Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Dining Room Refreshed.

After an almighty push, I got this room done in two days……..and my aching body attests to the fact that I possibly overdid it! Painting ceilings is quite physical work, I've found.
So that's another room down and a lovely, light, clean dining room to enjoy. I will start seriously looking for curtain fabric this week. The room needs the warmth of a lovely fabric to lift it and echo the warm orange tones in the adjoining kitchen. Hope I can find the right one.

Now I am relaxing, drinking wine and eating chocolate to reward myself for this effort - I love this room!

The time is rapidly approaching when I have to face the mammoth task of tackling the bathroom - I will post some "before" pictures soon - it really is a bit of a horror show, but I think I can create a bathroom that will be delight to use.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Back To Work!

After almost a month away from any work on the house, I've been raring to get back to it! I did manage to put in a microwave box in that time, so it's now up off the bench and out of the way in its own little cubby-hole……….with a bonus shelf on top for coffee pots and so forth. Last night I cleaned down the walls and ceiling in my little dining room and sanded back where I'd previously filled a zillion nail and screw holes (The previous owner sure liked to cover the walls with itty-bitty stuff…….with a big old screw-hole for each bit!) I also took off a rather jerry-built pelmet that was only held up by a couple of screws - I had a hard time stopping it from crashing down after I removed the screws. Sometimes an extra pair of hands would be "handy".
This morning I have painted the cornices and I'm about to tackle the ceiling. Needless to say, breakfast was a bit chaotic with furniture moved, ladders and paint tins to avoid.

I'm keeping my eyes open for some suitable curtain fabric for these windows…….I have something quite specific in mind, so it might take a while to find it. I have contingencies if I can't find exactly what I want.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Break

I'm taking a bit of a break from any major work for a little while……I have a couple of teaching gigs etc to prepare for, so time is limited. Here are "before and after" shots of the kitchen taken from almost the same spot, so you can compare for yourself. I didn't take the "before" shot and it is actually quite flattering - it doesn't really show the smashed cupboard doors, all the holes in the walls, the mis-matched handles and knobs, how really dingy it was and the smell. As soon as I get back from my interstate teaching job in a couple of weeks I'll be painting the dining room - can't wait to get it done!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Time Out!

Although I'm actually (much to my surprise) really enjoying the whole process of creating this home from a sad wreck, I'm not busting myself to get it all done yesterday……..I'm happy to let the repairs and garden refurbishment happen at a manageable pace, because……well - there IS only me! The process seems to have acquired a natural rhythm, where I will have a few days of much activity to get a certain job done, followed by periods of less activity……on the house anyway. I still have to allow time to get my artwork done, because it is my bread and butter. And my nails. And paint.

I also like to take time out to explore my environs, and I am lucky here - I am very close to Cataract Gorge and Duck Reach, so there are excellent walks to be had right outside my front door. There is also a lovely little reserve of remnant bush called Woods Reserve only a hop and a step from my house.

It's open bushland with native species and a population of resident wallabies and possums. It has paths meandering through it and you get occasional glimpses down to the city below. It's lovely.

Not far away is Duck Reach, which is spectacular after heavy rain with floodwaters rushing down it. The floods we had back in June this year were the biggest since 1929!

Cataract Gorge

A natural doorway on the track

The historic Duck Reach Power Station before and during the June flood - shows how much water there was!


Rock detail

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tackling The Kitchen

I love to cook. I love baking. I make my own bread. The kitchen is an important space to me, because I spend quite a lot of time in there. The kitchen I "inherited" with this house was dirty, smelly, with an oven that only worked partially, mismatched drawer and cupboard door handles and a lot of damage to cupboard doors and walls. (It looked like they had endured a few fits of temper!)

When I first moved in, the most important job was scrubbing everything down (multiple times) until I was satisfied it was at least clean, even if it still looked shabby. I had to put up with it like this while I got on with a few other more pressing things, but once I was able, I started repairing the holes in the walls, the kicked in cupboard doors and replacing broken catches (ALL of them!) I bought a new oven and had it installed by an electrician (definitely NOT a diy job!) Oh, the joy of simply being able to bake again!

Walls, ceiling and cabinets painted and the kitchen started to feel fresh and renewed.

Before - old oven on the way out!

Starting the tiling on the old/new splash back

 I could have called in a company and had all of this old kitchen ripped out and replaced with a brand spanking new *bland* one, but I really wanted to see how well an old kitchen like this could be refurbished and repurposed. These drawers are made from dove-tailed hardwood - you won't see that in your melamine-coated MDF flat-pack kitchen! And money is an issue - I'll save it wherever I can.
On ripping off various stuck-on finishes etc, I uncovered these lovely burnt orange tiles on the wall behind the stove and above one of the benches. I really wanted to keep them, but of course, the tiles could never be matched and I needed more  because the newer stoves don't have that high back like the older ones and I also had to take off an inch-thick melamine splash-back that was worse for wear. So I chose some tiles that were a contrast in both colour and texture and went to town employing my  skills as an artist to design a graphic interplay between the old orange shiny tiles and the new grey-toned matte ones. In my head I could see how it might look, but the reality, when it was done far exceeded my expectations……I LOVE it!

I chose greys and white for my kitchen colour scheme - nice and restful, but with the zing of the surprise orange. As serendipity would have it, some of my best cookware is also orange. This was meant to be.

Same view showing the tiling job completed - before and after painting the cabinets

When I bought the oven, I also bought a range-hood and because it was one you just plug into a socket, I decided I could install it myself. This was a fairly big job - I had to make an MDF box to house it, attach the box securely to the existing cabinet and wall and install the hood. (It said on the packaging, that it was a two-man job to install it, but with a bit of ingenuity, I managed it by myself……two men = one woman?) All that remained was to fill in the space with a piece of plywood and paint it to match the cabinets. Astoundingly, is is all straight and neat!

This is what I was replacing………!!

New range hood

I would have liked to have put in some new bench tops, but because what I'd like is expensive, I decided to do a refurbish job on the old tops until I can afford new ones. There is a special laminate finish that is available, so I decided to give that a try - I got it tinted to a tone the same as the cabinet doors, but a shade darker and just followed the instructions on the tins for prepping and doing the job. There was one burnt, damaged area that I had to repair before I started. 

One bench top completed

The finish is so good, you can't even see where the repair is. It remains to be seen how durable this is once I start using it, but it probably only needs to last for a year or two.
So the kitchen is now pretty much done. For now. Except that I'm going to put in a microwave cabinet and some open shelving above the refrigerator. I love my kitchen!
Next job? not such a big one…….repairing and repainting the small dining room adjacent to the kitchen.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Up with the birds!

I was awake at 5:00am this morning…….with the birds (and the b****y cats!)
No point lying in bed trying to get back to sleep (it never happens), so I got up, had a quick cup of tea, watched the disaster show on TV (aka the news) and set to giving the kitchen ceiling its final coat of paint. I was on a roll, (or more aptly, on a roller, so to speak) so I prepped the kitchen window (I'd previously filled all the holes, so I only had to sand it back) and gave it the first coat of pristine, white semi-gloss paint. Also the architraves around the door. It fills me with joy to see it looking so much better that I thought it ever could without a major re-fit!

This kitchen, from the sad and neglected room it was, is now a pleasure to be in, with everything functioning and a bright, airy feel. Did I mention that I love cooking and baking? A kitchen that works is important to me.

Now it's 8:30 and I've completed the jobs earmarked for today. I'm having a well-deserved cup of coffee and a second slice of toast with Julia's delicious three fruit marmalade.

I've also made a start stripping off the thick coat of white paint from the fireplace - a more difficult job than anticipated, but I'll get there!

Looking through to the dining room - the next space to be painted. The dresser you can see there in the corner will be painted in the same dove grey as the cupboard doors, when I have time.

Stripping the fireplace……not enjoying this job very much - I might have to settle for a "slightly distressed" look!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Blue Door?

I have a confession to make…….there IS no blue door, except in my imagination. It is a virtual Blue Door. But there will be a blue door one day - I will eventually paint the front door blue. Meanwhile it is varnished wood. Painting it blue is not an immediate priority. The glass side panels had to be replaced when I moved in, because they'd been broken at some stage and a kind of repair effected with odd-shaped pieces of perspex and silicone - very creative, but not very practical! I called in the glazier and had those panes replaced, along with the two mock stained glass panes with a rose design in the door itself. I had the panes replaced with plain frosted glass - much more stylish! The small entrance hall was the second room that was repainted, followed by the toilet. A lovely coat of white paint to replace the tired, dingy, dirty blue that it was, has freshened it up considerably for now. At some stage in the future, I will replace the floor-covering - I don't like this mock slate tile vinyl floor-covering, which is also in the kitchen. Both of these spaces now just need some artwork on the walls.

When I'm feeling particularly energetic, I tackle some of the big outside jobs - there is a lot to do, but bit by bit I'm getting there. When you look out the back windows, the garden looks smallish, but this is deceptive, because there is a whole lot going on that you can't see - a lot of which will have to be ripped out. Like the house, the garden has been neglected for a number of years and it is overgrown, overcrowded with a number of inappropriate (for a suburban garden) trees that will have to go.
To make tackling the garden a little less daunting, I decided to just start working from the house outwards in manageable bursts - otherwise it could simply become overwhelming. 
The first job was removing a green steel gazebo affair right outside the back door. It was covered with several layers of rotting canvas roof and festooned with a tangled mass of electrical extension cords, double adaptors, fairy lights, plastic butterflies and rusty electrical lanterns. With much of this electrical stuff exposed to the weather, it was really dangerous! I just pulled the lot down…..

…….and threw it out. A few weeks after moving in, the garden looked like this:

You can see the metal gazebo structure still in place. It was very rusty and rickety and not worth keeping, so I began to cut it up with a metal cutting attachment on my grinder……then I discovered that it was so weak, I could simply break it up with my bare hands - much quicker!. I've removed dead shrubs and trees and the two huge pittosporums in the right of the picture and opened up the garden to more sunshine, light and space. It's looking like this at the moment:

I've established a vegetable garden, planted fruit trees and generally am well on the way to establishing some order into this once-beautiful garden. Sometimes I feel like Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden with all the discoveries (both surprisingly good and surprisingly bad!) I am making as the seasons change!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Leila's Room

Leila is one of my grand-daughters. She works as a paralegal at a law firm in the city…….she couldn't wait for me to move into town so that she could become my housemate. This meant that the first room we had to make habitable and presentable was her bedroom. When I took possession, this bedroom (the biggest) had deep fuchsia walls with a flowery frieze below the cornice. It had several layers of rotting net curtains and some heavy floral drapes with swags and tie-backs. Half the old carpet had been ripped up and what was left stank of dog pee……..charming! The lovely large windows had never been cleaned and moisture had been allowed to ruin the paintwork on them. The general look was what I would describe as "tired bordello"!
The positives were:
*Good size
*No major structural problems
*Morning sun
*Huge built-in wardrobe with floor to ceiling mirror doors

It looked like this, but the picture is flattering and all that stuff in there is hiding a multitude of sins:

So we set to and ripped up the remains of the carpet, tore down the curtains, cleaned the black crap off the window-frames, removed the floral frieze and scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed. We then had a blank canvas to work with. All the choices in this room are Leila's - I am grateful that she has a classic and restrained sense of design and her preference is for the calm and uncluttered. 

The room didn't require any major repairs, just a lot of cleaning and a bit of patching and I removed a zillion tacks and staples from the floor.

Grey carpet and drapes

What a difference! When she first moved in, the room looked like this, now it looks like this with a bit more furniture and a touch more colour:

It's now a lovely calm space for a busy young woman to retreat to after a busy day.
The carpet was professionally laid, which was an expense, but all up, this room was about $1100 to transform.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Moving on…….

At the end of 2015, I sold the house my late husband and I had built in the mid 1970's - and added to over the years as needs changed…….additions which included my large, purpose built studio. But the property was out of town and on five acres and I was finding it all too much to keep maintained after Bob died very suddenly in 2013. So I let rationality over-rule my heart and I bought a solidly-built sixties brick bungalow in West Launceston and made the momentous move. This is what I left behind, with a few regrets but a desire to forge a new and different life for myself.

A few views of my old house

The actual move was a bit - no, a lot - fraught, because the previous owner for reasons known only to herself had not done a thing about moving out when the settlement day finally arrived (and I'd given her a month extra at her request!) So I gave her a new date. Then another one. I had to extend the date with the company that was storing my things and put off the changing the utilities into my name for more than a week. It was a stressful nightmare, but eventually the house was vacated and most of the previous owner's things gone. Then another nightmare began! Not a thing had been cleaned………for about ten years. The house was filthy and reeked badly - so much so that I just couldn't sleep in it for a few days. Some good friends mucked in and with a lot of scrubbing, ripping out of old, stinking curtains and carpets, the reek level was reduced to tolerable and I moved in.
There were a few urgent problems with plumbing and glazing that needed immediate attention, such as these strange solutions to leaking taps - the wadded cloth, wire and old-hammer-jammed-in kind of solution! You gotta laugh!

"Imaginative" plumbing solutions!

It's hard to describe the smell of a badly neglected house, but it could probably be best described as the smell of abjection and it is a tangible manifestation of a life gone wrong. In the mix are things like animal excrement, stale nicotine, dust, dirt, grease and old food. It seems to permeate the very fabric of the house and it simply seeps and oozes out. I must admit, in those first few days after moving in, I was having serious doubts about what I'd taken on, but what I'd seen when I'd inspected the house was a solid building with good bones and a once-beautiful, but seriously neglected garden. I KNEW I could make it into a lovely, inviting space with a lot of hard work. My friends probably thought I was mad! But because this house was so badly presented for sale, I got it for a bargain price. Simply fixing the plumbing, ripping out old tatty curtains, taking up smelly carpets and scrubbing surfaces probably added $20 000 to the value before spending much at all. Once I'm finished with this I imagine the house will be worth $50 000 or $60 000 more than when I moved in, without me spending much more than lots of time on it. I don't have unlimited amounts of lazy cash, so this reno will be done on a very strict budget, with me doing much of the work myself.

Initial cleanup - a few pics.