Domestic flux!

It sometimes occurs to me that our home is a time warp... or maybe just a work in progress that began many years ago when we moved in, and never ended. Things evolve in an organic sort of way, and walls get painted or washed as and when each one needs it - here change happens by a gradual process of osmosis. Hence we still have speckled paintwork in the kitchen, as I once went around dabbing spots of paint in different places to see how the colour looked in different light... and we never did get round to actually painting it.

It's at least a couple of years since we decided to have a 'new' kitchen. So granite worktops were bought and fitted with newly-tiled splashbacks, a beautiful new racing green stove was installed, the electrics, plumbing and lighting were overhauled, but the quarry tiled floor and the solid timber units stayed, resulting in the overall look of the kitchen staying the same as it always had been. This was not through any conservative wish for time to stand still, but because of the old adage if it's not broken why fix it? There's enough waste on the planet, without adding to it and anyway the units and floor tiles were perfectly serviceable, so recycling seemed like the best option.

We had planned to paint the kitchen and maybe even the units, but there are always too many other demands on our time, plus there's always the problem of having to agree on a colour. It's almost unheard of for us to decorate a room, finish it, then be able to stand back and admire the results. In our home, generally things take years to evolve into something that can be perceived to be anything different from how it's always looked - even though there's constant tweeking, to the untrained eye it all remains ostensibly the same.

So... when the mood seems right to do something which really will make a difference to the way things both look and work, I usually jump in with both feet. Enter the project of the moment - opening up the fireplace in the sitting room, lining the chimney and installing a wood stove, then replacing the floor with new oak boards.

The existing floor had to be carpeted after we were underpinned years ago. The contractors robbed Peter to pay Paul, taking the best of the original boards out to patch another room. They then replaced those in the sitting room with very short lengths of new boards of the cheapest timber, and sadly no amount of staining would ever get them to blend in.

We've always enjoyed our wood stoves in Wales and every so often P would say something about getting one here in York, but as my head is usually somewhere else when vague intent is perceived, I never really gave it a second thought. When he eventually told me he thought it would be a good project for the autumn, my ears immediately pricked up.
Before we started
I believe there are three types of people, those who live in the past, those you live in the present and those who live in the future. P loves to plan and dream and consider what if and why don't we, without ever feeling the urge to actually act upon it, whilst I'm more interested in what's going on in the here and now. Is this a gender or a personality trait I wonder? As you can imagine it's sometimes not easy to reconcile the two!
Dust sheets on
But I digress, the important thing is that the builders, Andy and Paul, arrived last Monday. They took one look at the fireplace, then said hmmmm, not seen a corner chimney before, we'll have to go out and have a think about this.
Point of no return - wonky brickwork filled in with rubble - even the
builders who do this job every day were slightly fazed to say the least
After much deliberation they returned and set about what turned out to be a very messy and difficult job. This was because the fireplace had been built in 1910 at the same time as the house, and I can only hope the rest of the work was done rather better than what we found behind the fireplace. When I saw the hole I nearly cried and certainly started to wonder why we ever started the whole thing.
Right side of the facing done, starting the left side
First job was to mask up and chip the years of congealed soot and tar out of the chinmey. Even though it had been swept in preparation, something much more drastic was necessary. Didn't get around to taking a pic of the used dust masks but I can only say I hope Andy and Paul don't need to do this every day, the masks had about half a centimetre of thick black soot on the outside! 
Facing finished and Paul starts restoration work on the hearth
Over the next couple of days Andy and Paul were like two men possessed, totally driven and devoted to getting the job done, possibly desperate to see the back of it. All I can say is that the work seemed to progress exponentially to its eventual conclusion, fuelled it seemed by nothing other than endless cups of tea and the odd biscuit.
Job done, phew!
By Wednesday it was finished and I now stand and wonder what all the fuss was about - I love it. However, we're far from out of the woods yet. Today P is taking up the floor and the process of laying the oak floor will begin, this time with P doing it himself... I'll say no more, except I expect tempers to be slightly frayed over the coming days! A kind friend came over yesterday to help empty the room, so all now stands neatly stacked in the hall, ready for the off.
Just had an awful thought - last time the floor was taken up, the builders nailed the new boards down with Bertie, our newly acquired kitty from the RSPCA, underneath. He'd decided it was a good hiding place! Luckily, after searching the neighbourhood for twenty-four hours, we heard his plaintive cries and prized up one of the offending boards to release him. Remind me to keep the door closed this time :) Happy days ahead!  Watch this space x


  1. Finished result looks beautiful, just in time for cosy nights around the fire. We have been thinking of doing the same thing, the thought of the mess has been putting me off, but seeing yours is changing my mind.

  2. Stage One looks beautiful and with the new floor it will look even better! I agree whole-heartedly, there is too much waste on the planet and sometimes an update is much better than ripping everything out. Can't wait to see the next post!xx


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