the well room : a makeover

the well room : a makeover

With Spring knocking on the door and a house to get back on the market, we’ve been beavering away at the interior of our home since New Year. Now that we are also seriously looking at other properties to buy, we’re seeing things slightly differently and have realised that if we are to sell, we need to present a house which looks like something new owners could see themselves in. Not our home. So, we’ve been de-cluttering, stripping back, changing colours so that we have a much more neutral palette. We haven’t stripped away our personality, because we obviously still live here and I certainly don’t want to live in a sterile space. We’ve just focused on making it a little less us. And in The Well Room, this is where we’ve started making the biggest changes.

Our concrete table – which was a beautiful grey colour – had a resin coat applied a few years back, and this changed it completely. Close up, it still looked lovely. The resin highlighted the different tones and it had a beautiful finish – but the colour overall had changed too, and it’s taken us until now to admit that we’ve never really liked it. We also thought that it might be difficult to paint over resin, but we just decided to go for it, by sanding it down and then applying a very good quality soft sheen gloss in white. What a transformation.

The navy floor has had its first undercoat in white. The floor is original stone and therefore a bit uneven in places – as stone flags tend to be – so our original thinking (when we realised that having a wooden floor laid was more problematic than we were prepared to deal with at the time) was to paint it in a dark navy, and cover it with rugs. This has been fine for the last four years, but as soon as the table was painted, it was just too dark and uncompromising. So, like with the table, we just went for it and went white. The plan is to top coat it in a very pale grey, the same colour that we have in the living room, so that the two rooms flow, but at the moment we’re just basking in the whiteness. The blue rugs have gone too, now having found a new home in The Snug, and replaced with new jute rugs. Again, a huge difference – and with very little effort and expense.

The Well Room should always have been a lovely dining/living room but in reality, when we’ve been doing renovations and DIY, it’s become a glorified storage room for all of the decorating paraphenalia. And so it was never really used, Or loved. Well, that’s all changed. We’ve purchased two children’s wardrobes from IKEA – I know! – but they were just the right size and colour, and a very funky design, so pretty perfect for hiding away coats and bags and trainers and boots. In the other, we’ve stored away all of the excess kitchen “stuff” – blenders, food mixers, casserole dishes, carafes etc – that sat on top of cupboards and shelves just adding to the feeling of clutter. Meaning that in addition to a much better looking Well Room, we also have a much less busy kitchen. Lots of our bits and pieces have also been boxed away – again, a good exercise in de-cluttering but also, subliminally, a start to the packing up – and so what we have in the Well Room now is much more considered and contributes to an overall feeling of calmness.

We’re very used to the glass well cover, but we do realise that some people might be a bit spooked by looking down into – or standing over – a 10 metre drop. So a white furry rug has been bought, to sit on top of the glass, leaving enough around the edges, so that the uplighting can still be seen. And, so that the rug does not get stood on, a coconut palm tree in a basket sits on top, creating a green focal point for the room.

We still have work to do in this room. The floor needs to be finished and the walls repainted, but then it’s over to the professionals, as we are finally tackling the bathroom door and the front door. A sliding wooden door will replace the cheap, not very pretty door, into our renovated bathroom, and in even more exciting developments, we’ve decided that a new front door is an absolute necessity. These, along with two wooden dining benches in the same wood, will be hopefully made to our specifications, rather than off-the-peg. Spring is definitely shaping up to be a very exciting time and we hope it will springboard us into a very different kind of life…











the *unfinished* apartment : citta alta : bergamo

the *unfinished* apartment : citta alta : bergamo

Although we’ve largely finished the renovations of our stone house, I can always find something else that needs to be done. So, effectively, it always “unfinished”. But not on the scale of these properties, which have been designed to be deliberately “unfinished”.

Peeling wallpaper, floors that have been left untreated and hanging cables give character to these interior design projects, which look as though they’ve been abandoned halfway through decorating.

All photographers credited in Dezeen article :

All photographers credited in Dezeen article :

There’s something very appealing about rough-around-the-edges, industrial rawness – combined with softness, through colour palettes and accessories and lighting. We’re lucky that our home lends itself to a certain unfinished look in places. Parts of the internal walls are still original Istrian stone, as opposed to smooth plaster, and so even when painted white, they still look, well, not quite finished. But they are! OK, we could have them plastered, but the stone is a nod to the heritage and history of the house. Renovated mostly in a contemporary style, we made the deliberate decision to keep parts of the house in its original state, and so we have a bit of an interesting mix going on.

However, not as interesting – or as bold – as some of the houses featured in the Dezeen article, or the apartment we found in the heart of Citta Alta, Bergamo.

Stripped back and very minimalist, this upper floor apartment in a very old townhouse, was absolutely beautiful, in its deliberately unfinished state. Exposed beams, highly polished floorboards and the remains of stunning frescoes in the rooms. I think this is a really bold design choice in a tourist apartment – I’d be so worried about damage to the historical features – but I guess people do show respect. The apartment does have modern amenities and facilities – in particular, a very contemporary kitchen is housed behind a sleek, high gloss white partition wall – and so the stay is very comfortable. I have tried to locate this apartment again online, as we would recommend it, but it would seem it’s no longer taking guests, which is a shame.

However, we will be taking inspiration from this apartment and from the properties in the Dezeen article, as we begin a new journey in 2023. After a topsy-turvey house experience last year, when we actually popped a bottle of fizz as we thought we had sold it, we’ve picked ourselves up and are ready to go again. We’ve taken a long, hard look at our home and have decided that we have a few projects to tackle to get it ready to re-market. And, we’ll definitely be definitely going for “unfinished” – but absolutely finished – in certain places, to create a house which has a very different feel and vibe to the one which was up for sale last year.





nuvolette : cole & son

nuvolette : cole & son

In a previous post I wrote about our desire to eradicate the parts of internal walls which have not been plastered and are still the original Istrian stone. Some people would love the walls, but as the years have gone on, I have to say my love of exposed stone – albeit now painted white – has waned and I am craving smooth, plastered walls. Some will be painted (probably white again), and for others we are considering pigmented plaster. But for the living room walls, once all is smooth, I am looking back to the beautiful wallpaper we had in our house in West Didsbury, when we renovated it,

This beautiful repeat pattern paper is Nuvolette, by Cole & Son, and is a dramatic cloudy sky mural by the Italian artist Piero Fornasetti. Unless you are an expert at wall paper hanging, I’d recommend that you do what we did, and get in a professional to hang it. The striking design is supplied in a set of two rolls, with the pattern repeat being 80cm. I was informed this mean a straight match between roll A to roll B and a half-drop between roll B to roll A of next set…

See! Told you a professional is your best bet.

The overall effect is absolutely stunning, especially if the wall to be covered is quite a large area. We used it on one feature wall only, with ceramic bulb drop pendants in front of it, and it was very dramatic. I really do miss this wallpaper now that we have moved, but I think it may make a re-appearance, once the walls in the living room are all smooth and plastered. It’s definitely not the cheapest wallpaper, but it’s very strong and sturdy and I think if you love it, there’s little chance you’ll be wanting to change it quickly. I do wonder if it is still hanging in our West Didsbury house…

small steps…

small steps…

Over the summer, when we were averaging two or three house viewings a week and had some very serious interest in the house, if someone had told me that by October, we’d have taken it off the market, given up on The Printworks (and in the process, lost a lot of money) and be embarking on a whole new plan, I’d have thought they were crazy. Especially when we had accepted a firm offer and contracts were drawn up. But, things take turns you don’t expect – which at the time, seem just so awful, but often turn out to be the right thing.

So, two months on, we feel very differently. We could have stayed angry and upset and all “woe is us” – but what’s the point? We’d just have got more and more miserable and more entrenched in living in a house we no longer wanted to be in. Instead, we decided to own the situation. That woman from Germany, who pulled out, was not going to dictate our lives. She was going to have no further impact on us. A final email, articulating all of my thoughts, very politely, was sent, with the request that she never contact me again. That chapter is now closed and another has opened.

We’ve decided that we are going address the main issue which seemed to come up with viewers – namely, that they often weren’t sure where our boundaries where. Despite being demarcated by conifer trees at the rear of the house and the the front, big wooden planters. Supported by official documentation. But, I suppose some people just need a great big, thumping wall right in front of their eyes to believe what we tell them. So, walls will be built, but that’s a future blog. This one is about starting to document the small steps we are taking, which will hopefully get us right back on track and in the positive frame of mind to get the house back on the market, next year.

This cabinet goes back quite a way, with us – and probably a bit further back. When we lived in West Didsbury, our house was behind a beautiful interiors shop. called David Gavin Design and the owner sourced furniture. This piece, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut, and it was put outside his shop, with a Free to A Good Home sign. I was lucky enough to be walking past and offered that good home, to take it off his hands. It wasn’t the prettiest – a kind of varnished brown veneer and plastic handles – but I figured we could do something with it. And, after sanding it back to the original wood, it has gone through a number of transformations and has moved from West Didsbury across to Istria. Quite the life, for something which was consigned, potentially, to the tip.

As well as moving to Istria, it’s also moved around our house. It’s been in the living room, the Well room, all of the bedrooms and last place being the upstairs landing outside outside our bedroom door. But it’s never felt quite right, anywhere. And, the deep navy paint never took to it, as I imagined it would, so it was on the list for finally tipping. Until I remembered that we still had some duck egg blue chalkpaint, which we’d used on the other bedroom furniture, and it was given a reprieve over the weekend. The plastic handles had been replaced long ago by silver handles from IKEA, so these were sprayed matt gold, to match the handles on the wardrobe and other cabinet.

OK, so it doesn’t completely match the rest of the furniture, but it does in terms of colour. It also provides us with more storage, especially as I took the opportunity to bin most of the contents. Much of which had been inside since we unpacked in 2017 and never used. So, definitely not needed! The main bedroom is also large, so a bit more co-ordinated furniture is always welcome.

There’s also a long IKEA floating shelf, which I’d previously covered with the pages of a book (“Ulysses” – totally unread! – if you’re interested), which had been above the bed. But since the bed was moved to the other side of the room, it just kind of, well – floated. It was going to be taken down, until I decided to cosy it up, with faux plants and foliage and tealight holders. Much better than taking it down, filling the holes, repainting and storing the shelf. Proper cosy, as us Mancs say…

So, whilst what we did at the weekend certainly isn’t renovation, it gave us a massive lift, in terms of the house. It’s fair to say we’d fallen a bit out of love with the house, which is ridiculous as, even though we say it ourselves, it is gorgeous and we have achieved so much. But, with small steps, we’re getting back on the horse, loving the house and gearing ourselves up for some BIG renovation work. Just need to find a team of builders now…



the snug reno : update 2

the snug reno : update 2

When we viewed our stone house in 2016, we found a very sorry looking room – a cellar, of kinds – down the stairs from the living room. The stairs were treacherous to say the least. Very thin pine treads, on a steep vertical with no handrail. These hinted at what we were going to find at the bottom of them.

Bare light bulbs hung from flexes, and stuck out of their fixings on the walls. The walls were half plastered, half bare stone. Original beams – a potential plus point – were in a very poor state of repair. They were untreated and the wood was rough and splintered. The ceiling, although plaster-boarded, was unfinished. Woodwork was unpainted. The concrete floor was rough and powdery. A far cry from the polished concrete finish I’d been visioning. It was also obviously a bit of a dumping ground. Window frames propped up against the walls, tins of paint, bags of concrete, and a deflated plastic swimming pool. All in all, a pretty depressing room. BUT – and we just couldn’t get this out of our heads – a room with a whole heap of potential, in a house with a massive amount of potential…

It does make me shudder to look back on these photos, as this room remained in this state, for quite a long time. In fact, it probably got worse, as it became our dumping ground, for packing boxes, furniture, everything which we didn’t unpack immediately because we didn’t know where things would go. Gradually, as we renovated rooms above, it did begin to empty out, but our focus was on the main house and to be honest, with so many rooms above, we weren’t actually sure what we were going to use this room for. So, for a good two or three years, it remained unloved, as we devoted our attention to the rest of the house.

However, as pieces of furniture were moved upstairs and boxes emptied and our belongings put in their new homes, we realised that we could do with this room, what had done with the ones above. We had brought with us, from Didsbury, our Dovre Vintage woodburner and it quickly became apparent that this dinky retro burner, wasn’t large enough for the main living room. A new, much bigger, one was sourced, but it meant we had to find a new home for the Dovre. We considered the big bedroom, but the reality of keeping a fire going in there – and moving logs upstairs and cleaning it out – was pretty unrealistic, and all of the sudden we had the lightbulb moment. Why not create an additional living space, under the main living room, which could house all of our books, vinyl records, CDs, hi-fi system and a big sofa? So The Snug idea came about – named as such, because we wanted to create a room for the winter which would be a cosy hideaway. It’s actually a really big space, and we were able to create an area under the stairs which is now curtained off, but houses essentials such as a condenser dryer, a chest freezer, storage cubes and household appliances such as the ironing board, hoover etc.

We decided that all of the walls, ceiling, beams and floor should be painted white to maximise on the feeling of space and make it lighter and brighter. There are two windows which are quite unique – as this room is under the main living space, the the two windows open out onto ground level outside, giving us a very different perspective. Our two gardens – front and rear – are at eye level from The Snug, and this makes it feel even more cosy. To contrast with the all-white room, we painted the woodwork in the same pale blue satinwood as we have throughout the house. The stairs were also tackled – a safe back was attached to the treads, and each tread was pulled forward, giving more depth and therefore making them safer. Chrome plumbing pipes and brackets were used to create vertical grab rails, meaning no more looking into a void over the side. And finally, like the stairs leading up from the living room to the first floor, these were painted in the Farrow & Ball Railings, which we’d brought back from Manchester on one of our roadtrips.

In the winter this room really is snug – and as we stayed in Istria over Christmas, we decided to really utilise this space, and create a hygge haven at the bottom of the house. And finally completing the renovation.

New throws and cushions, and two chocolate brown furry rugs, were introduced to add more layers of warmth and comfort, and to increase the seating, without going to expense of buying more chairs, the garden chairs which have been in winter storage were moved down here. A Christmas gift of money was put towards a new Smart TV and an additional TV box, linked to our wi-fi, was also bought, meaning we can now access all channels in this room, as well as the living room upstairs.

Although this room may not be to everyone’s tastes, we think we’ve created a very cosy room. It’s a great additional living space and we think that once family and friends start visiting again, it will be well utilised as it will mean that guests will have a living room of their own, if they want some privacy.

In terms of our house being for sale, this room is an added bonus. As well as an additional living room, there is the potential to adapt it and create a fourth bedroom. There is ample space to install an en-suite bathroom, and the window which overlooks the rear garden, could easily be opened up and a doorway fitted, creating a private entrance and easy access into the garden. For anyone with bigger design ambitions, the space is sufficiently large enough to create a small self-contained apartment, with an en-suite and a kitchen area. In fact, if were staying here and not planning on embarking renovating another property, I think we’d be going down the self-contained apartment route.

This room has been the final piece of the renovation jigsaw. Now that it is completed, we’re turning our attention to the the gardens at the front and rear of the house to create two very different, but very beautiful outdoor spaces, that we can use throughout the spring and summer, and into the autumn. Watch this space…