Friday, 29 February 2008

Proposed middle & top floors

And here's how the top two floors will work spatially - note the reconfiguration of the bathroom and the new wardrobe.

We're meeting with Anthony the architect tomorrow morning so I'm sure to have more updates over the weekend. The plan is to go to Ikea tomorrow night and check out potential kitchen options - Friday night is actually the quietest time to go. Not sure if I feel motivated enough to face it yet but maybe after talking to Anthony I will be.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Proposed ground floor

Not sure how this will look as it's a whole lot of drawing to fit onto a limited space, it'll work better if you click on it.

Anyway, here's how the ground floor will look (sort of). Something I really loved that the architect suggested was ditching the 'return' at the bottom of the stairs. Making the stairs finish in a straight line is a subtle but effective way of immediately updating the style of the house. And fortunately the architect isn't fond of the banisters either. Hubby suggested having a 70s style straight rail running horizontally at the mid point, I'm thinking two rows of highly polished teak would look superb. If anyone has any solutions for funking up stairs I'm all ears.

Floor plan and plans...

So this is when the juicy stuff starts. (Btw if you haven't already figured this out, you can click on any of the photos on these pages to see them at their actual size.)

Here is the rough floor plan as drawn by the real estate agent. Having paid £1,000 for a full measured survey by the architect's firm the difference is quite significant - thank goodness we hadn't ordered any kitchen units etc based on this drawing.

It's useful here though to explain what we intend to do. Firstly, on the
ground floor half the garage is being reclaimed as living space. All the walls dividing the bedroom 3 and utility room (the grey shape near the stairs) from the hallway are coming down. Basically it's open plan. Then we're wacking off the end wall and building an extension 4m into the garden (NB you don't need planning permission if your "conservatory" is under 50 square metres and in our borough this is being extended to 70 square metres sometime soon). This downstairs space will house the kitchen and dining room with the washer/dryer going under the stairs. We'll keep half the garage as storage and the cloakroom as a cloakroom (aka a downstairs loo, for people who refer to cloakrooms as places where you might hang a coat). The extension will have solid walls but bi-fold matt black doors (as per Pierre Koenig) and a matching glass roof.

The middle floor is losing it's kitchen and a wall's going up to separate the space into two: one will be a "family" (games) room ie: massive TV and a PS3/Wii/X Box (still TBC) and the other space is the spare room/home office.

On the top floor we're losing the en suite shower, and making the bathroom a rectangle shape. Adding a Velux as mentioned earlier. And putting in a built in wardrobe in the main bedroom (which backs onto the bathroom) after ripping out the one you can see in the photo below.


Actual photos of the house

February 2008...

The garden, circa 2004?

One of the reasons we decided to look for another property was hubby's insistance that life would be better if we had a garden. Our flat has a balcony which is perfect for a large Weber BBQ and can fit 3 friends comfortably, or 5 at a squash, but we became paranoid about the BBQ smoke billowing into our neighbour's homes and last summer I think we could count the number of times we sparked up the Weber on one hand. (It was also a very wet summer, but the balcony is under cover).

The new house has a 57 foot garden, shown here in a very tidy condition with flat paving stones and plants in cute terracotta pots. Neither hubby nor I are into gardening - the last time we had a (tiny) lawn we paid a fella to come round and mow it.

The current upstairs bathroom

We looked for over a year before we found this place. We were a bit spoilt living in an ex local authority flat because the room dimensions in a"modern" property are so much more generous than in a mock Georgian (our new place was built in the 1980s to look like something from more than 200 years ago, unfortunately the narrow proportions of the old style make me feel a tad claustrophobic).

This is the main bathroom which feels about half the size of the bathroom in our flat. There's no natural light either so we'll have to vault the ceiling and put in a skylight or Velux or something. I'm not enamoured by anything in this bathroom so it's going to get a total overhaul.

When we initially talked to the architect about what would happen if funds were running low I suggested doing the bathroom at a later date, and he said it was just as cheap and convenient to do it while the rest of the house was being done. Correct answer. Didn't fancy living in a newly refurbed house with it's manky old bathroom still in tact. As it happens we now have big plans for this little room.

The other real estate agent...

Two real estate companies were promoting our house. The second company's photographs weren't nearly as enticing. Though they were a bit more realistic, they certainly didn't show the place as it was when we actually saw it - rammed to the rafters with stuff.

At least their copy was a tad more honest, pitching the place as a "two bedroom house with a study". The third bedroom is small though it does fit a double bed. This is going to be irrelevant soon - it's on the ground floor which will be mostly gutted anyway. There's a new thing in the UK which requires sellers to get a HIP (or Home Information Pack) and I think two bedroom houses were exempt in the first wave, so that could be another reason why it wasn't called a three bedder. No matter.

I'm not a fan of these stair banisters. In fact, I really don't get "period" properties. We certainly wouldn't have paid a premium for ye olde features beloved of people on Location, Location, Location as we most certainly would've ripped them out to make the property as streamlined and contemporary as possible. Victorian picture rails? Bah! Georgian fireplaces? Chuck 'em in the skip!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Middle floor looking east

The house has three levels - ground: which consists of a cloakroom, some under-stairs storage, the garage (which is so narrow very few cars could actually fit in it), a tiny bedroom and a utility room. The middle floor (pictured below and to the right) is currently open plan and has a kitchen and living room. And the top floor has two bedrooms, one with a shower en suite, and an internal bathroom.

I'm sure this middle floor set up breaks all kinds of fire codes, if the kitchen was billowing smoke there's no way for people on the top floor to get out, but I digress. As someone who loves to cook this kitchen is ridiculous to me - the bench space (counter top to my American friends) is fragmented and there isn't much of it. The storage isn't particularly generous either.

Our current kitchen is massive by comparison and cost a paltry £1,000 from Ikea (appliances on top, natch). It's difficult to plan the perfect kitchen with so many variables (I'm short and hubby hates it that I have a step ladder to reach high shelves), we both want a massive fridge this time round as under-the-counter options look fabulous in an integrated kitchen but are just too small for a family of four. I'm insisting on a wall oven as it's safer when there are kids underfoot - hubby thinks this is entirely unecessary. Mind you, he seldom cooks so it's not like he'd get any benefit hauling a roast chicken out at waist height.

Ikea has a fabulous online 3D kitchen planner so hubby is going to try out a few combos and we'll probably head there this weekend to see if we can agree on a cupboard style and a bench top. Fortunately we have the same taste so it'll be easy to at least narrow it down...

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Real estate photos

Aaah, real estate agents. The copy they write needs a hefty reality check, a bit like deciphering people's dating profiles (eg Medium height = short, etc). In our case it was "no expense spared" - if I was sparing no expense, I definitely wouldn't have gone for a nasty laminate floor.

The photos were taken some time ago, certainly way before the latest tenants lived there.

I love the arty appeal, the kittens playing on the floor but seriously the house didn't look like this in real life, as you'll see when I upload more photos...

Monday, 25 February 2008

Getting inspired by Koenig

How very "Wallpaper*" - 8 years ago I was on a press trip in Helsinki (for another publication) when I picked up a really cool diary with photographs by Julius Shulman.

It was packed with retro era photos of buildings that I loved. Fast forward to 2008: I was in the Tate Modern today and bought a book about the work of Pierre Koenig, who was one of the architects who worked on the Case Study Houses project, making modernist experimental homes for Americans in the 1950s and 60s. Julius Shulman was the photographer for the Case Study project, hence the familarity of the Koenig images!

The Koenig book will be pored over tonight with pages earmarked for discussion with our architect.

It's difficult to define inspiration usually, but in this case I think the Case Study thing is perfect as some of my other favourite architects & designers (Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen) were also involved.

It's also difficult to get the look you want on a relatively teensy budget but that'll be the challenge...

We have the keys

Well it's all getting pretty real. We had the offer accepted on October 30th, and exchanged contracts on December 21st. Then the keys were released after completion on February 11th. I got a bus to the real estate agent who kindly handed over a box of keys without even asking for ID - I could've been anyone!

We had four days to wander round inside the now empty and clean shell of our new house, but after a brief meeting with Anthony the architect we went to Florida for a week.

The thought of shelling out for two mortgages for the next few months is beyond scary. And each week that passes I find out that something else has to be done which takes time. The latest is a party wall survey and contract, so that we can do our extension legally, without upsetting our lovely neighbours. The time period is anything up to a month and the quotes ranged from £200 + VAT to over £1,000. I've just emailed the neighbours to see if they could recommend the company who would've done their party wall contract.

Aerial shot of our new house

What did we do before the internet? Here's an aerial photo of our new house thanks to Live Maps (which is so much better than Google Maps IMO). You can put in almost any postcode, then click "birds eye" to zoom in really quite close, then use the arrows to see the building from other angles. Kind of scary, but also very compelling and useful (eg check out your holiday villa's location - is it really a stones throw from the beach? etc etc)

Here you can see we're an end of terrace three story house, at the end of a dead end street and we're surrounded by gardens. A terrific location for kids, especially after living on the edge of a noisy estate for the last five years! I do love our uber modern (ugly) ex council flat but I'm sure I'm going to love our quiet "grown up" house even more.