Basement Tanking Project

At one time I wrote a lot on this blog about houses, and this house in particular once we bought it 4 years ago. One major feature is that the basement kitchen floods fairly regularly, maybe 4 times a year? This is obviously not ideal however the structural work required to put it right was around 20% of the value of the house, and shortly after we bought the house the bottom dropped out of the UK property market so we couldn’t borrow against the house.

Fast forward 4 years of cooking in wellies once in a while, and running down the stairs to check the basement every time it rains a lot (in Northern England, you can imagine this gets really old really fast). Actually even when it wasn’t underwater, it was a pretty nasty kitchen, always damp and it had no heating so in winter it was whatever temperature it was outdoors. This sums it up: my mother’s old dresser, standing on bricks to keep it out of the water
Kitchen Dresser on Four Bricks

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A Three-Year Old Home

At one time I wrote about little else than the house on this blog, but these days its a pretty rare occurrence. However this weekend marks three years since we bought this place and moved in, and it does begin to feel like a home. In fact the house is a lot more than three years old, around 115 years in fact, its a old brick-built semi-detached house, red bricks and set over 4 floors as is fairly common in this part of the world (West Yorkshire).

In real terms, not a whole lot has happened in the house this year. I’m not exactly sure what we did with our time but Kevin changed job twice and I’ve been pretty busy so home improvements have definitely been getting neglected! One major thing we did, which I absolutely love, is we decorated my office (scroll down to see the “after” photos!). I have spent quite an insane amount of time at this desk over the last few months, between working, writing, preparing talks, and who knows what else, so having a place that suits me so well makes that so much easier! Control over my environment and only the cat to interrupt me most of the time is my idea of a good working environment! I’ve been working from home for almost 2 and a half years, and still enjoy this as much as ever, which is good news since although Ibuildings now has an office in Sheffield, that’s still a commute that is way too crazy to do regularly.

The office looks over the garden and the garden is one part of the house project which is really coming together in a way that I like. Looking at those initial photos of the space, and remembering that we just strimmed the 4-foot-high weeds down to a couple of inches for our housewarming party … it was a junk yard, really. And now, the flowerbeds I dug out last year have everything just a bit bigger and better this year, and mum has brought me lots of new plants. The climbers I planted along the edge of the nasty garage are getting the idea and growing themselves into beautiful flowery garage-hiding wallpaper (well and they’re growing across and onto everything else that gets close to them also, I had to rescue the barbecue from getting assimilated this week!) After laying the lawn about 18 months ago, and the patio last summer, we now have an apple tree growing in the lawn and some furniture for the patio … all in all its quite a suburban garden:

New Patio Furniture

For me the garden space always had the potential for this, and now I’ve got my own herb garden, annual flowering things (plus a few pretty weeds that I’m allowing to remain), and rhubarb, it really does feel like home!

For the coming year, we’re hoping to sort out our basement/damp problems, once and for all … if we can afford it!

Big Bed Cushions

This week I finally got around to making the big cushions for our bed. We do have some but they were cheap and are now old – and I reallocated Kevin’s onto my office chair about a year ago. Since we do often read or use the laptops in bed, cushions would be a good thing to have, but I just didn’t have the time to make them! Work was less crazy in February and I found I had the mental space to think of these things, so I bought two big fluffy cushions, and dug out the fabric I had left from making the curtains so that the cushions would match, and here they are:

New Bed Cushions

The cushions were 66cm so I cut two rectangles that were (66cm plus seam allowance) wide and ((2.5 * 66cm) plus seam allowance) long. Then I hemmed across the short sides (this was really fraying fabric, I should have overstitched everything before I started but I was too impatient!). They are simple envelope-backed cushions so I lay them on the floor with the right side up, folded the long sides at 33cm and then 99cm, basically you have a short end folded up and then the long end folded over that, with the seams showing. Then you sew up the sides and when you turn it the right way out – the short bit of the envelope is on the outside.

Dead simple but they match the curtains and they are lovely and soft – the fabric is plain sheeting too so nice and comfortable even in bed!

The Writing on the Wall

I’m currently redecorating in the house and have moved my office up to the top floor temporarily – I like it up here but its a flight of stairs to the bathroom, two to answer the door and three to get a cup of coffee and I also have no wired network! I started stripping the wallpaper off my real office (which will be my office again once its done), and look what I found:

office What's under the wallpaper?

Can you tell what it is yet? Magnificent ? In His Flying Machine

I think this room is going to be a bit of a mission, I have one wall with half a missing skirting board which has had its fireplace plastered up twice, one where the plaster is falling off much faster than the old wallpaper, and one outside wall which is damp and in such bad shape I actually had to go outside and check it looked OK from there. And this is is the smallest room in the house …

New Bedroom Curtains

This weekend I took some time to make some curtains for the bedroom. Since we bought the house we’ve had some rather unattractive and slightly broken metal blinds. The room was otherwise OK though and we just kind of moved into it and worked on the rest of the house. I bought the fabric for the curtains soon after we moved in but I needed some help from my mum to actually make them as I wanted to do 2 layers and wasn’t sure how to proceed.

Window 1, before Window 2, before

Kevin’s mum Kath was visiting this week and while explaining to her why I couldn’t do this task myself, we kind of talked me round. Curtains are just straight lines after all so I dug out some crafty books and considered the task (thanks Kath!)

I had two layers of fabric, one plain sheeting and one floaty gauze – the idea of having floaty curtains but which do actually block the window. I measured the window and found that both were 74 inches high and were 56 and 44 inches across respectively. I do mean inches, our ceilings are 8 and a half feet high so most of our windows are taller than me! This of course makes curtains quite an undertaking, with 60 inch wide fabric and two curtains on the bigger window and one on the other, I had two 60 inch by 80 inch curtains and one 90 inch by 80 inch. By the time you have seamed edges and top, and attached curtain tape, that’s more than 30 yards of sewing and you need a LOT of floor to cut things out on. The wrestling was quite worth it though:

Finished Curtain 1 Finished Curtain 2

For reference, the curtains were quite easy to make (although they’re still unhemmed). The recipe goes something like:

  • cut fabric, lay out with right sides together
  • for the wider curtain, I joined half a width with a full width to get the size I needed
  • pin and then stitch down outer edges
  • pin and then stitch along the top
  • turn right side out (like a duvet cover!)
  • pin and then stitch corded curtain tape 5cm from top of curtain, along back
  • hang curtains
  • admire
  • Wonder how long til I get around to hemming them? My excuse is that curtains are supposed to hang for a while, to allow them to “drop” to their eventual length!

New Patio and Garden Gate

There haven’t been any house updates for a while – because I haven’t been here so haven’t done anything! However we did realise earlier this year that we were never going to find the time to lay our own patio, we’ve been in the house two years now (can I get a little “yay!” for that?) and still nowhere to sit outside, so I found a local garder who could come and do it, he even has a website so look up Character Gardens if you need a gardner. Lee and his team were friendly and the results are good!

Here’s the obligatory before and after shots:

Patio - before it began Finished Patio

They also came and fitted us a garden gate, ours has always been hopeless and it actually fell off its hinges about 3 months ago. Now I have a shiny new one with a catch that goes “click” when you close it.

Garden Gate

(and look, my lavender hedge is getting bigger!)

House Update

I haven’t blogged about the house for a while, and since we had to tidy up at the weekend for my grandparents’ visit, I thought a tidy house was a good time to take a few photos. When we first moved in, I blogged a lot about the house, and frankly it was a bit of a state! Most of the photos were along the lines of:

Its not (such) a disaster now, so I thought I’d share a few more up-to-date pictures.

Firstly: the living room. When I said I painted my living room turquoise, I wasn’t exaggerating!
Living Room Mantlepiece

Dining room: This room hasn’t had a lot done to it but we have bright red curtains and tablecloth, brings warmth to the room. The piano is in here too.
Dining Room Mantlepiece

Our Bedroom. Just realised I’m choosing all the mantlepiece pictures – that’s because in this case I love the original tiles, the mirror, and my fairy lights!
Bedroom Mantlepiece

We also redecorated the spare room (well, actually mum did all the wallpapering, but the preparation took months!)
Spare Room

There’s still a lot to do, although mostly we’ve at least plastered up some of the holes!

(more pictures on my flickr set if you are interested, I figured this was enough for one post)

Next up: we’ve got plans for a patio :) I think I’m starting to realise that a house project is never really finished …

Christmas Preparations

We’re hosting Christmas for family this year (actually its Kevin’s family, but that’s a technicality), and between preparations for that and having a new camera in the house, I have some nice photos. After all that we’ve done on this house, suddenly it feels like its coming together into a real home.

Xmas Living Room

The garland on the mantlepiece (the mantlepiece that I dismantled, sanded down, and restained earlier in the year) is a bit of a craft project. I’ll write a separate post at some point but suffice to say the baubles were in the discounted set that I wanted because it had snowflakes in it. They are attached to a plain garland with cable ties, and a set of lights my sister left behind added in too.

I also have a photo of the Christmas tree, I really like this photo (thanks Kevin!)

Xmas Front Room

A year and a day (or two)

It might not seem like a year since I announced a completed house purchase, but it is. A year and a few days in fact! Actually buying the house felt like a huge achievement, buying our first home took 9 months, cost a lot in surveyors fees and involved 3 failed sales … read the contents of the “house” category in chronological order if you missed the story.

On that day, it felt like we’d come a long way. And today, it feels like we’ve come a longer way still! In the year we’ve been in the house, we’ve

  • Thrown out most of the contents of it (but the garage is still full)
  • Re-acquired our possessions which were in storage for 18 months and (mostly) unpacked them
  • Cleared the garden (still no lawn and some digging still to go but its way better than it was
  • Got all the guttering fixed
  • Added central heating
  • Rewired the house
  • Become an aunt and uncle
  • Completely made over the front garden
  • Acquired a piano
  • We’ve both changed jobs and/or been promoted
  • Been broken into
  • Redecorated most of the ground floor
  • Paid the mortgage for 12 months

All in all its been a pretty exciting time, and its hard to believe its a whole 12 months since we picked up the keys, and wandered around the house, not quite believing it was real (it was, filth and all!). Its been quite a ride, cost more than we thought, and been at least as bad as we’d feared :) We’ve had lots of help from friends and family and we’re very grateful for everything everyone has done to help, advise, or whatever. I was at my mum’s house last weekend, and realised with a jolt I was homesick … for Leeds. I’ve been homesick for her home pretty much since I left it – but this is my home now.

I know there will be other events in our lives, and harder times probably ahead. But for now we feel lucky; we’re happy, we’re healthy, and I hope it lasts!

Baby Courgette Plants

Recently my friend Deb, Leeds Geekup organiser and Ruby developer, gave me two baby courgette plants … she even went so far to photograph me, slightly tipsy, leaving the pub to get the bus home:

I did get the plants home intact and planted them out. I was going to post a whole garden post as I have a few other things also to plant, but I’ve been elsewhere all week and now its raining rather a lot, so I’m blogging instead. Here’s the courgette plants in their new home:

Waiting for my attention are some sweet peas given to me by Great Uncle Sid and some training lobelia I bought yesterday to try to improve the view from my new kitchen window … more about those another day.