Saturday, 7 September 2013
New House I
Here's the long promised tour of the new house, already christened by my friend Dan 'the Bawdy Tavern.' What you need to understand is that every wall, and every ceiling, and every light-fitting, and every bit of furniture (with a very few exceptions) has been changed over the last six months. If it looks serene, that's because we've broken our backs over it. And before we go any further, let me record my massive thanks to my godsister Zoe, who owns the house and has financed the renovations, giving Ben and me a fabulously free creative hand. (Ben, would you like to write something yourself about this process we've been through?---the account below is just my view of it.)
I'm not going to give you views of the hall and landing, which are ultra-neutral at the moment, but after you come in through the front door, you will find on your right....
...the Front Room. We looked at the space and thought: Scandinavia. Ibsen, that kind of thing: foul eau-de-vie and no curtains. After a pendant light had been put in---a preposterous shabby chic chandelier with a Homebase foam-moulding between it and the ceiling---we got the two worst walls plastered, retiled the hearth, and painted every inch of the damn thing. Early on in the process I devised a method for adding a transparent silvery hue to bare wood, involving powdered lime, milk, and small amounts of white paint, and this was pressed into service for all the previously unpainted wood. The walls are Laura Ashley 'Silver Birch'---a stroke of genius by Ben, and almost the only non-Farrow & Ball colour we used. Rather oddly I've had to adjust the tones of the pictures of this room: it is distinctly and obviously pale green when you are actually sitting in it, but tends to look like a washed-out yellow-grey in photos. The woodwork is Farrow & Ball 'All White'. Behold:
(Note the bottom of the chandelier, which came, improbably, from amazon.co.uk. The twisted and limewashed buddleija stump in the hearth came from the garden; note also the silvery driftwood mantlepiece, which I made from an old plank. The curving struts are intricately carved and are of uncertain age: they were washed out of Warwick Castle after a flood---we found them, and the green cabinet, thanks to Fran at the fabulous Liscious Interiors)
(Note the grey Gustavian chair, ultra cheap from Dunelm Mill; bowl made by a friend at Whichford Pottery)
Next up is the one room where we've gone for drama. The central room of the house had a big empty fireplace and bookcases, but also walls which desperately needed replastering and a fairly grim pendant light. We went for nineteenth-century Dublin meets Norwegian hunting-lodge (as you do), painting the walls in Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue and the ceiling in their Skylight, a soft grey like rain-swollen clouds. A more than usually austere Kahlo self-portrait gazes down over my wooden chest, which has five pomegranates on a pewter plate next to an iron candlestick (difficult to photograph well as it's right next to a glazed door):
The room now has a woodburning stove in the hearth, which took six months to arrange for various complicated reasons: this was by far the most frustrating and ornery thing in the whole renovation process and involved scaffolding and having a hole knocked in the roof. At long last, the room is finished, and it's developed a rather lovely Freud-in-Hampstead feel, helped by an elaborate chandelier covered with little brass leaves:
Next up is the kitchen, which is long and thin and divided into two areas. The kitchen proper leads off the Storm Room, and has a beech work-surface and a Belfast sink:
I learned to tile to put the blue and white tiles up---we've definitely gone for a French-Country-Kitchen vibe here, especially as the room has a gorgeous terracotta-tile floor. (I have to resist coming over all Lizzie David with the lemons whenever I pass through.) The walls are James White in the main kitchen, and that leads straight into a breakfast area done out in Lime White (both Farrow & Ball again). The kitchen cupboards are done in the stunning lead-grey Plummet. The breakfast also room has beams across the ceiling, which are now done in Mouse's Back. It tells you everything that we've used four different colours of paint in a single space, not counting the white Dulux on the ceilings. (The whole room was a cheery orange/yellow before.) Here's the breakfast area, leading to the patio doors:
(Note the long mirror--a brilliant find by Ben---which opens the space up, and the chairs which came from a pub and have been stripped, painted, and distressed, which was very much how I felt myself after finishing the kitchen.)
(Platter with lemons from India; the sickle on the wall was found by Little Dan down the allotment. The dresser came from Dunelm Mill and had to have some work on it to make sure it didn't look too cheap and nasty)
(This is what's known in the trade as a 'detail'...)
From the breakfast room, of course, you step out straight into the garden. Tomorrow: upstairs!