Okay, are you ready to meet our new house?! (Side note – did you know that “?!” has a name? It’s called the interrobang, which I think sounds hilarious.) This is going to be a super long post, but full of pictures!
If you follow me on Instagram (or you’re related to me) you’ve probably seen these spaces as we work on them. They’re a long way from done, but already look so different! The few months since we got the house have been crazy, so we haven’t been able to do as much as we wanted before moving in.
The layout of the house hasn’t changed drastically since it was built, way back in 1890-ish (still researching to nail the exact date). It was built as a two-up, two-down. So there are two main rooms on both the ground and first floors, divided by a very narrow staircase.
On the ground floor, the two original rooms are the living room to the front of the house and dining towards the rear. Back when the house was built, the dining was most likely the kitchen, with a scullery and toilet out the back. I found plans in our local council’s archives of a nearly identical house built on our street, which had them labelled as such. Will I ever know for certain? Nope. But hey, I like to make uneducated guesses.
We’ll start the grand tour with the living room.
Gorgeous fireplace, right? And that carpet colour? Oooooooohhh… you can see why we bought the place, right?
The first thing you’ll notice about this house is that while it might have been built in 1890-ish… it has absolutely zero character. They ripped out every good thing over the years (coving, fireplaces, woodwork, floorboards, etc.) and replaced it with ‘blah’. The 60s have a lot to answer for when it comes to housing.
Why did we buy this house again? Oh yeah, proximity to the train station, shops, quiet street, and the fact that it’s basically a blank slate. I would have preferred a home with character, but definitely didn’t want one where I had to redo someone else’s renovations. I hate the idea of buying a property that someone ‘flipped’, only to pay more for someone slapping on white paint and installing a bunch of builder-grade finishes. Character I can add!
When I’m through with this place, you won’t know that it didn’t start out full of charm and character. Unless you are reading this blog, of course…
Back to the tour!
The living room is a bit awkward in terms of layout possibilities because it’s narrow and the placement of the bay window/fireplace/doorway means that there’s really no good place to put the sofa/TV. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle of awkward layout options. My first choice would have been above the fireplace, but Richard dislikes it when TVs are so high up. Then I suggested no TV and we put a projector in the bedroom (ha! That didn’t go down well).
So now we’re working on a compromise layout that will incorporate some library built-ins!
It’ll mean that the bay window is a bit underused, but hey ho. What can you do? I get library built-ins and sconces… I call that a win!
Moving on to the dining room…
Oh hey, another amazing fireplace! And those floors?!
Be still my beating heart…
The dining room (former kitchen) is probably the darkest room in the house. With narrow doorways and only one window (which is shaded by our neighbour’s house), this middle room needs some serious love. It’ll serve double duty as a dining room/entryway since the teeny tiny space at the base of the stairs isn’t going to cut it. We still need a place to put down our keys, stash shoes, etc. so I’m going to have to get creative in here.
I have big ideas around incorporating the original cabinets on either side of the fireplace and playing around with contrast trim paint, I just need to get Richard on board. So far he isn’t quite sold on all my plans…
On the other side of the dining room, we have the kitchen and two and a half bathrooms. Only the kitchen was part of the original footprint, but it probably wasn’t a kitchen back then. I imagine that they moved the kitchen when they converted the fireplace in the dining room. The cavity there is the biggest in the house, and most likely would have had a wood stove inside.
It’s the kind of kitchen that professional chefs only dream of, right? Also, carpet in a kitchen?!
It’s a super awkward layout, with the kitchen a thoroughfare of multiple entry/exit points. It’s the biggest change we want to make in the house that will require moving walls and steel beams to address. That’s phase 2 renovation territory as we just don’t have the capital to tackle it now.
Okay, let’s head on through the kitchen to the weird side-by-side bathrooms…
Oh look, cheap, boring bathrooms… and for whatever reason they decided that two toilets side by side made the most sense. Richard likes to joke that we can now poop side by side and talk through the wall. I sure picked a keeper…
Alright, let’s head up those very narrow stairs and take a peek at the upstairs.
The house originally had just two bedrooms on either side of the staircase (hence the fireplace locations). At some point, they added a small room on top of the new kitchen, which required dividing the second bedroom to create a hallway. And of course, they built the wall with those amazing glass windows…
The hallway, middle and little bedroom all had carpet tiles, which you can see in some of the photos. They weren’t stuck down at all, so the moment we got the keys I picked them all up in order to get a better look at the floors. I forgot to take photos before I did it – whoops! Just imagine all these spaces feeling much darker with navy, brown and beige carpets everywhere.
Because of the new hallway, the middle room no longer has a fireplace (boo) and there’s a big chimney breast in the hallway. It’s not ideal, as we can’t really add a nice fireplace (too narrow) but I have plans for making it a feature anyway! Two words: exposed brick.
We hadn’t planned to do much to the middle bedroom yet, since our phase 3 plans involve a loft conversion and part of this room will become its staircase. However, we ended up deciding to refinish all the floors upstairs in one go, so out came the wall! We’ll build a new one with the doorway shifted over and frame it in such a way as to accommodate future loft access. We definitely won’t be adding huge glass windows to our wall, but will most likely incorporate transom windows above the doors, letting some much-needed light into the hallway.
Next up, we have the ‘little’ bedroom at the end of the hallway.
It’s just a wee little room (hence the name), which means it’s only really suitable as a nursery/box room. But then we thought, what about turning it into a bathroom?! We really want a family bathroom upstairs and figured it was a much better use of the space.
We’ll still have three bedrooms once we convert the loft upstairs, but this way I won’t have to walk so far when I have to pee in the middle of the night.
Rounding off the upstairs, we have our master bedroom.
Oooh, so fancy, so grand.
It’s not a terrible size, but the narrow layout (like the living room below) makes adding storage difficult. The wee closet is currently doubling as the access point for the loft and housing a large water tank. Eventually, when we redo the kitchen we’ll get a double boiler installed, getting rid of this tank and another one in the loft.
It’s not much right now, but we’ll add plenty of character and try to make it worthy of being a ‘master’ bedroom.
Alright, let’s head back downstairs and through the kitchen, to finish off with the backyard!
For people who love to garden as much as we do… it’s laughably small. Our street is at an angle which means that gardens get progressively larger the further down you go. Guess which end our new house is? Yup, we have the smallest garden on the street!
In case you couldn’t tell from all the apples on the ground, the big tree that’s sort of smack dab in the middle is a nice old apple tree. If it was anything else, we’d probably get rid of it because of its awkward placement, but nope. We’d feel too guilty, ha. And of course, Richard has grand ideas of making cider from it too.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking about how there are probably lots of people with way bigger gardens who don’t use them at all, and then remind myself I’m lucky to have any garden at all. Back when we lived in the flat we could only BBQ at the allotment picnic-style! Anything is better than nothing after all.
We’ll work hard to make it feel so much larger than it is. Plus, with the aforementioned allotments (three plots!), we have more than enough growing space for veg – this space will just be pretty flowers and a wee outdoor dining area. But those plans will have to wait until we tackle the kitchen since it’ll involve digging up new trenches for pipework etc.
Although with the whole coronavirus thing, we might need to do some quick fixes to make it function better right now. I have a feeling we’ll be spending a lot of time in our backyard this summer…
And that’s it! Can you see the potential? We sure can (otherwise I doubt we would have bought it – ha). I can’t wait to start seeing some of my ideas becoming reality.