Well, we’re in. If there is one thing I have learnt over the past couple of months it is that the finishing jobs take longer than you think, and while I’ve enjoyed saving some much-needed money by doing a lot of the finishing work myself (with help from our parents), it has slowed things down a little. I am distinctly envious of those package self-builders who move into homes with doors already fitted!
My beloved late uncle was a professional decorator, and it’s clear that I haven’t inherited many of his skills. I took the view that we would really want to decide on the final decoration and wall colours in good time, without making rushed decisions, and so decided to give every bare wall (and some already-coloured ones) a coverage of good old ‘Brilliant White’.
It’s amazingly cheap, can be watered down to form a mist coat (to soak into the plaster a bit and give a nice base for the emulsion) and is surprisingly neutral. We paid around £35 for three big plastic buckets and at that price, felt sufficiently liberated to throw it around a bit.
Let me give you some advice if you intend to do this yourself — particularly if, like me, you like modern house design and decide to build a 6m tower as an entrance hallway. I am generally OK with heights but even with a massively extended roller pole (3m!) and balancing on a 2m-high ladder, I struggled a bit with the ceiling. With the ladder at full extension, I had a funny turn when painting one of the corners. With that in mind, we’re going to leave the hallway Brilliant White permanently.
With our weekends and evenings taken up with getting the walls done, we were thrown into a bit of a panic when the tiler that we had lined up phoned in with a double hernia. Luckily Ben, our erstwhile and kind builder, had a bit of time in his schedule as his next job began to move into action and as a result he polished off his trowel, bought in the levelling spacers and set to it.
Tiling 100m2 of flooring is not the kind of task you would take on willingly but, with carpenter Joe helping out, they managed to get almost all of it done, and level. I then did the remaining 20m2 or so — something I would be happy not to have to do again.
With the tiles beginning to help in terms of dust control, we felt it was about time to move everyone back in. Carpets were in, the heating was on and most of the toilets were working. The kitchen was in and we had lighting — it was undeniably a working home again.
Our New Year plan is to begin to work through the new rooms, one at a time, working out the furniture plans and colours and so on — and take our time. I feel like the project has taken up the past four years of our lives, and while I don’t want to lose momentum, I’m happy to spend a few evenings in front of the woodburning stove watching telly again.
Every day in the house brings a happy surprise — a view through the rooms that we’d planned but hadn’t imagined would come true. Having worked on magazines for years I’m quite a visual person and that feeling of living in a house that had plenty of those uplifting little views gives you something that ordinary homes can’t. It’s just one of the reasons that people like me, and you, put ourselves through all this.