3 years of home ownership

Grimbil as a new home owner, 3 years ago

January marks our 3-year anniversary of owning Old Glory. We’ve come a long way. We’ve knocked down every wall except the external walls, and even some of those went under the hammer. So let’s look at our original plan when we bought the house versus what we’ve actually done:

  • Extension out the back (off the living room)  Done!
  • Knock down all the internal walls on the ground floor to make an open plan kitchen / dining room/ living room Done!
  • New kitchen Done!
  • New bathroom, including knocking down the wall between the water closet and the bath Done!
  • Knock down the wall between the two tiny bedrooms to make one nice bedroom Done!
  • Facelift for the closets Done!
  • 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.  Done!
  • Move all the meters outside — we were able to move the gas meter outside but not the electric
  • Move the boiler to the kitchen — it’s in the foyer, but it works well there
  • New floors (with underfloor heating!) Done!
  • New paint in all the rooms, maybe exposed brick on the wall with the stairs.  — no exposed brick, but the new paint is Done!
  • Facelift for the incredibly cheap looking staircase Done!
  • Facelift for the facade — we got rid of the plastic below the kitchen windows, but we still want to render and paint the brick
  • New fences in the back garden (both for cosmetic and dog-proofing reasons) Done!
  • Replacing the crazy paving in the back garden with grass Done!
  • Landscape the front garden — that’s  the last big project for 2013
  • Move the loft/attic access to somewhere safer than the top of the stairs (wtf were they thinking?) — We didn’t move it far but do have a much safer hatch and ladder that are easy to access
  • Rewire the electrics Done!
  • Cat5 cable everywhere! And a networking closet somewhere Done! And with even better Cat 6 cable
  • Do something about the water quality in the bathroom (green stains in the sink? ew) — Not neccessary
  • Additional insulation in the loft and the walls — we still plan to add insulation in the loft, but not in the walls
  • Solar power — maybe after the insulation
  • Convert the loft to either a master suite or a man-cave (this one isn’t a definite yet) — this one is definitely not happening. We need the loft for storage more than we need more bedrooms.

Not bad!


2 years of home ownership

January marked our second year of owning our own home.  Our first year was all about major change, whereas Year 2 was more about tweaking. Here are the highlights:

  • Had the back yard completely redone, including new fence and new deck
  • Grimbil took up wood working as a hobby and turned the old boiler closet into a linen closet. Result!
  • He also framed out the garage, so that he can build the wood shop of his dreams.
  • Kicked off the process of replacing the ratty old furniture by buying a snazzy new couch
  • Finally installed our pendant lights in the kitchen. That means the kitchen is done!

Year 3 will be another big year for change: we are finalizing plans to completely redo the upstairs. More to come!

Our new lights / Otto’s new toy

Otto stretches to reach the top, ignoring the Fragile tag

A while ago we finally ordered the pendant lights to go over the kitchen island. We don’t have a doorman, so anything that can’t fit through the mail slot is delivered to our office (handy that we work for the same company). So this ginormous box has been sitting by Grimbil’s desk for quite some time.

We finally brought the box home last week, much to Otto’s delight. In his world anything made of cardboard is a chew toy.  He was a great help in opening the box — from the bottom up.

Grimbil tries to save the box from Otto’s jaws of death

Despite its size the box is actually really light, so light in fact that Otto was hoisting it completely into the air with his mouth in order to get a better chewing angle. Hopefully we’ll have an upcoming post with pictures of our new lights — without bite marks….

Decisions decisions: pendant lights take 2

When last we were debating our pendant light situation, we were completely undecided. I’ve been sporadically trolling the interwebs looking for inspiration, and stumbled on Furnish.co.uk.  I think it’s going to be my go-to site for home accessories shopping from now on.

I kept being drawn to pendant lights that are way too ambient to put over our island, but then I saw this:

I think we have a winner! We want to go look at it in person before making the final decision, but still, I love how it’s sleek but curvy.

As for all those ambient but sparkly lights I’ve been drawn to, well, there are 3 bedrooms that will eventually need lights….

The true test of a kitchen: Thanksgiving

Nothing puts a kitchen through its paces like Thanksgiving, and I’m happy to say that ours passed with flying colors, twice!

Thanksgiving decor compliments of our friend Toni

Round 1 was Thanksgiving day, when our friends Dwayne and Nancy kindly cooked us the traditional turkey with all the works while we were at work. They were visiting from the US and had just arrived at our house the day before, so the kitchen gets bonus points for being easy to navigate even when you’re new to it.

Round 2 was Saturday, when I spent the day cooking another Thanksgiving meal. Turkey, stuffing, roasted parsnips, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, sweet potato & orange cups, gravy, and of course pumpkin pie, all made from scratch. The day was surprisingly low stress thanks to our awesome double ovens, continuum induction stovetop/hob, and my Thanksgiving timeline spreadsheet. How did I survive previous Thanksgivings with just one oven?

Otto enjoyed his first Thanksgiving(s). He seemed particular interested in our (first ever) attempt at brining a turkey.

Otto inspects the brined turkey to make sure we got it right

He also enjoyed the giblets we added to his kibble, the bits of turkey that somehow kept falling into his mouth, and the copious amount of napping we’ve been doing today.

Grimbil and Otto sleep off a Thanksgiving hangover


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:

Otto the bomb...

...to go with Grimbil's SWAT team 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!)

Otto's first pumpkin (in ACDC font)

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:

I made 40 rats. Next year I'm going for 60

homemade chandeliers (yes, they're umbrellas)

We turned our front yard into a graveyard (thanks ebay!)

egg sacs made by yours truly

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….

Decisions decisions: pendant lights

Our kitchen design includes two pendant lights over the island. Given how early it gets dark here during the winter, good overhead lighting is a must. Our builders got everything ready for us so now we have two empty wires just waiting for us to decide what the heck to buy.  We could screw in some lightbulbs in the meantime but knowing us those lightbulbs would never get covered. Ghet-to.

Part of the problem is that we don’t really know what we want. The kitchen is glossy white / warm wood, with some stainless steel thrown in. Do we keep it simple and white/ clear?

Or pick up on the stainless steel accents?

Or add a splash of color?

Or do we soften the modern vibe with something completely different?

The other problem is that most the pendant lighting is boring, and the stuff I do like is not well suited for overhead task lighting; it’s too ambient. Like this:

MIssion Loft  living room
Anyone have any suggestions for sites or brands to look at?

Fine tuning

We were pretty proud of how quickly we unpacked and set up the house. Part of that speed was thanks to the many pairs of hands that helped us, but
part of that speed was also due to us just sticking things anywhere.

We are starting to fine tune and organize. It’s like one of those puzzles where you have to slide the pieces around in order to see the whole picture: arranging one part of the house helps us arrange other areas.

The arrival of our washer and dryer and the departure of the builders* and their tools allowed Grimbil to tackle the foyer.

We are still figuring out the final iteration. We plan to install some shelves above the wooden worktop and get rid of the shelves next to the washer. We need a system for storing coats and I’d like some way to store hats. After all, we are much more likely to wear our hats if we walk by them on the way out. And it being London, we need something for brollies and wellies. Suddenly our foyer is looking rather small….

By organizing the foyer Grimbil also got rid of the random junk that was accumulating next to the fridge, allowing us to move Otto’s pen there. I’m
hoping we don’t come to regret his improved view of the back yard and the comings and goings of our animal neighbors.

Now that Otto is no longer under the stairs (very Harry Potter), we can start shopping for a desk to put there instead. The desk will store our analog files and hold the computer which is the centerpiece of our overly complex AV system. We might move the bookcase next to the desk but that’s still up for debate.

Future home of a desk and maybe a bookcase

I re-worked the kitchen, so now all my baking ingredients are together on one shelf, Otto has a shelf for his health and beauty aids, and the pull-out larder has a loose system of organization.  I also improved our clothing storage.  It will get even better when the hanging sweater rack I ordered arrives and the stuff taking up space on the closet shelf is moved to the attic.

The pullout larder is heavenly

Ah the attic….Right now it’s far too filthy, needs more insulation, and needs some sort of flooring system, but it is the key to our organizational strategy. My goal is for everything to have a designated place, and it seems like a lot of things will find their “place” in the attic. Hopefully we won’t turn into pack rats.

*The only things left for the builders to install are the outdoor lights (which we need to buy), the rain sensors for the skylights (which may or may not be manufactured yet), and a ladder to the attic. And no, we haven’t made our final payment yet.

Home sweet home

We spent the weekend unpacking, and thanks to the hard work of our various house guests (Nikki, Allen, and Steve, we owe you guys!), we now have a functioning kitchen, master bedroom, and living room.

We are really pleased with how the kitchen turned out:

As you can see there are still some boxes to unpack, but don’t the countertops  and island look great?

The house 1 week ago

Last week I stopped by for a chat with the builders and also snapped some pix:

The kitchen is coming along nicely. Ignore the blue, it’s just protective coating.

The floor is mostly installed, and the plastering is mostly finished.