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