Tag Archives: Idiots

How to restore a cast iron fireplace – part 1

It’s probably about time I blogged about our fireplace. There’s a fair bit to say before the reveal, so I’ll split this into parts.

When we bought this house we had no idea we had a stunning original period feature just waiting to be restored.

Original estate agent picture

Original estate agent picture

In fact, it was several months in that we finally clocked that the fireplace that we thought was wooden was cold to the touch, and therefore metal.

Dumb, huh? But seriously – would you have expected that this was an original Edwardian cast iron beauty?

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Mmmmmmm, sexy.

Ok, ok, you’d have realised sooner, smartypants. In our defence, when we first moved in we spent very little time in this room (the old dining room destined to be our sitting room). And besides, we were totally distracted by the ugly old fire and green tile hearth – circa 1980 public toilets.

However, within 5 minutes of clocking it was indeed metal we excitedly found the Nitromors and several coats, an hour and a room full of toxic stink we managed this:

Cast iron fireplace nitromors

What the Nitromors revealed

Cast iron, with beautiful detailing lost under layers of paint. And there began my absolute obsession with restoring this poor darling to its original splendour. And boy, was that some challenge.

It was clear that Nitromors wasn’t going to cut it – not when you look at the size of the fireplace (it’s 1.5m wide by x 1.2m high if you’re wondering) and not when we considered the vast amount of detail on My Love.

Yes, I am calling it My Love, for it was. For 4 months a day would not pass without me spending quality time with My Love. Even when – ironically – we had no heating in the depths of winter, I wrapped up in scarf and hat and My Love got attention. We spent hours and hours together, quietly and methodically strengthening our bond. He gave me a terrible repetitive sprain injury (insert your own mucky undertones here) that sent me to my workplace physio. And yet I continued, hour upon hour on my knees in front of him (yep, go on again). Anyway……

peelaway1Google is a wonderful thing and after much research it seemed that the wonder product I needed was: PeelAway1. (I have since discovered this wonderful post on the process which I so wish I had seen before I had started on ours!) PeelAway is used by the National Trust, so if it’s good enough for them…..

Armed with the instructions on my reassuringly large tub of PeelAway, some rubber gloves and a massive amount of enthusiasm – in I went, concentrating on the central bit of the fire surround.

I assumed that the more of this stuff I used, the better – right? So I happily squidged on huge amounts, smoothed it with the supplied spatula, put the paper on top (endearingly, the manufacturers call this a “blanket”) and waited. No toxic stink whatsoever – a good start.

I waited 24hours, and tugged at the paper expecting it all to come away in one go. To, erm, “peel away” in fact.

Nope, there was a lot of gungy mess and unexpected liquid. So after cleaning, scraping and moaning I had this:

Peel Away 1 on cast iron

Not quite peeled away

Peelaway1 first use on period cast iron fireplace

Let’s take a closer look

What this had revealed was just how many layers of paint there were to get through and – oh! – check out those colours! There was a particularly striking blue, a green and a burgundy. Apparently, the fashion for painting your fireplace in hideous colours was particularly prevalent in the 1960s, so we were looking at at least 50 odd years of paint.

And what paint it was – God only knows what they put in paint back then (oh yeah, lead) – but it was strong stuff made to last. Oh My Love, what had they done to you?

So, next time I used a little less of the PeelAway gunk, tucked in My Love with a new blanket and, this time, waited 48hours. A little improvement, but not much – though all the green paint had gone. (I neglected to take a photo at this stage – sorry) So I went ahead, more gunk, more tucking in and another 48hours.

After more messy cleaning, I got this:

Cast iron fire detail painted

Oh, hello there fine detail!

I tried Nitromors again on these stubborn bits, but nope, it wasn’t shifting it and was instead just doing terrible things to my asthma.

So there was just one thing for it: wire wool, wire brushes, tiny chisels, elbow grease and stubborn perseverance. And you wonder why I got an RSI.

To be continued….

Read on to part 2

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Gallery wall

(Apologies for the terrible photo quality in this post, this is what happens when you take pictures through glass!)

Just when we thought we couldn’t love our Disco Loo more than we already do we’ve gone and added a wall full of happiness.

Disco loo gallery wall with Dulux Proud Peacock

Gallery wall (background colour is Dulux Proud Peacock)

We’ve long had this plan for the main wall in the downstairs loo but have been kind of busy doing the bigger, more important, things in the house – like actually getting it habitable in time for Christmas.

So, as soon as we had the chance we were wading through old cards and photos and trekking off to Ikea for frames. Good old Ikea, what would we do without the humble Ribba frame? Affordable, simple design which – en masse – looks pretty good.

What did we decide to include on the wall? Well, first we went through photos and pulled out ones that make us smile – either for a memory or – more often – for the sheer stupidity. There are photos of my best mate and her gorgeous family, a pair of tiny sandy feet belong to our ‘charge’ (we’re his legal guardians) and there are some that maybe need a little more explanation, for example:

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We helped a friend who was compiling a recipe book by testing out recipes and taking pics. Someone decided to sneak into shot – it’s always made us laugh.

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We got married at Hazlewood and our surname is Tipper. You can imagine the hilarity – in fact, this image was our ‘thank you’ cards. It’s now a family favourite.

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Oly and his bro at our wedding playing ‘horse lips’. Never tried it? Blow a raspberry and take a pic…..

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See? Horse Lips is always fun!

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A few years ago I found this photo at my mum’s. My darling, skint, ill, only just about getting by mum. Turned out she had saved up and bought a water pump for a village in India. She just kind of didn’t tell anyone. Sums her up perfectly.

After we’d decided on photos we looked back at a stash of cards; many of which Oly and I originally gave to my mum over the years. She kept nearly everything we gave her so, when clearing out her house, I came across them stashed in books and drawers. They still make us smile and we like the fact they have kind of gone full circle.

And then there’s this:

Far Side cartoon

Far Side cartoon

This was from a Far Side wall calendar from, probably, about 25years ago. It was cut out and put in a clipframe and hung in my mum’s loo  – Oly has always loved it and the sheer inanity of putting cartoons in unexpected places. So, now it is hung in our unexpected place!

Also, in need of a little explanation is the needlepoint hunting picture.

We couldn’t find a place for this in the main house and – honestly – we’re not too keen on the subject matter yet can appreciate the craftmanship. However, it was given to my grandfather by his mother (made by her) so we wanted it to have a place somewhere. Is it wrong to hang a family heirloom in the loo?!

So, forgive my dodgy photography skills and take a look at what else is included:

To figure out the gallery wall layout we measured the wall space and mapped it out on the floor with tinsel (errrrr, obviously, doesn’t everyone?).   We then created an arrangement we were happy with (with Humph’s help, of course) and took a photo to work to.

We then just transferred the whole lot onto the wall – which took HOURS!! We started with each corner, then along the line until we had the outline, before filling in the middle. We weren’t patient or anal enough to measure and calculate distances between frames, so it definitely has a homespun feel to it and is all the better for it. Well, that’s our excuse and we’re sticking to it.

It’s almost impossible to get a good shot of the full wall, given the tiny room and space to manoeuvre, but here’s my best shot(s) at it.

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So now this creation makes us smile and hopefully it will amuse our guests too – it’s very “us”.

The Disco Loo is now complete. Well, until I manage to convince Oly that we really do need that revolving glitter ball from Ikea.

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89 days later

pausebuttonWe realised last night that we haven’t had a day off since August 18th (on which we drove back from a weekend with the inlaws in Shropshire). That’s 89 days ago.

That was the last day when we weren’t either at work (as in, our day jobs) or working on the house or – most often – both.

We ain’t looking for sympathy; no-one put a gun to our heads and made us work so hard. And we know we’re lucky to be in such an incredible house.

My mum would have called us ‘daft apeths’ – one of her favourite phrases. And really, we are. However, this weekend we shall press pause, take a break and hopefully reflect on what we’ve achieved so far.

Oly’s mum and dad (*waves* if they’re reading) are coming up for a couple of nights. Unfortunately, we can’t quite yet accept overnight guests so they’re in a hotel.

But we have vowed to do no work on the house despite the fact only half our furniture is built, we desperately need to go to (the dreaded) Ikea and B&Q, we have painting to do (still!), a much needed tip run, unpacking, repacking, selling, picture hanging, drilling, curtain fixing, stair waxing and so on…….. But no, we shall not. We shall entertain our guests and start it all again next week.

Now, there may be the small matter of an immense amount of cleaning required before allowing guests – let alone family – into the house. That’s Friday night rock n roll for you and it’s all that stands in the way of us and the pause button.

And next week, I promise to blog – at least once. With news that isn’t just about how tired we are. I may even show you some pics……

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Zombie decorators

So, we’ve kept up with our crazy schedule and this, my friends, is what months of hard slog does to you. You turn into zombie decorators!

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Actually, we had a Halloween party invite – terrible timing really given everything we had to do but it was a dear friend’s party that we wouldn’t have missed for the world. However, we had no time to sort costumes so we simply donned our decorating togs (already covered in paint) and added some fake blood. Simple!

A touch of liquid latex and tissue paper to create some pretty funky burns and we were good to go.

Had a great night and were sorry to leave early but we had a massive list the next day to get through.

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Sunday’s to-do list

And get through it we did. 24hours work over one weekend and we were ready for carpets!!

That’s where it gets very disappointing.

We were due to have the sitting room, 3 bedrooms, hallways, stairs and landing all done in a day. However, it turns out that some of our carpet is still being manufactured – because it’s 5m width – but the shop just didn’t bother to let us know on Friday when they had found out. Shocking lack of customer service and meant we practically killed ourselves getting ready for it at the weekend for no reason.  We could have stayed at the party!!

So, we have just the 2 spare bedrooms and a bit of the stairs done. We’ve had to postpone furniture deliveries and move furniture back in that we’d shipped out.

photo

This never fails to make us laugh….

Because we tore up the laminate in the sitting room we now have a bare concrete floor. Oh, and we freecyled our old sofa so now have nothing to sit on!

Yesterday we were absolutely fuming; today we’ve calmed down a little bit and just accepted it for what it is. It’s taken the shine off our carpet excitement though and totally messed with our schedule but hey, there we go, all resolvable just not ideal.

Isn’t it horrible being at the mercy of other people?  I guess that’s the joys of renovating.

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Hello. We’re idiots!

“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline”

Our day jobs both involve loads of deadlines – it’s got to go to print by X, the CEO wants it by X, the media need it before X. You get the general idea.

So, it’s fair to say a deadline doesn’t really phase us. So why then are our self-imposed house deadlines such a killer? For once, we actually have some control over our deadlines but have continued to make them virtually impossible.

Answer? We’re idiots basically. Total raving, exhausted idiots.

Idiots who think it’s ok to dress as fairytale creatures.

We’re currently fighting to get all our walls painted before the 18th. It was originally the 5th but we realised we had no chance of making it so moved it back. This deadline is the day our heating engineer returns to refit all the radiators and flush and balance the system  – now we are finally rid of all the microbore piping.

So, on the 18th Oct we will have central heating. Woohoo! But it means we’ve decided all the painting had to be done, on the walls at least. Hence the deadline. Makes sense, no?

We’ve also finally got a carpet fit date of the 4th November – so that means we want absolutely all the painting done; every last bit of wood, coving and ceiling rose. We ain’t spending THAT much on carpet to get paint on it – and trust me, I would get paint on it. Oh, and the floors need levelling/mending before the carpeting. There’s another bastard deadline.

Curtain and blind hardware can’t be fitted until the walls are painted; curtains themselves not fitted until the carpets are down (need to get the perfect hang length apparently).

And of course we can’t get furniture delivered until we have carpet and we’re really tired of having no bedroom furniture (“Oly, where are my socks being kept?” “In a bag in the bath, next to the holdall with my pants in it.”) So, yep, we’ve gone and created another deadline.

And all this has been leading towards the biggest deadline that’s been crashing towards us since we started our renovations a few months ago – “WE’LL BE DONE BY CHRISTMAS”.

I repeat: idiots.

Idiots who take it back to the 80s.

We have no spare annual leave so are out to work for 10-12 hours, coming home and picking up our brushes every night as well as putting in 12 hour days on a weekend. We’re on our knees…..quite literally much of the time.

Are we regretting our madness? Nope. Wouldn’t we like to take our time? Nope.

We want our lives back, we want a house we can really live in. I want to know my mum would have been proud. We want to host a family Christmas. We want our friends to come and visit. I want a goddamn manicure.

It does explain why our blog posts have been lacking  – and, oh, I have so much to catch you up on and show you – but needs must, sorry. (I’m only writing this now because we’re waiting for a takeaway….)

So, deadlines? Bring ’em on, because nothing ever feels quite as good as when you smash them.

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Which way do you hang Lotus wallpaper? A Facebook debate

We decided to upload a couple of pics of our lovely new kitchen diner to Farrow and Ball’s fabulous inspiration site.

I find it so useful looking at other people’s projects – whether my taste or not – and particularly like to see how paint colours turn out in different areas;  incredibly helpful for choosing. So we thought we’d do our bit by sharing our pics, we’re gracious like that.

F&B accepted the pictures onto their site last week, all was good.  Then I was a bit surprised to browse Facebook yesterday and see a pic of my own kitchen staring back at me in the news feed!

Facebook

It was shared by Farrow and Ball with the message “What do you think of this kitchen recently uploaded to our Inspiration site? Anything you’d change or perfect as it is?”

Now, there was a fair bit of love for the piccie (over 400 likes to date and 40+ shares) however there was also much hatred. And you know what? It didn’t bother us at all; it was just amusing how unnecessarily vicious strangers feel they have the right to be.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I dare say we wouldn’t like a lot of their homes so we don’t particularly care if they don’t like ours.

However, the comments that were actually annoying were the ones about the fact we had hung the wallpaper upside down. Facebook’s arm-chair interior designers chose to call us ‘idiots’, ‘knobs’ and ‘cocks’ because of it.  (But we’ve probably been called worse over more important things than wallpaper……)

Lotus BP 2061Lotus BP 2061Anyway, the lovely Lotus paper can be hung either way, it’s a matter of preference.

We spent a long time deciding and discussing the merits of both ways :

“It looks like cupped hands”, “It’s a smile”, “It’s a frown”, “I can see a beard now”, “That’s a weird jellyfish”, “Do you just see lady bits?” and so on.

But we chose the way we wanted it, up it went and we bloody adore it. We know it’s not to everyone’s taste and, honestly, we couldn’t give a monkeys.

However, I was very pleased that F&B graced their comment thread with the following:

“We love how passionate everyone is about this! As with anything aesthetic, subjectivity is the watch-word of the day – everyone’s opinion counts here and we welcome both positive comments and constructive criticism… We also thank the owner of this home for adding their photos to our inspiration site to help inspire others.

With regard to the direction of the Lotus pattern, this can be hung either way depending on personal preference. This is a common quandary and we have previously created a board on Pinterest to show how Lotus looks hung both ways. Included in this board is a picture of the original inspiration behind our Lotus pattern, taken from 19 century French archives: http://pinterest.com/farrowball/lotus-wallpaper-hung-both-ways/

Original Lotus paper inspiration

And here is that lovely original inspiration for the Lotus pattern from 19th century French archives  –  adapted and simplified to become the Farrow & Ball Lotus design.

Oh, well, now, will you look a that?! It’s the same way up as our wallpaper.

IN YOUR FACE FACEBOOK CRITICS!!!!!

Sorry, couldn’t help cheering. I guess that’s why we’re knobs/cocks/idiots. But we knew that already.

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Yet another cat bed

Oly had a plan for the window in our dining room. The cat has tweaked those ideas.

Lord Humphrey

Lord Humphrey

Ol is a huge music fan and has a small collection of much-loved vinyl. He’s always wanted somewhere to sit and listen to said vinyl so we decided this window presented the perfect opportunity.

(I think he has dreams of the good little wifey in a pinny baking bread on a Sunday morning whilst he sips coffee and Ella croons another crackly jazz classic. But that will never be, I don’t own a pinny.)

Whilst on the lookout for stylish chairs Oly announced he also needed a foot stool – the Sunday morning fantasy apparently came complete with somewhere to put his feet.

So that’s how my cursor came to rest on the ‘chaises’ category on my new favourite website – made.com

To be honest, I’d been looking for an excuse to buy one since I fell in love with the beautiful curves of the Halston Panama. (They also do this in an amazing hot pink but Oly’s fantasies rarely involve pink furniture. At least, I think they don’t……)

Before we talked ourselves out of it, this was ordered but it’s only recently it went to its rightful place. And since then, it’s been a firm favourite with a certain someone:

From the rare occasions we’ve been able to sit on it we can confirm it’s super comfy and beautifully finished. We wanted to add a splash of colour so opted for a lovely cushion from David James Interiors – made from Sanderson’s Bellflower fabric, a bargain for £12.50.

I’d hoped the cushion might have put the cat off. But no, stubborn little sod.

Chaise longue and Sanderson cushion

Something new to cover with fur

We do have some friends who really don’t like cats (the fact that they’re our friends trouble us slightly). To them,  allowing the cat to steal the chaise will be sheer lunacy. But seriously, could you resist this face?

But I've been so tolerant of the mess, I only want a little sit down

For those who really don’t care about the cat (weirdos) and are purely here for the paint – the wall is Farrow&Ball’s Cornforth White and the woodwork All White.

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