The first week of November and we had absolutely no idea what was going on. We were on holiday and all we had was a list of the main jobs they were going to try and complete. It involved all the heavy lifting, the knocking down, the messy, noisy, most disruptive work and quite possibility the part we were most excited about. The kitchen transformation. So, here was the list:
Plaster the bedrooms
Knock down the kitchen walls
Level the flooring downstairs
Fit underfloor heating
Complete the plumbing
Fitting Bifold doors
They were going to be pulling long days to try and get as much work as possible finished and my brother who was visiting daily to feed Bobby Cat was under strict instructions not to send me progress updates. I didn’t want to worry about work we couldn’t control and I wanted a grand reveal when we returned home. Not that he’s ever listened to me so of course I was getting daily message with everything that was happening and the first message expressed how messy my house was, how much dust was everywhere, literally everywhere, and it turned out job number one was knocked down walls and levelling the concrete floor in the kitchen. On the Friday we called our builder to see if it was safe to come home that weekend and decided that we would go and stay with Jamie’s parents. The house was a mess, they didn’t have everything finished that they’d hoped and if they didn’t have to spend the day cleaning so we could come home, they’d have more time to progress forward, including working the weekend. We were advised not to have a sneaky peek when we returned home but instead wait until the following day when the builders would be back onsite to walk us through everything. They must have known we wouldn’t listen, of course we were going to have a look. We got back to Jamie’s parents that night and after settling William to bed for the night, left him with his grandparents and snuck home at around 9pm.
Walking through the front door into the living room was quite a shock. I’d prepared myself for mess, knew it was dusty but it was still a shock. To see our kitchen piled high, all our belongings covered in inches of dust. We were silent. Anticipating what was beyond the living room. Grateful that we hadn’t been here and we were able to go back to Jamie’s parents for the weekend.
We decided to head upstairs first to see the progress. It was a wonderful sight. Our landing had transformed, doorways to new bedrooms, bedrooms that were finished. Completely plastered, plumbing complete, skirting fitted. It was completely dark and we had no electricity so we just wondered around with the torches on our phone, smiling faces at each other. It was hard to believe this was our new home, our new bedroom.
Eventually we headed downstairs… and all that anticipation fizzled away. We couldn’t get into the kitchen! The doorways were blocked off so instead we walked around the cottage to see how the back was looking and hoping we could see inside. We could just about make out the space. It was incredible. We were speechless. It was everything we had wanted. And the doors were fitted. There wasn’t anything else we could see so after standing back in the garden to admire the house we headed back home, all the way muttering that we couldn’t believe it, how it looked so unlike our little cottage, about how happy we were. We arrived back at Jamie’s parents, ate late night pizza with them on the sofa and all the while telling them how different it looked.
The next morning we couldn’t wait to get back home. The builders were on site and we finally got to walk around the kitchen. Around all the space and find out how much work they’d managed and what was left. They weren’t able to complete the plumbing downstairs or fit the underfloor heating which meant we couldn’t move back home. We had no kitchen and no running water so it was decided we would stay with Jamie’s parents for the next week and evaluate where we were the following weekend. I was going back on Monday to meet with the builders and discuss the next stage of the design and build and make some decisions.
Monday 12th November
I arrived bright and early to meet with the builders and make some key decisions regarding doorways to the ensuite in our new master bedroom and also where the wall would be built in the kitchen to create a new boot room and utility. By the time I arrived they had already fitted the new back door in the boot room and work had started again in the kitchen. They were hopeful that by the end of the month the build would be finished! By the middle of the week all the plaster had dried upstairs so we had planned to start painting that weekend and by the end of the week the builders had fitted the wall dividing the kitchen and boot room, finished the plumbing and had started fitting all the plaster board. Over the weekend we called in the help of parents who spent time looking after William and Jamie and I got the paintbrushes and rollers out. We managed the first two mist coats in both new bedrooms and suddenly they were becoming liveable spaces. However, we still weren’t in a position to move back home so planned to spend another week with Jamie’s parents who had become accustomed to us living with them and joked they were now paying the builders to keep us out of the house for as long as possible so we didn’t leave them. To be honest, I think they just wanted William. Haha.
Monday 19th November
I was on a role now. Now we had started decorating I was working around the clock to get the bedrooms finished. I was taking William with me straight after breakfast to continue painting. I was focussing all my efforts on the guest bedroom. It was the smallest of the rooms so in theory the quickest to finish and I could reach the ceiling in here, unlike in our bedroom. After lunchtime we would head back to Jamie’s parents for lunch and William would have his nap there and upon waking, we’d go straight back home and start work again. Finishing at around 5pm at which point my parents would look after William and give him his dinner so I could work until his bedtime, collecting him and then doing the bedtime routine back at Jamie’s parents. All the while we were at home painting, work continued downstairs. Walls were being plastered and underfloor heating fitted. By the end of the week I was ready to start painting the skirting in the guest bedroom and that’s when disaster struck. I have never used masking tape when painting before, preferring to do it freehand but this time I wanted it to be perfect. The perfect finish to a new room and so I used masking tape on the walls. I finished painting all the skirting Saturday morning and slowly pulled the tape away. And with it, came all the paint from the wall. All my hard work the past week, completely ruined. There wasn’t a wall that wasn’t damaged. I cried. I was so upset, all my time wasted and somehow I had to repair this. The paint had literally pealed away on the top 1/3 of all the walls. I decided to head back to Jamie’s parents, leaving him and his mum working while I cried all the way back. Jamie’s mum is a superstar, she came home and said she had an idea she was testing on part of the wall and that we could head back early Sunday morning and see how it was looking. 7:30am we were inspecting her work and we thought it might just do the job. We had to sand every wall, top and bottom where all the paint had pulled away to create a smooth edge between the painted section and bare wall, softening the edges. Then, very carefully build up thin paint layers on the bare wall until it was all ready to paint again. We worked all day together and I continued to work on the repairs into the following week. Hoping you wouldn’t be able to tell when it was finished.
Monday 26th November
I started the week with the builders again, this time discussing some concerns I had. Initially we had discussed opening up the landing upstairs to create a more open feel and this hadn’t yet been done. I’d assumed it was on the list to do but we were growing ever closer to finishing so decided to check with them. And I’m glad I did because they’d forgotten!! By the following day though they started work and by the middle of the week it was completely finished. We managed to uncover some of the old beams and it’s created such a fantastic hallway. I was so upset about removing the beams from the kitchen ceiling and this felt right, like I was able to add some history back. Its one of my favourite things about the build. We also discussed removing a wall in the new boot room, at the time it all seemed fine but they were now unsure whether it was a supporting wall so had to do some investigating. In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a huge problem but I’d already designed the space and having this wall would ruin the flow and not to mention take away some much needed space to create built in units. Time would tell if this was possible. Otherwise, everything was moving along wonderfully. The kitchen was plastered, underfloor heating finished and screed laid. As soon as everything was dry, we could start fitting the kitchen.
The decorating had also taken a positive turn. By the end of the week I had managed to repair all the walls in the guest bedroom and no one would be able to tell what had happened. I finished painting all the skirting, the original kitchen window had been cleaned and finished with fresh paint and the floors painted. We were, and still are, on such a tight budget so I decided to paint the floors in the new bedrooms until we could fit the flooring we wanted and it was a good compromise. All that was needed now was furniture and we had the first room completed. That weekend I moved onto the landing and Jamie finished painting the vaulted ceiling in our new master bedroom. Slowly everything was transforming. I was exhausted but there was light at the end of the tunnel. And I was desperately hoping we could have all of the upstairs finished for when we moved back home.
Monday 3rd December
The final week of the build!!!! The kitchen started going back in and all the pendants and wall lights were fitted too. We decided to reuse our existing kitchen and spent endless nights working out the best layout. Again, there were tears, cross words, frustrations, all while we tried to find the best solution. The current kitchen wasn’t big enough for the new space so we had to come up with some creative ways to complete it. We worked out the best positioning for the existing cupboards and decided to have some open shelving in the gaps we’d created, either side of the cooker. It seems like a simple task but we wanted everything to work seamlessly. One of our tricks was ordering new worktops to fit with the new layout in the hope it would look a little more custom built rather than trying to recycle our old kitchen, which is exactly what we were doing. One of the worktops we’d ordered had to go back, it was intended for the Island but once in place it was far too big so after a lot of research and time I realised that we could have a worktop custom cut with the same company so I was able to arrange for them to collect the standard worktop and order a custom one instead. It caused a lot of headaches and I lost so much time but it was the right move. Although, we’re still waiting to fit an island and that worktop!
I continued working hard decorating that week, following the same pattern as before, arriving after breakfast, working until lunch, having lunch & nap time before heading back and going again. That week I managed to finish painting all the walls in our bedroom and finish painting all of the landing. Upstairs was cleaned and ready for us to move back home. We were almost there. We were just waiting for the kitchen to be finished and water turned on. By the middle of the week all the kitchen units were fitted and they had started fitting our worktops. By the end of the week they had finished the kitchen and as a surprise, knocked down the wall in the boot room, I actually did a happy dance much to Jamie’s amusement. I was desperately trying to finish our master bedroom too so it was ready for us to move into as soon as we moved home but by the end of the week I had only got the first coat of primer on the floor so we decided to furnish the guest bedroom and stay in there rather than rush our bedroom.
The plan was to move back home on Saturday, the builders would be finishing off some of the smaller work during the day but the kitchen would be fitted and it would be safe to move back home. We were so excited. We had almost made it. But first we had to clean. I spent all of Friday cleaning with Jamie’s mum and by the end of the day it was done. It felt good to have everything back to normal, a clean and tidy home ready for us to come home the following morning. I didn’t want to leave that night. I really just wanted to curl up on my sofa in front of the sofa. Just one more night.
Saturday 8th December
5 weeks after we ‘moved out’ we were moving back home. It was never our intention to stay away from home for so long but it was absolutely the right thing to do, especially with a two year old.
We always go and choose our Christmas tree the second weekend of December so we decided to mark the occasion by going Christmas tree shopping. It was the happiest day. We arrived at the house to check on the builders and all was going well, they had just turned on the water and had an hour or so of work left to do. We left them to it and headed off to the Christmas tree farm and spent the day choosing our tree, taking William for his first Santa visit and drinking hot chocolate. We arrived home with our tree and breathed a sigh. It was all done. We still had all the decorating to do in the new kitchen but there was no rush. We were just happy to be home. Jamie fitted our bed together that evening and that night we spent our first night at home together in over a month. It all felt very surreal. All this new space. We all woke up in a new bedroom together and marvelled at everything we had achieved. Feeling a lot of happiness.
Over the next week and a half I was painting everyday. I finished the bedroom that first Monday we were home and we were able to move into our new master bedroom that week, I didn’t want to get out of bed the next morning. I could have stayed in that room all day, in the light, bright, calmness of the room. We decided that first morning that we’d need a blind for the summer months. Even in the Winter the room was so bright. That being said, I absolutely love waking up to the outside, seeing all the changes. Anyway, I couldn’t lay around all day, work had to be done. I was still painting the kitchen everyday but a week before Christmas I decided to stop. It could all wait until the New Year. I had still only managed to get the first two coats of the white mist coat on the walls and ceiling but I didn’t want to miss out on Christmas fun with William. I started moving in some furniture to make it feel a bit more like home and as soon as the rug and kitchen table were in place, and the Christmas tree decorated in the corner, everything else was forgotten. After all, I wouldn’t remember this Christmas for all the painting or whether or not the kitchen was finished but for all the fun we had. It didn’t matter if the house was finished or not. We were home. We were happy.
We didn’t do any work over the Christmas period. Just enjoyed family time, resting and enjoying the space, card games around the table now everyone could fit. Breakfast at the table together for the first time. Playing chase around the room.
Come the New Year paintbrushes were back out and the electrician and builder were back. We started having problems with all our heating over the Christmas period, since the underfloor heating was turned on, so we didn’t have any heating in the kitchen as the only way to ensure the heating worked everywhere else was to turn the underfloor heating off. They were eventually able to fix this but it was a few weeks until it was sorted, February actually, and then over the next few weeks the electrician was back in finishing the fitting the remaining lights in the bedrooms for us.
We’re still decorating, we still have all the skirting to paint in the kitchen and we still have no flooring anywhere but we’re slowly making progress. Learning to be patient, enjoy the process. These finishing touches aren’t affecting how we live and we spend more time in the kitchen than anywhere else now. It has been life changing. We were able to open up the bifold doors over Easter and it’s small things like this that make it all worth while. All the money, the hard work, the mess. It was all worth. If you were to ask me if I’d do it again, absolutely.