The ups and downs of renovating a house

…or two

Week 34: a table arrives

The new table has arrived and it’s gorgeous.  It’s a VERY dark brown (almost ebony) stained oak.  It fits so nicely in the space.  It’s a shame the chairs we ordered aren’t here as well (different company) but our current chairs will work perfectly fine.


What’s really cool about the table is that you can remove the two leafs on top and you get this…



Yes, it’s also a pool table.  And a nice one at that.  We ordered it few months ago and it was made for us, with our own specifications by Michael Allen Luxury Pool Tables.  We went to their showroom in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, a good hour and a half away.  So worth it.

Roy is very happy with the results and thinks that it’s a fab pool table.  It came with everything – we’ll be putting up the cue holder on one of the recessed walls, which will hold the four cues included.  We were also given the balls, triangle, brush and chalk.  It’s going to be a fabulous addition to the very social kitchen space.


Week 33: you take the good…

There are quite a few things going well in the house right now so I decided to post afterall.  The first is that we actually have a working dishwasher and it’s better than I knew it would be.  We have a Siemens IQ700 dishwasher and it has a few features that are wonderful (or just fun):

In the fun category…the blue light.

In the useful category – you can put down every single prong on this thing, so you could do some major pots, if you were so inclined.  You can also move the middle and upper levels so that you can give more space to the bottom or top.  There’s also an attachment so you can put in baking trays. And the top level?  It’s a cutlery space  Wild, eh?  (I know, middle age has hit me hard when I get excited about such things)

I’m also loving the washing machine and dryer.  The washing machine is also from Siemens and the dryer is from Bosch.  It’s an amazing thing to be able to wash and dry a few loads of laundry in one day.

For those of you not in the know (aka, haven’t lived in London), most people have their washing machines in their kitchens due to space considerations.  And many do not have dryers for the same reason.  Luckily, we have a little space where the new boiler went that fit the dryer.

One of the other things I put in that room is a special hanging rod that you can fold away unless you are using it.  So, I can take my husband’s shirts out of the dryer and hang them immediately. LESS IRONING!

The tap and sink are finally working/installed on the island.  It’ll be great for veg and quick hand washes.

Another welcome addition to the island (and I’m currently using this one) are plugs on the sides.  We had hoped they would be placed more “inside” the island but it just didn’t work out.  This is fine.  On one end we have a plug with USB ports and the other is just a normal outlet.

So, things are looking up. We have some external lights, our security system seems to be doing what it is meant to be doing and we recently had a visit from Sky who connected my mother-in-law’s box to the dish, so she’s happy.  Hopefully all the work will be finalised shortly.  Not much more to come.

Week 32: not yet…but the small things I love

We’re not quite done.  I know, it seems so long.  It has been.  But we have had some good stuff happen.  We now have a working fridge.  Yay!  No more “not working so well” mini-fridge.  We have curtains on two of the rooms and at least privacy sheers on the front of the house.  Barney is adapting to living here (even if the people coming to work on the house freak him out a lot). The bathroom we use is amazing, the living room comfortable, we just got our alarm system put in (feeling safer already) and I’m almost completely unpacked.  Unfortunately, the dishwasher has been found to be blown and our washing machine decided to take a walk the first time I used it, so I still wash dishes by hand (not a big deal) and have been going to the old house to do laundry (boo), though I get to bring it back to a dryer which is amazing (soft towels for the first time in 12-1/2 years).  Luckily, after writing this draft, they fixed the washing machine so I’ll be able to do it all here.  They are still working on the exterior.  And the front and back gardens are a mess.

I decided to take pics of my favourite things for now.  I’ll post, finally, when I take the video of everything done (probably before the back garden is finished but that’s okay).  And I’ll post where we purchased everything in case something strikes your fancy.

So, here they are…my favourite things:

You can't really get a good feel of it from this photo but it's gorgeous. Such a lovely mix of blacks, blues and greys with little flecks of light (mica?).

You can’t really get a good feel of it from this photo but it’s gorgeous granite on the kitchen counters.  Such a lovely mix of blacks, blues and greys with little flecks of light (mica?).


We have some lovely fireplaces but this is my favourite. It's so different from anything else I've ever seen.

We have some lovely fireplaces but this is my favourite. It’s so different from anything else I’ve ever seen.


Our bathroom makes me so happy. The light coming in from the windows brings me joy. The whole thing has come together really nicely.

Our bathroom makes me so happy. The light coming in from the windows brings me joy. The whole thing has come together really nicely.


The door handles are so different from what was here before. They are soft on the hand and look elegant. A perfect fit for the age of the home (1920s/30s).

The door handles are so different from what was here before. They are soft on the hand and look elegant. A perfect fit for the age of the home (1920s/30s).


The rug under our dining table. It's a great mix of colours from navy blue to teal to pink to green, etc. Brings a shot of colour to a room that is very light, white and pale grey.

The rug under our dining table. It’s a great mix of colours from navy blue to teal to pink to green, etc. Brings a shot of colour to a room that is very light, white and pale grey.


Another bit of colour in our kitchen. And SO COMFY!

Another bit of colour in our kitchen. And SO COMFY!


The herringbone pattern of our white subway tiles in the kitchen is classic but a bit different. Perfect for the shaker kitchen.

The herringbone pattern of our white subway tiles in the kitchen is classic but a bit different. Perfect for the shaker kitchen.


It's not perfect or gorgeous but it works perfectly for us. Our front entry has enough hooks for all our coats, places to put our sneaker/trainers and any winter items, as well as Barney's leads and collars. It works.

It’s not perfect or gorgeous but it works perfectly for us. Our front entry has enough hooks for all our coats, places to put our sneaker/trainers and any winter items, as well as Barney’s leads and collars. It works.


Being organised. Having the space to be organised. It's tough to bring together two households worth of items (my mother-in-law had a LOT that we got rid of and I had a LOT that I got rid of), so it's nice that we could get it all put together. You should see the cabinet with the five types of dal - all organised in labelled jars as I'd have no clue).

Being organised. Having the space to be organised. It’s tough to bring together two households worth of items (my mother-in-law had a LOT that we got rid of and I had a LOT that I got rid of), so it’s nice that we could get it all put together. You should see the cabinet with the five types of dal – all organised in labelled jars as I’d have no clue).

Week 29-1/2: We’re in, Problems and Joys

It’s been an interesting few weeks since last I wrote.  There have definitely been some serious ups and down.  2016 is turning out to be quite the year in so many ways.  I apologise as this is going to be a bit long.  If you just want pictures, scroll to the bottom.

On Dec 19 we had an appointment with the UK Power Networks.  They never showed up despite me staying at home and not showering, which was so frustrating.  They then said they’d come before 1pm on the 20th.  It had to be then for two reasons – I had an eye appointment and we were also meant to get our alarm in on the 20th.  Again, they didn’t show. Due to not having power, we were unable to have them put it in.  I was so peeved.  (And we’re not going to be able to get it down until some time in the new year, darn it.)  My husband and I then call bombed them until they basically got someone to show – around 8pm on the 20th. Yay!

And then, it all went horribly wrong.  The guy started testing things – and everything started to blow – you could hear cracks and pops.  He stopped.  I called my contractor.  He told the guy what he thought was wrong.  The guy checked it out and then called more guys in – eventually they showed up at around 10pm.  Yup, it was going to be a long night.  The same two guys who showed up initially and turned off our power were the ones who showed up again.  AND YES – they were the problem.  The work they did initially ruined our system.  So, they dug it up, changed things and at 2:30am, they were essentially done.  But we had to have an electrician in the next day to fix the internals.  Finally, we had electricity.  But we also had a hole at the side of the house.

At least having power meant we could move.  So, we moved on Friday, 23rd of December.  We had asked the contractor to make sure everything was turned on.  Problem.  The guys had blown the brand new fridge freezer, the dishwasher, the extractor fan as well as multiple lights.  We were worried about the electrical  underfloor heating in the bathroom, but it worked.  It kinda screwed up the fan in there, though.  We soldiered through.  And discovered that the sinks were not plumbed in and no one was available to come fix ’em up.  So, no washing dishes.  Paper plates and plastic forks it was.  Boo.  We also, unfortunately, discovered that the washing machine was not fully plumbed in after a minor floor in the kitchen – we caught it quickly.

Here’s a few pics from the move:

We took over one of the rooms for all the boxes in the kitchen as the guys were still doing some work when we arrived.


We put together a small front entry place to hang coats and place shoes (no shoes allowed in our house).  As you can see, more boxes, and an excitable Barney.


Our new living room with our old couches and chairs as well as a new coffee table.


The old kitchen table with a new rug.


A warm master bathroom!


Stools at the island.  They are a bit brighter than I expected (ordered online) but I love them as they are a good pop of colour and are very comfy.

We had a delivery from IKEA coming tomorrow as well as a guy from Samsung to check out our fridge.  We’ll be talking to the manufacturers of our extractor fan and dishwasher as well to see if this is covered under warranty.  If not, UK Power Networks are bound to pay for new appliances.  I can’t wait to have a fridge that works (other than my mother-in-law’s old, not so cold mini-fridge).

We also don’t have a phone line, internet or cable at this point, which is driving us both a bit crazy.  We got unlimited internet on our phones but we can only use up to 6GB of data porting to our computers (I’m at our old house as we still have internet there so I could upload the pics and write this post.) .  I hope we get all three very, very soon!

On the positive side, the contractor came today and plumbed in one of the sinks and the washing machine.  We have a working dryer (it wasn’t plugged in at the time of the electrical issue).  I can do laundry tomorrow and not have to hang it up!!!   I love quite a lot about the house – it’s so much more open and airy.  I love the granite we chose.  Barney is having fun playing chase around the entire ground floor. Our new bed and mattress is amazing (King size).  Our new bathroom is just about perfect.  And the house is warm.

Despite all the issues, I’m happy that the house is coming together and that we’re there.  Once things have fully settled and the work is entirely done, I’ll do a final video and pictures so you can see before and after.  I’ll also list where I bought everything and more about our contractor just in case you want any info.

Week 27: almost, but not quite

We’re so close.  So very close.  And yet, not quite there.

We planned to move on Monday, 19 December.  The flooring was meant to be done at least 8 days beforehand, so would have been “cured” perfectly well.  Even if everything wasn’t completed, we’d probably have electricity as well.  Now…who knows.

We arrived on Sunday morning to check out the floors on the ground floor.  While the colour is gorgeous, there were definitely some mistakes that have to be corrected.  I will not live with brush marks that are so distinct.


The week prior, I also noticed that the towel rack was placed, not over the toilet, but in the bathtub area.  So that had to be moved.  Luckily, it was and it’s fine.


On the positive side, the kitchen is looking good overall (still need to finish with tiling, move the extractor fan up and install the dryer), painting is pretty much done and we got our carpets in.  We’ll wait to see how the floors turn out, whether or not we get electricity turned back on and, we can hope that the weather gets nicer (it’s been rainy) so the outside of the house begins to dry so we can get the final coating of the render.



Edit: Just wanted to say that we have a move date – Dec 23rd.  So cross your fingers that the electricity turns on!


Week 25: more painting and electrical stuff

I passed on the paints to the guys on Friday, for them to do the work on Saturday and Sunday.  Here’s what we chose:

Dulux Trade (only paints we’ll use) Chiffon White 4 for the hallways and stairs:

It’s a good neutral which will go with both my mother-in-law’s vanilla based bedroom & bathroom colour, as well as the blues, greys and yellows we are using on the ground and first floor.

For the kitchen we’re using Dulux Trade Quartz Flint 4, a pale grey which will work with the cabinets:


And finally, the living room.  Yeah, we went for it. Bright blue.  It’s not as bright in person, painted as the tub of paint would make you think…but it’s still quite a lovely bright blue. Dulux Trade Royal Regatta 3:

Here is what it looks like in person with the new lights (chandelier and wall lights).

The kitchen and hallway/staircases haven’t been painted yet as they are still working on some plastering and prep work.

What has been done are a lot of the lights:

The entry/front hall light.  I wanted something that wasn’t too imposing but still was a bit different.

The shabby chic light in our guest bedroom (more off white than grey, unlike this pic).

I used the old living room light for the exercise/guest/tv room.

Our office light.

I’m going to hold off from sharing my bedroom lights mainly because the pics I took of them just weren’t great.  Next time you see the master bedroom, it’ll be fully finished.

A few bathroom details have been added, though neither my mother-in-law’s nor our master bathroom is fully finished.

My MIL’s bathroom – added the towel rack and mirrored cabinet.

Our lit mirror (which also has a demister).  It’s the same width as the cabinets which means I won’t have to share with my husband (yay!).

Our towel rack, which I love, love, love.  It is so different from anything else I saw out there.

And our shower…with an extra handset on the tub filler (which will make it easier to wash my hair while luxuriating in the tub).

We were meant to have our worktops in the kitchen put in, but there were a few issues that came up.  I’m hoping that we’ll be ready to get them by the end of the week.  We shall see.  We still have to have the ground floor waxed, which will take up two days of work and then need at least 2-4 days to dry enough to really do much on it.  We can’t move in until at least a week after this has happened.

Our carpet is scheduled to be put in on Dec 7 and we’d like to move in on Dec 16.  That’s only 2-1/2 weeks away.  Will it happen?  I’m guessing no.  I’d love to schedule the move but I’m just not ready to do it. Bah.

Week 24: little details and exterior

Possibly three weeks to go (hahahaha) until the work in the house will be done.  Nah.  Probably not.  But, we are hoping for pre-Christmas.  We’ve put off our holiday and Roy will be around to help me decorate.

I’ve started to search for specific items for within the house and we found the pendant lights we’ll use above the island.  My husband doesn’t like most of my entry way (front hall) light suggestions as he sees them as outdoor lights, so I’m trying to come up with a compromise.  What do you think of those below?


We’ve begun to figure out what we’re doing for our kitchen/dining table.  My husband has researched something a bit different – a pool table which can become a dining table. Very different.  He actually found one I like.  So we’re considering it.  We measured the space and there should be enough for a small table (6′ by 3′) which will have a table top along with the pool table bit.  We’re still trying to figure out the exact colour of the wood as well as what sort of chairs, but my husband would prefer fabric covered chairs, so I think we’ll go with it.

We have definitely found the stool we’ll use for our island (we’ll get 4):

The colour will work well with our island pendants (gives you a hint as to what they’ll look like) plus they are adjustable.

Some of the small changes around the house…

The exteriors of houses in London are quite different from what I was used to in the States.  The house I grew up with had vinyl siding, some of the houses nearby had wood siding and some in the cities I lived where brick. But NONE had pebble dashing.  What is that?

Also known as roughcast, pebble dashing is a coarse plaster surface used on outside walls that consists of lime, and sometimes cement mixed with other items.[1] The materials are mixed into a slurry and are then thrown at the working surface with a trowel or scoop. The idea is to maintain an even spread, free from lumps, ridges or runs and without missing any background.  It was used a lot in the 1920 and 1930s as it was easy to do and didn’t need a lot of skill (due to WWI there were a lot of skill sets missing).  It also lasted a very long time and was cheap.  I think it’s SUPER ugly.  Below is an example similar to our house:

Ours was damaged with all the house work so we’re getting new rendering.  What you can see in the pics above is the insulation that is under the render.  We’re using K-Rend, which is a silicone product that goes over insulation.  We’re doing exterior insulation as the walls could not be insulated (typically houses built in a similar era had cavity walls – this type of house does not, so cannot be internally insulated) and then the render will be put on top.  We chose a grey (granite) which is a medium grey colour. As we live on a busy street in London, the exhaust tends to colour lighter coloured houses, making them look dirty.  We’re hoping that this colour will help.

The electrics (plugs, switches, etc) are slowly being put in place. I really like what I selected, which is a brushed steel.  We also have the new underfloor heating thermostat in place for our master bathroom – yay!

So, what’s coming up this week? I’m expecting that the rest of the electrics will be put in, that the lights on the 1st and 2nd floors will be installed (other than the hallway), and that they’ll begin to paint the halls and staircase walls.  I know they are doing the rest of the prep work for the walls in the kitchen and living room, so may get to painting those as well.  We’ll see.

On Tuesday, we’re having a guy come to quote for the carpet on the staircases, 1st floor hallway, 2nd floor bedroom and the office.  We have carpet for the other bedrooms, so we’ll get a quote for re-instillation. We went to pick out the carpets this weekend with my mother-in-law who approved the colours.  We’re doing a champagne colour on the 2nd floor (mother-in-law’s room) which hopefully will go with the vanilla yellow walls, a pale grey in the office (to go with the denim blue) and an ash colour for the stairs/hallway – similar to this (in colour & style) which is a good neutral:


We selected our beds and mattresses.  I have to say that our favourite bed company is the Original Bedstead Co.  We already own several of their beds.  We are getting a super king for ourselves and a twin/single for my mother-in-law (it’s what she wants).  We also own the Arran bed in chrome and the Virginia in satin white.  Fabulous!  Here’s what we’re getting:

Mother-in-law’s bed.

Our bed

Week 23: coming together?

Yup, I skipped a week.  There really wasn’t much to see, though stuff was getting done.  So I decided to wait a week and show you better what has happened.

On the downside: I arrived on Friday to meet up with the guys doing the template for the worktops and found water coming through the ceiling.  The guys working there don’t have fabulous English so I couldn’t understand what happened.  But it definitely means that I’ll be making them take down the plasterboard there as I don’t want mould.  The worst part – it was coming through the hole made for one of the lights and dripping down wires.  Yeah, safe.  Luckily, not connected.  In addition, we still don’t have electricity.  Oh, well.

UPDATE: saw our contractor yesterday.  He had heard nothing about it so I’m glad that I was there.  He’s going to be investigating and, yes, he will definitely remove all the bad plaster, etc.

On the upside: painting has continued, switches have begun to be put in, lighting has arrived, sanding of the floors has been achieved and we had the guys in to do the measurements for the granite.  The kitchen still has a lot of work to yet be done but it’s moving forward.  Lots of pictures!

Lots of lights (there are more!) and switches and plugs

The navy of the master bedroom

Master bathroom blue

Newly painted feature fireplace in mother-in-law’s bedroom

The template being measured


A few pics from the template

The big sink

Handles on the kitchen drawers and cabinets

Newly sanded oak floors

The mess that still exists on the 1st floor (2nd floor for those Americans reading)

It’s very exciting that things are moving forward.  I really can’t wait for it to finish!


Week 21 – ups and downs this week

So much going on.  So much.  Which, I guess, is the norm as you get to the end of a renovation project.  Some of it was planned, some of it was not so planned and we had one emergency.  I apologise ahead of time because this will probably be a very long post full of lots of words as well as pictures.

First, the “emergency”. We no longer have a fence between ourselves and our neighbours.  They needed to bring a digger in to make a hole for their concrete base (side extension).  The digger did two things – knocked over our concrete posts (which they’ll have to replace) and cut through the electrical wire which comes to both of our houses.  So, we got an emergency call at 9pm about this.  The electrical company found a problem with our electricity while fixing this cut and so, took away our electricity.  Yup, our renovation is without electricity until our contractor can produce an electrical certificate.  Now – the electricity was only connected to an extension cord at the time, so any fault is not in the wires in our house (they are not connected).  We’re not sure where a fault might be coming from unless it’s from the base unit or from the wiring coming into the house.  Yikes.  Expensive.  In addition, the contractor is not in a position to provide an electrical certificate for at least 2-3 weeks (as he’d have to install all the outlets/lights, etc and test them before he could get a certificate).  So, my contractor is going to have to bring a generator to supply the guys with electricity.  Boo.

Another thing that has made life a bit difficult is that it seems as if the guys have lost some stuff – they couldn’t find the legs to our range cooker, the specialist bathroom recessed lights and some screws necessary to put the kitchen together (as well as instructions in how to put it all together).  I know our contractor is a bit pissed off at them for not being more organised (he stops by but he’s not there all the time).  I’m not paying for anything they can’t find.

On the positive side, our flooring is in.  They will still have to sand and wax it, but it looks good.  I like the pattern they used (from what I can see so far).  A lot of the painting has happened.  And they have begun to put our kitchen together.  It will happen.  It will all come together.

And now, the pics (with a few words):


Our current house is being over-run with boxes.  We have ordered lights, switches and plugs for the first and second floors (ground floor will be another time).

Finishing work on the plastering.

Our sliding doors have been installed – the bottom roller still needs to be applied and it needs handles (which we’ve purchased) but I like them.  They will provide light straight through as well as a sound/smell barrier between the living room and kitchen.

The kitchen furniture and appliances are finally being put in place.  It really allows us to see how much space as well as storage in the new kitchen.  It’s going to be amazing.

As you can see, the kitchen furniture is on its way to being placed and fixed.  Guess they figured out how to do it and found screws. They didn’t seem to find the legs for the oven though…boo!

One of the guest bedrooms after one coat of paint – the fireplace will be repainted.

The other guest bedroom – this fireplace will also be painted.  Neither fireplace will work – only decorative.

First coat on the master bedroom.

We’re looking forward to seeing continued work on the kitchen, more painting, etc.  It’s so exciting to see if all coming together despite the various setbacks.

Week 20: painting & flooring

It’s starting to get exciting!  Our contractor has finished laying down the underfloor heating.  It’s so much better than the system we have in our current house.  And it was much more thoughtfully planned out than in our house.  I can’t wait to feel it under my feet as I stand at the stove cooking and while washing dishes. He has also had the guys begin the lay down the wood flooring.  It looks great and it hasn’t yet been sanded or waxed. Here’s a video of the work that has been done.

The Youtube Video link

In addition, they’ve begun the painting process and have finished up the tiling in the bathroom (though I had to order more grout and a few finishing bits.

It’s a bit dark (rainy) so you can’t really see how fabulous this blue is in the office.  It’ll make for a relaxing space for my counselling and when my husband works at home.  It’s only the first coat but still looks fabulous so looking forward to seeing what it’s like after a second coat.

My mother-in-law’s bedroom.  The colour is a bit of a vanilla white (slight yellowish tint).  It’s quite lovely and her style.  The fireplace has been primed and will be painted black.

The doorway is ready for the sliding door!

All of the paint we’re using is Dulux Trade Diamond Matt paint (except our bedroom).  The exact colour used in my mother-in-law’s room is Jasmine White.  The colour we’re using in the office is Sea Blue.

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