Sunday, 27 July 2014

Life lately...


So, nearly another month passed...I never guessed it would be taking me this long to be posting any progress around this little Victorian house. But, when one is juggling a full-time job, things seem to take a little longer than anticipated.

There has been some action, albeit small and incomplete...

I've been enjoying the budleija in the garden (as evidenced above) - however, that is the last of these blooms that I'll enjoy this year, as I dug it out of the garden today. Budleija's can grow up to 6-7m and it was in a really inconvenient place in the garden, so out it went...

Speaking of the garden, some other changes have also been occurring...


The horrible blue shed at the bottom of the garden is now a much more subtle shade. In the photo above on the right the door is still blue, but that has now also been painted. Some of the larger shrubs have been removed. I still have two more to dig out, and then I can move into  re-planting mode.

The hall cupboard has also had a temporary makeover...






















The dreadfully dirty and filled with cobwebs space has had a coat of white paint and some new shelves installed. You just need to close your eyes to the hot-water tank and copper pipes. When I eventually get the boiler replaced, this water tank will become obsolete - and at that point the hall cupboard can have a proper makeover. But, at least I am no longer averse to storing my linen in there.


It has even been 'prettied' with some lavender that I cut from the front garden and dried...


I had an excellent electrician spend the day here a few weeks ago. Not only did he confirm that my wiring is in fairly decent shape (hurrah!), but he also installed a range of light-fittings for me. The previous owners had taken all of their fittings with them just leaving a bulb and flex.


Now I have three flush-mount chandeliers in-situ (sitting room, dining room and bedroom). These were £60 each from BHS - which I thought was a bit of a bargain. The electrician will be coming back in a few weeks to fit the lights in the bathroom and replace the front porch lantern.

The kitchen will be the first room to receive a proper makeover - albeit it temporary. Eventually, I plan to extend the kitchen out further into the garden, but in the mean time it will be receiving new paint, tiles, light and a new sink and tap. I'm gradually extending my diy skills. Recently, I've been learning how to remove backsplash tiles. The orange/red/mustard/pink glass mosaic tiles are on their way out...


And finally, I have a new friend. She has been a regular visitor ever since I moved in. So much so that I originally thought she might have been lost. As it turns out, she belongs to a neighbour two doors up from me. However, it appears that she just likes to make herself at home in everyone's house.

Introducing Harper...

Friday, 4 July 2014

House tour - the before...


It has now been 4 weeks since I completed on the house and have finally found time to take some photos in its 'before' state. These photos just make me realise how much work I have to do over the next year, but even with the week away in Edinburgh, some activity has been occurring.

So far I have:

  • Finally booked a roofer to repair the chimneys (this is a requirement of the mortgage company) - that will be occurring in early August.
  • Had a builder come to quote for some of the internal work (and garage repairs), but am still awaiting the quote back from him.
  • Had the tv aerial reinstated.
  • Suffered two weeks without a phone line and very patchy internet - though that problem was solved this morning (it took this long as the telephone engineers only work Mon-Fri during business hours...which is not particularly conducive when one works full-time).
  • Arranged for an electrician to visit next week to start replacing the light fittings, and re-site some of the electrical sockets.
  • Arranged for a quote for installation of shutters in the main bedroom and bathroom.
Various paint samples have also been ordered so that I can start painting as soon as the building repairs/electrical work has been completed. The previous owners made some 'interesting' choices with colours as you will see from the photos.

Anyway, here is the house in its current state...

Sitting room - I am just turning a blind eye to the fact that my duck-egg blue sofa clashes horribly with the olive green walls...

Dining room - this is one of the closed up chimney breasts that has some damp issues

The very bijou kitchen - it was like tetris fitting in my kitchenware (as three of the cupboards in this photo are actually the refrigerator, the washing machine and the boiler). The longer-term plan will be to knock through the back wall and extend the kitchen further into the garden.


The hall - both the yellow walls and the striped carpet will be going in time



The main bedroom (complete with mis-matched bed linen and temporary curtain arrangements). There are issues with this chimney also - I'll be reinstating a fire place (when I hear back from the builder...)
There is a second bedroom as well, but that is currently full of boxes that are yet to be unpacked. 


Bathroom - fixtures are in reasonable condition, but the blue walls will be going asap


The back garden - complete with some very overgrown shrubs.

Most of the work I've done to date has been in the garden. Some of these shrubs have already been pulled out and the hedge trimmed. Most of the rest of the shrubs will also be coming out in order to place proper garden borders, and planting more in scale with the size of the garden. The garden shed will also be changing colour.

So, this is the starting point - hopefully, things will start to noticeably change over the coming months...

Monday, 23 June 2014

Glimpses of Edinburgh...


Three days after moving into the house, I left to travel to Edinburgh for a week for work. Not having been to the city for over ten years, it wasn't a hardship - particularly as it coincided with such a lovely week of summer weather.

I spent a couple of days at meetings at the university followed by a conference - which meant that there wasn't a great deal of time to do any traditional sight-seeing in the city. Instead, here are a few glimpses of what I did see during the week.

University of Edinburgh - Old College and Playfair Library...



Glimpses of Stockbridge (where we stayed with a colleague)...





And a few more sights around the city...




In other (house) news - the roofer has been to revise the quote to repair the chimneys, a builder came today to quote for the other more urgent repair issues, and I still need to finalise the electrician's visit. On top of that, my phone line/internet worked beautifully for a week, but now seems to be on a hiatus.

I'm looking forward to getting these necessary but uninspiring repairs completed, so I can start focusing on much more interesting things such as Little Greene paint colours...

Saturday, 31 May 2014

A new home....

There have been times when I never thought I would get to the point of being able to write this post.

It was almost 12 months ago that I began looking for my first home to buy. After finding a flat at the end of August last year, things began to fall apart in the purchasing process and I eventually walked away from the sale in October.

Once I returned from my fellowship trip, I started to attend property viewings again. The re-start of the process also allowed me to review my priorities - and rather than looking for a small flat in London, I decided to push my search further afield where I could afford a small house and garden.

Of course, the re-start of my search coincided with a booming property market in the south east of the UK. There was even a marked difference in what my budget could afford from when I started searching a few months previously...and as the time went by over Christmas and New Year, I could literally see the prices rising on my search alerts.

I set myself a broad search area - I was getting details on properties across Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Hertfordshire...pretty much anything that was on a main train line into London with a commuting time of 45-60 minutes. Still, the market was flooded with buyers, so it was still a long and drawn out process to find something I liked, could afford, and was successful with submitting an offer.

Finally, in late February, I found a lovely little Victorian semi-detatched cottage in Kent. It was a popular listing, so I was delighted when I heard a week later that my offer had been accepted.

If only the rest of the process had proceeded as smoothly. The past three months have involved arguments with the mortgage valuation surveyor, roofing contractor reports, and vendors further up the chain throwing tantrums and threatening to pull out of the chain. Which only confirms how unnecessarily stressful the property purchase system is in the UK. Finally, after three months of ongoing negotiation, paperwork and stress, contracts were finally exchanged this week (although the attempt was started on Wdnesday it wasn't until a few minutes before 5pm on Friday afternoon that it actually occurred...nothing like drawing out the pain of this process until the last possible minute!)

So, I have a new home....the completion/move-in date is imminent, so I'll be back soon with some more pictures, and an ever-increasing list of projects that I'll be undertaking over the next year or two...

 

Monday, 26 May 2014

RSN Silk-shading project finally completed...


It is now over a month since I attended my introduction to silk-shading course at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit it has taken me this long to finish the project, but it is now complete.

I'm feeling a little ambivalent about silk-shading as a technique. I was pleased to learn a new technique, but I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to embroidery, and I found this technique one of the hardest to master. I think my colour shading is 'clunky' - but perhaps that is one of those things that improves with practice.

It was certainly the first type of embroidery I'd tried where you have two and sometimes three different colours in needles and work them simultaneously. Additionally, the majority of this is worked with single strands of embroidery thread, so understandably it can take quite a long time to complete a section.

Nevertheless, I'm pleased I tried it, and I think my shading in other types of embroidery will now be more proficient as a result.

I still can't recommend the RSN short courses highly enough. I'm already looking forward to my next course in April.

And in other embroidery news...

...some simple bullion roses on a baby-grow to welcome a new daughter of a work colleague...

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Lake District (a belated Easter update)...


Whilst we are enjoying a beautifully sunny May bank holiday weekend here in London, I am finally finding time to record my trip to the Lake District over Easter with two good friends. Although only two weekends ago, it seems much longer - possibly due to the fact that just after we arrived back from the lakes, I flew to Atlanta for five days to speak at a conference.

The trip to the lakes was only planned a few weeks in advance. When my friend L was able to extend her trip to the UK past Easter, we made a decision to look for somewhere to stay and explore a part of the UK to which she had never been before. I also calculated that it was over 15 years since I had last been there - it was so beautiful that it made me wonder why I had allowed such a long time to pass before a return visit.




We stayed in a little terraced cottage in Bowness (a village on the shore of Lake Windermere). After a seven-hour drive from London on Friday, we arrived to a lovely warm and sunny afternoon. We promptly set off to explore the village and lakeside.

In our planning we had decided to devote one day to a walk. Based on the weather reports, we chose Saturday as the day, and decided to take the walk that circumnavigates Derwent Water. Being such a beautiful day, it was a popular route...but after the first hour or so, the numbers of people thinned out. The surrounding scenery was gorgeous...





And one cannot visit the Lake District without reference to Beatrix Potter. On Sunday we caught the ferry to the other side of Lake Windermere and walked (uphill!) to Hilltop, the farm that she bought with the sale proceeds from 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit'. It is located near the village of Far Sawry. Beatrix mainly used the farmhouse initially as a holiday home. Once she married, she lived on a farm nearby, but used to visit Hilltop daily to write and receive visitors. Hilltop is now managed by the National Trust (after Beatrix bequeathed it to them after her death).


Hilltop Farmhouse

We were so blessed with the weather, and it was lovely to spend the time in the company of two very good friends...

Monday, 21 April 2014

Silk-shading at the RSN and Hampton Court Palace...


Last Sunday I returned to Hampton Court Palace and the Royal School of Needlework for an introductory class in silk-shading. This was the the third of the day classes that I had booked after my first lovely two days at the RSN back in August. I was keen to try silk-shading as it is one of the core modules on the certificate course that I think I'd like to try at some point in the future.


I was in a different teaching room from those I've been in previously. It was on the other side of the palace courtyard with these lovely round windows looking out at the palace gardens. All around the room are examples of beautiful embroidery...

During a stroll in the gardens at lunch time, the spring bulbs are looking lovely...




And finally, here is what I'd managed to complete by the end of the day...

...as you can see from the faint blue outline of the pansy, I have a lot of homework to do to finish this project! And whilst this was meant to be the last of the courses I was undertaking at the RSN, I've since booked three more for during the summer and later in the autumn...