Halloween is one of our favorite holidays, and by “our” I mean the humans in this household. Otto wasn’t too pleased with the noise (perhaps the cackling witch doorbell wasn’t a good idea), the number of people at our party, or his costume:
He spent the first hour of the party hiding. Once we took his costume off, he became a little more social. Or maybe he was just trying out a new costume : “pity me and give me lots of cuddles.” Either way, he slowly made his way back down into the living room and spent the rest of the night camped out near the coffee table. He did however like his pumpkin (thanks Vil!)
Halloween is not celebrated as much in London as it is back in the US, but it’s slowly gaining ground. The good thing about this is (so far) we haven’t had a competing Halloween party to contend with. The bad thing is that there is simply not the variety of decorations available here as there are in NY. We ended up making a lot of our decorations:
We turned our front yard into a graveyard (thanks ebay!)
I get my love of Halloween from my dad. He is well known in his neighborhood for his Halloween decorations and for his penchant for scaring trick or treaters. When he heard that the decoration selection over here isn’t good, he lept into action and sent us an amazing care package full of Halloween fun. Unfortunately Her Majesty’s Customs wasn’t in the holiday spirit and held up the package, so we got it the Friday after Halloween, but still, we are so set for 2011. London, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet….
In order to appreciate how far along the exterior has come, let’s revisit how it looked before we moved in.
It’s a combination of red brick and dark brown brick (on purpose!), the windows are double-glazed but surrounded by cheap white plastic, and there are two doors: on the left is the front door, and on the right is the door to an outside storage space. The landscaping consists of gravel and weeds, and some concrete steps down to the sidewalk. Oh, and a ginormous plant with thorns that might be the tallest yet scraggliest rose I’ve ever seen.
The plan, phase 1:
Replace the downstairs window, brick up the area that used to be white plastic. We went for a slightly narrower window in order to improve the kitchen layout. Brick up the door to the storage space (said space is becoming our utility closet, accessed from the foyer). Replace the front door with something more modern and secure. The good news is all except the front door is finished, and the door will be installed on Thursday.
Stucco the facade, similar to what our neighbors did. It makes the whole thing look much cleaner and more modern. It will also cover up the now three different colors of brick. We’ll also do something about the landscaping, but we’re not sure yet. Maybe we’ll pave the front yard and go with potted plants, maybe we’ll get rid of the gravel and have nice plantings on either side of the path. But we probably have a year or so to figure it out.
Last night I stopped by the house after work to check on the progress, and thanks to daylight savings time I was able to get some pictures actually in the daylight. Looks like the builders have been busy bricking everything up!
The cheap white plastic below the kitchen window has been replaced. Now we just need a window.
The door to the storage unit in the front yard has been bricked up.
It’s not ideal that the new bricks are a different color than the old bricks, but at some point (phase 3?) we plan to stucco over all the bricks anyway so we only have to live with this for the time being.
Much of the brickwork for the extension has been done. Now I see why the builders said the bifold doors would save a lot in labor.
Thankfully the extension will get rid of the ugly darker brown bricks between the ground and top floors.
The builders have also been doing some work inside, namely knocking through the wall that separated the storage closet and the foyer, and fitting out a door frame.
The plan is to turn what used to be an external storage area into a utility closet for our washer and dryer. However, I’m a bit worried that the door frame will make it hard to open the appliance doors, so we’ll need to have a chat with our builder about that.
We’ve been very puppy-focused lately, and though I’m loathe to post anything that would replace the cute-fest of the last post, we have made some progress on the house.
What’s happened so far?
Decided to go for the bi-fold doors on the back wall. 10 foot bi-folds to be exact!
Decided to replace the ugly white plastic with brick on the front wall and replace the windows as well. This also improves our kitchen layout.
Came up with a new kitchen layout which includes the mid-wall oven that Grimbil has been lobbying for.
The builders are hard at work laying the foundation for the extension. Pics to come when we get back to London.
Of course, we have a whole new set of decisions to make:
What sort of front door do we want? Right now we both seem to be favoring vertical or horizontal plank wood doors. We might eventually add wood cladding to some of the exterior, which would go nicely with a door like this.
What sort of flooring do we want? We love the look of concrete but it won’t work for our house so instead we’re leaning towards large tiles that look kind of like concrete.
Where should the lights, light switches, and electrical sockets go? This is easily the most daunting task, and unfortunately we have to figure it out while we’re on holiday in the US. Hopefully wine tasting in Sonoma will inspire us!
After years of renting, we’ve decided to take the plunge and buy a house! Now Grimbil can have everything wired the way he wants, I can have an actual garden instead of sad little pots on a balcony, and our future puppy will have a yard to play in.
We were lucky to find something that met all of our criteria: in Balham, freehold (we own the land instead of renting it), garden/yard, short walk to a park, in our budget, a good size (for London), and not a maze of tiny Victorian rooms and long hallways. Period features are nice and all, but we’d rather have an open plan.
However, one of the reasons it’s in our budget is it needs major renovations. It’s livable, but it was used as a rental property by the previous owners so let’s just say it’s not finished to a high standard. What needs doing? Here’s our list so far, in no particular order:
Extension out the back (off the living room)
Knock down all the internal walls on the ground floor to make an open plan kitchen / dining room/ living room
New bathroom, including knocking down the wall between the water closet and the bath
Knock down the wall between the two tiny bedrooms to make one nice bedroom
Facelift for the closets
Makeover the foyer, getting rid of the ugly glass between it and the living room, and converting the outside storage area to a closet for the foyer.
Move all the meters outside
Move the boiler to the kitchen
New floors (with underfloor heating!)
New paint in all the rooms, maybe exposed brick on the wall with the stairs
Facelift for the incredibly cheap looking staircase
Facelift for the facade
New fences in the back garden (both for cosmetic and dog-proofing reasons)
Replacing the crazy paving in the back garden with grass
Landscape the front garden
Move the loft/attic access to somewhere safer than the top of the stairs (wtf were they thinking?)
Rewire the electrics
Cat5 cable everywhere! And a networking closet somewhere
Do something about the water quality in the bathroom (green stains in the sink? ew)
Additional insulation in the loft and the walls
Convert the loft to either a master suite or a man-cave (this one isn’t a definite yet)
We don’t have the budget to do all of this in one go (wouldn’t that be nice), so it’s going to keep us busy for the next few years!