Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sealing the floors.

For background on the floors start here, we used a beautiful Aged Heritage Limestone. 
On my last visit the floor installation was finished but not yet sealed.  A lot of time and money had gone into building a vapor permeable floor and sub-floor, which should prevent issues with rising damp.  Naturally, a lot of anxiety went into choosing the right finish to protect the floors while maintaining their vapor permeable properties.    
We cleaned them several times, before applying (by hand) a special vapor-permeable 'damp-look' stone floor sealant called Prevosil. 
Prepping and sealing the floors was a labor of love, I felt like Cinderella on hands and knees scrubbing that floor, worth it though in the end.  There was a rare heatwave during my visit and I have to say I took full advantage of the cool stones, laying on the floor to cool off (it wasn't as weird as it sounds I promise).  Speaking of heat, get a load of the gorgeous cast iron radiator Matt ordered!
Once finished we tried out some rugs!  Both were vintage finds from eBay or Gumtree.  Completely in love with both for very different reasons.  Also on display is our fancy new chair!  
Matt has gotten very good at assembling my Ikea whims..
I'm considering this rug to be one of my better Friday Finds.  I experimented with cleaning it, using diluted dish soap and the garden hose, and learned two things.  First: Rugs are extremely heavy when wet, and Second: wool smells awful when wet.  Luckily it dried well and did come out cleaner. 

See you next week when I'll be back in Tewkesbury!
-Nikki


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Woody

I know its a silly post for August but, just look at this lovely wood burner, hand made in Wales by the Chilli Pengiun company.  They are super efficient, have a sleek modern look, come in a range of sizes and colors, and there is even one with a little pizza oven!  
This style?  Its called the Woody.
  Plus those flagstones going back into the fireplace and the excision of that hideous and dangerous old hearth stone?  A total flooring coo.
The floors are finished and sealed, post coming soon about our living room and rugs!
<3 Nikki







Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Finds - 1970's Floor Lamp!

Today I want to show off two vintage lamps found a few weeks apart from the same source down by the Maryland Shore.  And I want to pat myself on the back for spotting them and jumping on the opportunity.  I love them so much, the structural, architectural quality is very striking to me. 
I realized they would need to be rewired and refinished completely.  Luckily my dad was just as excited about the find and has been leading the charge on cleaning them up.  
The first lamp is an over sized (taller than me) angle-poise style, this a gold finish, which Toby is helping to model.  It is missing a base and has lots of rust spots.  Both lamps had been stored outside so this is not unexpected.  The anglepoise won't be finished until after it is moved to the UK and rewired correctly.  I'd love to finish it in a copper like this...
Copper Angled Floor Lamp
but in my experience I struggle to achieve the finish I want with metallic spray paints, so I will probably go with a glossy black instead.  
Speaking of a glossy black finish, meet our second vintage lamp, the club lamp,from the 1970's (we think).  It has four arcing lamp arms and a dimmer switch, plus a very heavy base, shaped to fit under a sofa.  

The club lamp was in pretty poor condition, with a lot of rust spots and I disliked the original color (mottled gold, black, and red) so we choose to strip it and refinish.  Some people may see it as sacrilege to have stripped the original finish but it's done now so please keep that to yourself.  When you find your own vintage lamp you can do what you like with it.  Besides in this case it was gross and not for resale, so its only value to me was in how it could fit into our new contemporary space.  
Dad used a mix of chemical paint stripper and sandpaper.  He protected the white enameled surface inside of the shades with tape.  From there it was just about finding the right color with spray paint.  We used a primer to prep the lamp for paint.    
My first instinct was to try a pop of mint green, but unfortunately we hated how it came out.  I think the club lamp looks much more classic in black and it looks great at its new home in Ocean City, MD.  
The perfect reading corner!  Best part is the cost, both lamps came from the same salvage place down on the Easternshore and were less than $50 together.    
 Plus we found it very cool to breath new life into a vintage piece like this.

-Nikki

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Stone floors!

The downstairs floors have been re-done and they are looking very lovely.  Under the linoleum we had an uneven concrete slab and quarry tiles, all of which was sitting on dirt and rubble.
Matt had to do a lot of digging out to safely remove all the bad old stuff and prepare for laying in the new sub-floor.  
They dug down to dirt, literally, that is a dirt floor in the kitchen, and living room.. and dining room... But soon enough things started going back in to construct the new sub-floor.
The new sub-floor consists of layers of foam glass insulation with limecrete on top meant to be vapor permeable.  It was fun for me to see these progress shots each evening.. especially because I wasn't living in it.
The whole process took them several days, but resulted in a gorgeously level new floor which should also help stop the rising damp from destroying our plaster walls, because at the same time as all this flooring fun...
...Most of the downstairs plaster was being redone.  To deal with that same rising damp issue, the bottom half of the walls had to be demo'd and re-plastered. I was very glad to not be around for all this, I know the disorder would have made me go a little mad.
The stone for the new floors is an Aged-Heritage-Limestone and before deciding we looked at several other samples.  Naturally I spent an entire afternoon moving the samples around to different rooms to see how they would look.  Below you can see my three samples, the linoleum we started with, as well as the ugly hearth stone, and the partially hidden mess that is the old cracked tile under the old wood burner.
I had this vision of bright whites/ivories everywhere in the house, but in the end I was won over by the ripples and texture of the gray limestone.  They look something like river stones and what I really like is the fact that they are common around Tewksbury.  Once I started looking I saw the texture and color used in several other old buildings and on some of the sidewalks!  
We are still trying to decide how to seal it though, the options are a 'wet-look' or a 'dry-look'.  Above it is dry (very natural, maybe a dusted look to it) and below is right after mopping (slightly glossy, shiny).  Which would you choose?
If you compare this photo of the finished stone floor in the kitchen to the earlier process photos of the same space you can really see how far we've come!
Now the downstairs is nearly finished structurally and a post on the kitchen is coming soon.  Walls have been whitewashed, the furniture moved back into the space, and I've been obsessing over rugs.  Now, final flooring thought this week, check out my new Kilim area rug!
Thank you Ebay for existing!  This is a colorful over-sized beauty from the 1940's all the way from Istanbul and I am so in love.  It currently is living with me in Maryland, but I can't wait to see it against those stones in the cottage! One side is very faded for a more muted look and the other is still incredibly vibrant.

- Nikki

Sunday, January 15, 2017

DIY Outlet Upgrades!

As promised I have an overview of our process installing new outlets into what we think will be the master bedroom, we are not electricians and this is not a how to guide, always consult a professional.  (We did end up having a proper electrician do the rest of the house and he checked out our work.)
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way... we needed more outlets in the bedroom, and Matt had the brilliant idea to upgrade to a set with USB ports, so we were pretty excited and motivated.  
The upgraded receptacles only cost a few dollars more than the standard and came with installation instructions.
We measured out the size of the bed so that the outlets would go outside of it and got about securing the casing to the brick.  Drilling into the brick was tricky because, in an old house like ours, the bricks are not uniform, some were way to soft and crumbly, others were very very hard, the mortar was to soft as well, so there was some trial and error here.  The first of the two outlets we installed went back in the original space, IE: where the wires were coming up from the floor. 
I threaded the wires (electricity was shut off at this point) into the case and Matt took over attaching the correct wires to our new outlet face as well as separating out the ones which were to go off to the second new outlet.  (See the gray cord going off to the left.)
The second case and cover went faster than the first, though there was some hanky panky using the electric drill to install because to use the drill the power had to be turned on... Do Not Do This! But glossing right over that...
Look how pretty!  And it works!  Our next move was to use this metal strip to secure and cover the wire to the brick, protecting it and us from any reno in the future.  This took forever to get right, but with some good brick anchors for the screws, careful measuring, and pilot holes we got it done.  
Very proud!  This was one of the bigger projects that we've taken on and successfully finished all in one day with no outside help.  When we plastered this room the wire housing was secured further and covered over, the outlets are now nearly flush with the surface of the wall and rock solid.  I'm so glad we made the effort here, we really needed the extra outlets in there and now with the built-in UBS ports we have a plethora of options. 
I should probably pick out some cool bedside lights..
- Nikki

Plastering at the Cottage. Fall 2016.

Last time I brought you up to date on my holiday and new job, but naturally, I spent most of my August holiday 'helping' at The Cottage, that is part of why it took so long for me to publish this, I didn't want to come off to whiny... Plastering is hard work.  
So, as of August 2016, Matt had spent a lot of time before my visit pulling down the ruined and damp lime plaster, exposing the brick in what will eventually be our bedroom. This allowed for the brick to dry out and for us to update some electrical work (post on how we totally didn't do anything dangerous with electricity coming soon!)
Now I know this goes against the grain and probably ruins any Hipster cred I may have earned when diving in to a Victorian Renovation, but I don't love exposed brick.  It's cool for a bar or a loft apartment, but it wouldn't be right for this house.  The exterior is already red brick and the interior would have originally been plastered anyway, so this is in part wanting to stay true to the character of The Cottage. 
Matt likes the exposed brick, so we compromised and ultimately decided that the fireplace in the bedroom could remain exposed, but that I can do a thin lime wash over it to tone down the red.  Additionally, Matt finished the raking out and re-pointing of the fireplace front, so it looks very sturdy now.  
A big part of what we did this August involved plastering.  There was also a lot of driving to get more plaster, and then some more, and several meals, and then plaster.   Plastering the rest of the room was  a major undertaking, there is definitely something to be said for using Sheetrock... 
Lime Plastering 101.
Step one: Be great at plastering as you assumed you would be.
Step two: Arms aching, cry tears into your pizza at dinner because you are actually terrible at plastering.
Step three: Play assistant and try to be somewhat helpful.
Anyway we got the bedroom re-plastered and no one died. Did I mention that new ceilings were put up for us? They look great and have been painted white. 
The attic has been fully insulated, which has already made a difference in heating the home, and we made major steps towards picking out the kitchen and flooring!  The next post will be much more fun, I promise, with some pretty pictures!
-Nikki



Thursday, October 20, 2016

Plumbing and camping.

So let me take you back to August, I have just flown in and was faced with a house that still needed huge amounts of work and was in part a construction zone.  However we had to be able to live there (at least for the month that I was in town!)  So on my first afternoon home alone (the babe was at work) I tackled the sink problem.  
This was my first ever plumbing adventure, coming hot on the heels of my father attempting to plumb, and requiring six stitches in his right hand.
Sorry about the photos... my camera seems to have had an identity crisis...with a smoke machine?
After much cursing, cutting, twisting, and luck I was able to McGyver a connection for the little sink, using the random pipe fittings that for some reason were already scattered about in buckets and on shelves.  Originally it was not plumbed in so we couldn't use it for fear of filling the cabinet below with water! 
Honestly plumbing is gross, the pipes were mucky and slimy and had a.... smell, but the supreme sense of satisfaction I felt when it finally worked!  Like a high with no negative effects and a long lasting shine.  When we gut the kitchen I want a new, deep, single bowl sink. Matt wants a Belfast sink, it meets the requirements, so I'm good with that. 
Disclaimer: This sink (and kitchen) have since been gutted!
During the second week of August we escaped to the south for some much needed camping and sunshine in Cornwall.

Pictured: Him (he who hates to be photographed...) and Me (she who loves to be photographed, with the obvious basic disclaimer that I get to see and delete as desired.)  

Cornwall was seriously beautiful, full of hidden coves and beaches, with spectacular views around every corner...is it weird to think about retirement already?  I mean I literally just this week started my first proper, adult, full-time, job.
Yes. I'm dropping that in here like its no-big-deal, but its a huge deal, and a big relief to be honest.  So bear with me as I play catch up with my project posts because I'm finally working full time, still teaching two courses at the local community college, and of course attempting to coordinate renovation efforts from across the pond.   
I mean you didn't really expect me to slow down and enjoy the moment did you?  Nope. I need to be making messes and terrorizing nice English tradesmen with midnight e-mails about washing machine specs, apparently its how I relax.

- Nicole