Sunday, 18 May 2014

Before and After

Steve surprised me by taking some snaps at the same angle as previous pics and placing them side by side with the original image.

It shows some progress for sure!

Living Room:

Spare Room

Top flight of stairs:

Bathroom (originally cloakroom plus bathroom):

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Kitchen Overhaul Part 3- Worktops

As detailed in my previous posts, my inspiration for the kitchen was taken from bespoke cabinetry with a elegant, traditional aesthetic.

From the moment the kitchen design was formed, I had a clear idea of the overall look right down to the worktops. Having looked to websites such as Houzz to compile design ideas, it became clear that kitchens are something the Americans do well.

Whilst some American kitchens can be very bling and OTT, the prevalent design trends coming from across the pond seemed to be big, bold and elegant. And there was one material being used again and again in kitchens and bathrooms to superb effect- marble. 

With the units having come together so well, complete with hardware and the traditional french gray paint finish, I couldn't think of any better way to complete the kitchen than with crisp white marble counter tops. So I set about trying to source some classic Carrera marble for the worktops- couldn't be too difficult, right?

On the contrary, my marble quest turned into a giant headache. Since marble isn't normally recommended for worktops due to it being a relatively soft and porous stone, nearly every single supplier tried to disuade me from using it. I'd say 'I'm looking for marble for use in my kitchen' and be met with, 'Oh no, you don't want marble'. Well yes I did actually- hence the enquiry. And yet dozens of suppliers seems to down right object to the thought of taking my money. Even once I'd explained that I understood the risks of marble as a surface and was happy to go ahead with no liability for staining or damage. Nope- brick wall. What happened to the customer being right?!

Unfortunately to add to my troubles, suppliers down south, where the installation of marble worktops is not considered quite so alien, couldn't deliver to me due to the distances involved. I found a couple of local Glasgow firms- one of which was nigh on useless at keeping us updated as to their marble deliveries and the otter who quoted an exhorbitant sum, well over twice as much as other companies who'd quoted.

I thought I'd finally cracked if when I spoke to a lovely firm in Cumbria, with a knowledgable owner, reasonable quote and who have me great advice. Unfortunately the Carrara which was available from their supplier didn't pass the test. After all the headaches, I hadn't factored on the stone itself not meeting with my approval.

Here is an example of the slabs I was shown. This was one of the 'better' ones:

This one might pass muster for some people but although it's highly patterned, I couldn't get over the 'drip' like effect. What I really wanted was very highly veined and patterned marble that had a good amount of grey veining and almost a striped quality. Perfectionist? Yup, definitely.

This example found on an American design blog was much more the look I wanted, soft but highly patterned which, in my opinion is how Carrara should be:

Finally fate shone down on me and I found the details of an Edinburgh firm. They quoted a good price, allowed me to view the stone and confirm my acceptance of it prior to cutting and within 4 weeks the worktops were fitted without a hitch. I requested a honed, rather than polished finish and could not be more happy with the outcome.

I'll take some pics in daylight to show it off properly.

Kitchen Overhaul Part 1

We're currently undertaking a DIY project on the kitchen which hopefully will make a big difference. However, I won't be able to reveal it to you until I reveal the kitchen transformation to date!

 Let's remind ourselves what the kitchen started out looking like before we did anything:

There were no integrated units in the kitchen at all (aside from the sink area- though calling this integrated is a stretch). It was mainly just odd bits of furniture- if you wanted to politely embellish one might call it a 'freestanding' kitchen. Ultimately, since an old lady lived here before us and we knew the work required, I pass no judgement, we just knew we'd need to start again.

In the interim, before the builders moved on to the kitchen and studio, I tried my best to work with the kitchen space and make it feel as habitable as possible. This mainly consisted of stripping layers and layers of wallpaper and vinyl stuck to the walls. Yes, that's right, vinyl. There were also some fairly nasty carpet tiles and since carpet in the kitchen doesn't float my boat, the flooring was ripped up too.

Here is my attempt at a, shall we say, 'bohemian' freestanding kitchen. You can see bits of vinyl behind the toaster. All very classy.

The sideboard was a Salvation Army find which I attacked with some Farrow & Ball and used to store all our pots and pans. The IKEA bookcase/cabinet we already had and housed our glassware etc for a period. The wallpaper had a Liberty print feel so I just left it to cheer the place up a bit. Or at least that's how I recall it, we likely just got fed up of stripping the walls and couldn't be bothered. But flowers make everything look better so just look at the pretty flowers and ignore the rest.

Obviously, as with the majority of this project, things had to get worse before they got better. Cue, demolition of the wall separating the kitchen and Studio to create a large opening.

Fun right? The mounds of rubble were the best- it was almost apocalyptic.

You'll see there was originally a sort of built in cupboard/larder shelving within which the washing machine was housed. Whilst built in storage is sensible, the configuration was odd and not hugely practical. So we decided to rip this out too and house the boiler in this location.

Here is what the kitchen looked like once mostly stripped out:

We had the joiners create a facing round the opening to mirror the existing door surrounds.

Bathroom/Cloakroom Transformation

The main bathroom in this property was a fairly unique space when we moved in and one that for many months I shared an extreme love/hate relationship with.

Bearing in mind our complete lack of heating/general warmth of any kind;

The Good

The bathroom had a fairly modern electric shower installed. In a house without gas central heating, this electric shower was like some glorious temptress, delivering delicious hot water to our shivering bones morning, noon or night. I kid you not, this shower was the saviour which countered our -clearly very foolish decision- to move into the property whilst having work done around us. Had it not been for this shower keeping us warm without heating, I feel quite sure that Steve and I would have come to blows!

The Bad

The shower was located over an original cast iron bath. One which had a drainage problem, as in, it pretty much just didn't drain. At all... So, despite the temptation to hop in the shower, bolt the door and live it up sauna style in the galley bathroom, our showers were pretty much limited to a timer of how long one could tolerate the bath filling gradually beneath your feet/calves/knees. Is this too much information? I feel you need a vivid picture painted of the utter grimness of this. Coupled with the dodgy bath, the rest of the fixtures and fittings basically hadn't been touched at all. Possibly ever. I exaggerate- the majority hadn't been touched in maybe 60 years- because that's so much better...

Oh, and did I mention the mural? I seem to have failed to get photographic evidence of this which is a catastrophe really. There was a wallpaper mural created by the previous resident using at least ten different types of patterned water and depicting a scene of heaven, the sun, sky, sea and earth all on one bathroom wall.

 Don't get me wrong, it's fairly incredible, we were pretty impressed. But it's not your normal bathroom feature really, is it? We almost felt a bit sad that someone had covered it with tiles to install the shower. I mean imagine how long it must have taken. To create the sea, earth and sky out of wallpaper! I bow down to this level of commitment to one's art.

Here is the bathroom before:

And the adjacent cloakroom/former junk cupboard with the green door. Original bathroom door to the right:


The bathroom was in a really pretty grim state when we found it so some time was spent trying to make it less gross. Steve got the honour of replacing the toilet seat and ripping up the carpet tiles/lino. I've put in some seriously hard graft and become covered head to toe in dirt and grime during this project but I draw a line at certain jobs which is why my darling Steve is such a hero, taking one for the team.

I focussed on tasks such as wallpaper stripping with some surprising results. Tasteful Fornasetti style paper striped back to reveal horrors beneath.

Not much more you can say about that really... Here are some shots of the bathroom once the strip out had started- not a pretty sight! You can see the original bathroom wall on the far left of the photo, the galley cupboard was on the other side of this. The wall was knocked through to create one larger space and steel beam installed to support.

This is the kind of look I had in mind as inspiration for the revamped space. I love the classic colours and elegant, traditional detailing which I thought would be fitting for our Victorian home:

I particularly liked the used of moulding here and the border detailing on the marble floor. Unfortunately our space wasn't large enough to really justify a border but these spaces provided useful inspiration nonetheless.

Here are some in progress shots of the space taking shape:

Once knocked through- big improvement!

I sourced a wet room style shower tray on ebay which was used in creating the giant recessed shower.

The freestanding cast iron bath was a Gumtree find. £100 and originally from Heritage Bathrooms. When we purchased it the colors were baby blue with gold painted feet so I repainted it myself to update the look.
More marble- Statuario this time!

Here you can see some photos of the bathroom fully fitted, tiled and decorated. Unfortunately we don't yet have window treatments or finishing touches such as a towel rail but you get the idea:

The vanity unit with lavastone sink is Fired Earth as is the WC. Unbelievably, I managed to source the Fired Earth unit and sink seperately both ex display. The sink taps are Catchpole & Rye and bath taps Perrin & Rowe, both via ebay.

It's not finished but we are getting there!