently planted some primroses and pansies.

IMG_9727Also emerging are some of Paddy Fraser’s old bulbs that must have still been in the soil.

IMG_9733Paddy’s daffodils among the primroses. In fact, I also transplanted the fuchsia primrose in the centre of the picture from the back garden, so that was Paddy’s as well.

IMG_9728The Japanese Maple is coming back to life, as are the hydrangeas.

IMG_9719The lavenders are looking healthy and strong and will really take off this year.

IMG_9718Not being an avid gardener, this front garden is a manageable size for me.

IMG_0230How the front garden looked before we began the renovation.

IMG_9702Not so manageable is the generally untouched back garden, or ‘hedgehog sanctuary’, as we like to call it. Last week I rearranged the old pavers to form temporary stepping stones to the bird bath and bird feeder in one direction, and the compost bin in the other. The grass is a soggy, muddy, mossy mess and will have to go one day when the garden reaches the top of our budgetary priorities. I envisage a large area of paving for a BBQ and outdoor seating surrounded by lush garden beds. The back garden is far too shady for a healthy lawn to grow.

IMG_9706Last weekend I also dug out the path at the side of the house again, as it was covered in fir needles and there were bluebells sprouting through the cracks. Down by the dining room’s French doors the camellia is looking very healthy and has a profusion of buds. The fuchsias are starting to leaf and that shrub on the right is starting to flower (not sure what it is).

IMG_9714In the spirit of tackling the garden in small, manageable bits, today I planted the fern garden on the other side of the house. You may remember that this was created in Stage 2 of the renovation. Originally a servant’s courtyard, this space was paved and gave access to the Edwardian coal store and servant’s toilet, which now form part of the breakfast room, utility room and downstairs toilet. Before and after pics here.

IMG_9696Among the plants in the fern garden I planted this, a Dicksonia Antarctica. It’s a tree fern from Australia.

IMG_9695It has been imported from Victoria and when I opened the box it smelt exactly like the Dandenong Ranges National Park.

 

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Here are some tree ferns growing in the last fern garden we planted – 11 years ago in our old house back in Australia. Goodness the sun was bright back there.

IMG_9715This is a much smaller fern garden than that one though, but it is what I can see from my kitchen window and will look lovely when it is established.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 1.49.00 pmI was also wondering why the blog was experiencing a spike in hits recently, then I found this link referral on an American website.

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We’re famous.

 

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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 34

 

IMG_2720Yesterday, in the guest bedroom, I painted the insert in the fireplace black, and this morning I cleaned the hearth tiles.

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I also prepared the floor for the new carpet. There were a few loose boards that I screwed down and I adjusted one that had a very loud creak. I also vacuumed thoroughly, especially around the skirting boards to prevent dust eventually staining the edges of the carpet.

IMG_2726The carpet fitters began by laying dust-paper and followed with the underlay.

IMG_2734An hour or so later – done!

IMG_2738Looking good.

IMG_1628How it looked just a few weeks ago.

IMG_2741The hearth tiles clash with the wallpaper but I wanted to have them on show anyway.

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Do you remember when I revealed this fireplace about eighteen months ago?

IMG_1664And how I found the fire pieces up in the chimney a few weeks back?

IMG_2751Wallpaper close-up.

IMG_2779Oliver, Ruby and Rose inspecting at the end of the day.

IMG_2773Ruby was first over the threshold.

And Rose was the first to christen the carpet with her claws.

IMG_2743Carpet on the landing leading to the back stairs.

IMG_2753T the decorator continued undercoating them today.

IMG_2754The neat carpet edge at the top.

IMG_2728T also gloss-painted the doors on the top floor. Cupboard.

IMG_2731Bathroom. He also started to fill the woodwork in the utility and toilet.

IMG_2770P the plumber was here too. All the fixtures are now connected.

The new downstairs toilet possesses the most forceful flush I have ever witnessed.

 

IMG_2771Utility room tap.

IMG_2729Top floor toilet and shower.

 

IMG_2732The room is looking huge!

IMG_2760Externally, work continued on the new planters.

IMG_2761A slight adjustment is being made to the alignment.

IMG_2758The fence has been repaired.

IMG_2756Our neighbour will be very happy with that. I am too – I love the castellated top of the old fence palings and that’s an extremely sturdy new post.

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At the side of the house, the site of the old servant courtyard will become the fern garden.

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All cleared and ready for topsoil.

IMG_2767I had noticed for a few days that this drain around the side appeared blocked. The last time the builders were here I had to unblock it as it became filled with sand and rubble which obstructed the P-trap. This time it was much more difficult to clear.

IMG_2768I had to break it up with the trowel to get it out – it’s mortar that has been poured or washed into the drain and had set solid. I hope for my builders’ sake I got it all! Luckily I had a CCTV scan of all the drains just before work began so we can always make a comparison if necessary.

IMG_2765Finally, at the end of the day, after everyone had gone home, the gravel arrived. It was delivered by a lone man with a pallet trolley – no crane. Each of these bags literally weighs a tonne – 1000kgs. The poor man struggled so I had to help him push the load up the very slight incline to their final position. It was hard going even with the two us. I can’t believe they allow one person to deliver such a heavy load. He was a strapping Eastern European but as he said to me in halting English “I am not horse!”

 

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 24

IMG_2233First, I know that some of you have been missing the cats. Oliver and Ruby in their dungeon ie. the master bedroom, during today’s work. Look at them suffering on the mink throw and looking daggers at me.

IMG_2236Rose on the damask attending to her toilette. I even had the QVC shopping channel on for her.

IMG_2210This morning A and D turned their attention to the front garden. They began by digging up a lot of the crazy paving.

IMG_2214Then there were massive tree roots to unearth.

IMG_2227That looks like an enormous tree branch but it is, in fact, a root.

IMG_2228All cleared and leveled. Next the hardcore base was laid and compacted but I don’t have a picture of that.

IMG_2272And then the paving stones were laid.

IMG_2267We finally have a front path! We have to wait for the cement to dry before we can use it though. The path and front garden will vastly improve the street-appeal of the house.

IMG_2270J the tiler grouted the utility room. I can’t get enough of those tiles.

IMG_2269Just look at that edge where it meets the quarry tiles.

IMG_2280He also finished grouting the bottom section of the shower walls in the top floor bathroom.

IMG_2271And repaired the section of loose grout in the kitchen’s original quarry floor for me.

IMG_2206Finally he tiled the hearth of the open chimney breast in the dining room. Before.

IMG_2238And after: it really completes the room. J the tiler said they look like they have always been there. Most of the other fireplaces in the house have inset gloss tiles in red or green which is why I was drawn to these.

IMG_0876Here was Oliver a year and a half ago helping to uncover the fireplace tiles in my study. The original tiles as you can see are smaller but it is the same effect.

IMG_4491And the green tiles in the bedroom when I revealed that fireplace.

While we are talking about the dining room, you can see some before and after shots here.

IMG_2208B the electrician was also here today. Switch plate before (sitting too proud of the plaster).

IMG_2211And after. Hardly any damage done.

IMG_2209Wire for the unnecessary extractor fan before.

IMG_2212And now gone.

IMG_2222Old ugly pull cords in the top floor bathroom.

IMG_2241Decommissioned.

IMG_2279Replaced by a discreet switch for the shower above the bathroom door.

IMG_2282And a new switch for the light just outside, which is a legal requirement if you want to have bathroom light switches.

IMG_2276The new bathroom light was fitted but unfortunately the glass shade was cracked, so I have ordered a replacement.

IMG_2223Utilitarian light and pull cord in the kitchenette in Mark’s study decommissioned. The main light in that room will be enough, plus we will no longer be cooking in this room.

IMG_2224New light fitting for Mark’s study.

IMG_2283With its New York Tiffany shade.

IMG_2275New light fitting for the top floor landing. And new smoke detector.

IMG_2273The trunking on the landing was also neatened-up.

IMG_2217New light fitting for the servant stairs landing. It’s the same fisherman’s light that I have in the breakfast room and I will have a matching wall light in the utility room. It’s my attempt to keep the ‘story’ of the old servant areas of the house consistent by using more austere lights in those areas.

IMG_2218Ready for the new light shade in the guest room. This will be a non-austere room, however.

IMG_2265While B the electrician was on a break, I couldn’t help but utilise his ladder to have a look in the loft. I managed to get my head and shoulders through that hatch.

IMG_2254It’s a huge space up there, at least six feet high from the rafters to the apex with no cross beams. Lots of old insulation piled up everywhere though. I think I’d like to get one of those fold-down ladders to gain access to this space as it would be great for storage. I’m sure we could even do a loft-conversion and turn it into an extra bedroom but we don’t really need a fourth floor or another bedroom. I’m tempted to explore the possibilities one day though.

IMG_2258There’s also a redundant water expansion tank up here for the old heating system. I’m glad it’s a modern plastic one rather than an old asbestos example.

IMG_2240The plaster work around the guest bedroom window was also patched up. I had a couple of windows measured for blinds today, including this one. I also confirmed the carpet order for this room. My nine week guest room challenge is running on schedule. Tomorrow the decorators arrive!

Stage 2, Day 14

IMG_1721The pavers on our new back step have been mortared in.

IMG_1727Now we just need to work on the garden to make it worth stepping outside!

img_4791How it used to look a year ago.

IMG_1712The coal store is definitely looking like a room now.

IMG_1713Further lining, cladding and such-like occurred. Site of the future basin in the toilet.

IMG_1717We are going to get a cupboard door installed in the triangular ‘loft’ space; a great place to store the Christmas decorations.

IMG_1714Pipework for the new toilet. The red brickwork is less than a year old as that was once the doorway through to the old servant’s toilet. It will be a shame to cover it really.

img_4826How it used to look a year ago. We’re installing a high-level cistern toilet in the new space as a nod to the house’s past. It will be nicer than this though, trust me.

img_1971This is now the breakfast room! Seeing pictures like this makes you realise how much has been accomplished in the last year.

IMG_1728The brickwork is now complete on the new wall; it makes the old part of the wall on the left look rather shabby. Everything else here will be black-and-white timber and render. I blamed P the plumber for all of yesterday’s grit in the kitchen but I realised this morning that some of it was from the cutting of these grey bricks. All the doors were closed today as more bricks were cut, which made a big difference.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 11.45.51 amHere is the collection of colours for the utility room and toilet. The walls will be Farrow and Ball’s Cinder Rose (pink) and the wainscoting Vert de Terre (green). The units for the utility will be cream and the floor black and white tile.

 

 

 

Stage 2, Day 12

A great deal has been happening today.

IMG_1635Rosie started the morning with some stretches. It’s important to be limber.

IMG_1639Ruby and Oliver were on the lookout.

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B the electrician came and completed the first fix of the utility room and toilet.

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Switches.

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Sockets.

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Isolators.

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Lights. I have decided to go with wall lights in both rooms as the ceilings are so high.

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This is the “fisherman’s” light fitting I am using in the utility room. It matches the pendant in the breakfast room.

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In the toilet I am having this Tiffany style light above the basin and mirror.

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A and R continued work on the wall.

IMG_1690The time capsule is down in behind this brickwork now.

IMG_1681The space is quickly being enclosed.

IMG_1682Toilet taking shape.

IMG_1679The tiles for the top floor bathroom were delivered; a nice travertine-effect ceramic tile.

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The tree stumps in the front garden were ground down. Before.

IMG_1642During.

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The grinder exposed a line of red bricks that had been enveloped by the tree trunk. It wasn’t good for his cutting blades, apparently.

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And after. We can now walk straight to the front door from the footpath! The stump of the yew tree that was next to the front door was also ground out.

 

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I continued preparations in the guest bedroom clearing things out and tackling the fireplace.

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There was still a certain amount of debris falling into this fireplace that I revealed last year so I donned my mask and gloves and set about trying to sweep the chimney out. It was an extremely dusty job. I ended up just having the vacuum cleaner running a metre or so away just to try to suck up some of the airborne dust. As I swept more and more of the debris out I was reaching my arm further and further up into the chimney. Given my past experiences I expected to come accross a bird skelton or two. On the ledge I felt a large piece of loose metal and pulled it out, bringing a load of debris with it. It was the bars for the front of the fireplace! As I continued there was more.

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The ash pan cover.

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And finally the baffle – the thing you use to close off the chimney (I know these words because I just looked them up). Whoever had boarded up this fireplace was thoughful enough to leave all the fireplace parts up the chimney. Thank you person-from-the-past!

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It certainly saves me a few trips to reclamation yards to find replacements.

IMG_1677I still need to strip it the and have it repainted but I am so happy that I found the original fireplace parts.

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I looked up the chimney, which now seems fairly clear (this photo was taken before I did a final sweep – you can see more debris on the ledge). I replaced the baffle, effectively blocking the room from draughts and future debris.

IMG_1678My bucket was full – this is in addition to the foot of debris that I cleared out the last time! It’s a mixture of soot, masonry and a lot of old bird droppings – the pigeons still love to hang out on top of the chimney pot, Rosie watches them every morning from my study window. The content of the bucket was probably 50% phosphate – I could give Nauru a run for their money.

 

 

Stage 2, Day 11

IMG_1604 It was a Saturday but I’m counting it in the build as some important work was undertaken. IMG_1602P the damp proofer came by in the afternoon and set up his equipment. IMG_1600He drilled holes into the wall and injected the damp proofing fluid under high pressure. IMG_1606The machine looked like a strange set of mechanical bagpipes. The active ingredient of the injected fluid reacts with the atmosphere to form a water repellent barrier. This halts the capillary rise of moisture (you can see the ‘tide mark’ of salts above the injection course – a classic case of rising damp, albeit a small one). He suspects that the cause of the rising damp is not the bricks but the mortar in between them, which sucks up moisture like a sponge, bridges the blue engineering brick damp course (that line of darker bricks) and then soaks the brickwork above. Modern repointing uses cement rather than the traditional lime, which would have allowed the wall to breathe and dry out more easily. He was still stumped as to why the rising damp is so localised to this one pillar. He was impressed though, as he said that a true case of rising damp is rare, as a lot of damp is caused by leaks of some sort. My theory is that the massive silver birch was helping to keep the ground dry as it would have drunk hundreds of litres of water a day, so the ground has resaturated over the last eighteen months since the tree was felled. In addition the tree sheltered the front of the house from prevailing winds and rain, so rain once again hits the front of the house directly and soaks the front garden. It will also help to remove the crazy paving from the garden as this will improve evaporation. IMG_1615He did the same injection treatment on the internal side of the wall. The whole process took a couple of hours. IMG_1611 After this, P treated the roof joist that had signs of past woodworm infestation. If there are any of the critters still eating away at the beam, they won’t be for long. The joist is still stucturally sound, which is good.

Stage 2, Day 10

IMG_1588We have half a wall and a partial window opening!

IMG_1572The time capsule went into the wall cavity.

 

IMG_1592The back step – the pavers are just sitting on the brickwork at the moment to get an idea of how they will look.

IMG_1573The roofers came a day early – I guess there’s nothing as motivating as a bank holiday weekend. It saves us having them here on a Saturday too. The before shot.

IMG_1574And after. The new Velux skylight window in the utility room.

IMG_1582It lets in a lot of light and is great for ventilation too as it swings open on a central pivot.

 

IMG_1594How it looks from the garden. A window on that back wall would have taken away valuable space for cupboards in the utility room, and if we put a window on the wall around the corner to the right it would have overlooked the neighbour’s garden a bit too intrusively.

IMG_1580The view into the future WC.

IMG_1576Preparations have been made for the damp proofing injections in the lounge and at the front of the house. It was a shame that this surfaced now after we had already decorated but on the bright side we hadn’t laid any carpet. I am now thinking of taking the walls a shade lighter when we have this repair redecorated…but it may be that it will look different when we finally get floor coverings in there. I shouldn’t second guess myself prematurely.

 

 

Stage 2, Day 9

IMG_1559The back step is taking shape.

IMG_1560Work continues on the coal store. I didn’t want to risk stepping on the new brickwork so I took this picture through the window. Sorry I didn’t even bother to open the window – it needs a bit of a clean.

210515 scott utilityHere is the design for the utility room, including that belfast sink. Perfect for bathing a small dog…