Monday, 29 September 2008

Back yard view

Oops, should've posted this before now as it shows the view from the top before the walls started to get built. The three rows of wooden supports should be four - Rob told the builder the deck should be three metres deep, going against the architect's drawings, but we really need it to be four metres after all so that it can house a dining table and chairs, without anyone falling off into the grass. This means the builders have to make some more holes, pop in some support poles and concrete them in. The bottom of the garden is full of overgrown shrubs and miscellaneous debris. I imagine we'll pull the whole lot out and plant something quick growing to create a bit of privacy, some bamboo probably. Neither Rob nor I are keen gardeners and we know next to nothing about growing stuff outside. In an ideal world we'd get in a landscape gardener but for now, we'll live with a bit of scrubby lawn and some bamboo...

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Kitchen progress

Here's Rob, Anthony-the architect and Teia-the-builder inspecting something in the kitchen. As you can see the boxing has been made in preparation for the concrete counter top to be poured this week. We've received the undermounted double sink and have the dimensions of the gas hob so the boxing needs to have shapes allowed so that when the concrete is poured, everything just slots in perfectly afterwards. I'm keen on a very high shine finish, in a lightish grey or off white. Apparently it's low maintenance and only needs sealing once a year. I still feel a little sad about my Co
rian, especially as the money saved isn't going to equate into a bathroom Velux as we're so over budget...

Skimming and plastering

The Brazilian plasterers look about 22 years old and totally buff (all that lifting?) but by golly, their work ethic and their skill is jaw dropping. The plasterers who did our current flat by comparison were middle-aged and didn't do a half a good a job as the young Brazilians. Maybe age and experience doesn't always equate to a job well done?

Anyway, here's the view looking at the front door. The space is a little dark and glum as the opportunity for natural light to flood is minimal at the moment. Once the back wall of the house has been knocked out we'll get a sense both of the true sense of space and how much brighter it will be.

Friday, 26 September 2008

New stairs

This might not look very interesting, but it is. These stairs originally had a 'dog leg' and the bottom four turned at a right angle. This is necessary if it meant continuing down the stairs would put you face first into a wall, but as we had removed the wall it meant we could straighten the stairs out. I prefer this look as it's more modern and streamlined. This was one of Anthony-the-architect's ideas early on in the discussion process and it's really quite satisfying to see it in reality. Dog leg stairs are fine in period homes, but for modernists they're not at the top of anyone's wish list. We'll still have a dog leg upstairs though but it won't be so noticeable as the stairs are now cloaked in the waist height wall (replacing the ugly wooden balustrades, see photo below). This will look fantastic once it's been plastered and "made good". For true fans of alternative stair ideas, check out this photo blog called Stair porn.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Another brick in the wall

The concrete didn't stay lonely for long. The brickies arrived and within minutes there was the beginning of our new walls (yep, two of them). The cinder blocks were going down in double quick time and the walls will have been finished within a couple of days. When this photo was taken last Saturday it was a really balmy summer's day (despite being mid September) and I felt sorry for the building crew having to work over the weekend. They'd had some days off during the week for various reasons so I shouldn't feel too bad I guess… but at this rate, the glass people will be able to measure up next week and as this is the slowest part of the equation it's really important that this happens as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Concrete is hard

I popped round to the house on Friday afternoon, five weeks after the build kicked off, and was beyond thrilled to see the extension foundation had been poured. Here's the view from the bottom of the garden in the late afternoon sun. (Yippee - the east facing garden gets sun for most of the afternoon!) If you look closely you can see that the fence that used to run along the perimeter of the garden has been removed to allow the concrete to be poured right to the width of the house. The fence will be rebuilt in time, with a small access gate allowing people to arrive straight onto the deck area.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Pendant lights

I'm not a massive fan of halogen lights, which is a tad ironic given that this is how most of the house will be lit. However, we're going to have a couple of pendant lights over the kitchen sink to make the space less clinical (all that white!) and provide a bit of warm light. It's a bit of a stretch finding a pendant light that doesn't scream "Ikea!" when our budget is so compromised, our thinking was to find something that will do for now that we can update when we're a bit more flush (uh, 2012?).

There are some really gorgeous retro lights from the 1960s at Alfies Antiques Market but very few of them are under £500 each. We were thinking something in the region of £200 for both would be an acceptable sum, but this is a price point that sadly means we'd be stuck with Ikea/Woolworths/Argos. Then we popped into OneDeko in Spitalfields and found a simple, clear pendant light that looked like a future classic. It was £75. A few days later I went to order two of them online but decided to do a quick search to see if they were cheaper anywhere else. And they were, everywhere that stocked them was cheaper than £75. In the end, I got the "Josephine Acrylic Pendant light" from Exit Interiors for £59 each, plus £5 for delivery. £123 all up, which is pretty good going. Let's hope they look like future classics hanging over our kitchen sink...

Monday, 22 September 2008

Kitchen tap

Five weeks in and I reckon the build probably has another eight weeks to go (not counting the glass which is being manufactured in Germany). Not bad really. At least the end is finally in sight. We've started shopping for various items and it's a combination of frustration (I wish we had another £10,000 to spend on everything!) and fun (oooh, maybe we should go a bit silly on the uplighters, most of them are hideous…).

First purchase was a tap and I have to give a shout out to Tony Morton from The Tap Centre. We emailed back and forth a dozen times because the Burgess II tap we originally wanted was out of stock. Then I thought it was back in stock... but it wasn't... so I had to get clarification on the replacement product several times over. Rob is a stickler for detail and it's not enough for him to know that there's two tap settings, he wants to know where the button is to active it, and what kind of spray settings they are… Anyway, a couple of weeks of going back and forth and I took possession of our new Burgess spray tap (pictured) last week after being couriered overnight. It's actually ten times better than we expected - it came in it's own dust bag, is extraordinarily heavy and much bigger than we thought it would be. The components feel pretty solid and despite having a chrome plated plastic spray attachment, the whole thing looks expensive. It cost £89.95 (RRP £160) and we're pretty chuffed. Can't wait to see it in the kitchen in a few weeks.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Stair progress, concrete and security

I posted about my favourite renovation blogs a while back and this is an update to let you know that the NY food writer's kitchen is finally finished (yes, that's it in the photo). I must admit, after five months of this renovation I was a little underwhelmed by the results. My own renovation project will come in at much less than five months from start to finish, and we're doing two entire floors of a house and the equivalent of four rooms and some hallways. Perhaps the photo doesn't do it justice but still.

I'm told our house has had the wall on the side of the stairs built as discussed and the kitchen cabinets have been installed (though some of the drawer fronts are upside down because Ikea had drilled the holes in the wrong place… it's being sorted as I type). More exciting than that is the concrete for the extension has been poured and tomorrow a bricklayer arrives to start building up the side of the new walls. Once that's done we can have the surveyor from the glass company come over and measure up to get our new doors and glass roof manufactured. It's a 9 to 12 week wait once the order's been placed, so this is sort of the time frame I'm thinking of when it comes time to move. We may move in before the glass gets fitted just to try and reduce our outgoings though, urgh.

On our shopping list is a security system - wireless ones seem to cost around £250 and hard wired ones up to double that. Still waiting for more quotes to come in. Does anyone have a burglar alarm? Do they really need to be monitored?

Monday, 15 September 2008

Kitchen taking shape

I haven't actually set foot in the property for two weeks. I was planning on going over yesterday, but with the late summer in full swing it was far more appealing to sit in Victoria Park scoffing fish 'n' chips, and then go exploring. We found a terrific refurbished pub with a beer garden the size of a small nation so it was a successful mission. Funnily enough, I ran into Anthony-the-Architect in the park, and he said the workmanship was superb so far, particularly the plastering in the new third bedroom.

This photo, taken two weeks ago, shows the shape of the kitchen coming together - the new wall is halfway down the garage, which is now effectively a store and utility room. The gap in the wall shows a "step" which will allow a deep American style fridge to sit flush with the cabinets. The grey soil pipe you can see is from the top floor's bathroom. It's kind of weird to think that every time someone flushes the loo, the contents will be travelling through the kitchen cabinets in a pipe. I know this is normal, but it still strikes me as kind of... icky.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Bye bye balustrades

Rob had a site meeting with Anthony-the-architect and Teia-the-builder at the weekend and discussed a bunch of pressing topics. Anthony suggested leaving the stairs completely open because it would let in loads of light. Rob came home full of enthusiasm for this idea which made my head spin: firstly, I hate walking down stairs with no sides personally, as I'm scared of heights. Secondly, the safety issue is a problem - especially where kids are concerned. Sure our own kids might get used to the open stairs but visitor's kids won't necessarily, and I'm pretty sure there are health and safety guidelines in the UK for this sort of thing. Thirdly, if visibility is an issue, turn on a light!

I've since emailed to request that our original plan to build a waist height wall is adhered to, and we're back on track. It's a bit of a faff in that the wall has to be built out wide to be flush, but it was quoted for so I don't feel bad about insisting that it happens. With "scope creep" you get costs added to the build constantly, but with scope reduction I've never heard of a discount happening.

Speaking of scope creep, for one reason or another (uneven floors, dodgy ceiling, lighting configuration, extra MDF) we're looking at another £2,700 - and this is on top of the structural beam solution which is going to cost £1,800 (down from £2,900 for the long version). Bye bye balustrades and ta ta to the contingency fund...

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Holding things up

I do love a double entendre, and what better than this photo of the metal pole which is holding up our "support" beam until the engineers solution is implemented. Of course, this fix is also holding things up by a couple of weeks, incase you needed the double entendre spelt out.

Teia suggested getting a second engineer's opinion as the fix we were going to go with was going to be extremely slow and expensive. The new engineer has suggested running a steel across the width of the house, which anchors in the party wall on one side and (somehow) to the external wall, on the other. This will be just as secure/safe/stable as a beam running the entire length of the house, and then we can attach the end of the lonesome hanging beam to this new cross-support. We should have an updated quote in the next few days.

Was quite keen to see this concrete worktop today but the house owners didn't get back to Teia so instead of our original Saturday plan which involved trekking all over London for house related jobs, I ended up at the pub - not just any pub, but what will be the nearest gastropub to our new house in a wee while. It felt good, especially running into a friend who I hadn't seen in ages, London's sometimes good at making you think you live in a village.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Another Corian quote

Another Corian quote has come in and this is a VERY reasonable £2,550 including VAT and installation - it's only £1,000 more than our worktop budget which I think is probably do-able (to heck with the consequences, we can put more appliances on the credit cards!) but Rob is muttering about overspend and what not. So we're off to see what a concrete worktop looks like this weekend, as this will cost about £1,300 which is clearly a much more affordable option. I'm yet to be convinced but a saving of £1,200 could make a significant impact... well, that's how much a Velux would cost to install into our bathroom. Ack. Velux vs amazing worktop? Tough choice. I'm still waiting for some more quotes to come in but it's unlikely any of them can beat £2,550 for Corian or £1,300 for concrete.

Photo above shows the back garden with the extension mapped out (to the edge of the wood) as well as where the wooden deck will go, more or less.

The structural beam situation has added two to three weeks onto the build (and £2,900) but on the plus side we've decided to stick with our original choice on the glass extension company. I must've contacted more than half a dozen companies, and managed to get quotes from three (why the others were so reluctant to get business is beyond me). The cost ranged from £18,000 up to over £30,000 for the exact same specification (ie a roof, a concertina door, double glazed, secure etc etc). Here's a list of the companies I contacted should any UK residents fancying an extension wish to get a quote themselves: