Monday, 30 June 2008

Dreaming about a piano


Dum dum de dum. Still twiddling my thumbs. Have had an email from a friend today who's been out of the country and just arrived back saying 'I expect you're all settled into your new house by now…'


If only. I had the most amazingly convincing dream last night that we were shopping for a shiny black grand piano on eBay to fill out the massive space. This wouldn't happen anyway as we have kids, ergo, space is generally filled up with kids stuff and secondly, I'd rather have a pair of Technics turntables and some decent storage for my vinyl if we were going to introduce a musical theme.

The photo at the top here is from Livingetc and shows an extension with a roof and sliding door system not too dissimilar from what we're planning. Our roof pitch won't be as steep as this, but the solid side walls and long narrow room are definitely on the same page. You can buy a film to go on the glass which helps reduce glare and sun damage, and potentially negates the need for special blinds (visual clutter, urgh) but as we've literally wasted thousands of pounds by having the house sitting empty I don't think we can justify shelling out more on things that aren't 100% essential, so maybe we'll just endure the brightness. Also, the extension is facing east so by mid afternoon when the heat's at it's most intense (for London…) the sun won't be pouring onto the glass, I hope.

Hopefully Teia (one of our prospective builders) has recovered from Glastonbury and is busy working on our quote. It's nearly July and if there isn't a builder starting work on it very soon I may well spontaneously combust!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Bill of quantities MIA


Dark, square bathroom tiles. I think I'm wobbling on the rectangle shaped ones the more I think about our tiny little bathroom. Oh but I'm getting ahead of myself again, as we clock up the fifth month of watching our empty house gather dust. The grass in the back garden is now well over knee height, but at least the steady stream of junk mail addressed to about a dozen previous inhabitants is finally slowing down.

I've sent a few impatient emails to the architect's office trying to hurry along this bill of quantities - apparently the devil's in the detail and the reason it's taking so long is because all the suppliers must quote for their bit so that each part of the work is costed accurately. Why does it take everyone so darn long though? That bill of quantities was due a month ago! If I took a month longer than an official deadline for my job I doubt I'd have a job for very long.

Heartening to read in the newspaper than the building trade is slowing down due to this economic recession as it might mean that tradespeople are able to do jobs with smaller budgets (as this is preferable to having no job at all). I have a feeling that it'll actually be the bigger budget jobs that drop off first and that people with similar budgets to ours will be fighting over the handful of builders out there, as families decide to renovate and expand, rather than relocate. Oh, and the Polish are heading back too as things get too bleak here, great.

Is reading this blog as boring to you as it is to me writing it? I was hoping for hundreds of before and after photos in this blog by now… as I'm sure you were too. Apologies.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

"Chill the f*ck out"

Sound advice from pic above, discovered on fabulous image bookmarking site

Rob had a meeting with Anthony (the architect) and Amy (the assistant) yesterday and hallelujah, we have made some progress.

Our friend Teia is a recently retired musician who's now a builder and he's submitting a quote for our build. Yesterday he had a look round the property, and dropped the keys back to Rob during the meeting with Anthony. As Teia drove past the café windows Anthony had a glimmer of recognition... and when Teia walked in they immediately recognised each other, having played football together in the East End in years gone by. What are the chances? London's pretty massive with 7m people (or more?) living here.

I should mention that both Teia and Anthony are both New Zealanders (as are Rob and I) and both have Maori blood. I am keeping everything crossed that Teia's quote isn't hair raising so that we can have the "Bro-Team" working on the project (that's a wee kiwi joke…).

Rob and I pored over the schedule of work over lunch today which listed what exactly is going to be demolished and then built.

This document really would've been useful a few months ago as I think most builders would've preferred to quote knowing what it is they actually need to do. If you've ever look at architectural drawings without any explanation to hand you'll know how confusing they are. Oh well, you live, you learn...

Monday, 16 June 2008

Ding dong time for an update

Img from Livingetc

I like wooden decking, which is good as it's a more affordable option than other types of outdoor surface. Clueless about foliage though so not sure what'll happen there. Met a couple recently who have an Eglu chicken coop in their garden and they raved about it. Except they'd just buried a chook which a fox had dissected. It was the kid's fault apparently for not returning the chicken to the coop before sunset.

Rob (the artist formerly known as "hubby" on this blog) was over at our empty property last week to show round a prospective builder. It was the middle of the day (lunchtime to be exact) and he spied a fox sunning itself in the next door neighbour's garden. This was a little depressing as it means we can't possibly have chickens as it would be too cruel to keep them penned up except for short bursts. Is there such a thing as a fox repellent?

In other news, it's now mid June and we haven't had a quote from any of the three builders who were meant to quoting. The first one was supplying a bill of quantities, eg: a list of exactly how much wood, how many nails and other bits & bobs, so that everyone can accurately cost up the job based on supplies and time. He said he'd have it after the last Bank Holiday weekend, which was three weeks ago.

Rob was having a real gripe about the state of things at the weekend and trying to get me to agree to move into our house so that we can stop paying out two mortgages. I can see the logic of this but I can also see merit in letting the builders have unfettered access for 4-6 weeks so they can get as much done as possible before we *have* to move in there. I'm sure they'd prefer to have a property which doesn't have people living in it, and as mentioned a few hundred times I hate the idea of living on a building site.

Or maybe it's that I'm fundamentally lazy and a move will mean quite a lifestyle shift: Currently I can hear the five minute warning school bell for my daughter's primary from our flat and grab her book bag, find shoes, put on some lipstick (me, not her) and leave, and because it's so close (like, one minute away) she's still there on time. Once we move we'll have to get up maybe half an hour earlier because the trek to school will be 15-20 minutes more than now, and unlike now when I can pop home if I forget something after dropping off my daughter, once I'm out that's it till it's time to go home…

Is that a dilemma? Camping in building site vs being broke and close to everything… which is better? Ooh, I've just made a wee poll so you can help me with my inertia - voting button to your right. Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Weekend escape

We just had the most spectacular weekend at Centreparcs. Having done all three Butlins for press trips in my time it was quite a step up to go to Centreparcs thanks to the lovely Alex at Halpern PR.

The reason I'm posting about it on my renovation blog is for two reasons: it was important to get some time away from the ongoing stress of our project and four days/three nights in Longleat Forest definitely put some space between us and the ongoing lack of progress on the house. Secondly, the design of the Woodland Lodge wasn't a million miles away from how we imagine our new house. The essence was there for sure - open plan kitchen/living space (pictured), indoor/outdoor flow thanks to sliding doors, a BBQ area, two bathrooms (heaven!), a corner sofa with a flatscreen TV and lots of wood/natural light/white/shiny fittings.

If I'm honest, it was a little depressing being on holiday and knowing that our house should've been well underway by now, and that''ll probably be summer 2009 before we'll be in our own outdoor space enjoying a BBQ. Then it was a little exhilarating knowing that half the battle has been won - we actually *have* a property to renovate. More fortunate than lots of people. And heck, we'll be enjoying our own outdoor space this time next year, these things take time etc etc.

If you live in the UK and you have kids then I definitely recommend Centreparcs. Make sure you stay at one of the newly renovated lodges though. We put the kids in the Time Out club and enjoyed the spa and some Elemis treatments (which were as good as the Elemis spa/salon in Mayfair). Also had a very good meal at the Grand Café, every restaurant there is kid friendly. Keen to go there again but will have to be well after the renovation is over!

Incidentally, Amy emailed to say she's found another builder to tender. So I think that's three now. I know I've been saying this every week for months but hopefully we'll have a builder appointed very soon...

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Feeling the pain

Props to my fellow renovators who have been kind enough to post about their torment. It's nice to know that there are more people out there who are pursuing the same end goal as us ie: to live in a nice environment as soon as possible. There are many renovators blogging but the two I'm most keen to follow are from an editor called James Oliver Cury at (pic above) who's been doing his kitchen since February. He doesn’t blog enough in my opinion, weeks go by without an update on his renovation angst but when he does it makes it all worthwhile. Besides, spending so long on one room is making our entire house mission seem less irritating.

The other blog I found via the Livingetc forums and I love it because the writer has lots in common with me except that after nearly two years of working in phases, her house is actually finished, whereas mine is still sitting empty: Worst House in London. The beauty of the WHIL blog is that you can go back in time to read the story as it unfolds, and echoes of our own time dragging problems are there in black and white (it took them three long months to even have the documents ready for tender, for example). The depressing part is that as I write this, my renovation is in real time and there is STILL NO BUILDER APPOINTED. It's the first week of June fer petesakes!

I've sent two emails to the architect gently enquiring as to when the next quote is due in as I swear it was meant to be here last week. No update yet.

Hubby says I can't call him hubby in this blog any more because it makes him sound old, fuddy and quaint (and he's only two out of these three things…) so we'll call him Rob.

Rob is keen to get our builder friend to quote but as this may take another three weeks I'm beginning to wobble. Each month is literally costing us thousands as we're A. Paying two mortgages and B. Not getting any income from renting out our flat.

The builder that's meant to have a quote for us this week is supposed to supply an accurate figure based on what exactly needs doing, as opposed to the last quote which was plucking a random number out of the air (I mean how can they charge £8,000 to move a boiler?!), but Rob says it's likely this quote will be huge too because their hourly rate "may be higher".

What I want to know is how come we didn't just give the sum to the relevant builders and say "This is how much we've got. This is what needs doing. Will you do the work for this amount?" It seems to me that getting quotes in on the off chance the sum is smaller than our budget is a false economy, because the four months we've just wasted has already cost several thousand pounds.