A Plank of Wood and a Glass of Wine

In some places this project would be considered therapy

I’m not really the mental psycho bitch that I am often portrayed as. For example, this weekend Baz came to France with me and helped me put skirting board around our tiny multi-angled bathroom, working around the cast iron bath, sink and loo already in situ. Despite these frustrating obstacles we worked well together, didn’t break anything and didn’t lose our cool in the afternoon heat. By the time we were cleaned up (Baz loved his first ever experiences of cast iron bathing luxury this weekend) and taking aperos we remained very relaxed and still on speaking terms

Always a good start to an evening

Through necessity, the bath is installed in a fairly small space and there is nowhere to put toiletries (the name ‘roll top bath’ sort of gives it away really)

A shelf on the wall next to the bath would look cramped, but my memory strayed back to childhood: we had a hideous broken plastic bath rack across the bath, as I remember

There are some vintage 1920s metal bath racks for sale as well as a few modern ones, but I felt that a metal rack could look very fussy in the small space. In fact, the designers of some of the modern ones have totally lost the plot, adding ugly random sticky-out bits to hold wine glasses, books, tea lights, as well as the necessary shampoos etc

Baz had some interesting ideas for add-ons but I cannot share these here

They’re a bit niche

I went into a very expensive bathroom showroom and said ‘I don’t suppose you get many people asking for bath racks, do you?’
It seems that my instinct was correct. He only had one silly rack which cost more than our entire bathroom

So I consulted my erudite friend, M. Google, who introduced me to the simple wooden racks – rather like chopping boards – that can be bought for not very much, according to M. le Goo

I decided that I would make my own, using a piece of old wood found in the house itself. I had visions of using a patinated oak floorboard, of course

There are none going begging, as far as I can see 🙂

IMG_6125
Before and after some graft

But last night after the plumbers had left I found this unpromising shelf, recently ripped from a (probably late 1800s) walk-in bedroom cupboard to make space for a water heater. I removed a few hooks and nails from the underside, cut a piece off and then scrubbed it with steel wool and white spirit. As you can see, the wood came up nicely and I even left the original uneven unsawn edge. I added toilet seat dampers to protect the bath enamel and to hold the shelf in place, then treated it with an oil-based waterproof finish. Simplicity itself

I could have added a wineglass holder, but no-one tells this psycho bitch where to put her wine glass I don’t think I need one

It could almost double up as a cheese board!

If IKEA had made it, it would be called ‘BJÖRD’ or ‘BÊAM’

But they didn’t make it, did they?

Because it belongs to this house, a token minimalist item. And it cost nothing

The bath will be an even greater pleasure this evening, I am sure, now that I can enjoy a glass of red wine and listen to a bit of Lana Del Ray…

Object of Desire

What’s black and white and grows in the bathroom

‘Your bath looks wonderful’ said a friend. ‘It’s as if it grew there’

The bathroom is finally coming together exactly as I had planned, dominated by the roll top bath. I was unreasonably thrilled when the plumber confirmed that I could have my first bath today – nearly two years after buying the house

And yet, as it approached 8pm I realised that I had been finding things to do and putting off filling the tub. I had really stuck my neck out by insisting on a roll top bath and it had caused a lot of effort for everyone. Supposing I didn’t like it? I was even obsessing over the idea that it would not take the weight of the 120kg tub full of water and me, and that it would fall through the floor, leaving me cold, naked and alone in the hallway downstairs

But it looked so inviting, and I was filthy

Yes, I had to improvise a bath mat (today’s dirty T-shirt) and my toiletries were balanced on the taps, but I was so euphoric after finally taking the plunge that I composed an Oscar-type thank you speech in my head as I bathed. ‘Thank you Baz for believing in me when I bought this house and this bath back in 2015, and for allowing me to fritter away war could have been our pension fund. Thank you to the Smiley Plumbers for doing what I asked, even though you thought it was wrong. Yes, you did. And thank you to the bloke on Ebay who was chucking away the bath of my dreams,’ etc …

Afterwards I ran downstairs to check that water was not pouring into the hallway. (Oh, me of little faith!)

I texted people to tell them ‘I’ve had a bath’

I called Baz, still full of enthusiasm. After all these years he still just laughs and says ‘if you’re happy, I’m happy’

The guy’s a saint

This gorgeous bath, including the taps and shower thing, came out of a house three miles from us in the UK, where developers had gone in :(. The site manager just wanted a few notes and collection within 24 hours. Two years on, it has found its homeIMG_4386

Why do people choose acrylic baths over cast iron? Enamelled cast iron looks wonderful. The smoothness of enamel is calming, cosy and warm, like a big cuddle. It’s huge. It cleans down so easily. Oh, someone stop me here! I have spent the last forty-odd years since my childhood dreaming of another cast iron bath while everyone else has moved into the acrylic future

What am I missing?

Who’s in your shed?

It’s my own space and entry is by invitation only

Last New Years Eve, in torrential rain, three of us took the van, and we emptied and dismantled my beloved green shed from my ex-allotment plot

The grass beneath us had become mud, so the wheels pun and spun, until we improvised with boards borrowed from a neighbouring plot and brought the shed pieces back to the house, where we dumped them on the lawn, all of us exhausted and achingshed allotment.jpg

These pieces lay there until July (for various reasons, not all entirely connected with idleness – we’ve had a lot to do this year) when it was assigned a new colour and identity, not as a storage area but as a smart and defined, if small, workspace for me

IMG_0009

When we first assembled it some years back we were shed virgins so we closely followed the instructions, and it took a whole day. This time around the instructions were long since discarded, and Baz and I free-styled it in no time before heading to the pub to celebrate our success

We had cleaned the mud off the interior and I painted the inside with various bits of leftover paint so that it doesn’t feel like a sauna. I re-used my faded curtains and splashed out on a funky floor paint (‘Primrose Hill’ by Mylands) which will keep it cheerful through the winter. Oh, and I might just squirrel a bottle of my sloe gin somewhere…

namelessrose

Since it arrived the space feels bigger, as if the whole garden has been waiting for this shed to turn up. The new colour sets off the lavenders and the gorgeous old nameless pink rose, which often flowers vigorously into DecemberIMG_0018

It’s not a big shed, but I’ve installed a solar light, shelves and hanging space. There’s even a shed alarm, although only a fellow lunatic with a fetish for steel wool would ever break in here (yes, you know who you are) and I am already enjoying the space

Entrance is strictly by invitation only, and my first visitors apart from the bugs (of which there are already many) are two of the set of six 1930s oak chairs I bought on Ebay. These two were wonky and needed repairs and have been glued and clamped. The whole set needs a good clean too, having been used for many years. It can be hard to see progress, so I took a picture of before and after to remind me of how worthwhile this process is and how much detail it reveals

The other visitor at the moment is the plucky little heater, ‘Stumpy’, which came to me with a limp. More of that in another post …

s-l1600-8

I’m still moving in really, and there is plenty more that needs doing to the shed itself before the weather really kicks in, but I’m getting a feel for what the space allows and for which tools and basic supplies I actually need to keep in here in order to work properly

So that’s what/who is in my shed right now. What do you use your shed for? I’d love to hear

 

 

 

 

 

Raising an Eyebrow

A wooden front door is a thing of beauty. Take care of it

‘Are you going to do it red again? Red is the most common colour of front door, you know’

‘I’m not telling you. You’ll see soon enough’

‘I bet it’s going to be one of those bluey-greens. Or orange. Is that orange?’

My neighbour interrogated me. Over the course of the week I had sanded down the paintwork of the front door and we had added a rain deflector to the bottom of the front door. Understandably, it was looking a lot worse than before I started

Various paint testers with their numbers scribbled alongside had remained for over a year because I just couldn’t decide. Eventually I found inspiration from a house we pass on the way home from work each day. It was quite a departure for meIMG_9544

That Sunday was hot. Really hot. By nine that morning the door was off and placed on the workbench in the garage for priming. I hadn’t accounted for the cotton candy seed which was floating thickly in the air that day, so Baz had to close the garage door on me while I worked, to try and keep it from sticking to the paint. This created almost perfect paint oven conditions, but made me feel hot and claustrophobic. Nonetheless, I soon achieved the zen-like state that can only be reached when you like your choice of finish – in this case, Mylands ‘Bond Street’ in a dead flat finish. It looks restrained, contemporary and very poshIMG_9589

1930s houses with original features are sadly in decline, with people taking practical decisions which involve PVCU doors and windows. Never one to follow the herd, when C was small I bought an ‘eyebrow’ door for the house. It was too big and the orientation was wrong for the house, so Baz thought I’d really screwed up, but a carpenter trimmed and hung it for me. Unfortunately the wood was not in great condition, so I filled and sanded as best I could in situ and painted it (badly) in bright red

I didn’t care what Baz thought. It made me smile

So, a decade or so later it deserved a re-visit. Front doors have to withstand constant to-ing and fro-ing, and are the first line of defence against the extremes of weather. This door has spent the best part of a century in service, and it still does so with style and substance. It has earned all its imperfections and it carries them well

I am no expert, but the matt finish has helped to disguise some of its dings and imperfections and it makes the fielding look crisp, way better than the red gloss before

And my neighbour’s verdict?

‘The undercoat looks very nice. What colour is it going to be?’

Relight My (Gas) Fire

Upcycling and alternative energy sources

Attractive pieces often get scrapped because they are no longer useful or relevant, so I wanted to re-purpose an old gas heater by turning it into a light. That was the plan – to be sensible and to dip my toes – but then I couldn’t choose between two of them, both very different, each with its own merits. So I bought both!

This one is SO unusual and such a beautiful shape. I could see its potential and fell in loveIMG_8959I think it’s made of aluminium. It was in three robust basic pieces (three very heavy pieces) when I got it, plus it had some perished gas-fitting gubbings that I removed easily (WD40 again!). It was absolutely filthy and took more effort to clean than I had expected, but even so it has a good patina and I’m glad it’s not too shiny IMG_8957I bought a small nickel bulb fitting and some nuts and bolts to put the bits together firmly, and a neighbour kindly drilled the base for me as the existing feed hole was too small (I didn’t have anything that could get through metal that solid). My main frustrations were (a) finding nice 3-core flex, which I eventually got on line and had to wait a couple of days for, and (b) getting the flex through the cord grip. There was some quiet swearing at that stage

It took time to wire the fitting and plug, because I am out of practice. It was a very hot evening and I’m blind to close work without my glasses but they slipped off my nose when I looked down, so when I do the next one I’ll be sensible and work at the table with a magnifying lamp – much easier

IMG_8964IMG_8960I’ve not seen another heater (or light!) like this. I like the fact that it’s so industrial-looking and yet so decorative and sculptural. The ‘stamen’ at the front hides the bulb completely from all angles and the light reflects back from the ‘petals’ of the back-plate. I think it looks lovely, quite sexy actually

We should all re-imagine something every now and again. Have you anything you might re-purpose?

The armchair lottery

This week I bought two 1930s club chairs on ebay. We picked them up locally from an upholsterer who had them as a project but is moving house so just wanted them gone quickly. I was traumatised when he told me he had thrown the matching 3-seater sofa into a skip lorry. He was a lovely guy and I felt bad that I only paid 99p. On another day even in this (disgusting) state they could have made him £100.00. But it wasn’t another day, it was a Wednesday. They were only ever going to appeal to an optimist or a masochist (I am not a masochist). They appear to have been re-covered by a professional in the late 60s, but I think it has been done out of necessity rather than love. The current fabric is pink, semi-shiny and hideous, and I recognised it instantly from furniture in my relatives’ houses when I was a child. Surely no-one would have just ‘had to have’ that fabric?!
IMG_1737

IMG_1739

IMG_1740

The springs look fine to me – but what do I know? I have started removing all the tacks and staples during my lunchtime so that I can try to template the fabric and chuck out the horsehair. Ambitious, I know, but I have bought some leather and I hope to be able to completely re-stuff and replace everything, using just the wooden frames and the existing springs. The bottom line is that they cost me 99p for the 2, so I am allowed to make errors as I learn. And as Baz said, if we find a quid down the back of one of them, we’ll be in profit!

Womance and the love of Audrey

Friendships are formed in the most unexpected ways, and I suppose that is part of the beauty of them.
On the plane on the way down to view the house I chatted with the English couple sitting next to me. I will refer to them as G & T – it seems fitting, who then helped me find the connecting bus service to Quillan. This has been a very happy coincidence because as it turns out G is a fellow passionate admirer and saver of all things old, beautiful and undervalued. According to Baz she and I have been enjoying a wo-mance ever since, with frequent supportive texts, email exchanges about various gorgeous things, and then a chat on the phone when G negotiated with (possible!) Russian mafia in order to pick up a mirror I bought on ebay for £10.00. Some of the coincidences have been spooky and we even had to check we were not bidding on the same ebay items. How insane is that?!
So G has been ‘virtually’ with me every step of the way. From the initial viewing through the frustrations with the estate agent and notaire, to finally getting the final completion date, she has been an essential part of the process, keeping me sane via text and helping me understand the system. Now, to top it all, G & T are going to pick up our keys from the estate agent, collect us at Carcassonne and take us to the house when we arrive. This means I will get a chance to show them around (I know they are desperate to see this monument to my insanity), and that Baz and I will have some good old-fashioned moral support when we open the door. Honestly, it has made this whole ‘adventure’ feel way more manageable, and I am dying to buy them dinner to say thanks.

audrey
One of the hardest things about being away from home is leaving the chickens. They are very well cared for in our absence by our lovely neighbour Sue, who keeps them fed and puts them to bed. It’s especially hard to leave Audrey (above) who has never been well and has had more meds in her 2 and a half years than most chickens ever have to endure. We all have so much love and respect for her as she has repeatedly defied her odds, coming back from the absolute brink. She is such a fighter, brave and resilient. Luckily, Baz will usually be at home to care for them while I am overseeing work in France.
Now, if the estate agent will only tell us how much to pay and to which account in time for completion on Thursday, we’ll be fine….