Home sweet home

We’re back in London! Although the animal life is less exotic, it’s still plenty cute.  Here’s how Otto greets us when he comes home from daycare:

Otto’s home! from Grimbil on Vimeo.

Now that the Africa adventure is over, we’ll be switching gears to focus on our upcoming renovations. So, if you want to hear about scaffolding and paint colors, stay tuned!

After: The Bathroom

From this

to this:


We’ve always known that we would knock down the walls between the toilet and the rest of the bathroom. But the real win came when Grimbil realized we could change the configuration of the stairs and turn some hallway space into more bathroom space. We also got rid of the bathtub and went for just a walk-in shower. And frankly, when you have a lovely rainhead shower, who needs a tub? Even Otto has gotten the hang of it (probably due to all the treats I’ve used to lure him into the shower).


Before the only storage we had in the bathroom was a tiny medicine cabinet, the windowsill, and a couple of baskets we stacked under the sink. Now we have nice deep drawers under the sink, a large cabinet (that lights up with the wave of a hand), and shelves above the toilet and in the shower. And a big windowsill. Hey, let’s buy more stuff to store!


Massive storage in the drawers and medicine cabinet…


…and above the toilet…


…even in the shower!

We also went from absolutely no heating in the bathroom (what the what?) to having a heated towel rack and underfloor heating. Result!


Hot towels!

Hot dog in the shower

After: The Stairs

From this…

to this:


In order to maximize our space upstairs, we changed the staircase to wind at the top. This also gave us a great excuse to completely re-do the stairs.


It’s amazing what a difference a nice staircase can make! And Otto has his own little Harry Potter-esque cupboard under the stairs. We can’t claim credit for the design, since we basically copied a picture from Houzz.com but we love the profile of the wood against the white.


First week of renovations

Our builders threw a lot of people at the demolition portion of our build, so by the end of the first week they were able to rip out everything upstairs and frame the new walls.  We stopped by to see how things looked and shot another iPhone video.

I promise, the next post will have some after photos. We’re just finishing up last bits and pieces like bannisters and medicine cabinets…

Before: the upstairs

If you troll through our archives there are pictures of bedrooms 1, 2 and 3,  and the bathroom and water closet,  but it’s hard to get a sense of how small and poorly planned out they are. So after a long day of packing up and moving all the furniture out of the upstairs, Grimbil kindly shot a video of what it looked like before the renovations. It was shot on an iPhone, so please forgive the low quality. And for our non-Anglicized readers, “manky” = gross.

Our new builders

For the upstairs renovations, we are working with a different building company,  Click4 Developments. They were highly recommended by our co-worker. Before booking them, Jeff the owner invited us to meet at a build they were working on in Wimbledon. We were impressed with the work and with Jeff so we decided to give them a try.

It has been a real pleasure working with Jeff. He has great ideas and good taste, is good at letting us know when our ideas won’t work, and is respectful of how our money is spent. So far this build has been much less stressful than the downstairs. I think a lot of that is due to the amount of planning and discussing we did with Jeff before the build started, and to the frequent updates he gives us. It’s so helpful to have a schedule of what is being done each week so that we know when we need to have the tile picked out, or the flooring ordered etc.  It’s also great to know that Jeff understands the look we are going for.  I can’t wait to see the finished product!


The plan for the stairs

Changing the layout for our stairs is a key component to our renovations. By having the stairs wind at the top we’ll be able to convert about 6 sq meters / 66 sq feet of what used to be hallway into part of the bathroom. That sounds like a lot!

And since we have to change the layout of the stairs, we get to redo the stairs entirely.  Say goodbye to this:


And hello to something like this:

Palo Alto Residence contemporary hall

We met with a stair designer and he can definitely do a wooden bannister with metal spindles like in the picture above.  The idea is to have the bannister and steps in a wood that goes well with our iroko countertops (although actual iroko stairs are a bit out of our price range). I’m on the hunt for a runner that works nicely with the warm wood of the steps and the gray concrete of our floors; the nice simple gray runner above looks pretty good.

The only bit we aren’t sure of is whether we can have the edges of the steps visible (open string), or if we have to still have a stair string like that big white 2 x 4 that runs along the side of our current stairs. We’re hoping we can get an open string; I like the nice clean profile of the wood against the white.

All in all, we’re sticking pretty closely to our original plan for the stairs from two years ago!



The plan for the bathroom

Our renovations will be starting on Monday, March 5th. Only a little over a week away!

As part of the redo, the current bathroom will be ripped out and we’ll be starting from scratch for a completely new look. We’ve been mulling over designs and fixtures and tiles and I think we’re in pretty good shape.

Just to remind you, this is what our current bathroom looks like:


Here is what we have figured out so far:

    • The sink, which we have already bought. I love the rectangular basin (which you can’t really see in the pic) and the big drawers. Yay for storage!
    • Gray tile for the walls and floor.
    • A blue/ green accent tile for the wall with the sink.
    • White fixtures, which will hopefully pop nicely against the gray.
    • 150 x 90 cm walk-in shower with a rain shower head coming out of the ceiling.
    • Niche with shelves on the short end of the shower lined with the blue/green accent tile. Kinda like this one:
Remodel San Francisco contemporary bathroom
    • Shelves over the toilet for extra storage, in a dark wood to match the sink. Like these, but minus the lights
Sophisticated Contemporary contemporary kitchen
  • Heated towel rack and underfloor. I’m sick of having a bathroom with no heating.

We are still shopping for the rest of the fixtures, but I think we nearly have the tiles sorted. We are thinking the 60 x30 cm tile on the right for the floors and walls.  Yes, it’s dark, but our fixtures will be white and we have a big window in the bathroom to help lighten up the space.


And one of these options as the accent tile.  The gray in both pictures is a sample of the gray tile above.

Option 1


Option 2

Phase 2: the upstairs

As I mentioned earlier, we are getting ready to embark on the next major phase of renovations: the upstairs. Here is the current layout:

Yep, that’s three bedrooms and a bathroom in about 400 square feet of space. There are garages in Texas that are bigger than our upstairs.  For those that are confused by why our upstairs is labelled “First Floor” on the map, it’s a European thing. The downstairs is considered the ground floor.

Here is our future layout:

Basically we want to knock down all the interior walls and start from scratch to create two bedrooms that are actually a liveable size (and with a niiice big closet in one), and combine the toilet and bathrooms into one room that you can actually turn around in. The other big change is the staircase. By having the top three stairs wind, we get more space for the bathroom. So far the only deviation from the plan is that we want to switch the toilet and the sink.

We’re still finalizing the budget with our builder, but hopefully the build will be finished by my birthday. So now our free time is spent looking at tiles and toilets. The curtains are on hold til after the build; the last thing we want is to hang the curtains and then have to pack them up again.


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!