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Home, Home and Garden

Our Hallway Renovation

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It’s been AGES since I gave you an update on our house.

Over the last five years, we’ve slowly been working on home renovation projects. Our house had sat empty for a few years before we moved in, and hadn’t been maintained for an even longer period of time, so it had all sorts of issues that needed resolving. It has been a LONG process of saving up to do the work when we can afford it, but we’re finally at the stage where there is light at the end of the tunnel!

The hall in particular needed a huge overhaul. The existing stairs did not comply with Building Standards – mainly in terms of head height clearance, which there was no easy fix or workaround for. There were many issues that we knew of when we bought the house, but replacing the stairs wasn’t one of them. I think I nearly cried when the Building Standards officer from the council told us that the whole staircase needed replacing, but it needed doing so we could get the necessary paperwork signed off.

Here is the hallway before:

hallway renovation project before photos

Whilst the stairs were being replaced, we decided it was a good opportunity to remodel under the stairs. Instead of one big cupboard that was really impractical – reaching anything at the back of the cupboard took about two hours – we opened up the space to create more living space. We live in a little terraced cottage, so any extra space we can create is welcome!

Here’s a photo from during the works – we all had to sleep downstairs for a few days!

hallway renovation in progress

And here it is now!

small home office under stairs

To retain some storage we had doors installed as far back as we could under the stairs for things that we need daily access to like the vacuum cleaner, and got the joiner to make overhead cupboards for things that we don’t need so often, like our camping gear. We have really high ceilings, so putting overhead storage in doesn’t impinge on the headroom of the space. The joiner also revamped the existing built-in shelves, which you can see from the photos were in a shoddy state.

Originally we were going to put our dining table in this space. The dining table lives in the living room, as we don’t have a separate dining room or space in our galley kitchen for it. However, it turns out we over-estimated the size of the space, and it isn’t big enough for a dining table and chairs!

home office under stairs

What it did give me room for was a small home office. Pre Covid-19 I had one childfree day a week to work on the blog so it wasn’t supposed to be a full-time work station, but since March it’s been my full-time workspace whilst I work my day job from home, and it has worked pretty well.

Furniture wise, I couldn’t find a small enough desk to fit the space secondhand, so I got this beautiful console table made in the UK from reclaimed wood from MuJu Furniture on Etsy* (gifted) that I use as a desk. MuJu Furniture makes their furniture in a variety of sizes, and I went for the smallest size, which fits perfectly. I really love the desk – it’s such a beauty of a thing!

I do love Etsy for buying pieces for the home. Although the desk was gifted, I’ve personally bought lots of bits and pieces for my home over the years. I love being able to support independent sellers and shop products according to my values.

I bought the chair secondhand from Drum Farm Antiques on the outskirts of Edinburgh (currently closed due to Covid-19). This is a wonderfully eclectic place to while away a few hours wandering around the barns and storage units, however, I’ve found their pricing to be a bit erratic. I did find this chair for £10 though, which I was delighted with. The seat pad needs recovering, so I have an offcut of blue velvet to recover it with. I planned to use the tools in my local tool library to do it, but it has been closed since early March, so it needs to wait for now.

After losing the cupboard door that we used to hang our coats on, I got a coat rail for the wall opposite my desk. This came from Off The Grain Co* (gifted), a Yorkshire based husband and wife team who make beautiful handmade wooden furniture and decor and sell on Etsy. No, our rack doesn’t always look this tidy, but the internet doesn’t need to see our medley of coats! It’s almost too pretty to cover with coats!

hallway renovation completed

Like any renovation project, there are always compromises. We had wanted to sand and oil the original floorboards that were underneath the old laminate flooring. Whilst we were taking up the old laminate this looked like this might be possible, until the very last section that we removed, where the floorboards had been cut out at some point in the past and replaced with MDF. Angry was not the word! I could not find any affordable reclaimed flooring – a local supplier quoted £54 per square metre for flooring that needed fitting, sanding, and sealing on top of the initial cost. Given the unexpected costs of replacing the stairs, this was way way out of our price range, as we need to floor the living room as well, so we had to opt for laminate flooring instead. We did pick a classic oak style that I hope will age well.

under stair home office ideas

We haven’t quite finished up – Covid-19 came along before we could finish painting the stairs or carpeting them. We need the kids out of the house when we do jobs like painting, and they have been here since March, and will be until mid-August at the very earliest, so who knows when we will do it! I honestly don’t know how people have managed to do DIY in lockdown with kids around! We started the hallway project in December 2018 though, and have done different bits at different times as we can afford it, so we’re in no hurry!

We have one room left to do in our house now – the living room – which we are currently saving for, and then we are officially done!

Home, Home and Garden

Our New Bedroom

vintage glass cabinet

We’ve redecorated our old bedroom to make it super energy efficient – want to have a peak?

First, here’s the back story.  In May, we started work on transforming our old bedroom.  It hadn’t been touched in years and years: when we moved in there was a huge hole in the wall from a (now fixed) leak at some point in the past, the cupboard was off its hinges and the carpet was threadbare (and laid without underlay), so needless to say some refreshing of the decor was long overdue.

This is how it looked before, it was pretty awful:

It’s worth noting that our old bed had already been listed on Gumtree at this point!  I’d also started emptying the cupboard when I took these photos – we didn’t store random rubbish in the corner (promise!).

And this was how it looked the day before the builder started – you can see our fantastic cupboard:

We lived in this state of disrepair for three years and a half years.  Which I feel deserves some explanation because I’m sure you’re thinking most reasonable people would have decorated this mess not long after moving in.

Well, we’ve been in our house for since 2015, and although we had lots of plans for decor when we first moved in, we were hindered by undertaking any of them by the fact that the loft conversion done on our house, where our bedroom is, was carried out without planning permission.

We knew that there was no planning permission when we bought the house and we knew that we could work with the Council to gain retrospective planning permission.  At the time of purchase, we naively thought this would be a fairly straightforward process and it didn’t intimidate us.  How wrong we were.

We lived in our house for 10 months before moving forward on the retrospective planning permission – in true Grand Designs style I became pregnant within a month of moving into our house and was so ill that we just couldn’t contemplate doing anything until our littlest one came along.  Consequently, we put everything on hold, save for some renovations downstairs.

One of the good things about living somewhere for a little while before doing anything is that we realised an upstairs bathroom would be a very good thing, so in February 2016 we employed the services of an architect to a) draw up the plans for the new bathroom and submit the planning permission request, and b) work on the retrospective planning application on our behalf.  This turned out to a very good idea.   Our architect kindly offered to cap his fee on the retrospective planning application, saying it wouldn’t be a lot of work on his behalf.  This also turned out to be a very good idea.

Through aerial photographs, the Council determined our extension was carried out in the early 1980s.  This meant the Council required us to carry out the remedial works the property required to 1981 building standards.  The Council remained vague on what this meant in practice, so what followed was 1.5 YEARS of thrashing out between the Council and our architect exactly what remedial works were required.  Thank goodness for that capped fee, otherwise fees would have spiraled and we would have to have called the whole renovation works off.

Finally, at the end of 2017, after much wrangling, we had our planning permission secured for the extension and a building warrant granted for the extension and our remedial works.

It then took us a further five months to find a builder willing to take the works on.  Builders are very happy to work on new builds, but to come in to remedy an existing structure is a bit more of an unknown creature, so they are a little more hesitant.  We finally found someone who was willing to take it on and he started in May.

Here’s what he did:

* removed all the existing plasterboard walls and ceilings.

* installed new flat roofs on the dormer windows (both turned out to be rotten, so this was an unexpected expense)

* installed vents in our roof (part of the retrospective planning permission requirements)

* fitted insulation to the walls and ceilings (there was no insulation previously, which is why all the plasterboard and ceilings had to come down.  The Council said we could have gone for 1981 standards, but we went for 2018 standards on the insulation – this cost us more but after a few years of living here we found the rooms upstairs are freezing in winter and boiling in summer, so this was money worth spending).

* fitted rockwool insulation under the floorboards

* rewired upstairs and switched to LED lighting  (the rewiring was again part of the retrospective planning permission requirements)

* fitted foil backed plasterboard for further heat retention in winter

* plastered, painted, fitted skirting boards and new radiators

* build a new cupboard for us

In short, everything in the bedroom is new save for the window and the floorboards!  It’s also incredibly energy efficient so should keep us a lot warmer in winter, and save on our heating bills big time.

Decor-wise, it’s a tiny bedroom (we opted for the smallest bedroom so our daughters can have a big room to play in) so there isn’t much we can do with the space.

Our biggest consideration when decorating the bedroom was our bed, as a double bed takes up two-thirds of the room.  Our old bed was a standard double bed, and although you can’t see from the before photo, we stored our clothes under it, in storage tubs.  This meant, due to walls on either side of the bed, we could only utilise the bottom half of the bed.  Losing all of this storage space meant we needed a separate set of drawers.  The storage boxes also looked a bit messy.

So, with the works complete, we gave the old bed away on Gumtree to a lovely lady, and instead, we opted for a beautiful ottoman bed and fabric headboard, kindly gifted to us from Silentnight:

silentnight ottoman bed

Our ottoman bed is the bee’s knees.  We opted for a full ottoman, so this means we can utilise the whole of the underbed area for our clothes storage, which frees up the need for us to have a chest of drawers. The mattress flips up and underneath we both have separate storage areas for all of our clothes.  As well as being incredibly practical for our small space, it’s a truly beautiful bed and headboard, both of which are handmade in the UK.

As well as the made in the UK aspect of the bed, what also impressed me is that Silentnight holds a wide array of eco credentials.  From receiving the Furniture Makers’ Company Sustainability Award for 2017; to being an independently certified carbon neutral organisation; to being the first bed company to be accredited under the Furniture Industry Sustainability Programme – which aims to improve the furniture industry’s sustainability credentials; to having been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®).  There’s more right this way, but in short: It’s a lot.  This is on top of the fact that Silentnight diverts 90% of their waste from landfill.

silentnight eco comfort mattress

The mattress was also gifted to us from Silentnight.  We opted for the Eco Comfort Breathe Pocket 2000 in softer from their newly launched Eco Comfort Breathe Range and gosh, it’s good.  150 recycled plastic bottles go into each mattress’s polyester filling, diverting these bottles from landfill or the oceans, which is pretty impressive.

Whilst sleeping on plastic doesn’t sound the most comfortable, I can assure you, we are getting some of the best night’s sleep ever around here.  The Eco Comfort Breathe mattress is incredibly comfortable and supportive.  Although we have the softer mattress it’s not too soft and not too hard – it just hits the perfect sweet spot.  As a light sleeper, I used to get woken up when my partner moves because the mattress would move too.  Now, the mattress doesn’t move when he moves and I don’t wake up.

Meanwhile, unlike some memory foam mattresses that leave you feeling hot and sticky, the Silentnight Eco Comfort  Breathe mattress employs their special Microclimate sleep system – a three-layer system for enhanced breathability.  This helps prevents you from overheating and helps wick moisture away from you.  Talk about feeling refreshed when you wake up!

silentnight double bed

Moving away from the bed, we used to have curtains in here, but they weren’t ideal – trapping damp against the walls at either side, so instead, we opted for a made-to-measure blackout roller blind.  We sourced ours online and make no sustainability claims from the company we bought it from.  I found it too tricky to source ethically and sustainably produced made-to-measure blinds, so if you come across any companies do let me know!

Our bed linen is from Habitat, about nine years ago, and the wicker lampshade came from B&Q.  I tried to buy a vintage wicker lampshade on eBay but I couldn’t find one that was small enough one to fit the space.  It needed to be short, so we don’t bang our head on it too much.  When I saw this 20cm one in B&Q I knew it was the one – although I would have preferred a secondhand one.

under eaves storage

Our builder created our lovely mini wardrobe for us.  Prior to the works starting the door was off its hinges and the cupboard wasn’t lined, so was a huge damp trap. The cupboard was previously much shorter too, losing a whole lot of storage space, so the builder opened up the space heightwise a bit more for us to be able to create a mini wardrobe and has created some shelves in there too.  At some point, we’ll add a hanging rail, but we all know the greatest projects take time!

vintage glass cabinet

The only other storage unit we have in the bedroom is an old cabinet I picked up over 10 years ago from Oxfam, for I think £15.  It’s a bit knackered, and cost us more to get it delivered than it was to buy it!  It was initially darkly varnished and didn’t have any lace on it.  We’ve always used it to store our CD collection in – but about eight years ago I painted it (badly!) in Farrow and Ball eggshell paint and fixed some lace to cover the glass panels because it looked quite messy having the CDs on display.  I know some people are completely against the idea of painting old furniture, but it never really fit in with our existing furniture, and after painting it fits perfectly, so I always say do it if it feels right!

In a minimalist world, we wouldn’t have any CDs, and all the music we owned would be digital, but music is a big part of both of our lives.  Most of the CDs are from both of our teens and early twenties, and they are just too hard to get rid off, so for now, they live in our bedroom away from small people!

wicker baskets

The wicker laundry basket is an old one from John Lewis, and likewise, the mirror is an old one from Ikea, both of which we brought with us from the old house when we moved.

I’m trying to source an antique mirror for the bedroom wall, and I have some old lights to go beside the bed.  At some point, I’ll add a picture to the wall but at the moment we’re not in a rush – we’re just content to live in the lovely space and work out what will be right for the walls.

We’re not too sure what to do with the floors – our builder sanded them in case we want to paint the floorboards, but I’m quite taken with the rustic look of them.  My partner wants to carpet the room, but I’m not convinced.  Again, we’ll live with it for a little while before deciding what to do!

And there we have it – our bedroom and probably what are the most words ever written on the tiniest bedroom in the world!