Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A Dining Room Christmas ... and a Happy Year as a Living Room ..

We finally used our lovely new dining room, christening it with "Dinner for 13" on Christmas Day ... In the festive mayhem, we forgot to get photos of it set for 13, but here it is looking splendid a couple of days later anyway...

It made quite a nice bedroom, but we are pleased it got to be a formal dining room, albeit briefly, as imminently, it will be filled with couches .. and just for a month or two, it will be our living room... as we renovate major room number 2 .. the living room ... stay tuned.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Tale of 2 Staircases ..

How did it get to be nearly the end of November!

We had a mad October, getting the "Dining Room" finished (unfortunately the dining room now looks suspiciously like a Bedroom - My folks are visiting from New Zealand so we have had to take it over temporarily!)

After a couple of mini makeovers of the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms, we had to get the place "straight" for my folks arrival, but we're off again making a complete mess now and on a mission to get the hallways sorted before Christmas.

We always knew that "Fairlea" was one whole house when it was built, but subsequently the ground floor was made into a separate basement flat .. the old staircase was ripped out and a bathroom built in the downstairs hallway (circa mid 1960s) and then some 20 years later (definitely after 1983 as we have a plan showing the basement flat this year) the basement flat was opened back up and a staircase reinstated (complete with bog standard square spindles .. none of the hand turned ones like the next staircase up) ...

We always had imagined the staircases were in the same place though .. but the evidence after the yellow wallpaper had been stripped away suggests the stair has moved backwards somewhat in the newer version!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Undoubtedly what Van Gogh would have used .. had he been ..

.. a painter and decorator .. These brushes are genius ...

Dulux say these brushes are great because of the "special split bristle tips which minimise marking to give a smooth even finish" (my sash window frames agree) .. but I say "it's because I never have to find the screwdriver" .. each brush has its own built in tin opener ... that what's they should have done years ago.

Times have changed .. it used to be a new outfit and a night out that made me happy - now it's some paintbrushes like these. Or I  can say is "Get some".

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The 1960s have all gone now ...

When the plumbers left having relocated our boiler from the dining room to the loft room; and the very inefficient  hot water tank  (it leaked heat like a cat without fur) from our tiny family bathroom also to the loft room ... we were able to remove the rather hideous slatted cupboard that once contained the hot water tank and make some space ...

Inside the rather dire cupboard was a little slice of 1963 ..

Isn't it just gorgeous! Unfortunately it's had to go .. but here it is for everyone to see, admire and start singing those 1960s song to!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Coat of many varnishes!

4 coats down .. 1 coat to go.

Here is the shiny new floor in the dining room at "Fairlea" .. It's amazing .. the floor that was languishing under an old green carpet that smelt suspiciously of cats wee! Here it is, in all its glory:

Can't wait until the skirting boards are in and that lovely fireplace finds its home at last!

Friday, 8 October 2010

"Fairlea" Nice Floorboards!

Having spent the last 2 weekends painting, and with "Dining room Dave" back this week putting up the picture rail and coving and starting the sanding .. this is what our dining room looks like now:

Transplanting some pieces of architrave from other areas of the house (that will eventually be changed anyway) Dave has mended the "wounded" windows so they are complete once more:

I didn't want "standard" modern coving, but something more in keeping with the house. We got some small Victorian cornice from Bonds Plaster Mouldings. It looks lovely, but as Dave soon found out, is extremely fragile, heavy and much more difficult to fit than the likes of the more modern coving from places such as B and Q and Homebase! Still ... it's up now, a bit of filling and a final top coat and it will look lovely.

Possibly the room never had a picture rail originally, but we think that it helps balance the rooms proportions and adds interest. We have used Dulux Chalky Downs 4 for the wall above the picture rail (and it will be used for the skirtings also) and Dulux subtle Ivory 1 from their Taylor Made Colour Range

Because of the line of windows, a mass of curtains, especially when pulled back could look "busy". The current plan is to join in on the current trend for roman blinds and this fabric is planned - rattan linen from 247 Blinds.

Dining Room Dave should finish the sanding today and then there is the small matter of the 2 lines of adhesive that even the hardest grade of sandpaper won't remove! It's either old lino glue or double-sided carpet tape. Have checked out many sites and people have suggested all manner of ways to remove this stuff .. from heat guns to peanut butter! Going to start by seeing what our local Crowborough hardware supplier T and T have in the way of off-the-shelf adhesive removers. Will let you know what gets it off!

Then there is at least a weekend of varnishing ahead. Planning on using Ronseal Diamond Hard Floor varnish and at least 4 coats. As with any DIY project, there is still a multitude of little jobs left to finish, but there is "light at the end of the dining room" .. and yes, it's probably coming through those old sash windows now that the room is "loved again" ...

This level of mess (thankfully) seems a while ago now ... for this room at least. (One room nearly down, only another 7 rooms, 3 hallways, 1 porch and a garden landscaping to go!!)

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Chocolate Teapot ..

The dining room is looking smart in its coat of new paint. And yesterday, when out at the local and extensive (I am being sarcastic) selection of local Crowborough shops .. I found my first "new old" item that simply had to be purchased for display when the room is finally finished.

Some weeks ago ... in the charity furniture shop .. when my face connected with its face, it was love at first sight. It looked at me and I looked back and I told it ... "I am going to have you for my new dining room". However then came the price tag ...£30 .. in other words ..  a 5 litre tin of Dulux Endurance (special mixed colour ivory cream 4) or .. 3 metres of reclaimed floorboards from Ajeer ... or enough slate look tiles, some grey grout and tile adhesive (from Pentagon tiles - Crowborough) to tile round the fireplace .

But then came the reduction and at half price, I resisted its stern expressions for several more visits. Until yesterday when it leapt into my possession and I found I had parted with £15 for it. What more could you want, a clock that neither ticks not chimes (yet).

This is my very own chocolate teapot - but I love it dearly!

Friday, 1 October 2010

The problem with chimneys ..

Is that these days we're not using them!

It's only October and it's raining again. There are damp spots appearing randomly on the third floor chimney breasts. But what do we do. It isn't that wet, it's just damp .. as soon as we have some sunny days, they dry out again. So far the second floors are "okay" .. that's kind of good, because I just under coated the dining room walls!

One of the chimney breasts in the ground (partly underground) floor is dry as a bone, the other one we're not sure. But there is no evidence of damp spots in the chimney breasts in the loft (as yet, but maybe we need to get all the old thick plasterboard off?)

The roofing contractor said the chimneys needed re-pointing. Others have said the pointing is in fine order and it certainly looks okay to me. Our neighbour, who repointed his chimneys himself a little while back, said that his pointing was in much worse order than ours looks to currently be and there wasn't much damp, even after the repointing, their master bedroom chimney breast still gets damps spots after rain.

The problem with chimneys is that there is much that could be wrong .. the capping (all of ours but the one "in use" has been capped) .. the flashing ... the damp course inside the chimney itself is shot .. and there could of course be the one obvious point .. these chimneys were designed to support fireplaces that got used regularly .. and these days .. we seldom do. So they never get to dry out.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

A fireplace is the heart of a house ..

When we moved in, I started scouring the web and some local reclamation yards for a fireplace for what will become our new dining room.

Although this site is good and listed many reclamation yards in our area that stocked Victorian, Edwardian and even Georgian fireplaces ..  http://www.salvoweb.com/ .. the bargain of the century was to be had at a great little antiques shop in Heathfield, East Sussex called Toad Hall Antiques. 

I would add a link to their website - but they don't have one (we obviously need to design and build one for them!) .. here are their details though http://www.heathfield.net/listings/antique-dealers/east-sussex/haeathfield/toad-hall/15

We bought a much plainer reclaimed fireplace from them before when we renovated our 2 bedroom Victorian terrace in Brighton. I was initially skeptical assuming an "antiques shop" would be more expensive than a reclamation yard, but in the case of this lovely little shop at least, I was wrong! It's a shame, but what I found about the reclamation yards is that they are overpriced on items like Victorian fireplaces (and I am sure that this is due to the recent rush of renovation shows on TV singing the praises of your local reclamation yard!) Fireplaces with broken and missing hand painted tiles were stacked up in one yard with price tags around the £400 on them.

Where as "this little beauty" I found on a ramble to to Toad Hall Antiques - a steal at £245 for the reclaimed Victorian insert and around £180 for the new surround which is made to size. Within 2 weeks our fireplace arrived at "Fairlea" .. it's just a shame that we haven't quite finished the dining room yet ...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A 1919 half penny under the floorboards

It's been a while since I wrote.

There's a reason why ... mainly to do with the amount of time that life and our new dining room - the first room to be "attacked" - demands on time!

Thanks to "our mate Dave" .. now fondly known as "Dining Room Dave" .. the walls have been replastered, the missing bits of architrave and window ledges have been lovingly replaced and the "poor old room" is starting to shine under the love that is being bestowed on it.

No skeletons under these old floor boards, just a 1919 half penny ... which although in mint condition would be worth £35 - is sadly not - so only worth about £2! However it's an attachment with the past and nice to wonder whose pocket it fell out of .. all those years ago ...

"Our new dining room" started life as a humble kitchen in 1900 .. or 1905, or whenever this beast of a house was actually built (more to come on that subject later) .. but for a long long time, it's been a room that had a kitchen ripped out and then was never properly sorted. So tiles lurked under wallpaper and bits of missing skirting had been replaced with non-matching bits of skirting, and room proportions that demand some coving - had none ... and generally the room was forlorn and unloved .

You could see the evidence of where the old kitchen was in the 1960s and 70s .. our lovely sash windows had had their frames hacked out to fit in kitchen cupboards:

This one had the window board removed and I found some lovely old laminate under the layer of tiles ... (common misconception - the outside of the window is the window sill, the inside is the window board!)

With the carpet up and our intention to sand and varnish the old boards, we have had to take out the poor old smashed up old hearth ...

We have a 16 foot x 12 foot room now, but here you can quite clearly see where the scullery end of the kitchen was originally. In fact the other half of our semi - the neighbours house still has the room divided ... You can also see the original laquer stain, the Victorians used in the "range end of the kitchen room". This would have had a mat in the centre and is likely to be the very first floor covering the house ever had.

We're a way to go yet. The room needs its lovely coving, picture rail and skirting. "Dining room Dave" is laying slate tiles around the fireplace - our pride and joy - a reclaimed Victorian fireplace (fireplace post to come!) and I need to finish painting. The floor will then get sanded and then we start the varnishing ..

Sunday, 1 August 2010

When is a loft conversion not a loft conversion ..

We had huge problems when we recently purchased our Victorian house - was it a 3 bedroom or 4 bedroom? According to the vendors all the agents who had valued the house were happy to sell it as a 4 bedroom, even though the top floor is open plan with no door so doesn't comply with current fire regulations! The vendors had also never bothered to check out the way the room was "constructed" to see if it would comply with today's (admittedly rigorous) building regulations.

Days before we were due to exchange, our bank surveyor decided to revalue the property from a 4 bedroom to a 3 bedroom and decree the property much smaller for loosing its loft space floor footage. Despite the surveyor having actually visited the property himself, it wasn't until he sighted the structural engineers report (that we had actually commissioned for our own peace of mind), that he had a panic attack and revalued it, causing us much inconvenience and rearranging of mortgage arrangements right at the last minute!

Be all of that as it may .. now that we are actually living in the property we have invited some master builders round to appraise the level of work required to meet the structural engineers recommendations to bring the space "up to scratch".

One of them took a look at the floor joists (being thicker than would have been originally) and pointed out also, above the newer larger U PVC window there were a row of vertical bricks indicating that there was originally a small window there, a little odd to bother to put a window in a loft ...

The space itself is also huge. One just "feels" that it would have been intended for accommodation originally. Especially in our house that was built for tenants and lodgers, why not utilise that extra space?

This builder also told us that if we could prove it was originally intended for accommodation, then the issues of it having been "a conversion" go away. The original deeds or better still maybe, the original plans would show this.

Away I went chasing firstly our solicitors, then our lenders in hot pursuit of our original deeds. Having drawn blanks from both these sources, I went directly to the land registry, and learnt something ...

Original Deeds are being destroyed one-by-one .. as the land registry record anything considered pertinent (and from what I can see this just means "of legal interest" - ie a right of way through the property or such") so these are added onto the "new deeds" for every property, and the original older deeds (all dusty and on parchment and just lovely) are not kept, they're chucking them out!

 All that is being kept is 3 documents (see the land registry for a list of the documents) But the romance is gone! Our deeds are unfortunately in that category, the Land Registry informed me that our house was recorded in 1983, so the chances of the old documents surviving were zero. Had they been recorded recently, they may have still held them.

So with the old deeds officially "dust", I am chasing the builders plans. Last count, our local council doesn't hold them. It's off to the East Sussex Records Office for me, as soon as it practicable, to see if these documents still exist.

And the other part of the puzzle lies with the other half of our semi-detached ... Maybe our neighbours will know something!

My Victorian House? Or is it ...

Oh dear ..

We may have to change our blog name and only 3 posts in! And all, thanks to the image below:

Which we found on the very interesting website of the Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex which has a wealth of old postcards and photographs of villages and towns of the Weald. The photograph (see the original on the Wealds site) was a postcard photographed by A.H. Homewood of Burgess Hill in 1907.

However ... there is one major problem with the image above. Our house, reputedly built in 1900 is not in it! It takes some studying as one cannot replicate the lens or equipment of A.H. Homewood with a modern digital SLR camera, but after much studying and hoping that the house would somehow materialise, we have faced the fact that .. it isn't there:

If you look at the first high chimney on the right hand side and look above to Homewood's photograph, you can see the same tall chimneys, but right behind it where the solid smaller chimney and plain red brick frontage of "Our Victorian House" should be, it's just thin air.

Determined to validate all sources, we on the case of seeing if we can establish 1907 is a publication date, perhaps Homewood took the picture several years before? We're also on the case of finding the original building plans, which should give us a build date.

Stay tuned, we might relocating shortly to ... myedwardianhouse.co.uk. But we will still be online with renovating tales, even if it is for a (somewhat) newer house.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A Tale of Several Wallpapers ..

So began the task of stripping the "dining room" .. When the house was built in 1900 until (probably) the early 1980's our dining room was the kitchen. I am not sure who thought it would be "okay" to wallpaper over the entire wall of tiles and think it would look acceptable! However it did provide me with an interesting afternoon removing said tiles and finding 3 or 4 layers of wallpaper on top and several layers underneath!

On top we had a fairly plain anaglypta wallpaper dating from the early 1990s (I think) and this had been originally white, then mint green and finally a rather "miserable mushroom colour".

In the mess of wet wallpaper, it's hard to be entirely accurate, but under that it seemed we had a plain white with small flowers on, some inspiring 1960s print full of bunches of grapes and glasses and carafes of wine! It was a shame not to have been able to get any of this one off in one piece, but here it is in situ ...

The tiles were so laden with layers of paint, it's a wonder they even stayed on the wall, but here you can see them in their full and glorious 1970s brown!

And I discovered the room had been split into two, with what would have been a scullery becoming the small kitchen area later and the other end containing a range and space for a large table. The scullery end right back under the wallpapers and tiles was originally a deep maroon red and the other end a dark green.

In a cupboard next to where the old range once stood was some lovely almost "oriental" style wallpaper. I have no idea how to date this .. maybe the 1940s?

And before I finished stripping this room back completely, I found these "2 lovelys":

So many layers of pattern hidden in the dark for so long!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Something special about an old house ..

Although a 110 year old house is not really considered "old" in the United Kingdom (my in laws live in a 600 year old house and the "new wing" was built 400 years ago!) There is still something special about being able to live in an older property. My husband dragged me round to view several 1990s builds and gave up after seeing me utterly fail to get in the least bit excited about any of them! And then we found "Fairlea" and after a long and arduous struggle with trying to buy it (discounts for the new damp course, discounts for the lack of a proper loft conversion etc etc!) we finally moved in about 6 weeks ago!

Now it begins ... Renovation and research and all the time pondering who might have lived here over the past 110 years, what the house was like when it was built, and if we might find something interesting under the floorboards, or under the wallpaper as we start to make it the stunning house it deserves to be ...

It's a fairly plain and solid "old beast of a house". We asked our solicitors if the previous owners had handed over any of the old papers and we were delighted when she sent us what she had, in the post. We discovered more about the reason for it's plain and solid exterior and why it has been largely unloved. It was built by the landlord of this block of land to accommodate tenants and until the late 1970s was only ever occupied by tenants.

It had also had it's ground floor converted into a flat in the early 1970s and was then knocked back into one house sometime later ... and we're cursing that the original Victorian spindles and yule posts for the entire house weren't kept as now we have a mixture of old and new .. testament to it's splitting and rejoining!

Anyway, the dining room is the first to be sorted out ... As this used to be the old kitchen, it's a mish-mash of tiles and wallpaper and even a wall, that has been tiled and then wallpapered! Stay tuned for my post on a century of wallpaper design! Or "what I found" under the first layer ..