Sunday, 28 December 2008

Happy anniversary

It's been just over a year to the day since we exchanged contracts on the house. If someone had told me last Christmas that we'd only just be into our house in a year from now, I don't think we would've persevered. I'm glad we did though as despite the expense and delays it really feels like home. I'm not even missing our old bathroom (which was bigger, newer and had windows)...

Progress on the house is going to pick up this coming week as we're off to Holland for New Year's so Teia's coming over to do some snagging and finishing up. I can't believe we're leaving the house now, I could quite happily cocoon here even in its unfinished state but it's going to be messy and dusty. Five days ago the carpet went down on the stairs. It was actually a good idea living with the cold wooden stairs for a few weeks, complete with sharp nails poking out, as it made us appreciate the thick 100% wool carpet so much more once it was laid. The colour's "sable" or thereabouts, sort of a dark browny grey. Will upload a photo soon...

Monday, 22 December 2008

House of bamboo

It's amazing how massive this room looks now that the flooring is down. The strips of engineered planks of bamboo run the length of the house, rather than the width, which adds to the lengthening effect. As you can see it has a slight reflective sheen and lies perfectly flat. The top floor of the house creaks with every footstep, due to the flooring not being screwed down properly. This will get remedied when phase two of the build goes ahead. The downstairs loo floor was concrete and rubble until Friday, and when our toddler popped her head in and saw that there was a proper floor she actually clapped with joy. She doesn't even use a toilet but even she can tell the significance of a well laid floor.

Rubble rousers

Aaaah, light. The sparky wired up two external lamps which operate on a sensor so if anything moves in the back garden they switch on for about two minutes, then go off again. We can over-ride this from inside, so if we were hanging out in the garden at night and wanted to see what we were doing the sensor lights can be forced to stay on.

The lights seem to switch with alarming regularity and we were putting it down to the nocturnal habits of the neighbours cats (of which there seem to be about a dozen) but at the weekend we heard an animal howling and five minutes later an enormous fox trotted right past our doors. I reckon it was as big as Schnauzer (not a miniature one) or a Cocker Spaniel - and really fluffy. The odd fox we spied from our last flat was always mangy and feral looking, this fox last night looked almost regal. I guess it gets to dine on the spoils of nearby Victoria Park. We're going to have to remove the undergrowth at the bottom of the garden because as much as I love animals, I'm not happy about a family of foxes living there...

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Ground floor goes down

Anthony-the-architect wasn't impressed with our installation headache, and he's dealt with many glass manufacturers in the course of his career. He helpfully wrote a letter to send to Sunfold, outlining all the things that have inconvenienced us as clients which ended with the explanation as to why we were withholding £400 from the final bill. This works out at one and a half days of Teia's time, and half a day as compensation. The entire bill was over £20,000 to Sunfold, so £400 is actually a very reasonable deduction given the circumstances.

Most of the the bamboo flooring on the ground floor was laid yesterday so there's a layer of fine dust all over the house again. The plasterers were meant to come today to do the walls but have gone awol (mmm, it is the Saturday before Christmas!). Bit of a shame as we were hoping to get all the mess out of the way before the carpet goes down on the stairs on Tuesday. Teia stayed over last night so he could get stuck in to finishing the floor today and despite what must be a blinding hangover is enduring the noise from a skillsaw with a cheery disposition...

Monday, 15 December 2008

A roof over our heads...

Now where were we? Oh yes, the aluminium was re-drilled in Norfolk and delivered at the house by 8am this morning. The installation guys didn't show up on site till 11.10am. Quelle surprise. I wonder if my email/phone rants got passed on, because when I arrived home tonight they made a big deal out of telling me they hadn't eaten anything since 8am. I noticed that the job was nearly finished too. They're back tomorrow to deal with the last bit of glass then off to do another job in London (why are so many people getting extensions in the middle of winter?!). I felt a bit bad about dobbing them in, but the person on the other end of the phone said that other customers had said the same thing (ie: they talk too much and could work harder...)

Aside from the job taking six days from start to finish I'm pleased it's happened this side of Christmas as it's getting colder by the day here. Teia's back tomorrow to start lining the walls, and he's planning on laying the bamboo flooring before Christmas too. The actual product from Sunfold looks superb and the doors are really weighty, with a nice closing action. The installation guys said they'd put Ewan McGregor's sliding doors in, and if they're good enough for him, they're good enough for us...

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The roof has gone down

No, you're not seeing things. This is a photo taken today as the rain bucketed down. The framework for the roof that was put up yesterday has been removed and taken back to Norfolk. It didn't have the correct holes drilled to take the windows that slot in, and they can't be drilled on site. The framework needs to go back to the factory where the holes will be drilled over the weekend. The installation men will be back on Monday to start putting all the bits back in place. So what was meant to be a two day job is now going to take three or four, and of course we're enduring another chilly weekend with what is now very gappy hoarding. Hey, at least the doors went in and as you can see, they fit. One step forward, two steps back...

Friday, 12 December 2008

The roof's going up

Yesterday the two blokes from Sunfold arrived at 8.45am and decided they needed some scaffolding or trestle tables. (This is despite an email recently saying that no such thing would be required for our fitting). So they disappeared for two hours to hire the right bits from a local building supplier. By local I mean it's five minutes drive away. As you can see from the photos here the roof bits were eventually laid out and hauled into place. At 5.30pm the blokes downed tools to go Christmas shopping in the new Westfield Mall. Before they left, they told Rob that they had to leave early on Friday to get back to Norfolk for the weekend, but would come and finish the job on Monday.

We were under the impression that this job would take one day, though earlier in the week we found out they allocate two. To have to run to three days is inconvenient (I am writing this while wearing a blanket, the entire back of the house downstairs is open) ...and expensive.

Teia was on site to remove the hoarding and tarp and pointed out that if the blokes had knuckled down they could've finished the entire job in one day. Apparently they spent a good part of the afternoon talking rubbish and downing cups of tea.

I fired off an email to Sunfold to complain and to say that if we have to pay Teia for a third day (to remove/install the hoardings) I will deduct his day rate from the amount we owe them. I don't mind wearing costs when there is a legitimate reason but when it's because a couple of installation staff are taking the mickey I see red!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Stairs and Christmas

The extension started being installed today. Yippee! Will give a firmer update once I've seen the progress. This photo shows the state of the stairs right now - we've had the faux parquet ripped up in preparation for the carpet, which will be laid in a couple of weeks. The wooden strips that are visible are full of tiny sharp nails, this is what the underlay attaches to. The kids have had a few scrapes and have got the hang of wearing slippers inside at all times, though the back of my Ugg boots are looking really scratched up.

The photo below shows our concession to Christmas. Rob (and the girls) would be keen for a real tree, but owing to the mountains of unpacked boxes I've managed to persuade them that it'll have to wait until next year. I dug out my fibre optic tree for the third year running. I love it. It looks tiny because it's perched next to a 40" flat screen TV but the lighting effect (which changes every couple of seconds) is perfectly festive for me. The DVD players and the Sky box are going to be housed inside that cabinet. Rob found some infra red devices which means you can use remotes without having to have the cabinet doors open - genius.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Two more days of chill?

Here's a photo showing what's separating us from the elements right now (ignore the mess on the counter top, this photo was taken in October). Yesterday I had a call from Sunfold Systems saying they'd had a last minute cancellation, and would we like our glass and steel installed this week. Would we what!

Teia-the-builder confirmed he could make it to the house on Thursday to remove the hoarding and tarp and prepare the space for the installation team to do their magic. The brickie needs to come back too to fit the flashing and the cornice stones on the party wall, but he can't make it until the weekend. I've got Sunfold calling me back today to confirm if it's OK to progress with the installation if the brickie's not on site, their concern would be if it rains before the flashing is fitted that water could seep in. I've checked the forecast and it looks like it's going to stay clear until Saturday, fingers crossed things progress and it doesn't rain...

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Swings and roundabouts

Evidence of the cold here, yes, that's snow. And below are the mattresses which are making a reappearance as the temperatures plummet. Last week we had to replace the dryer as the one that came with the house gave up the ghost, and this week we've had to replace the washing machine. Both these items together cost nearly £600 which (of course) we hadn't budgeted for. On the good news side, we were told today that our bill for the rest of the glass on the extension was going to be £300 cheaper, thanks to the 2.5% reduction in VAT. For anyone not in the UK, the VAT reduction is supposed to give the economy a kick start but I'd poo-pooed it as it seems such a paltry amount when buying day-to-day items, but when you're spending thousands 2.5% does make a difference! Our mortgage looks set to tumble too, it's already almost half what it was when we took it out in February. There's light at the end of what seems like a very long expensive tunnel...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Storage and stuff

We've had quite a few sympathetic emails from friends who thought the timing was unlucky ie: moving into an unfinished home just when a bitter cold snap hits the UK. I have to say, it's actually no colder than a Wellington* winter (*in NZ, where we're from). I lived in several wooden houses there which were badly insulated, had no central heating or double glazing and were impossible to keep warm. Hunkering down in London with the frost/ice/snow is sort of nostalgic...

Speaking of warmth, and therefore gas and boilers - we are getting bespoke cabinetry made to house the boiler, as well as hide an assortment of objects. It'll run the length of the extension wall. There'll be a bar in there, a hole for a TV and shelves for cookbooks, miscellaneous debris etc. Pictured is the architect's plan for the cabinetmaker to work from. For a while we considered Dieter Rams shelving from Vitsoe but decided that something with doors that was custom built would work better. Also, a colleague said Dieter's shelving could look too industrial for residential spaces. She's an expert in these matters and I'm happy to defer to people who know about these things.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

20% off nothing

We ordered this Muji bed by phone last Saturday afternoon as we had a guest staying for a few nights last week. For some reason Muji won't deliver on Monday or Tuesday so the earliest we could get it was Wednesday. Come Monday and I checked my inbox and was horrified to find an email… a 20% off everything at Muji voucher - ARRRGHH. Too late, as the bed had been paid for over the phone via credit card. It would've saved me about £70 to have cancelled the bed, and re-ordered it but my brain was too foggy to attempt that negotiation. As it transpired, we were too shattered to empty the spare room of boxes so our guest ended up in the girls' room in the bottom bunk for her stay... while the bed remained leaning against a wall.

Last night we got motivated enough to assemble it and it didn't take too long actually. The packaging is insane, so we're hoping a neighbour will procure a skip sometime soon so we can dispense with the miles of cardboard...

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...

Thursday, 30 October 2008

London snow

This is the kitchen from a couple of weeks ago, apologies for not having any recent photos but I spent last weekend in bed with a nasty bug. Imagine it without the plastic covering the fridge and oven and this is pretty much how it'll look until January. There'll be no natural light as the back wall is completely boxed in and covered with a tarpaulin. It's going to be dark and cold - and how about that unseasonal snow fall this week? The first time snow has fallen in London in October since 1934. I have a feeling this is going to be a very cold winter. I guess it's good to be thinking about wrapping up warm and not running the central heating, from an environmental perspective but also a cost one. I hope my kids understand why we're being so "mean"… heck, when I was a kid we didn't even have central heating!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Phone at home

I finally bought something for the house which wasn't an 'essential' part of the interior scheme. It's a phone. Not just any phone, but a Columbo Two designed by Chauhan Studio. I got ours in white, which I guess means it'll be hard to find in our kitchen.

We haven't had a cordless phone before as I was paranoid about electrical pollution and vulnerable children's brains... but we've had wireless broadband for an eternity now so it seemed silly to keep up the pretence. Now that we've got a garden it makes sense to have a phone which we can wander around with. Besides, even though it's a designer bit of kit, it only cost £39.99, from Selfridges.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

More kitchen progress

The concrete counter top is proving to be a big hit - Rob loves it. And it'll look even better once it's been given a high shine laquer and been buffed up. I'll reserve judgement until it's finished... it's hard to tell what kind of impact it'll have when most of it is covered with building equipment.

As you can see from this pic the double oven is in, and so is the extractor fan. The fan sits quite a bit lower than we're used to, but maybe this will be better at extracting cooking smells as the one in our current flat doesn't seem to do much.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Boxed in

Here's the back of the house (featuring my friend Kate walking like a moon patroller) which has been boxed in until further notice. The extra beam will go between the two exterior walls at some point, then the roof and glass panels will slot in perfectly (WE HOPE) which, at the time of writing is still 9 to 12 weeks away. London gets pretty darn cold in January. Yippee.

Once the glass and framing is in the internal ceiling and walls will be 'made good' and the bamboo flooring laid. The last bit of Phase One will be the installation of pre-made bespoke cabinetry to house all our miscellaneous junk and a flatscreen TV. There's talk of just the skeleton of the cabinets being made, with the cupboard doors to come a bit later, depending on finances. We've cut corners on pretty much everything, so it would be beyond depressing to live with exposed shelves. I feel like we've chosen the cheapest option every step of the way and if we still can't eke out enough to get those cabinets finished I know I'll curse the budget light switches, doors, handles, lighting roses and halogen surrounds for eternity.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The Knob's knobs

The appliances were all delivered exactly when they were meant to and the builders immediately slotted everything into its rightful place. I was a bit peeved when I clapped eyes on our Smeg hob for the first time as it has 'Mickey Mouse' style knobs. Rob complained that the photo on the website he ordered from was tiny and he couldn't make out the details. I asked why he hadn't searched for a bigger photo on a different website, and was met with "Why don't you order everything yourself then?". Actually, I like shopping online - I prefer it to shopping In Real Life so I don't know why he took it upon himself to order up all the fun stuff.

To Rob's credit, he's since found a website that sells Smeg knobs, so we can switch them over for £32 plus P&P. We'll put up with the wingnuts for now and get around to replacing them eventually..

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Girders and camping

The new steel girder (the correct size this time, hopefully) should be at the house any day now and the boys will be able to put it in relatively quickly. I have no idea how they're going to do it as it weighs a tonne (usually that's an exaggeration, but in this case, I really do think it weighs a tonne). The second support steel that this attaches to will go in this week too. We're waiting to hear back about whether the glass and door manufacturers are OK with our new wall height and can order the glass based on the new measurements, without having to send back another surveyor (which would take time, and cost another £275 or thereabouts). The third beam that needs to go right at the end of the extension is coming as well, but with the builders off soon I'm not sure who's going to install it - and it definitely needs to be in before the glass and framework can be fitted!

The builders are finishing up in one week to go and work on another job, they would've been doing our renovation for ten weeks. It's incredible how much they've achieved - even with all the delays. The house will be 'habitable' but clearly unfinished. We've decided to move in anyway as we can't afford to sit it out for another 12 weeks. The downstairs won't be the warmest of places given that the back of it is being boxed in by thin panels of wood. The bamboo flooring on the ground floor won't be laid until after the extension is finished.

We'll have to "camp" out on the top two floors until Christmas, or even January. The builders will be back for a week after the glass has gone in to finish off what they can and do some snagging. I'm still optimistic about winning the Lottery sometime soon so we can press on with Phase Two (the top floor) in 2009...

Monday, 13 October 2008

Another support beam problem

There must be something in the stars relating to support beams. First, the girder that arrived last week was the wrong size and needs replacing. Secondly, the surveyor from the glass manufacturer has said that we need another support beam for the roof, because our span is too wide. The original sales guy had told us that our span was fine and that we should be OK without a beam.

Not only is this expensive but the walls were built up and finished off to match the angle of the neighbour's roof. The beam sits right across the width of the extension above the folding doors, so it'll help support the weight of our new glass roof. Once it had been boxed in the ceiling height would've been 1.8m high. The brickies had to come back and add more breeze blocks to accommodate the beam, otherwise people over 1.8m tall would have to duck when they went outside. This photo shows where they've added another one and half rows of blocks, which is a pretty fast turnaround considering they'd already packed up all their stuff and gone to the next job. The extra brickwork, the new beam and the installation of the beam has added another £1,200 onto the already non-existent contingency fund...

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Supporting beam

Here's what the house looked like on Friday. The downstairs back wall has been demolished and the boys are putting up a temporary wooden enclosure to keep everything secure until the glass and framework can be delivered from Germany.

You might be able to see a massive steel girder in the bottom of the photo. This is the support beam that needs to run the length of the house. Unfortunately it's 5cm too wide and won't slot into the space without making a nasty 'lip' down the length of the room. This would drive Rob and I potty as the whole advantage of having a streamlined look is to avoid unnecessary visual distractions. There's no way round it - the girder has to go back and the correct size one sent instead. Another holdup due to plain ol' human error - the manufacturers didn't read the engineers notes correctly.

On the plus side, the girder can apparently be replaced early next week...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Wall uplighters

These are some splendid crystal uplighters from Alfies Antiques Market. I think they're from the 1960s or 1970s. Unfortunately, neither of them were particularly cheap. Also, as the rest of the house is so "new" would having two sole retro uplighters seem weird? Would we then regret having halogens everywhere? Possibly.

So I guess it's kind of fortuitous that a few weeks ago I was emailed a press release about a new online boutique interiors 'marketplace' called Bouf. Whilst perusing the site I discovered these quirky uplighters made from playing marbles. You could get them in various sizes and could specify the kind of marble used. Rob wasn't keen to buy sight unseen but Alex from Bouf sorted out a visit to the designer's studio in North London and viola, we're in business. We ordered two large ones (300mm diameter) in clear 'soap bubble' marbles and they're ready for collection tomorrow (£300 for both). I haven't seen them in real life so am trusting Rob's judgement on this. Fingers crossed they look as good on the wall as they do in these photos...

Saturday, 4 October 2008

The walls are up

Here are the new walls for the extension (taken a week ago) - Anthony-the-Architect was enthusing over this space when he popped round last weekend. He reiterated that it's best to build out as much as you can to improve the size of the house, and that in our case it's great that this means we can still have a good sized garden (rare-ish in central London). After looking at the back of the house for so long, it's weird to see it with these new walls protruding. It'll be even weirder this week when the back of it gets knocked out. Of course, the fantastic late summer we've been enjoying has just ended and now it's raining, good timing huh?