Things I’m loving at the moment

Design Vintage Pale Grey Vintage Cupboard
Loaf Pudding Sofa
The White Company Beaumont Four Poster Bed
Distressed Metal Shelf Unit
Rattan Butlers Tray
Timsbury Velvet Mustard Sofa
New Trapeze Chandelier
Long Ear Hook
Easton Baskets
Chambray Towel
Stamford Single Bed
Design Vintage Pale Grey Vintage Cupboard
Loaf Pudding Sofa
The White Company Beaumont Four Poster Bed
Distressed Metal Shelf Unit
Rattan Butlers Tray
Timsbury Velvet Mustard Sofa
New Trapeze Chandelier
Long Ear Hook
Easton Baskets
Chambray Towel
Stamford Single Bed

Surviving a property renovation

I couldn’t tell you how many times I get asked ‘how on earth did you cope with two babies in a caravan whilst doing up your house?’ The honest answer. I don’t really know. But I did, and I’m still here to tell the story! 

But looking back, it was something I agreed to with complete ignorance. I think it’s fair to say it’s an understatement to call Luke a ‘handyman’, as he is much more than just ‘handy’, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my husband. He is a qualified plumber, that’s his main trade, but he specialises in property renovations. He has done quite a few for clients now, but admittedly never his own.

Our first home was a one bed coach house, which he transformed into a two bed with a garage conversion downstairs that became our kitchen/living area, but that was a well overdue project. It became a joke amongst our friends who’d ask me in front of Luke when he was going to finish the kitchen. This project took about 6 years and was only completed as we were selling. But in all fairness to Luke, he does have a full time job to do so all the ‘handy work’ he does on our home, is done in his spare time.

Spare time isn’t something you have much of when you have children. Can you see where I am going with this one.

So going back to our current home, our ‘still’ pink home, Our Pink Project, which I’ve fondly named it due to the peeling pink paint on the outside of the property. Which, we’ve had sandblasted, but Luke the perfectionist still feels the need to go over the whole property himself ready for painting. still not completed, but totally liveable. No longer are we residing in an unheated caravan with a shower that lets the rain in, a cooker that you have to stick your arm in to light with a match and a toilet that has slugs in. Yes this was our living conditions for over two years. An original promise my husband made to me was that we’d live in the caravan for ‘just a couple of months’. This, I could just about deal with, but two years?! Well that’s what happened, two years at which point we even brought our new born baby, Wilfred home too.

I distinctly recall viewing the cottage for the first time, walking around, listening to Luke talking through all of the walls he’d knock down, moving doors and adding rooms. Meanwhile I was just clocking up the pound signs and thinking about how much time it would take. But for some reason I agreed.

The decision to live on site, even though the living conditions were pretty unsavory gave me a chance to see the progress. So at times when I’d have a mini meltdown (and trust me, these were quite often), I could just look out the window and remind myself what all of this was for. I think this helped a lot. The start is probably the hardest. It’s exciting when you’ve got the keys, the property is yours and one of the first things you do is rip down that old 1970’s flowery wallpaper, some of the old brown and orange curtains and start dreaming about putting your own stamp on the place. But once that initial excitement turns to realisation that the point at which you will be choosing curtains is probably a very long way off. Reality sets in and that question that you will be asked more times than you’ll ever imagine, ‘when do you think it’ll be ready to move in?’ starts to become the norm. 

Then there’s the spreadsheet. It’ll become your right arm throughout your project, you document everything on this, listing all those little jobs and materials, the timeframe and then don’t forget to add in that ‘total cost’ column. Unfortunately I have this incurable condition which prevents me from choosing the cheapest or most reasonable item for sale. But why are the nicest things always the most expensive? This causes a lot of arguments in our household, but in most cases (agree not all), they’re usually the things that last the longest or are just better quality. Or have I just brainwashed myself having had to say this to Luke so many times when he questions me. This is a debilitating condition when renovating a property though, because any budget you may have had, you can kiss goodbye. Instead, do the essential rooms first. The bathroom, the kitchen and then the bedrooms. However we didn’t take this particular advice, and did a few things backwards, utilising the caravan kitchen for as long as possible. 

A friend who had also been through a full house renovation said, once you start seeing plastered walls, you’re nearly there. She was right, at this point it feels as if everything is coming together. But the journey to that pint felt never ending at times! When we had discovered we had a pretty bad damp problem downstairs and ended up digging a few feet out of the floor, things really looked like they would never end. This wasn’t a one off unfortunately, but I think in the grand scheme of things we were pretty lucky as nothing too serious happened. Unless you count the chimney falling down.

On move in day, we had a bathroom, we had bedrooms and a sitting room, but no kitchen. Instead, we’d do the walk from the house to the caravan for cups of tea/ cooking. It was a great way to cut down on unnecessary grazing and curb my 20 a day green tea habit, but it was pretty tough with a toddler and a baby in tow. So we made a makeshift kitchen in part of the kitchen area, this made a huge difference to our quality of living. We even bought a mini cooker which had two hobs on top, so we could still cook hot food. 

Plastic boxes became our savours. We invested in loads of them. Also those plastic storage shelves with the drawers for organising things. We used the plastic boxes and shelves to store food (clear ones, so we could see what we had), and enormous black ones for clothes, toys and shoes. We used the caravan as a bit of a storage unit to start with and then slowly moved everything into the house.

Brand new carpets were laid. Cream carpets. So with works still very much ‘still in progress’, we were keen to make sure the carpets stayed cream. Luke laid lots of clear plastic sheeting over all of the carpeted rooms, and the stairs. If we were potty training, this was the time to do it! 

We painted the entire house white, just so that it was painted and ready to move in and we could make decisions once we were in. I’m glad we did it this way. So many people say that you should try and ‘live’ in a space before you decide on how it’s going to look. For me, this couldn’t have been any truer. I think rooms are a bit like people, they’re all different and all have their own personalities. How can you know what they’re going to be like without spending some time in them (the room that is).

Moving into the cottage couldn’t have come soon enough, but works on the house still hadn’t finished at move in day, and even though Luke had tried to get a lot of the dirty and dusty jobs out of the way, there were still things that had to be completed. So this meant dust storms of varying degrees throughout the house. At one time in my life this would have sent me over the edge but everything can be cleaned (and it was!) Several times. Living in such chaos and uncertainty, which pretty much sums up a house renovation, means you have to try and avoid letting things totally out of your control bother you. And if there’s one big piece of advice I can offer you, it’s that most things during a home reno from timescales, materials, costs and trades turning up are all pretty much things completely out of your control and be prepared that these will not always be on time/ to budget or will be delayed. But what’s important is to remember, it will be done, because you’ll make sure it will. 

Having lived in the caravan we had to embrace the minimalist life. Having a toddler and baby in the caravan and all the baby paraphernalia that they come with meant Luke and I had to sacrifice a lot of our own belongings just to fit theirs in. So when we finally moved into the house, opening boxes with our belongings in was an amazing feeling but also brought about some feelings of shame. I had so much stuff. Stuff I hadn’t used or needed or even remembered I had, had in over two years (some of it longer as it had been packed up and put in storage when we sold our first house). So I can honestly say that living in the caravan and undergoing a home renovation has been truly humbling. I wrote a blog post on this too ‘My life cleanse and why I don’t need things to make me happy’. It has definitely made me appreciate what I have, what we have and how lucky we are. For so many, our living conditions in terms of space and everything else in that caravan and even our makeshift kitchen in the house, are some peoples’ way of living. They have no choice. 

So from those dark days, the arguments me and Luke had over when the house would be ready, the days I was ready to throw the towel in and book into a hotel or sell up and go and buy a new build so we could move straight in and I could start choosing curtains… and now, I’m writing this and can confidently say, I’d do it again. I would. This isn’t our forever home. We never planned for it to be, although we’re not planning on moving anytime soon, but I now know I couldn’t ever buy a house and move straight in. I’d need to knock down a few walls first! I’ve actually really enjoyed reconfiguring our entire house and making it our own. Now I feel like I know what to expect though, so will that make it any easier? I don’t know whether ignorance is actually bliss. But, one thing I do know is, I’ll be making sure we buy a much newer model of caravan (with central heating and double glazing), with no slugs next time!

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Tough times don’t last, but tough people do…

Tough times don’t last, but tough people do…

“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do” Unknown Author

I’m sure (and hope) I’m not alone here, I’m talking about when you go through those periods when everything just seems like such a struggle and you just can’t see any end in sight. To anything. Well I’ve recently been going through this!

Everything feels like an uphill battle and I feel like I can’t make any clear or final decisions and start doubting everything. Even what to have for breakfast! And for me a big part of this is living in such a mess, with absolutely no order. For someone that likes order and everything in its place… that’s me! I’m one of those people that arrives somewhere to stay and can’t do anything until I’ve unpacked, hung up my clothes, put out my toothbrush, toiletries and ensured things are where they should be. Yep, that is me.

I feel a bit as if there’s an expectation to have your s%^t together these days. Or is that just me?! I feel it’s my duty, and my job as a parent, that I have to be ok and look like everything’s alright (even if our morning has been like world war 2 trying to get Arthur to brush his teeth and I couldn’t find my knickers because they’re in a box somewhere amongst the pile of clothes and other stuff in our bedroom that looks like it’s been burgaled.) No one wants to hear about your awful morning or why you’re late. But sometimes I think when you’re trying to keep it all together it makes things feel worse.

Our way of life for the past 3 years has been somewhat of a challenge. Our lives have, and a lot of it still is, in boxes. I have completely and utterly surprised myself though, I mean I never for one second thought I could live in a caravan. But I did! Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not been easy. And I’m feeling fed up.

We are so close now to having the cottage fully live-able, we are sleeping in there, the main family bathroom is functional (however it’s not finished!) but we’ve still got no kitchen/ living area, downstairs toilet, utility room, ensuite or anywhere in our bedroom to store our clothes (apart from two humongous free standing rails.) The bedroom looks a little like we’ve been burgled. That’s another blog on how I am currently going through a life cleanse and throwing out all clutter, including half my wardrobe.

I feel like our life has been in limbo for so long… practically the whole of Arthur’s life (he is now 3!) and so far all of Wilf’s. I didn’t plan this in my head. It wasn’t how I thought things would be.

I remember thinking when I found out I was pregnant again with Wilf, how I couldn’t wait to enjoy my maternity leave in our new home, having all of his things in one place, and lots of time to dress it and make it just how I wanted it. I felt like I had a difficult time when Arthur was born, we were packing up our old house, moving in with my parents (which you’d think would have been easy with grandparents on tap), it wasn’t. Living back at your parents as a proper grown up with your own family, is hard. My mum was poorly too, which made things all the more difficult and upsetting. Then when we decided to rent, it was just another upheaval that at first was a welcome relief to have our own space, but then the house sold, so that’s when we had our bright idea to buy a static and live on site during the renovation of the cottage.

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This meant my entire pregnancy with Wilf and up until very recently were spent living in the caravan, through two heatwaves and a freezing cold winter complete with some serious snow, not to mention a few storms when I actually lay awake at night convinced the roof was going to blow off or imagining the caravan being swept away (with us in it) and landing in a field! Luckily we are all still here to tell the tale, albeit a few of my beloved coats that were discovered to have mould on them from damp in the caravan over the winter.

I should look back on these times now and be thankful they are over. And yes I am, but now I feel like we have new trials and tribulations to face. I haven’t yet completely managed to rid ourselves of ‘that’ caravan, we are still cooking and eating in it. I’m sure we could manage if we didn’t have small children, but preparing their meals and milk etc requires a working kitchen! Wilf is also weaning now so I’m trying to save our new cream carpet. The kitchen/living area has no flooring down so with a little one on the move, it’s just not safe (or comfortable) to be eating in right now.

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Over the weekend, I went to visit my 100 year old nan (very nearly 101!) who always asks about everything that’s going on in my life, including the house. She is one of the most grateful people I know, (alongside both my children) which is something I absolutely adore and admire about the innocence of children! My nan has lived through two world wars, losing the father of her child (my dad) at war before my dad was born, a few recessions and probably seen things in her lifetime we can’t even begin to imagine, and she is so optimistic. Nothing seems to phase her.

I pulled out some clean clothes for her when I visited and helped her into them. She was admiring the jumper I said I was going to dress her in, and she just kept saying how wonderful it was; the quality and the colour. She thought I had just bought it for her, I didn’t have the heart to tell her the clothes were hers already. But it made me think how I have never heard her say ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I’m not sure about that’ or ‘isn’t there something else I could wear’. She is more than happy with whatever she is given. Completely content. She doesn’t complain. She just gets on with it.

I’m in complete awe of her, as I only wish I could be this grateful and content with life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy, I’m not ungrateful with my life. Not at all. I am so fortunate for what I have, and know it’s more than most. Just sometimes I need to step back and remind myself how lucky I really am.

My nan kept saying to me at the weekend, ‘aren’t you lucky you have your own home though’ after she’d asked me how it was coming along and I’d replied to say ‘slowly, and feeling a bit fed up’. We are so lucky, whether it has a kitchen or not, it’s somewhere we are fortunate enough to be able to call our home. So thank you nanny for reminding me of that.

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Recently, I also lost my mum, as you can imagine it’s been a very difficult time and I feel like it’s only very recently starting to sink in that’s she’s not here. That I’ll never see her again and I can’t just pick up the phone to her or pop and see her. I saw her most days. I don’t think you can always account for how much your emotions can exhaust you. Dealing with something like the death of a loved one, in my case, my mum, is, hands down one the hardest most life changing things I’ve ever had to face. They say it gets easier or you learn to live with it, but right now, I can’t see that.

A lot of the decisions and reasons for buying this house is because of my mum (and dad.) The village we live in has always been somewhere we’ve wanted to buy in, and a big factor in that is because of how close my parents live to the village (about 5 minutes away). We keep our horses and (used to) keep our pig, Bazz there (sadly he also recently died). So just popping to see to the horses and visit my parents was easier than ever before. Now things feel very unfair, mum isn’t just down the road anymore. She was also my go to with the house. I have said in a couple of my Instagram posts about how my mum often advised and heavily influenced a lot of my interior choices, and knew all the best brands to buy.

I’m sad she’ll never see the progress with the house now. We had just made the main family bathroom functional before she died, so she at least got to see that. I sent her photos of the boys having their first bath in the cottage which I’m sure she loved seeing. I just wish I could send her photos of all the other adventures we’ll have in the house.

I know we’ll finish the house. People tell you how hard a renovation is. Most people say they’d never do it again. Then people ask why you did that or you should have done it like this. Well it’s not your house! Then people ask why you bought that now rather than do something they see as more important. It’s us that lives here, surely it’s our choice what we do and when. People also constantly say how lovely it’ll be when it’s all finished. I know that. But there’s times when you just don’t see this. And this is one of them.

But I thank my Nan for bringing me back down to earth and reminding me that yes, I am so lucky to have my own home and such a beautiful family. And I know she’s not here, but I know my mum is watching over us and can see the progress on the house. She’d also probably tell me to stop being silly and that everything will be ok, ‘it won’t be long’. Even though she’s not here to ask, I feel like my choices I make now on the house are still heavily influenced by her and in a way she’s part of our journey to finishing Our Pink Project. I hope so anyway. I don’t feel very tough at the moment. Far from it in fact. Living in chaos doesn’t suit me. But hopefully I won’t feel like this for much longer and normal service will resume.

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