kitchen reno : update 8

kitchen reno : update 8

The kitchen was the first room in our Istrian stone house to receive the full renovation treatment. The units we had inherited were ripped out, the flooring taken out, the ceiling taken down, a new window installed, brand new units and appliances fitted and under floor heating put in beneath new flooring. It’s quite a small room, but is a light room and we decided to go bold with the colour. On a trip back to England we brought back 10 litres of Farrow and Ball Hague Blue paint and to the dismay of our builder/decorator – who thought it was the vilest colour he had ever seen – we went ahead and painted all of the walls ceiling.

This colour is a bold one, especially as the kitchen isn’t huge. But, with two windows, and light coming in from the Well Room, we felt it could take this deep shade. For over four years, we’ve loved it, and would happily have left it this colour. But a couple of things made us have a re-think. Firstly, with all of the comings and goings in the kitchen, the walls were due a lick of paint and to get the same one, we’d have had to have gone to the nearest Farrow & Ball showroom, which is in Treviso. Not a bad trip, but a bit out of the way for a tin of paint. We could also have had the colour mixed, which we’ve done before, but we’ve never achieved the exact shade. Also, as our house is now for sale, we felt that the time was right to introduce a new colour.

We know that if people are seriously interested in a property, they will look beyond what is it is like currently, and see its potential. However, the kitchen was maybe a bit too “out there”, in terms of selling and with such a strong colour, we felt that for some people it might be a step too far. So, the decision was made to tone it down and introduce a more neutral colour scheme. We love our greys – various shades of grey appear around the house, because it’s such an easy colour to work with, and so we opted for a soft, smokey grey for the kitchen. Thinking that the coverage would be an issue, we bought three tins of it – completely unnecessary as it was a dream to apply and covered the dark cover really well. In fact, we had so much left over, that we also decided to paint over the dark wall in the Well Room. And, voila! A house very ready for the lighter days of spring and summer…

The newly painted wall in the Well Room, does now look so much better, in its lighter softer colour, making the room seem larger and more spacious. Although we don’t keep the door to the downstairs shower room open, when you do open it, the big, grey concrete tiles seems to sit so much better against the new colour outside…

It does feel that spring might have finally arrived, after a long winter, and the house now reflects so much more the lighter, brighter days outside. If our home is something you might be interested in, as aholiday home, perhaps, do take a look at our website. We’d love to hear from you…

 

workaway : update 3

workaway : update 3

We’ve just said au revoir to our lastest WorkAway visitors, a very handy French couple, from the Pyrenees area, but on a travelling sabbatical, in their trusty campervan. They contacted us, having seen our profile on the website, and felt that their skills were a good match for what we required. We’ve had two previous fabulous WorkAway experiences, but the last one was not so good and so we really investigated our French would-be guests, as we definitely didn’t want people who were actually on HolidayAway, rather than WorkAway. Like the last one. But, we felt very reassured with everything we read and our email communications were easy, friendly and informative. And, so last Saturday Patricia and Pierre arrived in their campervan.

We always make sure that one of the spare bedrooms is made up for WorkAway guests – the whole point of this scheme is that there should be a fair exchange. So, if people are coming into our home and giving us their time and skills, free of charge, then it’s only right that we ensure that they are comfortable, warm and well fed. Now that we feel at ease and confident with the scheme, we make sure that on arrival, we discuss expectations so as to minimise any room for confusion or misunderstanding. Although they were happy to stay in the campervan if necessary, we didn’t feel this was a “fair exchange” – especially as we immediately hit it off with them – and so they were delighted, after weeks in the van, at the prospect of having a big, comfy bed, as well as a hot shower when they needed it. We also provide breakfast, lunch and an evening meal – we cannot expect people to do quite manual work, without feeding them.

We can almost see the finishing line in terms of our house renovations. We could go on forever, but we have a new, exciting plan in the pipeline and so we’ve honed our profile so that anyone looking for hosts, knows exactly what we need and why we need it. With Pierre’s background in plumbing and building and Patricia’s in landscape gardening, they came to us just at the right time.

So, what did they do?

Our upstairs bathroom hasn’t been renovated, to date – apart from us giving it a lick of paint and adding some nice accessories. But, with us starting to now market the house, we felt that this room finally needed to be tackled and so bit the bullet and made this the priority, ensuring that our French visitors knew beforehand what we wanted then to do. Although we knew exactly what we wanted in terms of the bath etc, we didn’t purchase anything before they arrived because we wanted to take their professional advice re fittings etc, and so set off, with them, to Pula, to make the purchases. Only we were thwarted by the not-very-well-publicised Pula Half Marathon, as all roads into the city were closed until 3pm and on a Sunday, Bauhaus – where we were making the purchases from – is only open until 2pm. However, once back at the house, it did mean we could set about ripping out the old bathroom. A mightily pleasurable task…

The floor tiles have all been removed but have left behind that hideous, sticky adhesive which is hellish to remove. However, with a mix of a sander, a scraper, a hairdryer and good old elbow grease, we will succeed and we will get rid of it. (We could go out and buy a solution which could make it easier, BUT this would involve a long trip back to Pula, probably, and we’ve decided that in the time this would take, we could probably have shifted a fair amount by other means). The sander is sanding away upstairs and hopefully the boards will be smooth and glue-free, quite soon. We had toyed with the idea of removing the white wall tiles and replacing with Spanish style tiles – BUT, we’ve decided against this expense and instead are going to paint one of the walls in a feature colour. We’re veering towards either Parma Gray or Lulworth Blue, and in a very handy coincidence, we’re off to Treviso for a short visit – where there is a Farrow & Ball showroom. That’s what I call a result.

 

A return trip to Pula was much more successful and meant the the new sanitaryware was purchased, meaning we had a bath in the living room for a couple of days as the bathroom floor was finished. I don’t want to give away too much here, as the bathroom isn’t fully finished, although the bath, sink, toilet and new taps are all in. Our new friends left yesterday, to head off for their next adventure in Dubrovnik, so it’s over to us now.

So, Would We Recommend WorkAway?

Absolutely, we would. The one blip we had, was entirely my fault, as I didn’t really do my research on this one. It was in the early days of us being part of the scheme, that arrangements were made and I didn’t go back to them, until he was about to arrive and I felt it was unfair to cancel at such short notice. I did have reservations, but thought we’d give this one a chance – when it became quite clear that this particular exchange was going in one direction (us providing accommodation, food, comfortable living etc) and we were getting very, very little reciprocated, we brought things to a close earlier than had been arranged.

Four experiences in, and we are very much enjoying the scheme. We have made three sets of great friends and our house has come on in leaps and bounds, thanks to the skills these people brought with them. If you don’t really like having people in your home, this scheme is probably not for you. But, we’ve found it be overall a very positive and enriching experience and has enabled us to meet interesting people who we wouldn’t have otherwise met, and we’ve learned new skills – as well as being able to tick off a whole load of tasks on our to-do renovation list.

Next week, we have a couple from the States arriving – and the agreed task this time, is to have a wooden floor, with insulation, laid over the stone flags in the Well Room. No more cold feet in the winter…

living room reno : update 1

living room reno : update 1

We’re at the stage in our house renovation, where we can now be quite a bit bolder in terms of decor. We’ve taken on an Istrian stone house, which in parts, is over 200 years old – and possibly more – so there is a wealth of history and tradition attached to it. Houses in our part of Istria, fall into three categories – the traditional stone dwellings like ours with tiny, shuttered windows, modern hacienda style houses with multiple balconies and often painted in deep pinks, oranges and reds, and ultra modern cube style buildings, usually white or grey on the exterior and with floor to ceiling glass walls. We definitely don’t want to adversely change the exterior of the house – although next year, Project Garden will be a different story – and so when you approach it, it does look like many other houses in the area. Although, we were so lucky that the previous owners had done all of the structural work, including a new roof, repaired stonework and new aluminium guttering, so it is in excellent condition and looks rather smart from the outside.

Inside, it’s taken nearly a year, but all rooms are now white washed. We knew we didn’t want a traditional Istrian stone house internally, and so early on the decision was taken to paint the exposed stone walls. We have seen interiors where the stone walls have obviously been sand-blasted and cleaned up and these do look lovely, but our walls were not in this state and so the house seemed dark. With the exposed wooden beams, it was a bit country-cottagey and definitely not what we wanted. Although it’s been a labour of love – those Istrian stones don’t half soak up the paint – we’ve finally got a house which is much lighter and feels so much more spacious. So, you’d think we’d be happy and stop there and sit back and enjoy our new lighter, brighter rooms…

Wrong!

All white is all fine and good – but we realised that we were going to have work a bit harder to get that contemporary look we were after indoors. If *everything* was white – flooring, furnishings etc – we could probably have achieved that Scandi minimalism, but we’re living in a home, not a styled shoot, and the amount of cleaning that we’d need to do to keep our Scandi dream going, plus the additional expense of new furnishings, meant this was a non-starter. So, we’ve gone for the less expensive option – pops of colour. I’ve been scouring Pinterest for inspiration and pinning like mad, and I kept coming back to these images, in particular…

Our living room, although it has a low ceiling and the two windows are quite small, is large and I felt sufficiently big enough to take a very, very dark wall. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do too much arm-twisting and the only decision was what colour to go for. Having found the equivalent of B&Q out here, it’s easy to get paint mixed and we are becoming quite well known on the mixing counter 😉 Although you can get familiar brands like Dulux, the range of colours doesn’t seem as extensive as we’re used to and so we always now opt for the mix option. This paint, in coverage and texture, is very similar to Farrow & Ball – and at a fraction of the price, we’re being won over. One coat was all it took to cover a large expanse of wall, and now that it is finished, we couldn’t be more delighted with our feature wall!

As well as the ceiling beams, the windows have big, thick beams above, to support. The wood used isn’t the best – it looks in places, as if it has been used previously to cut other pieces of wood on, as there are deep gouges. So, we’ve decided to also deal with these and in the process, make the windows seem larger. As with the beams, the wood around the top of the windows has been treated for woodworm – you can never be too careful with these critters – and undercoated and top coated in the beautiful calming matt grey used on the beams upstairs. Eventually all of the beams throughout the house will be done in the same way, but we’re having to be realistic about the amount of time it takes and so have set a target of two beams a day…

So, the living room is *almost* there – the floor still needs to be painted and then we need to deal with the issue of the open plan staircase, as well as finishing the ceiling, but we feel massive progress has been made over the last week. It’s also very gratifying to stand back & see our own handiwork, rather than that of a builder. And, DIY, without the accompaniment of a hammer drill is blissful…

 

kitchen reno : update 7

kitchen reno : update 7

Given that work on the kitchen started way back in November, we did cut it a bit fine to greet our first guests last week. Admittedly, the scope of the project grew and grew, but we did think our friends would arrive and we’d still be kitchenless. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and it was finally fitted the week before last. There’s still a lot to do – second coat of Farrow & Ball Hague Blue, window surrounds & cills to be finished, additional LED lights to be fitted, and the breakfast bar to be completed. Unfortunately, the fascia board that finishes it off, under the shelf, wasn’t delivered so has had to be re-ordered. We also made a bit of error with the washing machine. It was another case of “lost in translation” as we understood that our fairly new washing machine could just be integrated. Not so, so we need to get this sorted by buying a new one (again!) and having it fitted properly. No photos of this part of the kitchen until it’s all done 😉

The installation was a remarkably swift process – everything delivered one day, and the next the fitter arrived, at 8am. He was gone by 3pm – and we had a kitchen! We finally had a working kitchen, with integrated appliances. And the best thing was, it had been so long since we’d sat down and planned it and ordered it, that seeing the various components that made it all up, was a bit of a surprise. We’d certainly forgotten quite how sleek and beautiful the tap was…

Ignore the unfinished, because we finally have a tap!

Ignore the unfinished, because we finally have a tap!

The walls are Farrow & Ball Hague Blue – our builder thinks we are mad 😉 – but they contrast so gorgeously with the concrete effect units and new floorboards. Under which is underfloor heating – not a frivolity, but a necessity, especially after the winter we’ve just endured. The newly exposed ceiling is also painted Hague Blue, but with new spotlights and exposed beams, we figured the room could take it. Also, every other room in the house is white, so we wanted a big contrast. And boy, do we have it. It’s the most luscious colour we’ve ever put on a wall.

Farrow & Ball Hague Blue

Farrow & Ball Hague Blue

Farrow & Ball Hague Blue

Farrow & Ball Hague Blue

Although it’s not the biggest kitchen in the world – we resisted the temptation to relocate it into The Well Room, which had been the original thinking – it’s bigger than anything we’ve had before, always having had teeny weeny kitchens. It’s been really well designed – we got great advice – and so have so much storage space now, as well as the very essential soft closing doors and drawers. The two new steps into the kitchen are underlit with LED strips and look very beautiful, as do the matte black switches.

So, it’s now onto finishing it off and then getting on with The Well Room (the concrete table is in situ, but again needs to be finished) and the well is now outside, but the chamber needs to have the lighting installed and the reinforced glass cover made and installed. The stone walls will then be insulated and boarded out so that when painted white, we will have super smooth walls which will enable the house to retain heat in the winter. Boards are also being laid over the stone floor – although we’re again challenging our fab builder as what we want, isn’t a normal floor. (He loves us…).

The downstairs bathroom has been replumbed and a new floor laid. The underfloor heating is going down in here this week, then it’s the big tiling job. And then, the boxes housing a shower, a toilet, a sink, a cupboard etc can move out from behind the sofa as the bathroom will be ready to be installed. Then – the garden…

It is never ending!