It may seem that I have been very quiet recently but it has been a seriously hectic time at La Petite Maison with some fairly drastic changes taking place. In the quest to change the layout of La Petite Maison, what started out with two fairly innocuous rooms turned into a major construction project that practically equalled the building of the new extension and conversion of the roof space.
The house was sold as three bedrooms. However the dull little boxroom squashed between the miniscule bathroom and pokey musty smelling kitchen was a poor excuse for a bedroom and I felt that the space could be much better apportioned.
My proposal was that by moving the separating wall, the alcove that housed the seventies style built in wardrobe would become part of the bathroom, (see La Salle de Bain - part 1),
and the wall between the box bedroom and kitchen would be removed to make one larger room - forming a bedroom with an en-suite. Fairly straightforward I thought.
These plans en-tailed the knocking down of two concrete block walls (one load-bearing), but this didn't phase me - after all haven't we all seen the lovely Kirstie (as in Allsopp) knock down walls in high heels and without chipping her nail polish?
A doorway between the old kitchen and the room that had been changed from lounge to bedroom had been blocked up soon after work had begun on the house. This was feasible because during the process of stripping off the old woodchip paper I had discovered that part of the load bearing wall between the kitchen and box-room had at one time been removed (questioning the safety of the whole structure!) and had since been boarded up with hardboard. (Hardboard being NOT very load bearing!)
However the gap in the wall allowed things to move ahead and preparations began to prop up the purlins in the roof space that supported the entire roof so that a steel beam could be installed to carry the weight and permit the wall to be removed.
As usual though there had to be something to complicate things.....
In the top right hand corner you can see the Electric meter box. This was where the main electricity supply ran from a pole at the end of the driveway and along the eaves into the house - most impractical and it goes without saying - expensive to alter. But after a rather large fee to the electricity board, and the services of a JCB and qualified electrician the cables were laid underground; the meter box relocated outside and the inconvenient panel in the corner was no longer in the way.
I should just add at this point that during the excavation of the track to re-site the electricity cable, a slight incident occurred when the bucket of the digger accidentally squashed the water main pipe in the driveway. However due to time constraints and the fact that Mr Long Suffering (The Plumber in Residence) was at the time prostrate with a bad back and because the pipe was not significantly damaged, a repair was not deemed essential and hence the track re-instated.
The actual demolishing of the wall was straightforward enough as we wielded our sledgehammers (at these early stages our enthusiasm and energy had not yet dissipated)
- and although the two rooms looked as though a bomb had gone off, once the debris was cleared away the full size of the room could be seen.
A new casement window was fitted to replace the old brown stained one, but the French doors and small en-suite window that would replace the old back door and kitchen window had to wait until we were ready to dismantle the kitchen.
When the existing kitchen units were finally stripped out, the reason for the horrible musty damp smell that had pervaded the kitchen became apparent as we exposed large black, mouldy, damp spots on the floor and the walls.
Predictably the floors in the two rooms did not match up - the old box-room had a wooden suspended floor whilst the kitchen floor was of solid concrete. In keeping with the other rooms in the house a wooden floor was the preferred option although the en-suite would require a solid floor. To make this possible and to rectify the damp problem and insulate properly, all the old concrete had to be dug out along with a substantial amount of clay subfloor. For this we were extremely grateful for the services of the Elder-of-The-Much-Appreciated Men-Folk, alternatively known as Dig.
As I watched barrow load after barrow load being emptied into the skip I felt more and more dejected as I watched the house go from bad to worse to diabolically awful.
This surely had to be the worst it was going to get? The mud floor was almost too much for me and I despaired of ever getting this part of the house habitable again.
I was thus hugely relieved when the concrete sub-floor was poured and the new French doors and en-suite window fitted.
Tassel walls built and floor joists fitted - we were back to the dusty time consuming task of cutting and fitting insulation sheets again.
Plumbing and insulation complete,
the wonderful William made an appearance and in his usual whirlwind way of working had the new floor
and stud wall
in place in no time at all. (If only everything else went at William's pace!)
Inside the newly formed en-suite.
(I know - it looks like a bunker!)
Next followed a lot of external work involving another mini-digger and sewer laying (I could expand but I feel fatigued just thinking about it); then electrics and more plumbing - including cutting off the existing water supply into the old kitchen and re-laying it along outside the back of the house to the new extension.
It was now I was cheerily informed that (remember the pipe that was squashed by the digger?) the watermain would have to be re-laid right down the driveway to the road as the dinged pipe was restricting the flow of water! - Oh Please! When is it ever going to end??
But at last we were ready to bring the plasterers in. Actually - No, not quite! Before they could begin the walls and ceilings had to be prepped. I persevered; my arms and shoulder aching, hair and clothes white under a layer of dust as I doggedly scraped paint, scored ceilings and chipped off the old plaster, and at last the room was ready and the plasterers could begin. I was sure there was now finally some light at the end of what seemed to be a very long, dark tunnel.
Walls and ceilings prepped ready for the plasterers.
As well as plastering the walls, the plasterers also finished off the solid floor in the en-suite. For some reason two colours of plaster were used - one grey and one pink, so the first impression I got when I first saw the newly plastered room, instead of a room with walls the colour of Farrow and Balls Setting Plaster, was a room resembling a combination of Cell Block H and The Black Hole of Calcutta.
However the walls are slowly drying
(I know the photos do not make them look very inspiring, but by the weekend the walls will be dry and ready to paint, the floor can be sanded and William will return to complete the finishing touches).
The en-suite plastered.
In my usual desperation of trying to rid the room of the look of a building site and introduce some feminine prettiness, I cut a late flowering rose from the garden
(David Austin's Darcey Bussell)
and set it into an old glass bottle I unearthed from the track dug to lay the new watermain.
The rose brought to mind a sample of fabric; perfect for the curtains in the new bedroom.
Paris Rose from Cabbages and Roses
Oh to be at the curtain hanging stage!
I hope that now you have seen the extent of the renovation of these two rooms alone that you will forgive my disappearing from participating in the more pleasurable activities and blogging of soaping, sewing, sowing and socialising but I am sure that you will acknowledge that the sooner La Petite Maison reaches completion the sooner I can resume my sanity!
When the October edition of Country Living Magazine dropped through the door (or let's be honest - was poked hastily and carelessly into the letterbox - protected only from the elements due to the plastic covering, by my new postman - no doubt in his eagerness to meet his time-bound objectives), I was soon enraptured by the feature on allotment fashion, with my favourite raspberry and plum appearing as the gorgeous clothing colour of the allotment season.
(I really must get rid of my current trend of allotmenting in comfy leggings and fleece!)
The feature lured me into an afternoon visit to my somewhat recently neglected allotment.
I found the plots had taken on an autumnal hue -
The Hawthorn Hedge
at the bottom of the plot was laden with berries;
rich red Rosehips glowed prolifically over the boundary fences
and jewel bright Nasturtiums
clambered vigorously along the sides of The Mall.
In the greenhouse, which this year has received lamentably negligible attention, I made a thrilling discovery;
amongst the reddening vine leaves
hung little bunches of grapes,
which when sampled tasted beautifully sweet.
Despite the autumnal beauty at the plots the season is also tinged with sadness for me, as it is time for my allotmenting friend The Pearly Queen to return to The Land Of Pearly,
(oh the nostalgia of Yew Trees)
although understandably now that the supermarket and commuter traffic have had such an impact, (scrumping for apples a thing of the past), The Pearly Queen anticipates a slower pace by the sea to be a little more conducive to her current way of life.
Before she could bid farewell to the allotments, there was time for us to spend a few hours on a beautiful autumn evening sitting around the little stove at the bottom of my plot
and toast the first of this autumns chestnuts
which we ate washed down with a few glasses of warming spiced drink. As the dusk fell and we were surrounded by shadows we finished off our evening with the sweet little grapes from the greenhouse.