Stage 2, Day 5 (With Audience Participation!)

IMG_1476Here is a view of the floor that was laid yesterday. It needs some time to cure before it can be walked on so A and R did some other jobs.

IMG_1474The future step out of the back door. Note the 100 year old ivy growing on the fence.

IMG_1475Sorry about the odd sizes of the pictures – I have upgraded to Apple’s Yosemite operating system which no longer supports my photo editor. I need to work out a new way to resize pictures. The servants’ courtyard area was cleared of the pavers and the ash foundation was dug up. This means I can turn this into a garden bed of shade loving plants – any suggestions? In summer it gets a bit of sun but none in winter. We also get frosts.


IMG_1482Now for the audience participation part. This opening is going to be walled in to form the toilet. JB and the team were looking long and hard today at how to build this wall and there are two design possibilities.

IMG_5301 - 2015-02-18 at 11-44-42First you need to observe the Edwardian mock-Tudor design detail at the front of the house. You can see that there is a black and white timber and render detail around the front door – Edwardians and Victorians adored the Tudor age and there are echoes of Tudor design in many buildings from that era. I want to echo this design in the new wall.

img_4715By the way, here are some friends of mine in front of a real Tudor building – Speke Hall in Liverpool, where I used to be an education guide.


Design A

These are my crudely drawn design options for the new wall. Remember that this is going to be the view from my kitchen window, so I want it to be interesting. Above is Design A. You can see that there is red brick at the base of the wall, then the leadlight window with the Tudor timber and render detail, and then brick continues above.


Design B

And this is Design B. The timber and render detail continues above the window and fills in the rest of the space to the roofline.

Which do you prefer? Add a comment or click on the Poll below.

Stage One

Stage One of the build is getting closer to completion and some of you have asked if I will keep blogging when it is over. The answer is yes because this is just the first part of this Edwardian House Renovation.

Once JB and his team leave we still have to:

  • Decorate the remaining rooms
  • Install carpets, curtains and blinds
  • Move the furniture in (and maybe buy some new things too!)
  • Landscape the front and rear gardens

In addition there are further building stages planned for when funds allow:

  • Conversion of the coal store into a utility room and downstairs toilet
  • Renovation of the guest bathroom on the top floor
  • Upgrading of the other rooms on the top floor – two bedrooms (and the spooky under eaves cupboard)
  • Installing a cat run in the garden
  • Building a summer house in the garden
  • Building a shed in the garden

Plus we then have to watch the garden grow and continue with further improvements:

  • Upgrading and renovating fireplaces throughout the house
  • Installing further double glazing and secondary glazing
  • Repairs to leadlight windows
  • Improving insulation

And one day (hopefully not too soon):

  • Replace the entire roof! Argh!

There are also still stories to be told in the House History category, so all in all I will blogging for a while yet!

And when not blogging here, you will probably still find me at Scott’s Travel Adventures. Who knows, there might even be new stories at the Oliver and Ruby Chronicles, Featuring Miss Rose. Plus, for archive interest, there is my first blog, in hiatus, Scott’s Abode, which chronicled our lives back in Australia from 2007, including our migration to the UK in 2009 and stories of the dear, departed cats Doris and Orlando.



Kitchen Plans

120513d1In the last post I showed you the granite that I was considering for the counter tops in the kitchen. Here are the 3D plans for the kitchen showing the layout.  The cupboard doors and some of the features will look a little different so it’s really just for the purposes of understanding where everything will go. There is a double sink by the window and the dishwasher will go in the unit to its right. The doorway pictured is the one that leads through into the breakfast room. In the corner to the left by the window will go the kettle, toaster, coffee machine etc., or possibly this will be the main preparation area – I will have to see how it feels when I get in there.

180514 alt cooker hood 3dAlong this wall there is the range cooker. There will be six large drawers for utensils, pots and pans etc. The pairs of wall mounted cupboards on either side of the range will actually be part-glazed. Instead of the stainless steel chimney extractor there will be an integrated extractor set into a mantel-type set up.

30051 mwave 3dAlong this wall is the door into the hallway, the fridge and more units including a built in microwave.

300515pantrydFinally, next to the servants’ staircase door is a built in dresser/pantry arrangement. The kitchen is too small for an island counter in the centre but when we move in I will see whether a butcher’s block or something like that will fit in the space.

43I really like this round table/island counter and I have been talking to a local cabinet maker to see whether we might be able to make something similar.

IMG_2403In this brochure picture you can see the actual doors we will be having. That’s the right colour too: ‘Mussell’. Can you see how some of the doors have glazing on the top part? We’re having that too. You can also see the mantle set up above the range cooker.

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 21.03.37In terms of lighting, there will be this centre ceiling pendant and then four halogen spotlights on a separate switch. There will also be LED under cabinet lighting – with remote control!


IMG_0914It’s not the biggest kitchen in the world but I think we have designed it well. Considering this is our current kitchen up here on the top floor, the new kitchen will be a dream!

April Update

As you know from earlier posts we have let our architect go. He had far grander designs than we did, and his head in the clouds (the politer of two terms I could have used) as far as trying to help us keep to a tight budget. Don’t get me wrong – for the amount we have to spend on these renovations we built an entire four bedroom home from the ground up ten years ago in Australia, so it’s not an insubstantial sum.


I also told you that I proceeded to radically rethink the plans in order to avoid large scale demolition and to make the best use of current space. In essence, our architect had us knocking down and then rebuilding this entire back section of the house, on exactly the same footprint but with the roof four brick courses higher to make the ceiling height the same in both parts (!). This was after we had already reined him in, as initial plans included a massive family room on the back as well, with a large bespoke roof lantern on the top, increasing the total ground floor footage by about a third. How he ever imagined we could afford to do that is beyond me. We had always insisted that our first priority was the renovation of the house as it currently stands – electrics, plumbing, windows, roof and guttering, removing lead pipework, stopping leaks, bathrooms, kitchen, decoration etc. I guess that doesn’t excite an architect. Or keep his monthly payments coming.

IMG_4770So now for a summary of the new plans. The original kitchen. This is the current breakfast room, which was once going to be a ‘snug’ (ie. cosy sitting room), then a breakfast room again.  Now it is going to become the kitchen, reinstating its original use! The door on the right is being blocked up and a new door formed to the left, behind that large sheet of particle board, leading to the entrance hallway and front door.

IMG_4771The boiler is going to be moved from its odd current position to the cupboard in the bathroom on the next floor. The small window on the left will be removed and blocked up. The entire chimney breast is coming down. This will then form part of our U-shaped kitchen.

IMG_4769This large window will be replaced by a new window with a higher sill, allowing for kitchen counter tops to also stretch along that wall. The door on the right and its architrave will be removed, leaving an open space to walk through into the next room. You can also see the original quarry tile floor. We will restore it rather than dig it up and replace it, saving an amount equivalent to buying a small car.

IMG_4772In the next room, originally the scullery and currently the unused kitchen, we are removing the old kitchen and knocking out that doorway and the wall to its left, making the room bigger and turning it into the breakfast room. The larder beyond will become part of this room and lead to the garden through double french doors.

IMG_4836Looking back in the other direction. That’s the door through to the new kitchen. The door to the outside is being blocked up. The window on the right is being upgraded. The walls, which are currently brick, need to be brought up to building regulations with a layer of insulated board. We also need to remove the highly flammable polystyrene tiles on the ceiling.


Phase two of the build will involve turning the coal store into a utility/laundry room, and that current little covered area will be built in and converted into a toilet. Phase two will happen a couple of years from now.

IMG_4840In the meantime this dead space will become our utility closet with washing machine and tumble dryer. The external door is going to be bricked up and we will re-use the door in the new  internal doorway we are creating between the entry hall and kitchen. The door on the right will also be blocked up (leading into the current breakfast room/future kitchen). It was JB the builder’s idea to turn this into a utility closet, as I had planned to put the boiler in there.

IMG_4808So what we will have then is a pair of french doors on the left hand side of this external wall (the current larder) leading into the garden.

IMG_4826As part of the enlargement of the future breakfast room, the servants’ toilet will be removed and the door bricked up. Note the original Edwardian timber toilet seat. The wall at the back and the right will be removed and this will become part of the breakfast room.

IMG_4831I will try to keep the rusted ‘S’ brackets and use them somewhere else, perhaps for a shelf.

IMG_4833This is the castellated timber ledge and brace door that will be going. It might make a nice garden gate.

IMG_4834Old rusty latch and bolt.IMG_4835

Vintage toilet roll holder.

Things are taking a little longer than anticipated with the builder as I am being super careful with the spec – we will sign the contracts this Thursday with the work scheduled to begin just after Easter, on April 22nd – just over seven months after we moved in! Hallelujah!


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!

House Tour: The Coal Store and Service Courtyard

courtyardAt the rear of the house to one side is the small service courtyard. I took this photo before that white gate outside on the left started to collapse from rot. The window you are looking out is in the breakfast room, which would have originally been the kitchen. There is a door from the scullery into the courtyard that then leads to the coal store, the servants’ toilet and to the side access of the house. In an earlier post I described how we were planning to change this area.

existingThe existing floorplan.

futureWhat we intend to do.  Sorry it’s a bit blurry. As I mentioned before, we decided to do away completely with the small sunroom we planned at the back of the house (not pictured but would have been to the left on the plan above), instead opting to build a larger extension later, perhaps in the form of an orangery where those double doors lead out from the kitchen. To be true to the original structure of the house, and to save money, we are using the much of the current footprint of the house as well as some of the walls. Hopefully this will save on foundation and construction costs. Of course, they may dig and find that the current foundations are inadequate but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

IMG_2666 - 2013-06-11 at 17-05-02This is what the back of the house looks like at the moment. Note the lack of windows and doors – this back half of the house was the servants’ area, so there was no peering out into the garden for them. The family’s entry to the garden is via the french doors in the dining room. The coal store is in the right hand side of the single story part of the building. The tall chimney you can see served the scullery’s ‘copper’ and the fireplace in the servants’ bedroom above.

IMG_1216This is the future rear elevation.

IMG_1217Future side elevation with service courtyard rebuilt as utility room, pantry and WC.

IMG_2684 - 2013-06-11 at 17-08-59The coal store door. If you look carefully you will see that the wall to the right hand side of the door has quite a bow to it. This current external structure will be demolished and then rebuilt utilising as many of the original bricks and roof tiles as possible.

IMG_4580A close up of the handle.

IMG_2680 - 2013-06-11 at 17-08-20Inside the coal store it is still black with coal dust and smells strongly of coal. You can also see the colour of the inside of the door – I suspect this was the original external colour before the Tardis-like royal blue.

IMG_2681 - 2013-06-11 at 17-08-25All of these walls will be rebuilt. My cooker and oven will be about here.

IMG_2682 - 2013-06-11 at 17-08-28The roof structure and lath and plaster ceiling.

IMG_4593A decorative air vent on the wall in the service courtyard. We are hoping we can keep the brickwork on this wall exposed (it will form the inside wall of the future utility room) with a sloping ceiling.

IMG_4588The breakfast room window and the collapsing gate. This will be the pantry with the window and brickwork still exposed but the glass replaced with patterned obscure glazing.

IMG_4595The handle of the collapsing gate.

The specification and plans have now gone out to tender with six builders. They will have 30 days to visit the house and quote for the job if they are interested. Mark and I fear ours will be the only building job never to have anyone visit or quote. At the end of that time we will have a much better idea of what the renovation will cost and whether we need to divide the build and refurbishment into stages – or, preferably, whether I will have some extra money to spend on fittings and decor!

2014 – Happy New Year!

IMG_4592Our 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!

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!