Monday, 19 September 2011

A "Fairlea" lovely oak cabinet ...

I fell in love recently, but my husband knows all about it (when it comes to any sort of antiques, he really is "long-suffering"!)

Visiting a high quality charity shop in Uckfield (St Peters and St James Hospice Shop) that specialises in furniture, my eyes connected with an oak 1930s sideboard, which I later discovered may have begun life as a drinks cabinet. I know it's probably not everybody's "cup of tea" (or "dry martini" or "whisky sour" either) but as soon as I saw it, it was destined for the dining room at "Fairlea". It wouldn't look right in any modern house, but its definitely found its place here, right down to the fact that the wooden cutlery canteen which we inherited from Rik's gran looks like it was "made to live" on top of it!

Considering the cabinet is probably around 80 years old, there's not a scratch on it, and it's got a lovely metal bottle holder in the right hand side:

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

When is a wall a door? When it's going to be a window of course!

Once upon a time (yesterday) we had a wall.
And then (with a little bit of effort,) we found the "secret door" 
(buried under the decoration for 25 years or so ...)
And then, after the nice men from crittall installations came and went,
we had a lovely new sash window ...
And another new sash to keep it company!

You can see that the new sashes live in perfect harmony with the old ones!
All "the glory" of their Victorian counterparts, with ease of opening, ease of cleaning, and no need for continuous painting!

Of course there is still a little brickwork required!
(And a remaining thin slice of wall from the old porch to be removed.)
But that's a job for this afternoon ... Then phase 1 of "Operation Brand New Kitchen" will be completed.

Now where's that sledge hammer? There's a few walls to come tumbling down ...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The day the old porch came down!!


It's gone! We have been having a break in renovations of late, due to family weddings and busy work schedules, but with the new sash windows now on order, time had come to remove the old beast from the back of the house.

We already removed the old glass panes last weekend, so the rest .. as you can see from this video .. was easy .. it only took a few minutes!

The porch, which was added in the late 1960s, used to be the entrance for the downstairs flat. When Fairlea became one house again, some time in the 1980s, the old door was (badly) boarded up and the old porch became a shed! But it's time had come! It practically fell down, (with our help!)

Now, we can see the full width of the back of our lower ground floor for the first time, and we can see that this old porch door was indeed the ORIGINAL old doorway (evidenced by the original low lintel) .. so we are now even more confused as you can see that a door on the opposite side has also been bricked up sometime in the past! How come Fairlea had 2 doors going onto the garden? Further research is required!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

What I found in the garden ...

The Plan for the Outside Back Space ...

Soon we will knocking down the appalling 1960s porch at the rear of Fairlea, which was added in the mid 1960s when the basement floor was converted into a separate flat. Best knock it down before it falls down!

In preparation for "Demolition Day", we're clearing the pebbles outside .. which although look "okay", were forever being brought inside, so the kitchen filled up with more pebbles than Brighton Beach! So it looked like this:

And now it looks like this:

(okay, I admit, it looked better before, but sometimes things have to get worse to get better!) Eventually when 1960s porch and 1990s shed are gone from this space, decking will run right across the back of the house, creating a lovely warm "outside extension" to the kitchen and planned new downstairs living space.

After lugging about 40 bags of pebbles up the side steps to the front (where they're going to a good home), the back area is now clear and we can create an extended area of paving (to later support the decking) and bring the grassed area slightly closer to the house.

What I found ..

I got somewhat sidetracked from my job of digging out the soil for the extended paving line, when I started finding crockery fragments, and a lovely old glass stopper. This stopper is marked Holbrook and Co on its end, and research revealed that Holbrook and Co Worcester Sauce was very popular around the turn of the last century.

There were many fragments of old crockery, but nothing with any sort of date or distinctive pattern, although I am fairly sure that this came from a chamber pot, as the pottery is so thick and solid looking.

I am sure we will find more when we knock the old the shed down! No treasure chests or old valuable jewellery as yet though ..

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The time travelling fireplace ... 1950s to 1900 .. in pictures

Despite the "monstrous-hideous-tiled-solid-concreteness" of the 1950s fireplace .. we felt guilty about simply destroying it, and when it came out in one piece, even more so. I phoned a number of reclamation yards, we wanted no money for it, just for them to "take it away!", however no one is interested in these at the moment, may be it will change, in about 50 years ...

I also contacted these guys who specialise in 50's fireplaces ( however they are based in Manchester and there is a limit to how far someone will drive to get these things, even if they are offered FREE!

I also tried offering it on Freecycle, without so much as a nibble of interest.

The problem with it that it was SO heavy, taking 3 blokes to move it, even then only trundelling it on wheels, not actually picking it up. It's solid concrete, then coated in tiles and the hearth protruded into the room more than double the original Victorian slate hearth which we found in "okay" condition underneath.

In the end, it met it's end .. by being smashed into many pieces on our driveway and going to the tip in about 25 car trips!

The 1950s fireplace is about to "meet its maker" ... 

Solid block of cement covered in horrid 1950s tiles is heavy!

Removal of the 1950s fireplace reveals the size the original fireplace would have been .. The 1950s version has quite a narrow opening .. But the 1900 one a very high mantle

Dave has had to lower the mantle by using a metal insert and one row of bricks, then sort the inside out to accommodate the reclaimed one as well as concrete the inside to level it to the height of the new slate hearth (see covered here). Whilst the original slate hearth was in okay order, it doesn't comply with current building regs (too thin).

Dave checking the new insert will fit and my husband pretending he actually does DIY these days!!

Our "new old" fireplace in situ and looking grand!

One floor down, 3 floors to go ..

Due to (mainly) lack of funds, we were 3 months finishing the living room, longer than I planned, but it's done now and we're pleased! (The only planned change is to paint the fireplace surround chalky downs instead of ivory so it will blend more with the skirting boards, that's tomorrows job ...)



The ground floor hallway floor is also "semi-sorted", but eventually the stairs will be painted completely ivory, spotlights fitted (when the 1st floor carpets are being ripped up) and stair runners fitted .. but we won't be doing that until after the lower ground floor work is completed, so here is what it looks like now (7 coats of varnish later!)

Friday, 11 February 2011

You might need a bit of vision ...

To imagine how our new living room fireplace is going to look when it's sorted out:

Last summer when we moved in to Fairlea and started our renovations, Victorian Fireplaces seemed a lot more commonplace and readily available. Having previously acquired our new dining room fireplace from Toad Hall Antiques in Heathfield for a bargain price, we headed back there to check out the latest selection. Disappointingly we discovered that the proprietor seldom gets any original Victorian ones anymore. A trawl of the net and some local reclamation yards also revealed a lack of selection. "No one is taking them out anymore" says one chap.

We found this place, as they had a range of their reclaimed and restored fireplaces on ebay: Having phoned ahead, we made the trek to Hampshire and found this marvellous place only with the aid of the sat nav chick shouting instructions, down a country lane.

These guys are getting well known for their range of reclaimed doors, but they also had a fair range of fireplaces. The difficulty being, although we wanted something plainer than the dining room, we also discovered we needed something large. The smaller fireplaces from bedrooms are much more common place, and it makes sense when you think, houses that are being  stripped will quite often have 3 or 4 bedrooms, but only one or 2 reception rooms. I also think that the reception rooms were much more used, so fireplaces didn't last as long. Evidence in Fairlea itself as the previous living room fireplace had obviously been replaced from Victorian to 1950s one, some 50 years after Fairlea had been built.

Anyway, the guys are Arc are incredibly helpful and we spent an hour and a half trawling their selection, until we came up with the idea of using this reclaimed surround (from an 1800s House in Midhurst that has since been stripped and turned into a Chinese Restaurant!) and the insert (which although looks Victorian is actually probably only about 50 years old.)

It's arriving on Monday and it has been stripped and repainted for us as well as the insert having been mended and completed and blackened. Although at £550, it has cost us more than the Victorian tiled dining room fireplace and new surround, we are feeling fairly happy we got it when we did, it's evident, it's going to be very difficult in a matter of years to get larger fireplaces at all, or if so, for £1000 or more.

On a recent visit to B and Q, I was horrified to see that new fireplaces can be more expensive than these reclaimed restored ones. It definitely makes financial and eco sense to reuse where possible! (And they have a history, which already makes them infinitely more interesting!)

We can't wait to see how it will look in our new living room! And once installed, it will be a fully working model unlike the other ones at Fairlea, which have been capped. Get ready to "warm your hands" in front of it ...

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The William Morris paper ...

This leafy background just added to my blog is one of the standard patterns offered by Blogger ... however it reminded me "a little" of the William Morris paper I am still strongly considering it for a feature chimney breast for our new living room.

This paper is offered in 7 colours and is a reproduction of a William Morris paper from 1900.

You can see the other colours here:

Thinking that this paper above the reclaimed fireplace (yet to be found, but it's going to be plainer than the tiled one we "reclaimed" in our dining room) will really set off the chalky downs and ivory paint colours ... Something like this, but with a wooden surround ...

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Goodbye Red and Yellow Walls ...

In with the new year and out with the old ...

And absolutely out with that red and yellow! This is what our living room looked like on the 31st December, 2010 at 2.30 pm ....

And this is what it looks like now, 9th January at 11.20 am ...

Okay, we're not quite there yet. But as always there is lots to do "behind the scenes" ... if you're going to do it, you may as well do it properly:

Little Details ..

Rather than leaving the electric sockets stuck out like sore thumbs on the lovely old skirting boards, these have now all been channelled in.

The lighting arrangements have also had to change as some "bright spark" (sorry about that pun) in the past decided that the room only needed wall lights and no overhead lighting. We are keeping just 4 of the wall lights (not these simulated gold numbers from the 1980s either, probably just some nice subtle uplighters) and re-instating (if it ever had one) a large central overhead light as well. When Dave was foraging around under the floorboards above doing this job, he found the original gas pipe (capped at its' end) in the centre of the room where the old gas lighting used to be, I wonder just how long it took into the last century, before Fairlea had electric lighting ..

"Lighten up"!

As for that red ceiling! What has always amazed us is that the dining room and the living rooms at "Fairlea" are pretty much the same size. However this room feels SO much smaller. That proves the "power of colour" and how dark tones can condemn you to live in a "cave" when it could be a "palace"!

No original features here ...

Before anyone gets upset about us ripping down the ceiling roses, these ones were strictly of the B and Q "made out of eggbox" material variety! And besides a room this size would never have had 2, only 1 and intended to have a light in the middle of them somewhere, not just randomly suspended in space! Anyway someone had fun playing hoola-hoop with one!

The picture rail is not original and it always looked wrong: For a start it's too high for the proportions of the room, and also it's rather large. Taking advice from the web ( we renovated the dining room, we lined up the new picture rail just above the door frame and then chose a small Victorian cornice to compliment it. The living room with it's gigantic "cardboard" coving and overlarge picture rail too high up the wall just looked "mickey mouse"! If we were in any doubt about the picture rails authenticity, all was revealed when it was removed and a large rose border pattern was revealed. We have since decided that whoever put it up, simply put it up right over the border assuming that was the correct place.

A BIG thanks to Dave and "Poppo" who have done all the work on the living room so far. "Poppo" is going on holidays now for 2 weeks and I have been forbidden to touch the living room, as he wants to finish what he has started. I am "allowed" to prime, undercoat and paint the new picture rails and Dave will be back to put the cornice and picture railing up sometime soon hopefully. Stay tuned! And as for "THAT" fireplace, that will be a separate post!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Almost certainly the original wallpaper ..

I'm a bit behind as we have now moved on to the living room, but I had to stop and share this one:

Busily stripping the upstairs hall of its garish yellow, most of the walls only revealed a 3 or 4 layers of paper and paint, however the back upstairs wall had somehow never been stripped back completely and I found this gorgeous, (almost certainly) first wallpaper our house ever had:

Absolutely impossible (unless you're a specialist I'm sure) to remove a piece without damaging it, I had to be content with the handful I spent some time revealing - just to photograph. The picture above shows the pattern which seemed to alternate between an enclosed stylised flower and and a large rose image.

While our mission is to lighten and brighten our 3 hallways (and believe it or not, yellow is NOT the way to do this!), originally our walls were covered in the dark oppressively patterned wallpaper, lit by gas wall lights, and the carpeted floors were a laquered dark stain. It must have been very dark in here, just like the Victorians liked it!