Saturday, 29 November 2008

Week one is over

Well I guess the first week was going to be the hardest as we adapted to life in our drafty, chaotic and unfamiliar house. Fortunately the plumber came back on Thursday and did something to the central heating to get the radiators on the ground floor working. While they can't exactly heat the space, having them on does mean the glacial draft isn't quite so bad and we don't need the mattresses blocking the stairs any more.

I've just done a mercy dash to Ikea today to get some rubbish bin options as we need something that'll fit into one of our cupboards. Also picked up a new shower curtain. There was something gross about having the last occupants soap scum in such close proximity. (I feel like that about the entire contents of the bathroom but until Rob has a new job we can't put a firm date on continuing the renovation.)

The photo at the top is our bedroom floor the day we moved in - I'd hurriedly mopped it as the plaster dust was everywhere. Even a bucket of soapy water didn't help much, as you can see the floor was still streaky. The removal guys said "Oh, is the top floor the only one that's been finished?" I was mortified and had to explain that the top floor was the only one that hadn't been started!

The photo below is in the living room of our flat. It's of the awful kitset sofa I bought from Nabru. It came in 54 parts, took four hours to assemble, looks hideous and is the most uncomfortable thing to sit on. There's a 14 day return policy but the tenants insisted that it was perfectly fine. I guess they're young and don't need acres of extra padding...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Sorting stuff out

It's hard to type as my fingers are split from a combination of the cold and manual labour. Assembling flat pack furniture takes its toll - and that was for the flat, not our lovely new house. So. Here we are. The removal company was fantastic, if you're in East London I can't recommend Pegler Removals enough. They were punctual and efficient, and so far, not a single thing's been broken. The 1960s Danish teak wooden bar has a nasty new scratch but considering our stuff filled most of this enormous truck I can't really complain. More importantly, the driver backed this truck up a very narrow long driveway - something lesser lorry drivers haven't managed in recent times.

Two weeks ago we had a sofa delivered and the blokes who carted it into the house said it wouldn't go up stairs and that we'd have to get a window taken out. Teia-the-builder pointed out that this couldn't happen as the windows were double glazed PVC and not designed to come out… I had visions of destroying my lovely new stair well in order to accommodate the sofa. Teia managed to get the sofa through the gap using patience and cunning. It turns out the shape of the hole and the length of the sofa was a problem anyone with half a brain could solve (in other words, not the sofa delivery blokes… and not me).

Our old sofa also made it upstairs (and that's even bigger) so right now the family room resembles a hotel lobby with two black leather chaise/corner suites.

Downstairs looks as per below… like we're gearing up for a garage sale. It would be OK to have this assortment of stuff in a garden shed, or the garage, but what you're looking at there is the space between the kitchen counter and the extension. Once the garage has been emptied I'll relocate most of this stuff there.

In other news: the alarm's been installed, the bed for the spare room arrived today from Muji and the new TV and home cinema system is up and running (thanks to Richard who popped over last night while we scoffed home delivery from our new local curry place). In the not-so-good list is Sky who were meant to install their dish etc on Sunday but decided they needed a specialist "height" team and can't come back until December 8th. The entire world was out of stock of the Bosch condensing dryer we wanted (we've had several days of clothes that refuse to dry) so switched to a Zanussi (surprisingly cheaper) and Rob picked one up from Curry's in Whitechapel last night. This is brilliant as I can't find any sheets so we have to wash and dry the ones that are on the bed until we can unpack...

Sunday, 23 November 2008

We're here!!

We've been in two nights. It snowed this morning - I woke with a slightly running nose but it had kind of frosted over. The thin plywood and tarp protecting the back of the house means icy cold air is blowing straight up the house - the boiler had given up the ghost in the middle of the night so had to be kick started this morning. Even with the top two floors being heated the draft negates any benefit. We've managed to semi block our stairs with spare mattresses so hopefully it'll warm up soon. We're all wearing four layers and I've even dug out my Ugg boots.

I've started unpacking - though yesterday was spent at our flat building flat pack furniture and cleaning up. Rob was there until 3am, I managed to escape at 7.30pm to collect our kids from very generous friends who will probably never babysit for us again (thanks Kari and Graham!). Our tenants are students - I find it kind of odd that we've both worked for 20+ years and converted that flat from a horrid 1970s nightmare into a streamlined modern space, with 100% NZ wool carpet, hardwood flooring (soundproofed), all mod cons etc to get a pretty good living space... only for students who are straight out of the uni hostel to enjoy the spoils of all that! Lucky sods.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Lacquered counter top

Ta da! The concrete has been lacquered to within an inch of its life and check that hi shine effect. There's only two more days till we move in and we're about halfway done with the packing. We're running out of boxes but I'm told more will be delivered tomorrow morning.

The burglar alarm is being fitted early next week, the phone's been connected and the broadband should be sorted the day we move in. We've redirected our mail which was more difficult than you'd expect: The Royal Mail website wouldn't take payment online, and the wait in an actual Post Office took 20 long minutes and involved a conversation with a teller who seemed to model her customer service on the Little Britain character whose line is "Computer says no".

On the upside, the glass manufacturers phoned this morning to say the provisional installation date for our extension is... December the 16th! It might even be sooner depending on the production process and transportation from Germany. I can't believe it, I'd convinced myself we'd be camping out until January and now it looks like three or four weeks tops, hooray!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Packing up

I'm taking a break from packing to share with you a photo from the weekend. I had a minor (internal) wobble when I thought about how much work was involved with cleaning up the property in anticipation of our arrival. I'd spent £30 on cleaning paraphernalia and dropped it over at the house, but when I looked around I realised it was in a serious state. A layer of plaster dust was covering every nook and cranny and the floors were thick with it. At the time of my visit, Rob was still in Ireland watching the rugby so he couldn't share my angst.

When I popped over again on Sunday to check the phone had been activated, Teia was already there hard at work. He asked if it was OK to use the cleaning gear I'd dropped off as he was planning on cleaning the place up this week, in between the other jobs he was sorting out. I swear he wears a halo at a jaunty angle!

If the house is in any kind of habitable state by Friday I'll be gobsmacked. Of course, I'll let you know. Back to packing. I've filled 22 boxes, Rob has filled 3. Game on...

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Third supporting beam

A month ago we were told we needed another support beam (in addition to the two holding up the rest of the house) and there was a flurry of activity to find one. Teia the builder was about to order one at a cost of £800 and Rob spent a bit of time on Google and ended up sourcing one for £200. As you can see from the photos, Teia was incredibly fast at fitting it (I really must find out how he managed to lift it - this one weighed nearly 100 kilos!). We haven't heard when the steel and glass from Sunfold will be ready for installation but we're more than ready for it now!

Cracking up

The inevitable cracking kicked off with the fitting of the hob. I'm told it can be sealed and buffed and we won't even know it was there. Anthony-the-Architect has polished concrete floors in his office and they're riddled with cracks. They actually add to the appeal. My concern with cracks on a counter top is from a hygiene perspective, so let's hope it really can be mended...

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Ikea is beginning to annoy me

(Photo of the space outside our front door where I guess we'd normally park.)

When we move in on Friday (only six more days from now) it will have been 11 months to the day since we exchanged contracts. If I'd known it would take this long I'm not sure I would've gone ahead with the purchase... but hey, all things happen for a reason, etc etc. I look forward to the day when I write to say it's all finished.

I'm having a tough time with Ikea - I ordered a mountain of stuff on their website for delivery to the flat next week (our tenants want it semi furnished). I ended up going to their store last night sans Rob, but with the kids in tow, to buy the stuff you can't buy on their website. Today they rang to say their truck is full next weekend and they can't come for two weeks. When you buy in store, they deliver within 48 hours, otherwise they charge you a not insignificant storage fee (eg £200 for a sofa for one week). I am so livid that we will have to trek back out to Ikea this week and waste time traipsing around their mammoth warehouse finding all the stuff required for the tenants, when we need every spare minute to get the two properties cleaned up and ship shape. I've started packing but have only managed to fill 10 out of the 60 boxes we're meant to have ready by Thursday evening... arrghh...

NB Rob is watching the All Blacks in Ireland this weekend (why he needed four days away to watch a two hour game is a mystery...) so I'm doing the packing on my own, with kids underfoot.

Update - I've found a local furniture shop who has everything in stock and will deliver in the coming week. It's costing £88 more than Ikea but heck, worth it to save hours of our time!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Delivery woes

A week ago I popped round to meet the delivery truck that was going to drop off our new sofa. When I pulled up the entrance of our driveway was a little crowded with a couple of diggers and what not, and a massive hole was being dug. How this transpired on the exact day that the delivery was due to happen is a mystery to me - there was no notification to residents (or if there was, I definitely didn't receive it).

Fortunately, I got a park in the street and was able to flag down the truck and explain the conundrum. The driver and his off-sider were surprisingly cool about it. The lovely blokes digging the hole offered to help bring the sofa to the house, but in the end the sofa team were able to wheel it up on a special trolley.

Things were going well until they tried to get the sofa upstairs. It was too long, even in two pieces. The only way we can get a sofa into our middle floor is to take a window out and hoist it up. The windows don't look that big to me so for now, the sofa is in the "store" room along with the mountains of other items we can't deal with yet and I guess we'll have to get out a tape measure soon and sort it out...

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Boiler and leakage

This boiler has to stay on this wall. It's kind of ugly but necessary so the plan is to accommodate it within the bespoke cabinetry. The cabinets will also house misc house items, like DVDs, cookbooks and vases. The plan is not to exceed our storage capabilities with more stuff.

The roof has been fixed up a bit and you can see the wall of plywood which is protecting us from the elements for the forseeable future. It's been raining in London these last couple of weeks - not a spot of drizzle, but proper, driving rain. The plywood has a length of tarpaulin at the top to make it slightly weather proof, but the rain is still coming in. The concrete on the kitchen floor (below) is a tad soggy and will probably be like this until the glass gets fitted. Did I mention I have two small children? I wonder if they'll understand instructions about not playing with the floor muck...

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The family room

You know you get to a certain stage in life when you refer to the second living space as a 'family room'. In truth, it's going to house a rather large flat screen LCD TV so we can watch movies and play the Wii in a dedicated space. I'm calling it a family room as I guess most of the kid's debris will also live here. After spending many panicked evenings trying to hide all their stuff the night before our cleaner comes it would be a bonus to have a dedicated dumping ground, away from where we eat and socialise. This is the family room with the bamboo flooring laid. Teia has already fitted the beading - we didn't want to go down the skirting board route and this was about as minimal as we could get on our meagre budget. If I could do this project again with more money, shadow drop hidden architraving would be my preferred solution. You live, you learn... and actually, beading is probably something that no-one will actually notice.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Kitchen lights

I think Rob enjoys stressing me out. He says extraordinary things and then waits for a reaction. He's had plenty of fodder in this renovation project to turn me into a hysterical banshee but I've learnt that he's prone to exaggeration and is fond of creating drama where there isn't one. Case in point: he told me the lamp shades we'd chosen as pendant lights were too big. He said even if they were hung a little higher than they should be, they looked wrong for the space. I pointed out that they cost less than £120 so were a temporary solution until we could find something we really liked.

When I saw the pendant lights in real life, I have to admit, I couldn't see what the problem was - they look absolutely in proportion to the space to me. In fact, they look better than I thought they would. I definitely don't feel motivated to replace them just yet. Here they are in a photo, let me know if you think they look too big...

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Concrete counter

Ok, so this photo doesn't really do it justice, but here's the concrete counter top and our new tap. The counter top is going to have a coating of lacquer and then it'll be buffed to a high shine. This shade of grey might go a tad darker with the lacquer, but then a bit lighter with the buffing. Either way, we'll end up with a concrete coloured counter top, made from, uh, concrete. It's really wide and solid, which should help reduce wear and tear - and cracks, hopefully. The white kitchen with a light grey contrast is an aesthetic I really like, thanks to Pierre Koenig. Recently I read that he'd designed houses with acoustics in mind because he loved music so much. A man after my own heart. It's a shame we forgot to wire up our own home for speakers while the walls were exposed...

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Spare room

Here's the view looking from the living room down towards the spare room/office. The plasterers have done a terrific job and the finish looks as smooth as a smooth thing. The bamboo flooring has been laid on this part of the house, though you can't see it due to the protective covering. Teia put beading down this week - it was the budget fix as ideally we'd have shadow drop (?) solution around door frames and at the bottom of the walls, instead of architraves and skirting boards, but hey ho, the timing/budget didn't work out.

The builders have left to start another job and the electrician is en route back to New Zealand. Despite this Teia was round at the property again this weekend (I feel terrible - he's got a young child who must hardly ever see him). We're moving in there in three weeks so there are a few things to finish before it's habitable. I've never heard of a builder being so conscientious!

Fortunately we've found tenants for our flat and we should know in a few days if they pass all their credit checks and references. The race is on to sort out the flat now, as well as getting the new house ready for the big move...