Finding joy in the little things

So it’s been a few months since my last post and there have been a few DIY projects going on in the house which I am sure I’ll get around to writing about at some point. But with one thing and another, I have been trying to do the little things which make me happy and to get some jobs finished off.

You may have read my introduction post about being on maternity leave, well technically I started back to work last month. Realistically, I have been furloughed along with about a quarter of the UK work force, so trying to do any major projects with a (now) 1 year old and (attempting to) homeschool a very active 4 year old is nigh on impossible.

I wanted to share with you a few little things that I have managed to achieve, albeit the actual projects realistically started over a year ago. As our house had previously been flats there were a few layout changes which had been made. This particular one was where the entrance to two bedrooms on the first floor had been adjusted. As this wasn’t a priority when we first moved in (power and water to the upper floors was!), we made the changes before our daughter made an appearance last year.

The stud walls were removed and the original door ways opened up and reinstated. We managed to source some reclaimed doors from our local reclamation yard and they were stripped and prepared. We also managed to source some new door knobs locally which were being given away for free on a local Facebook page. We made new stud work and did some prep with some plasterboard we had left over from another project.

From left: Secret tunnel, bedroom 3 door reinstated and wall blocked up, view from landing of bedrooms 2 and 3

How do we block up the tunnel?

After it was all boarded and skimmed by the plasterer, the next big question was how do we block it up again?! This was so the children could have privacy, to block out sound and light but to make it easy for them to crawl through the space. We looked at several options including a door, but whilst at soft play one day (who knew this could be an inspirational place?) I saw some children putting foam blocks into a wall and voila, the foam block idea was born.

Now imagine you have a newborn and need to get something done quickly! I managed to pick up some thick foam padding at my local Dunelm store (although I imagine it would have been cheaper online but I needed to get it done, I was on a mission), along with some basic thickish fabric. I cut the foam to size using a bread knife – not a particularly sharp one, the cut wasn’t the neatest but I wasn’t being patient. I did have a google and saw a few options but this was the most convenient at the time. And I managed to figure out a pattern to cover the block. Pretty much like how you go about making a cube out of card or paper. It was a bit of a pain to sew but I managed to get it the right size. And for a while this was used to block up the hole and child no. 1 was happy.

I wanted to do something else with it, and I needed to make the fabric cover secure, the ends were still flappy as I didn’t have a zip or the inclination to do any more work with the block for now. I had ran out of ideas. I took it to the sewing group which I had joined at my son’s school. They suggested I sew on some velcro to secure the flaps (why hadn’t I thought of this?) and maybe sew a monogram for each child. Great idea! Thanks ladies.

Fast forward a few months, it was about a fortnight before lockdown and I thought that I’d better get the bits I needed to do some things to keep me occupied. I visited the haberdashery of a local department store and along with a few other bits for some other sewing projects I wanted to start/finish. A list of the bits I bought are below just incase you fancy giving it a go. I had already ordered various fabric samples online, these two were the only ones big enough to make large letters.

  • Bondaweb (half a metre and the instructions)
  • Embroidery threads (various colours)

I found a font that I liked the look of (Superclarendon), made it as big as possible on an A4 sheet of paper ready to print out. Cut out each letter, then pinned it onto the fabric and cut that out too. Now in hindsight I did the next section not per the bondaweb instructions, but it does reduce the amount of waste… I did the same with the bondaweb and cut out the letters. This did make it fiddly when lining everything up. I followed the instructions on how to apply using an iron. It was a bit tricky getting everything centred onto the foam block cover as I needed to remove it from the foam. I managed to easily centre the G due to the way that I constructed the cover but I guessed the positioning of the S (it’s not quite in the centre but I don’t think anyone else in the house is that bothered except me). The whilst watching TV I used blanket stitch to cover the edges, not only does this stop (or at least reduce) the fabric from fraying, it frames the letters nicely. I found the sewing quite relaxing, especially after homeschooling and looking after the baby all day. I did have to refer to Youtube to see how to do it (thanks to Red Ted Art and Rokolee DIY).

Finished blocks in place

I did have to paint the frame on both sides, and am still in the middle of redecorating child no. 2’s bedroom. The yellow is Wilko Durable Bumble Bee Matt Emulsion Paint, and the teal is Crown Teal Easy Clean Matt Emulsion. Handy as you are able to paint wood with both of these. Hopefully I will finish the current iteration of child no. 2’s bedroom soon. We decorated child no. 1’s bedroom almost 3 years ago, so am planning on writing about that soon. I also have a short blog about more sewing/embroidery which I’d like to share too.

Thanks for reading, keep safe.

Start from the very beginning…

Well almost!

I am cheating here as this is not actually the order of how we tackled the house project but I wanted to start with the front of the house. Now it’s not actually anywhere near where I would like it to be but the changes we have made have significantly improved it’s kerb appeal. Hopefully later in the year when we have some nice weather we can do a little more, address all of those snagging items which we seem to neglect. Although to be fair with an 8 month old and a 4 year old it can be challenging to find the time. Anyway, I digress.

When we first moved in, in summer 2017, the house had previously been divided into 3 separate flats, I think back in the late 70s (looking at planning online and the documents from the purchase). The main entrance was on the side and wasn’t very welcoming. I wanted desperately to move this to the front of the house. The obvious place for me was to do this where the window was. The HUGE obstacle both physically and financially was that in order to do this, even before factoring in the cost of the door, was to move the electric meter. So after having other priorities inside the house we didn’t manage to get this finished until the autumn of 2018. This meant having Western Power booked in (and paid for at vast expense), to move the main power supply to the house, our energy supplier to move the meter and our electrician to put in new cables to connect it all together. It was a logistical challenge to say the least. We also in advance had to dig the new trench for the new power supply cables ensuring it met with the requirements from Western Power and collect the necessary supplies from their local depot. We obviously managed to get this done and looking back now, am so glad we did.

June 2018
Not quite the start as the beams had been previously rendered. If I find a proper “before” photo, I’ll add it at a later date!
July 2018
The white still requires another coat! A job for this summer, maybe?

After comparing the front of our house to those of the same type on our street, we discovered that there were the original timbers under the render. My husband was very keen to expose and restore them. We knew that when the house was first built, the area to the left had been a porch and the original front door would have been inside the porch to the left. There was no way that we would be able to restore this as it was now our utility room, which had also been the bathroom for the ground floor flat when we first moved in.

The front of the house was very shabby and in need of a lot of TLC. We didn’t think that the timbers and the render at the very top would last the winter. The paint was flaking off in many places and we didn’t want the timber to get any worse. My husband and father-in-law painstakingly stripped all of the paint, this included the mouldings above each window. We need to hire scaffolding to enable us to get to the very top.

At this point we’d obviously made the decision to do the work ourselves, there was no way that we would be able to afford to get people in to do this. We love the feeling of accomplishment when we do work ourselves (especially when it works out!).

September 2018
Scaffolding up, electrics moved! And yes, I did go right to the top – eek!

It took a while to decide the paint colour of the timber and I spent a lot of time online looking at front doors. I must admit in the end I was so indecisive that I had to do some mock ups of what the front would look like. I knew I wanted a bit of colour. But when looking at the doors online, there were limitations as I had decided that the best type of door for us would be a composite. Mainly due to the low maintenance and security features. And being used to using my trade colour charts where the possibilities are endless, it was a personal challenge to be limited! My favourite by far was the Edinburgh style door from Solidor. As you can see below I was unsure whether to go with teal or yellow. In the end the yellow was more mustard rather than sunny so I opted for the teal.

Option 1
Option 2
Option 3
Option 4

As for the rest of the timber, the grey was too dark and the white just looked a bit too stark. So I changed my mind completely and went for a pale grey. We primed all of the timber with white so we could see what that looked like before the top coat. I didn’t keep a record of the primer but we used Dulux Dove Grey in Weathershield (see photo below of a well used tin!)

Before and After…

Voila! New door, timber stripped, repaired and repainted and render repaired and painted. It probably would be better to have waited for a sunny day but the last photo was taken mid October 2018. I could take another photo, however we currently have a huge bag of sand on the front which obscures the door (typical!).

This summer I would really like to give the white on the ground floor another coat, make sure that we do around both sides, paint the fence, create a nice bin storage area, and add some plants. Oh and make the step into the front door permanent.

A little information about me

A retail interior designer by trade, currently on maternity leave with my second child. I’ve been meaning to keep some sort of visual diary of the renovations of our house which we moved into back in the summer of 2017. With the new year upon us (as I started this before the new year but now find myself writing this on New Year’s Day 2020) I thought I’d better get to it before we finish the house. I find that looking back on how the house was when we first moved in, gives me a better appreciation of our achievements in such a short period of time.

There’s definitely a long story about how me moved into our house but I’ll save that for another time.

My intention is to post photos and videos of before after and some during the works. Mainly for myself and my family to look back on for the future. I’ll try to keep a record of suppliers and product references, again mainly so I don’t forget! But also if anyone else actually reads this, they may find it useful.