Fixing up the house: we have progress!

Office - after

The cats love their new adventure playground :)




After several months of rarely having a free weekend, we finally have some progress on the house. Three rooms are completely finished (the toilet, my office and the utility room – which wasn’t even in our original plans). The spare bedroom is almost there – just waiting to put in new flooring. The master bedroom is damp proofed and almost ready to decorate. Which leaves the dressing room (the smallest bedroom – the master bedroom is too small to have a wardrobe in) and the hallway to do, neither of which should take very long (a couple of weekends each, tops).

A note about the paint we used: last year I bought a Dulux Paint Pod, thinking it would make painting easier and quicker. It really didn’t. But I didn’t know that until I’d bought loads of special paint for it – which is a little thinner, I think, than normal emulsion, and probably quite a bit more expensive. And you have limited colour choices. Still, I’m happy with the colour choices I made; they were exactly what I wanted so no real complaints there. But if you’re planning to buy a Paint Pod, you might want to save yourself the bother and expense, and just stick to a good old-fashioned roller and tray (which is how I’ve actually been applying the paint I bought, because the Paint Pod is just too annoying).

So, here’s some before and after photos…

Utility room

We hadn’t planned or budgeted to do anything to this room. But then our ancient boiler broke, leaking rusty water all over the floor. £2,000 out of our renovations budget later (which has meant sacrifices in other areas – boo), we had a new, more efficient boiler installed. And then the washing machine died, so another £400+ had to come out of the budget for that too. In for a penny, in for a pound… we decided we may as well give the room a lick of paint and install some cupboards while we were at it, and of course the old flooring was ruined by the boiler leak so we laid some floor tiles too.

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Where to buy…

Cupboards: B&Q. Cupboard doors: ‘maple modern’ by B&Q.  ‘Cuba’ floor tiles: Homebase. Washer/dryer: Argos. Paint: Dulux Paint Pod in Cornflower White, from Designer Paint.


This, with the adjoining toilet, was a huge, expensive job. The office and toilet are in a little extension off the main house, which previously didn’t have a door (just an opening and a couple of steps down from the living room). The flat roof was completely useless – it was full of holes and leaked everywhere, adding to the damp problems mostly caused by the damaged old render to the outsides of the walls. My office was covered in mould, as was the toilet. Previously, my office and the toilet were separated by a little hallway (not much bigger than a metre by a metre and a half) and this little hallway also had an external door, a rotting old glazed/wood door that we struggled to open as it would swell up in bad weather.

Office – before

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So, we had the whole extension re-roofed, removed the hallway (it’s now part of my office), added a door between the office and living room so I could keep the heat in, removed the external door and replaced it with a window – part of a huge order to put new windows in pretty much all rooms of the house. The double glazing makes a huge difference – I can have windows open on ‘trickle vent’ so the rooms are properly ventilated; hopefully this will stop future condensation problems from happening.

I needed the office to serve several purposes: it’s an office, but also a chill-out room, a reading room, a craft room (when the mood takes me), a place to store books, DVDs and all my crafting materials, and household paperwork too. And it’s also now a cat bedroom (once our bedroom is finished I won’t want the cats sleeping in there any more – their fur leaves too much mess and I’ve not spent a fortune on new bedding and carpet just to have it wrecked by fur babies!)

It’s the room I spend most time in, so it needed to look just right. I love purple, lilac, lavender and the like, so I knew this room would be painted that sort of colour – that was a no-brainer. I loved the way the white windows contrasted with the new wall colour, and wanted to incorporate more white into the room to keep it bright (it’s long and narrow so it could easily feel too dark without the white). But I didn’t want too much white – I wanted some wood, too.  The original plan was to have custom shelving made for the room, but after paying out for the utility room we decided to economise and buy cheapo beech-effect laminated MDF stuff from Argos – and I’m happy with that decision, after all that.

During the beginning of the work to the room we’d uncovered a lovely stone wall on one side – part of the original cottage to which the extension is attached. Rather than patch up the bits of plaster that Dewi had accidentally chipped off, he decided to reveal and repoint the whole wall – this added weeks, perhaps months to the time spent on my office, which left me working from a small corner of the living room every day for three months. That was a difficult time; I found it really hard to concentrate in there, it was cramped, I didn’t have my stuff to hand, and it was horrible to work like that. I admit that by the end I had a bit of a diva strop (several in fact), which at one point led to Dewi calling me a slave driver. It did the trick though – a week later I was in, and amazingly not divorced! :)

Office – during

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So, the combination of materials and colours in the office is spot on – exactly what I wanted: sugared almond walls, white windows, cupboard doors and woodwork, beech worktops, beech effect shelving and blinds, dark grey ceramic floor tiles, and bare stone on one wall. I’m absolutely delighted with it :)

As for the cats – well, the room had to be nice for them to live in, too. There are cushions on the top shelves of the book cases, as well as a comfy bedding area under my desk, and a huge adventure playground to entertain them. They’re now fed in my office instead of the kitchen, so I’ve protected the worktop where they’re fed with some lovely vinyl fabric that I can wipe clean after spills (they’re messy eaters!)

Our DVDs were previously kept in the sideboard in the living room – two layers deep, two layers high, meaning it was difficult to find what we were looking for. They’re now all kept in my office, on shelves, where they’re easier to browse. It’s amazing how a small change like that can make us so happy :)

I’m just in love with this room. It’s turned out exactly how I pictured it, and it’s exactly what I wanted. Although I’m happy with the decision to economise with the shelving, if I had the budget one day I’d like to still have custom shelving made – just so that there’s more space for storage, because these shelves are going to completely fill up before long. It’s probably just as well that, due to severe damp in the room where we used to keep the books, I had to chuck out three huge black sacks of books that were wet and growing new life forms. If I hadn’t, there’s no way they would have all fitted in the new office – not without custom shelving, anyway…

Office – after

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Where to buy…

Paint: Dusted Fondant for Dulux Paint Pod -  Designer Paint. Windows – Snowdonia Windows (kudos to them for the fast, efficient work at a very good price). Blinds, light shade, Maine shelving – Argos. Cupboards and cupboard doors – B&Q “white country style”. Worktops: Kitchen Surplus. Floor tiles: Cuba by Homebase. Owl vinyl fabric: Dunelm Mill. Cat adventure playground: Amazon. Oak veneered doors: Ebay. Doorknobs: Screwfix.


The toilet was a grim little room, stuck in a time warp from the days when a coloured suite and formica-clad vanity unit were all the rage. It was mould city – there was so much black mould on the tiles, the ceiling and the woodwork, it looked and smelled pretty hideous. The rotting skirting boards were home to colonies of woodlice, and the damp had made the door swell up so much it couldn’t be closed. Yuk.

I love what we’ve done in there. The wallpaper was a huge extravagance at £57 per roll (bought two but only used one – can’t get a refund on the other as we ordered too long ago – bah). We almost went for plain paint or a cheapo wallpaper from B&Q, but it made us sad to think of not having the wallpaper we really wanted, so we decided to forget the expense and follow our hearts. I’m so glad we made that decision, because I love how it looks now it’s finished.

I’d planned all along to have white-painted tongue and groove on the bottom half of the walls; when I was planning out the decor it occurred to me to keep the fondant-and-white colour scheme running from the office through into the toilet, and I think it works well. The tongue and groove is great at hiding the wobbly old walls (the plaster fell off when we were removing the old ceramic tiles, which had been laid on top of even more ceramic tiles, for some unknown reason); on the top half of the walls, Dewi fitted plasterboard so I’d have a smoother finish to work from.

Gallery: click each image to enlarge, then press ‘back’ in your browser (or backspace on your keyboard) to return to this post.

We got the toilet, sink and pedestal at great prices in a sale; the downside was the timing – we had to keep the toilet suite in the shed for many months until we were ready to install them.  Having ripped out the old cupboard under the old sink, I needed somewhere to store cleaning materials, spare loo rolls and the like, so decided to buy this lovely little free-standing cupboard, which does the job perfectly.

Where to buy…

Bathroom suite: Bath Store. Wallpaper: Wallpaper Direct. Toilet roll holder, towel ring, free standing cupboard, wall cabinet: Argos. Towel: Primark. Wall tiles: B&Q.

So, that’s where we’re at so far. I reckon the master bedroom will take another three weekends before we can move back in. The dressing room shouldn’t take longer than two weekends, and neither should the hallway. And after that? Well, Dewi’s had new windows fitted in his studio in the past few weeks, so no doubt he’ll want a hand gutting the room out and redecorating – it’s the room with the worst damp and mould out of all the many rooms in this house (it’s a peculiar house – the original cottage, built around 1800, was pretty much a single room. Over the past 200 years it’s had several extensions added, resulting in a long, narrow bungalow with a big living room, decent kitchen, and all the rest of the rooms are tiny).

And after that? Well to be honest, we’d love to knock down the extension that houses Dewi’s studio, and rebuild it so that he gets a larger studio and we get a conservatory/dining room. But that’s going to cost a lot and we just don’t have the money, so it’ll have to go on the “when my premium bonds come up” wish list, along with the kitchen, bathroom and living room, all of which need attention. Still, we’re getting there; when this project is over, we’ll have done up eight rooms, leaving three rooms and an entrance vestibule. It’s only taken us 9 years to get round to it – let’s hope it doesn’t take another 9 years for us to be able to afford to finish it all! :)

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