Monday, October 19, 2009

More photos

As promised, faithful follower (s), I am back with a further update and I thought I would just upload a few photos for you so you can really get a good idea of what the place is like now. The photo above is one I've taken before but I have been painting the windows in Old School White which looks better than brilliant white against the stone.

Anyway here are some other shots. This is what we call the garden room and although it does sound a bit pretentious that really is what it. It is a room that opens out into the garden. I've taken a picture from each end here. I couldn't resist taking the one below. I had just decorated the table in anticipation of some friends coming round on Saturday night - it's actually the first time we have really entertained since the work was done. The leaves outside are looking lovely so I wrapped them round some old jam jars and they looked very effective and autumnal when lit up in the evening. Cheap too but shows how much jam we've been getting through lately as had loads of those jars!

Next we have the kitchen again. I am really pleased with the floor which is slate from Fired Earth thanks to a discount when buying an AGA. I always thought slate came in blues and greys and was a bit cold looking but these are an amazing array of colours including silver, amber, ochre and terracotta shades. They would go with any colour kitchen you put them with and the AGA seems to warm them so they don't feel cold to walk on either, although I have been pinching David's slippers of late. I am getting into the swing of the AGA and found a great recipe for a Norwegian Apple Cake on the Aga Living website - didn't know such a site existed til now. Very easy to make and a winner all round.

Here's another shot of the kitchen. Chris from CW Tiling did the wall tiles for us last week. I love 'em but French Metro or Public Lavs did pop into my head at one point. Utilitarian I like to think!

Next we have a picture of the old back door now reinstated as the second porch door. The green cupboard you see was the way out of the kitchen into the hall. That got blocked up but we were able to create a pantry space for food here. David salvaged some of the wood from the oak floors and made some great shelves - being solid oak it's a shame they are hidden really.

And here we have the 'studio' - studio and garden room seem to trip off my tongue so easily. And anyway, as David plugged in his supersonic electric guitar on Saturday night up here, no other name would suit it!

And out of the door at the end of the studio, is the balcony which gets the sun most of the afternoon until it sets. Anyway, I think that is it for now. So hope you've enjoyed browsing these snaps.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quick update

Hello and yet another apology for the absence. You can tell we've got to the bit where we are doing the work as there's not a lot of time for much else at the moment. Anyway, here are a couple of pictures to update you. We do have help in that Chris, who did a lovely tiling job on the kitchen floor, is back and doing the wall tiles in the kitchen. So, once he is done I will get some photos of the kitchen as it is now.

The great thing is though that we have our house back and it is a million times better than before and a million times nicer than I ever thought it would be - well worth the upheaval of living on a building site for four months.

The other nice thing that happened the other day was that the building inspector came around and was so impressed with the design and build that he is putting it forward for the area's good design awards.

Here's a shot of the kitchen looking at it from the patio doors that used to be the old conservatory doors. You'll notice kettle on AGA ready for that all important cuppa.

Here in this next photo we have family Banks getting into some joint kitchen activities. You can date this photo as we're all in shorts so it was probably taken at the end of summer.Next up we have the man himself in his man at work pose. Joking aside, David has done a fantastic job on the finishing off jobs. I mean finishing off in the loosest sense of the word as much of it was actually starting off. He put in the kitchen units himself, fixed the worktops on with a bit of help from Colin the joiner but the huge job he did completely by himself was putting the wooden floor down. I promise to get some pictures of this to show you as he really did do fantastically well doing and as always with David without complaining.

As you can see he does have a helper here. This is William but it was actually Joseph he did some of the secret nailing of the boards. He has stuck a nail in his school scrapbook for posterity. Meanwhile what have I been doing? You may think that all I have been doing is practice boiling the kettle on the AGA but I do have been in the thick of it with the painting mostly. I've done one coat of the windows outside and painted the study. Now this is another room which has had little publicity. I will get some pictures of this too. In a very pretentious moment I christened it the studio as it really is too nice to be just an office or study. Here, friends, is where you will lay your head when you come to stay!

I have to say we could not have got on with all the work on the house without the help of my mum and dad who we are very lucky to have living near by. Each weekend they have scooped up the boys, entertained them and fed them whilst we get on with jobs here. I can't tell you what a difference it made for David and I to get on so a big thank you to them!

Whoops I couldn't get rid of this one!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Back to the blog!

Welcome back! And apologies for the absence. We are still here and still ploughing on with changing what was a building site into a home.

Since the builders finished off and then left a couple of weeks ago and electricians and plumbers arrived and went we have been up to our necks in DIY. And as it's the summer holidays still and the children are at home it has taken a bit longer to get things done. Still, not complaining as the place is really coming together, is better than we could have ever imagined and has truly transformed the house both outside and in.

Here's a picture of the kitchen, probably as it looked a couple of weeks ago. David is currently fitting out the kitchen and the aga has arrived but is not lit yet as we are waiting for the wall tiles to go on. We have painted it all out. In fact, I am supposed to be on window painting duty but found myself logging on to my blog whilst David makes a skip trip.

This is taken from the corner where the kitchen units are and looking into what is the garden room. It has got wooden batons laid on the floor in preparation for the oak floor that David is putting down in a week or so. We have opted for getting a tiler in to tile the kitchen, utility and porches as it would have been impossible for us to do it ourselves as well as all the other bits to finish.

Anyway, once the rain has stopped I will take some updated photos. I have the balcony to photograph along with the units and of course, the beloved aga which is already part of the family! Well, it will be once it has warmed up and gives off some heat.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I've been out this afternoon snapping away with a couple of internal shots to show. I took this one from the field behind our house. It gives you a good idea of the scale of the build. I think the house has grown by a third. I am sure I won't have any trouble filling it - I am not known for my minimalist taste!

As you can see, the roof work is complete. I think the varied pitch of the roof mirrors the two little dormer windows. The one on the right got moved from where the small skylight is on the left of the other one so it wouldn't interfere with the new roof pitch. It was moved very carefully and reinstated using the same stone and wood frame.

Here's the extension from the patio. The window and glass doors out are still covered up.

Despite it being Saturday we've had four lads in to get plasterboard up on the walls. They got most of it done today. It has really changed the feel of the extension and made it feel more like rooms than a building site.

This shot is taken from the corner of the working part of the kitchen looking into the garden room. The plasterboard has really lightened the place up. I can't wait to see it all plastered out next week. The builders are also knocking through into the house early next week. After that there's not much else to do before it is over to David for wooden floor laying in the kitchen area and tiles in the utility in the porch. This could prove tricky as David returned from a bike ride today with a gash under his knee that resulted in four stitches at A&E. So the poor thing is hobbling about at the moment. Friends and family reading this, get your excuses ready now.......

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fitting out

Not much has changed on the outside since my last blog. The stonework and structure is in place and the main thing now is to get the roof tiled. I am looking forward to this bit being finished as it will mean the extension is watertight and we can get onto the next stage which is fitting out.

Meanwhile, things have been moving on inside. We seemed to have had a lengthy discussion with the plumber as to where we should site the boiler, sink and white goods in the new utility room. There are all sorts of building regulations to work with re venting and pipework. Anyway, the pipework has gone in ready for the new unvented cylinder and boiler that will replace our old system - our old boiler was so large it had its own room. We have also sorted out where we want the electric sockets and light fittings to be.

As this is an old building, as well as updating it, we were really keen to keep the original features. We had a nice old arched back door that would have been redundant in the current scheme. But we have managed to salvage it and the joiner has made a special arched frame for it. This door will now lead to the front porch. Here is the frame - the door we are re-instating is similar to the front one you can see.

The new study/bedroom above has its velux windows in and has been boarded out. I am really impressed with how this room looks and how spacious it is. Here is that view again through the roof supports and through the borrowed light window once that is in place. It has been designed so that when you are sitting at your desk here you will get a view through the kitchen's velux windows and beyond.

We are about 11 weeks in now on a project set to take 14 weeks. It looks pretty much like it will be on schedule. I must say that I find this last bit harder than the rest. With everything coming together quickly I just want it to be finished so I get get on with getting it sorted to move into. Our temporary kitchen has worked really well but I am coming to the end of my recipe repertoire. We are lucky that my parents are nearby and my mum has kept us sustained with some tasty dishes and invites from friends to cook for us have also been gratefully received.

The scaffolding is gradually on its way down round the front of the house which will mean we have our front garden back which is timed well for the school holidays and the kids playing out there.

There are lots of practical purchases to make to kit the place out but a few weeks ago I did indulge myself by buying a print from the inspiring Godfrey and Watt gallery in Harrogate - . Emily was brought up in North Yorkshire and her work has a really nostalgic feel about it. The print I was drawn to was the 'Silver Swan', a drawing of the mechanical working silver swan which operates a couple of times a day at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle a place also worth a visit. When I saw Emily's print I already had a home for it in my mind!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The rain

Despite the lovely summer weather we have also had a couple of massive downpours here recently and have had to catch a couple of leaks coming through the roof. Our roofers turned up on Friday just as the thunder clouds were looming. Despite their best efforts at working quickly to get the roof slates off and the roofing felt on, you can't beat nature and the heavens opened. We had another leak yesterday morning. The overflow pipe had been dislodged so the water from it came into the house. Luckily, as it was a Saturday, our foreman Tony came out as did Roger, the plumber, and solved the problem.

Anyway, leak dramas aside things have really moved on. Here is a photo to show you where we are at.

The gable wall is finished with window and door in situ. The door leads out onto the balcony - which is enclosed between two pitches of roof and is above the utility room. From the front of the house you would have no idea that there was a balcony there. Me and David will be both fighting to use this room for our writing work!

Here is the extension from the back. The glass doors and window out are still covered up but I think this will be a very light and sunny garden room.

The building inspector came round mid week. He said that his job normally involved changing the odd thing but in our case he was extremely impressed with the design and the building work. He said it was a very 'tidy' job and that we should be really proud of it - a compliment to both the architect and the builders who have got us this far.

In the meantime we are looking ahead to fitting the place out. The aga installation has been booked for August 11th. The electrician has been in and we have gone through where to place the various sockets, switches and light fittings. Next the plumber will be in to sort out the radiators, boiler and pipework. I think this is the bit that takes our time and consideration as not only does it come together very quickly but this is also the bit where you get the house as you want it. So you have to plan ahead as to how you want to furnish each room. I can't really believe that the extension will be more or less habitable in just over a month's time as we are just 10 weeks on from when our builders started.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Time to catch up

I know, I know, I started this blog with such enthusiasm and now here we are two weeks later with a blog that is definitely old news! Anyway, I or we haven't done a runner. We are still here and well and truly immersed in life with the builders. In fact, maybe that explains my on-line absence. I am so used to living on a building site that the builders' favourite biscuits and tea and sugar requirements feature on our shopping list with alarming freqency - I have even been wondering about getting in some orange squash with this current heat wave. And today, I found myself taking the roofing joiner's dog, a young Lakeland Terrier, for a walk! I'll getting in dog biscuits next!

Anyway this is where we are at now

The gable wall has been built up and the wooden posts you can see sticking out to the right will be the balcony. When we stood on the balcony and looked out at the view the other evening we did feel very lucky to live in such a lovely place. I think the balcony will be fantastic and big enough for four people or so to sit out on. The other nice surprise was getting to see the new study/bedroom which will also be a great room to work and relax in. To be honest we haven't really paid a lot of attention to up to now as we have been concentrating on the kitchen area so it seems a real bonus and vision on the part of the architect - I don't think we would ever have envisaged creating a room like this. The study will have a borrowed light window along its length that will offer a view out through the kitchen veluxes and beyond onto fields. I think for us to use as a study and for our friends and family visiting this room will really work well. I have taken this picture to give an idea of what I mean. The window will tilt away from these wooden supports. It will all become clearer as the build progresses.

Meanwhile on the front of the house, the roofers have finished most of the re-roofing. They arrived the other morning but got no further than a cup of tea from their thermos flasks in the garden before disappearing for the day! I guess they will be back. The main thing is that they have made an excellent job of the roof. They'll be getting on with the other side next and the new roof.

Phil, our joiner, has also finished the dormer windows. He has done a great job on them as they look really solid unlike the previous flimsy ones that looked like they might blow away at any moment.

David has been up the scaffolding and painted the windows and timber fascia in a mix we had made up similar to Farrow and Ball's Old White - we've called it 'Old School White'. It matches the sandstone of the house and is much nicer than brilliant white.

I think that has brought us up to date so I'll be back with more later and I'll try not to leave it as long next time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Flat roof dormers

I took this picture yesterday and it just gives you an idea of how the gable end of the house will look. The architect has replicated the stone arches above our original windows and we also have some lovely stone cills on the others that I would eventually like to replicate around the house as we gradually replace the other windows at a later stage.

Meanwhile round the front of the house the roofers have arrived. They worked like lightning to strip the slates and nailed down the roofing felt in a day - egged on by black clouds overhead. These lads are a different breed to our builders who seven weeks into the build we have struck up a good relationship with. I guess they are here to do this one job then they move on. And although the builders will do the same they are with us for longer. Of course, they may not feel the same affectionate way about us! After all, this is what they are doing all the time, whereas for us this is all a novelty - maybe not the right word but we may still be in the honeymoon period. But it is not the norm to have a team of people observing your every move and your lifestyle unless your are candidate on Big Brother. For the builders this voyeurism comes with the job.

We had drama in our village last night when at about 10.30pm David noticed the hay barn next to our house in flames. By the time he spotted it they had engulfed the 40-foot high structure. He called the firebrigade and they spent the next 12 hours dousing it down. With our roof stripped of tiles we were a neighbouring hazard for the sparks coming our way.

Back on the subject of roofing, we're also getting the three flat roof dormers replaced. These dormers were inherited with the building and would not be a style I would think of adding to a Victorian property. We could have spent a fortune on changing them, making them pitched etc but this wouldn't make any difference to the way we live in the house whereas the new kitchen area will. So, we have had them re-built and fully insulated so these rooms will be really well insulated. Anyway here is what they look like now .....

I think they look much better and once the roof is done will blend in well. With the new windows they give you a fantastic view of the Yorkshire Wolds - I hope the kids appreciate this!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The roof pitch

Our architect came out today to work with the builders on the new roof pitch to the extension. It is not a straightforward pitch and quite complex but I think it will work well to give the roof an interesting slope. We may have some issue with the small dormer window and the roof pitch.

Meanwhile, we've been thinking ahead to flooring. We went through the various options - stone - nice but cold and you would only use it in the kitchen area and we wanted something that gave continuity throughout the whole house as the area will be very open-plan when finished, ceramic tiles - practical option, cheaper but our hearts weren't in it or wood which is what we have gone for.

Then, there is then the question of engineered boards or solid boards. Most places are keen to sell you engineered boards and it does seem that these offer more flexibility. We went to a couple of places to see what was available before coming across a place called Viking Reclamation, near Doncaster. It's a huge reclamation site - we could have come home with a telephone box, post box, rusted gazebos, urns, and for us, renovating an old school, we saw a huge slab with 'BOYS' written across it, from the entrance of an old school. Anyway, we were there to look at some reclaimed oak boards. These have been sliced from old beams from demolition sites and have been sanded and tongue and grooved, ready to lay. This was the best flooring we had seen so we put down a deposit. It's good quality wood. If you're in Doncaster or around pay a visit or have a look at their website

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Windows, doors and details

Hello again. It's Sunday evening and this is where we are at. The builders cracked on with things at the end of the week and got quite a bit more stone work up which when I look at how they do it really is a skilled job. Each of the stones is hand-picked for its size which will depend where it will go. The stone the builders have used is a great match and the extension to the house is almost seamless.

Then on Friday the windows and doors arrived. I've only briefly seen the windows but looking at these patio doors the moulding looks really good and solid.

We've got the dormer windows going in tomorrow. The joiner, Phil, had to build a new carcass for the dormers as we wanted them to be as good a quality as the extension and we didn't just want to do a patching up job.

Anyway, as an antidote to the chaos at home we went to one of the NGS Open Gardens near us which was a delight and very inspiring for when we turn our attention to our garden - probably next year and beyond. They said it had taken almost 25 years to get it looking like it does today. So only another 21 years for us and we've cracked it! Anyway, if you're in the area, check it out as it is a lovely garden with great views across the Vale of Pickering and the Wolds -

The images above are of our own garden. The thing I come away with when I visit these open gardens is that mass planting does have the wow factor. We have a mass of poppies this time of year in our garden which always look spectacular. You can see them from quite a distance when you are walking up to our house from the village.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Measuring up

Well, the building work is moving on at a rapid pace. We're now surrounded by a mini grey breeze block city in the space that was occupied by our old kitchen, boiler room and garage. We're beginning to get an idea of the space we'll have which will really increase our living area. Without the walls I thought it seemed small but oddly enough the space looks bigger with the walls up. My sister-in-law's boyfriend who works in the building industry says people always think this and worry that their extension isn't big enough - so it's not just me.

By the way, that brick arch you can see above our window is the outline of the original stone mullion windows that got taken out when the school was converted to a house in the 1970s. A lady in our village kindly dropped us off an old slide of the house as it was when it was a school. The windows were lovely but they would have been very high so we wouldn't have had the super views we have now out of every window in the house.

As we are project managing this renovation ourselves we seem to be obsessing about every detail. So at the end of the day when the builders have headed home we do a tour of the building site to check out what has been done that day. Although it is chaotic living in the house with all this work going on around us, especially with a two-year-old and a five-year-old, it does have its advantages. You can work closely with the builders and make quick decisions which always happens.

I have pored over the flat plan many times, but I can't always visualise the three-dimensional aspect of the plan until I see it in real life and that might look very different to what you imagined.

The windows have been designed to give you the feeling of the outside coming into the room so it feels very spacious and airy.

Meanwhile, on the outside of the breeze block there is a layer of cavity wall insulation and then the external stonework which looks a perfect match to the original sandstone and limestone of our house. The lime mortar is still quite wet and will lighten to match the original part of the house.

I think I am going to get one of those Bob the Builder belts to put a tape measure in. Measuring has become our obsession and I'm finding myself doing it several times a day at the moment. And it's all in millimetres so we're always talking in hundreds and thousands. At least my maths will be good at the end of this!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Insulation and keeping cosy

Hello again. I just realised that I forgot to post one important picture when I was showing you the photos of the house as it was when we moved in - the one of the kitchen, the room that is going to be transformed in this renovation project. Anyway, here it is in all its glorious melamine and teak-effect 70s glory!

We did actually rip these kitchen units out three years ago as all that brown was so gloomy and it was grimy too. We found a great company called Pineland, who charge very reasonable prices for solid wood dovetail jointed units. You send them a rough plan of your current kitchen with measurements and they then plan it for you so you actually get a made to measure kitchen for a fraction of the price. They deliver the units all made up. Fortunately, David, my husband, is quite handy and along with his dad installed the kitchen. Just as well as I was eight months pregnant at the time so not much help. We'll re-use the units from Pineland in the new kitchen as they are all free-standing.

So, onto insulation. Here is a picture of what lies under our new floor.

It may not look much and it may not be be beautiful but boy are we going to be warm this winter. I am a northerner by birth but lived for many years in London in a Victorian conversion so benefited from other people's heating systems. However, up here come winter and living in a detached stone house no matter how thick those stone walls are I have shivered. No double glazing, no roof insulation, none of this cavity wall insulation that seems to be the thing nowadays. Anyway, this thick layer of insulation has gone down under the concrete sub-floor and we will have cavity wall insulation, roof insulation, double glazed windows and dare I say it, an aga too.

I realise this may seem like a luxury but I really believe I will use it for many different uses. It should provide the kitchen space with an ambient heat as this is the room we will spend a lot of time in. So, hopefully, we won't need to buy as much smokeless fuel or wood for our stove which has kept us warm for the last couple of winters....... plus, I'll use it to dry my clothes (I have two little boys, who through love of water and muck and not fashion-sense go through several changes of clothes a day), I enjoy baking and David likes baking bread and is a good chef, we also love our cups of tea here so no need for an electric kettle, as yet we don't have new-born lambs to warm up in the aga's bottom oven but give us time......

Whilst we are on the subject of heating, do you remember that spectacular wall of stone that was the fireplace here? Well, here's a picture I have taken of what we replaced it with.

A multi-fuel stove from Vermont Castings. We used to burn smokeless fuel but have since gone over to logs as it's cheaper at the moment. I have to say burning wood is a lot cleaner too and you can use the ash on the garden which you can't do with the ash from the coke. I got the fireplace surround from Old Flames in Easingwold and it really seems to suit the space as this is quite a large room. Also as this was never a house it would have been odd to replace it with the usual Victorian cast iron fireplace. This was the room where the headmaster had his office whilst the children were crammed into the room next door which is now a dining room, hall and snug. That doesn't seem like a very even distribution of space, does it? As for us, we use this room a lot. It has windows on all the sides bar this one with the fireplace, including a big bay window and French windows, which don't half give you a great view out. So, even in winter you don't get that cabin-fever feeling as it brings in whatever light is available even on the gloomiest day. My only issue with the windows is the style of them - another 1970s touch. But I guess this is another project.

Ok, I think that's all for today. Friday night so glass of chilled white wine calling. See you later.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Hello and welcome to my blog. I had every intention of starting this three weeks ago but if you take a quick look at the picture below you'll see what has delayed me.

We've just embarked on our extension and renovation project. From enlisting an architect, getting planning permission and getting builders in has taken almost two years. Now thanks to a friend in the construction business we made contact with a very competent team of builders who have come in and got cracking. There are about seven or eight of them on site. Imagine my confusion when it comes to who has sugar and how many in the tea. We're also buying biscuits in bulk!

The part of the house that has been demolished was our kitchen. We're still living here and have decamped to other parts of the house along with the kitchen units, white goods etc and have set up a temporary kitchen in our snug where the kids' toys were.

I quite fancied writing a blog for a few reasons even if writing about our experience helps preserve my sanity throughout the building process. I also love those before and after photos whether it's of someone else's home or your own so this seems a great way to chart the renovations from the start to finish. It might also make us feel it really was all worth it when we've spent up and are still living on beans on toast even when we have a cooker back.

Just to fill you in, our house is an old Victorian school. It still has a lot of character on the outside, lovely solid buttresses, arched doors and little attic windows but it was converted in the seventies in a rather unsympathetic way. And even though the Seventies seems to be back in fashion it didn't really do the house any favours. Here are a few photos of what the place looked like four years ago when we moved in.

This was a pretty impressive ranch-style fireplace that almost stretched the entire width of the room. More suited to Southern Spain that a period home in North Yorkshire. My husband and dad thoroughly enjoyed demolishing this and it has subsequently been replaced with a stone fire surround I found in a shop called Old Flame in Easingwold and a stove by Vermont Castings.

Mmmm. I know florals are in especially given the popularity of Cath Kidston and friends (and believe me I really do love my patterned fabric whether floral, striped or checks) but maybe IKEA had a point when they told us to chuck out our chintz. This bedroom even came with matching curtains, can you believe?

This was our main bedroom. It looks very dark and dingy here but it is actually a lovely light-filled room with great views across open countryside and our neigbouring farm which has a beautiful avenue of lime trees that we look onto. We took out the cupboards to the right and exposed tongue and groove wood panelling which gives it a bit of a New England feel.

What a suntan? This was our Seventies orange varnished staircase, now painted, the treads filled in and carpeted. We could have lost the kids through those gaps.

You can see our old conservatory and flat roof garage attached. These have both been demolished in the building work. The conservatory had a sort of charm I guess and did look nice in summer with plants in and when the children had birthday parties we decorated it with bunting. But it has gradually been rotting and we could never use it in winter so it became a bit of a dumping ground.

And here we are looking back at the same view without conservatory or garage. The plan is to extend our kitchen so it will sit in the same footprint as the conservatory did with a utility room in the garage space. We liked the idea of retaining a glass frontage with a door out onto the patio as this has a lovely view onto our flower borders and the countryside beyond. There will be a study/bedroom above with a balcony that you can sit out on and admire the view across open fields. It gets the afternoon sun so we will be able to sit and watch the sun set. We are also re-roofing and replacing the dormer windows.

Well, I think that is probably enough for starters. A cup of tea is beckoning. See you later and thank you for visiting my blog!

Saturday, May 23, 2009