We moved into our lovely little terraced house in December 2013. I was thinking about why we renovated the house in the order we have, despite the rooms we haven’t decorated being uninspiring, tired and impractical.
I suppose it’s because the loft (Dec 2013-Jan 2014) was a quick and easy fix and a nice room to start with; the bathroom (May 2014) was pretty grotty and, while needing an overhaul, wasn’t too expensive to get on with (and fitted in nicely with a trip to Cannes while the majority of the messy, toilet- and shower-less work was done); the nursery (Dec 2014-Jan 2015) needed to be refurbished in time for the lovely Finlay’s arrival; as did the kitchen/living/dining room (Jan 2015-Feb 2015); and finally the hall and landing needed a makeover after it took a battering during all the other works. The master bedroom and front room were the obvious candidates, unfortunately, for later refurbishment.
But at last we’ve got around to the front room.
When we moved in, the front room was a lovely mix of milk chocolate brown walls with gold stenciled Greek Fret motif border (annoyingly inconsistently stenciled), dark green carpet and imposing tiled post-war fireplace with gas fire. It’s had a few iterations in our time here. At first we just moved our stuff in and made do. Then, during the major building work at the back of the house, the front room became our kitchen/dining/living room and the room we spent most of our time in. After that, we ripped out the grotty carpet, which had got grottier over time thanks to the building work, and the mismatch shelves, and put down an old rug and put up Ikea Billy bookcases in the alcoves. That was how it was to stay for a year, until this February when it was time to get ripping things out again.
Our plan: a modern African-Scandinavian living room
First to go was the brown-painted fan-textured wallpaper with naff gold stenciled border. Following that, it was time for the fireplace to go – a tough and dirty job for the hubby and brother-in-law on the first Monday of the February half term holiday. Then it was onto papering. We couldn’t afford to get the room completely replastered despite the walls being lumpy and bumpy in places. So, we chose a really nice modern textured anaglypta wallpaper that would hide imperfections and add interest. My dad came down from East Yorkshire to teach Jeffrey the skill of hanging wallpaper (minus the chimney breast which wasn’t yet ready for the wallpaper), and then Jeffrey and our kind neighbour Omar dug out the old concrete hearth and laid a new one to take the slate tiles we are yet to lay. Removing the old fireplace had left a messy, unsightly opening which needed plaster boarding and skimming. As it was only a small section, Jeffrey decided to tackle it himself – learning another new DIY skill (by this point the new skills learnt were really stacking up – 1. removing a fireplace, 2. laying concrete, 3. wallpapering, 4. fixing plasterboard, 5. skimming).
The next job was the floor. The original wooden floorboards are in good nick, so we decided to sand them back and leave them exposed. Sections of the floorboards had been painted with a dark paint which has left them partly stained, but it all adds to the character. They are 114 years old, after all.
Eventually, it was onto painting. We knew we wanted to brighten up the room, but we didn’t want to leave the room completely white. So we decided on a lovely warm slate grey emulsion by Homebase for the chimney breast and alcoves, and pure brilliant white (why would we choose anything else?!) for the other three walls.
After painting the walls, ceiling, skirting boards, architrave, door and sash windows (new DIY skill number 6), Jeffrey fitted new Venetian blinds (those plantation shutters we have been lusting after for months will have to wait) ahead of another visit from my dad to crack on with the floating shelves in the alcoves. By this point, it was the day before Good Friday. After about 5 weeks of picking away at the long list of DIY to get the room done, the finishing line was in sight. And Finlay was overseeing the installation of the shelves just two days before we were due to welcome family for a first birthday celebration.
At last we’d reached the time to dress the room. An oversize 1959 school map of Ghana bought for the bargain price of £20 for Jeffrey’s birthday, a woven wool rug from John Lewis, some cushions by John Lewis and Orla Kiely (and two homemade cushion covers – one made from Ghanaian Kente cloth, the other from cotton from John Lewis), a new floor lamp and pendant from Nordlux, and a great new Ikea mirror were the last finishing touches. While there are still a couple of things to do – two small pieces of skirting board, tacking and painting unsightly TV wires, the laying of the slate tiles for the hearth, a small log burning stove, tidying up a Ghanaian wooden stool, and some more art for the large white wall (we’re awaiting a couple more Ghanaian masks and some Bolga baskets and fans from Jeffrey’s mum’s next visit to Ghana) – it’s pretty much there. And a vast improvement on the previous living room. Safe to say we love it.
Six rooms down, one to go.
Pinterest mood board