Coal Store Conversion Before and After

Coal Store 1

It’s a little late but I don’t think I ever did a final Before/After set for the coal store conversion to the utility room and toilet.

Coal store 2

The toilet was built in the sheltered porch just outside the original coal store facing the servant courtyard, which has become a garden.

IMG_7246The high level cistern toilet actually backs onto the original doorway for the servant toilet, which was converted into part of the breakfast room in the first stage of the renovation.

IMG_4826That’s what the original toilet looked like. That was part of the reason for my choice of a traditional looking high level cistern toilet in the new space.

Coal Store 3

The utility room was converted from the old coal store.

Caol store 4Velux window for light.

Coal store 5

And a handy storage space.


Carpenter Monday

D the carpenter was here today finishing off a few things around the house.

IMG_3592He started by repairing floorboards in Mark’s study.

IMG_3593The floor is now ready for sanding and polishing.

IMG_3590A couple of other boards were replaced too as they had been damaged when the plumbing and heating were done. Top floor landing.


And the loose one in the cupboard.

IMG_3594He then tackled the front door, which was starting to stick at the base. A few millimetres planed off the bottom and it’s fine.

IMG_3595He also planed down the picture rail to remove the bulge caused by the knot, which you can now see clearly on the right. I’m so glad it wasn’t dry rot!

IMG_3597In the utility room he added a piece of timber and some beading to the door frame to finish it off properly.

IMG_3596And finally, in the future pantry he fitted the doors to separate this area from the gas/electricity meters and my “shed” storage space. We reused the original door, cutting it in half and adding new handles.

IMG_3598In the new downstairs toilet I have fitted the accessories – toilet roll holder, towel ring and mirror.

IMG_3599It’s a porthole! It goes well with the fisherman’s lights in the utility room and breakfast room.


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.’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


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




Top floor cupboard skirting boards.


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.


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


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.


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 26


IMG_2323Think pink!


Today T the decorator was here.


He painted the walls in the utilty and toilet. The colour is Farrow and Ball’s Calamine, a pale pink, though the camera doesn’t do it justice. It’s the colour of calamine lotion, and Oil of Olay.


He also began stripping the lining paper from the ceiling in the guest room.

IMG_2328He got this far and then stopped as the rest of the paper is stuck fast. There’s no point trying to remove it if it’s stable as it will only damage the plaster underneath. In fact, this seems to be one of the best preserved original ceilings in the house.

IMG_2331It’s actually a striped yellow and white wallpaper stuck wrong-side up. It’s funny because I came very close to ordering blinds for the breakfast room the exact same colour and pattern.

IMG_2319The stained glass panel I bought on eBay has been sandwiched between double glazing and turned into a window for the toilet. I’m not entirely sure how obscure the window is in terms of privacy but I can always part-obscure it on the inside with the same film I used in the bathroom and en suite.

A 6am start tomorrow as the carpenters are arriving for their first of three twelve hour days. We plan to be finished by the end of 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_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 22

IMG_2198Today the tiler continued work. Grout on the bathroom floor tiles.

IMG_2199And walls. Still need the shower base fitted to complete this bit.

IMG_2186He also started laying the tiles in the utility room. I really like these black and white mosaics.

IMG_2189The utility cabinets and doors were delivered.

IMG_2187Enormous puppy bath. I mean Belfast sink.

IMG_2192A new mountain for Ruby to climb.

IMG_2197Iroko worktop.

Stage 2, Day 20

The end of week four.


Oliver’s official name is Sentabali Top Drawer, but he seems to prefer the easy access to the bottom drawer here. He and his sisters spent the morning in the bedroom again while top floor work was carried out.

IMG_1953The creepy/spooky cupboard continued its makeover.

IMG_1959Plaster bonding coat.

IMG_1969Skimmed. No sign that there was ever a header tank in this room.


This is where, last year, I found the newspaper sheets from 1928.

IMG_1971The cupboard ceiling and wall were skimmed too. Not spooky anymore.

IMG_1977The plasterer even did patching he wasn’t asked to do! Here, just outside the door where the old pipes used to run into the roof header tank.

IMG_1850This wall in the cupboard was just going to be decorated over. You can see the old wallpaper and the original gas pipe for the lighting.

IMG_1970All gone!

IMG_1851Some more old wallpaper from this room. Pre-1928.

IMG_1976The ply was laid in the top floor bathroom.

IMG_1972Wiring for the shower. I have never quite understood why it is illegal in Britain to have electric switches and sockets in a bathroom but they’ll let you stand naked in a metal framed cubicle with water running all over you that is heated in an electrified box three inches from your body. For a country terrified of electrocution they seem to be taking some pretty big risks.

IMG_1975Skim coat to patch the other wall. The shower I bought that was too small is now on eBay. So far I have one bid.


The cats got their first view of the extension this afternoon. Oliver was the first downstairs; he was too busy sniffing the tools to notice the doorway was open.


IMG_1984And first over the threshold. The moment after this picture he leapt into the air when the plywood creaked under his weight.

IMG_1989Ruby was next.

IMG_1996Up on the window sill within moments.


And finally Rose. As you can see the ply has  been cut for the utility and toilet. A few more screws to be fitted tomorrow and then it will be ready for the tiler first thing Monday morning.


Do you remember me telling you about the men in vans who drive by the skip and scavenge metal? Today I found out from JB what they are called in the trade: skip rats.



Stage 2, Day 18

IMG_1897Today the plasterer began in the extension. Utility walls skimmed.


IMG_1903The toilet is completely plastered now.

IMG_1899And everything except the ceiling is done in the utility. The wire for the wall light was moved to the correct place.

IMG_1905It’s very neat plastering work. Just look at the plaster around this switch – like wet sand.

IMG_1906Compare that to the previous plastering in the kitchen. Admittedly that is also something to do with my inexpert decorating. Must do some touch-ups.

IMG_1888The plasterer also started to repair the area in the lounge where the damp was treated.

IMG_1837Ruby was feeling indignant about being shut out of her own kitchen.

IMG_1853She decided to play up by dancing on the banisters.

IMG_1857She acts so casually when she does it too.

IMG_1858It gives us a heart attack every time.

IMG_1859It’s a long way down. We’ve learnt to just turn and walk away as our protestations only encourage her.


Work began on the top floor bathroom.


It’s actually a decent sized bathroom with the washing machine taken out.

IMG_1844Old toilet and shower. These were the most modern fittings in the house when we first moved in and this was our only bathroom during the build. The top floor had been modernised about seven years ago when the previous owner needed a live-in carer. The toilet flush broke when we first moved in so you had to activate the flush mechanism using a pen. All the drains blocked on that first weekend too.

IMG_1840The window was replaced in the last stage of the renovation – there were three weeks last summer when the window openings on the top floor were boarded up and we had no light or ventilation.

IMG_1863Shower and toilet gone.

IMG_1866Basin and tiles gone. I am keeping the shelf and mirror as they were my very first bit of DIY in the house. Plus if they were taken down it would expose all the failed drill holes I made into the bricks…

IMG_1895Shower tiles gone.


Floor coming up.

IMG_1890The washing machine and dryer were moved to the ground floor, their third temporary location in the house.

IMG_1566 - 2014-04-18 at 10-04-34When we first moved in the washing machine taps were on the servant stairs back landing.

IMG_1562 - 2014-04-18 at 10-04-08The dryer was located in the servant bedroom (future guest room).

IMG_1225 - 2015-04-27 at 11-12-32When Stage One began in April 2014 they were both moved to the top floor whilst we lived in the little makeshift flat.


Now they reside in the utility space under the stairs on the ground floor that was created in the last build. This used to be the little passageway leading to the back part of the house (we knocked through into the kitchen last time). There also used to be a tradesman’s entrance behind where the washer and dryer are now stacked. We never moved them down here as we were still waiting to restore the terrazzo floor and decorate. The washing machine and dryer have now been on every floor in the house.

IMG_1889Soon this area will be superseded by the new utility room conversion in the coal store so they will move for a fourth time. This space will be turned into my walk-in “Nigella” pantry as it is adjacent to the kitchen.


Nigella’s pantry.

butlerspantryBecause the washing machine has been plumbed in, there is hot and cold water and a waste drain in here, so the pantry could potentially have a sink, turning it more into a butler’s pantry like this. Could be handy as it’s opposite the dining room.



Or perhaps a cocktail bar set-up like this one?

IMG_1881Top floor bathroom in the skip. A couple of times a day vans drive past and check the skip for scrap metal. This guy used an axe to break up the sink from the bathroom to take the tap. I guess it’s a form of recycling.

r611crpAppropriate number plate  – “all crap” taken? I know this makes it look like I spend my day peering out of the window watching everything that goes on but I was just opening the bedroom window when it happened. Honestly.

IMG_1907Am I mad to clean the kitchen and breakfast room and mop the floor at the end of each day? Some would say so but I’m just trying to localise the effects of the work. Having said that, I actually cleaned that toilet today before it was ripped out, so maybe I am a bit obsessive.


Stage 2, Day 16

IMG_1798A busy day today. Ignore the ‘garden’ – it’s now a wildlife sanctuary for the hedgehog.

IMG_1799The lining of the utility room and toilet continued.

IMG_1805Plasterboard. Lots of interesting shapes.

IMG_1809Utility room ceiling.

IMG_1800It’s very high up.


IMG_1804Toilet wall and ceiling.

IMG_1802Walls in the toilet. The window opening has been boarded up, which will stop the neighbour’s cat Albus coming in, as he has been wont to do.


IMG_1811The view from the kitchen window.

IMG_1815Inspection team at the end of the day. We’re almost at the point where I will let them in to explore their expanding territory.