Saturday, 25 October 2014

Visiting Hever Castle, Edenbridge, Kent...

I am finally catching up with some photo editing and posting. In mid-September, my sister came to visit from Australia for a fortnight. We spent quite a few days visiting royal buildings, or those with royal connections. The first of these was Hever Castle - which was the home of the Boleyn family. Hever is in Kent, and is only about 10 miles from where I now live.

The property was built as a country home in the 12th century and came into the possession of the Boleyns in the mid 1400's. Anne Boleyn spent her childhood here, and also lived here during the period in which she was courted by Henry VIII.

After the death of Anne's father, Henry VIII took possession of the castle, later bequeathing it to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleeves.

Like many properties of its period, the castle fell into some disrepair, until it was purchased by William Waldorf Astor at the beginning of the 20th century. He undertook some extensive renovations, so whilst the outside of the castle looks Tudor and even earlier, parts of the interior are definitely Edwardian. Astor did restore many rooms sensitively to their Tudor origins - he even completed a large extension to house staff and visiting guests...but designed it to look like a Tudor village.

The lake and beautiful colonnades were also developed during Astor's ownership.

Although we visited at the very end of summer, there was still some lovely sights in the gardens...

There were even some locals to greet us as we arrived!

Next up - Hampton Court Palace...

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Getting there in the garden...

I finally feel like I've been making some progress in the garden. For the first three months after I moved in, my only efforts in the garden seemed more akin to destruction than beautifying.

You see, this is what the garden was like the day I moved in...

Lush, green, but not quite what I had envisaged - the bright blue garden shed and large deciduous shrubs were not part of the plan.

Instead, my pinterest garden board is generally full of pleached trees, and single colour borders...

So, I resorted to three months of digging out every misplaced and overgrown shrub in the garden - I finally bought a mattock...if only I'd done this three months earlier this task would have been an awful lot easier than digging them out with a spade.

Here is where the redevelopment of the garden has reached to date - I've just started to re-plant the beginning of a structure to the new garden scheme...

Ideally, I would have loved to do a row of pleached limes along the fence - unfortunately, it is such an ugly expanse of fencing, that I really needed to plant something that was evergreen...which narrowed the options considerably. I eventually settled on evergreen magnolias. 

They will be underplanted with predominantly hydrangeas and hebes. I did find a type of gardenia at the garden centre a few weeks ago. I didn't think they survived the UK winters but these are a supposedly hardy type - time will tell in the coming months.There are small hebes along the front of each of the two long beds - these are a small version which only grows to about 60cm. They are called 'Champagne' but are actually white flowers with the slightest hint of lavender. The upturned plant pots are serving as spacers for the planned hydrangeas - I've not been able to order them in time this year, so these will now need to wait until next spring to be ordered and planted.

I've installed a steel-edge garden edging to give a cleaner demarcation between lawn and garden beds. Unfortunately my lawn looks pretty dire at present - I had a major problem with perennial weeds that is still not yet resolved. I've laid turf in the new areas that were reclaimed from the large shrubs and seeded the dead areas with lawn seed. I'm hoping these will start to germinate before winter sets in. The small strip of grass that used to run along side the deck was actually a trough and full of weeds, so I decided to replace that small section with gravel.

Finally, I've dug a new garden bed just before the decking (in front of the shed). This is going to become home to some David Austin standard roses. I'm about to order them, ready for bareroot delivery in November. I am fairly certain that I'll be planting a variety called Winchester Cathedral. The soil is quite heavy clay...but the website assures me that roses do very well in clay!

It is a long way from what I have in my mind, but at least I feel like I'm building towards something now...and I think most of the heavy work is complete. Once the roses are planted that is really as much as I can do for this season - apart from planning and scheming what else to add next year come the spring.

In the very far corner, I've planted a small crab-apple tree...
...and I'm already looking forward to the spring blossoms.

In other news, my feline friend has been a frequent visitor...
As you can see, she makes herself quite at home...

...and now her brothers have also invited themselves Chester and Teddy!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Bringing serenity to main bedroom - renovation part one...


You may recall that when I moved into this house, the main bedroom was a questionable shade of pink. How anyone found this a calm and restful space I'll never know, but each to their own...

I had long planned to paint the room, but was holding off until I could have a builder undertake some work in this room. After months of trying, I finally had a builder come last weekend to quote, and even he can't undertake the work for several more months. Coupled with the fact that my sister was coming from Sydney to visit, I decided to at least make a start on making this room much more my style.

A week of painting everything in the room (walls, ceiling, woodwork, door and even the radiator), and things are altogether far more calm and serene...
 The walls are painted in Shadows (223) Little Green intelligent eggshell. Everything else is brilliant white.

 I've also had shutters installed at the window - I was somewhat restricted to a cafe-style of shutter (rather than full window), to reflect those downstairs in the bay window.

 The robe hooks on the back of the bedroom door are now very pretty silver and faceted glass (from Laura Ashley).

The new curtain rod also has lovely faceted glass balls on each end. Obviously, the curtains are still to be made!

The new chandelier light - Bryony flush-mount chandelier from BHS - a bargain at £60.

There is still quite a bit of work to do in this room (a little by me, and the rest by the builder):
  • Make curtains - I will be doing this, but I can't just quite decide what fabric to choose. I am thinking of a white linen/cotton mix as I already have some mixed patterns on the bed linen (ticking and toile). But I need to make a selection soon, as curtains will be essential once the weather starts to become cooler.
  • Artwork - I have yet to hang many of my paintings/artwork in the house - and none in the bedroom. I think I'll wait until the builders are finished before I make some choices of what to put in this room.
The list of work I have requested of the builders...
  • Reinstate Victorian cast-iron fireplace. I have managed to purchase a beautifully restored original fireplace on eBay...which is now waiting patiently in the garage.
  • Install built-in floor-to-ceiling wardrobes on each side of the chimney breast.
  • Install coving/cornicing all around the room - the house has most of its original skirtings, but no coving in any of the rooms...I must check it this is how the house would have been constructed, or if they have been subsequently removed. Either way, I'm planing to install a simple period coving around the room perimeter - to also help the wardrobes blend in more seamlessly.
Hopefully, I'll have a date for the work to be completed sooner rather than later...but in the meantime, it is a much nicer room in which to relax and rest.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

First appearances...

During one of the hottest weeks in August (relatively speaking - this is the UK after all), I had a week of annual leave so I could be at home while the roofers were here repairing the chimneys. This was a requirement of my mortgage company and the work had to be completed by October. Essentially they needed to do some re-pointing and waterproofing to the chimney stacks and to cap the disused chimneys to prevent rain entering and causing damp.

 The scaffolding in place

The new chimney pots ready to be installed

Given that I had to be at home, I decided to use the time (and fine weather) to undertake some work at the front of my home.

On first appearances, things didn't look so bad...
...whilst the bright blue front door and the ugly house number plaque weren't to my taste (not to mention the straggly garden planting), things seemed relatively well kept.

However, if you took a closer look, this is what you would see...
 Peeling paint on the masonry and painted brick work

 Peeling and cracking around the door architrave

 Ditto above the door (complete with spider webs and ugly porch light)

 Cracked and peeling paint on the eaves/soffits

Even the door step left a lot to be desired

My concern was that if I left this for another winter, then some more permanent damage would occur to the building (particularly the woodwork). I can't admit to enjoying this at all (it was simply very hard work), but I got stuck in and managed to:
  • Strip the woodwork and repaint
  • Sand down the painted masonry and repainted
  • Stripped and re-painted the door step
  • Repainted the front door
  • Replaced the house number plaque
Later in the year, I'm having a landscape gardener come and re-work the front garden for me. This will involve lifting all of the stones and re-establishing some more formal garden beds along the fence and underneath the bay window. I wasn't going to touch the front garden until the gardener undertook the main work. However, it was looking in such poor condition after I had spent the better part of a week trampling over it, I decided to also remove all of the existing shrubs. I've done a little replanting in the areas that will align with the new garden beds...the remainder of the planting will need to wait until he removes the hard landscaping.

Anyway, here is the finished product...
 Note the new shutters at the bedroom window - more on this in a future post...

 Some new lavender bushes and a standard myrtle are now gracing the garden. There is a second myrtle to plant on the other side of the bay window, but I need to wait for the landscaper to did out some concrete. I had always planned to use myrtles here (something a bit different to standard bays), but was delighted to find such a good deal at the Crocus open day on 6 Sept when they were reduced from £40 to £10 each.

The ugly porch light is still to be replaced with a more traditional lantern when I can get the electrician back... but a bit of dove grey paint, a simple slate house number, and a much more altogether calm and elegant welcoming entrance to my home...well I like to think so anyway!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The kitchen refresh...

As you will recall from my last post, I decided that a mini-makeover was in order for my kitchen. The longer term plan is to extend the kitchen and have french doors leading on to the garden. But, I decided that I couldn't live with the pink walls and bright mosaics for the several years it will be until I undertake the extension.

Here is a reminder of where I started:

The plan of work included:

  • paint the walls a shade of greige
  • remove the tile and replace with white subway tile
  • paint all of the pine woodwork white
  • paint the cream cupboards white
  • replace the black sink (and probably the tap as well)
  • make a new roman blind for the window
It took several weeks, but is almost complete - I need to wait for the builder to replace the sink and tap for me (that is a diy step too far for this novice), but all else is done.

Work in progress...
Glass mosaic tiles  and wall shelves removed

Undercoat on walls, woodwork painted, cupboard painting and tiling in progress

And the finished product...
 The walls are a very pale grey - I probably could have gone a shade darker given the light in this room, but am still very happy with it. It is Shadows (223) from Little Greene in intelligent eggshell.

 I made the lined roman shade using this tutorial 

 My originally cream clock also had a mini-makeover with Annie Sloan Paris Grey paint.
The print is an RHS botanical archive print.

A close up of my first (and quite possibly last) attempt at tiling.

All in all, it is so much more pleasant spending time in this room now. 

Work has also been progressing elsewhere inside and outside of the house - updates coming!