18 March 2015

Bathroom installation

With 2nd fix now fully underway we had moved from the 'fabric' part of the build into the decorative part of the build and I was now in charge of subcontracting.  

I approached four different tilers for a quotation.  The prices varied by quite a considerable degree and in the end I choose Stuart who is SWC Flooring.  He came in with a competitive price, had provided two good references for me to speak to and could start within the timeframe allocated (not a lot, as schedules were out the window and Andrew never gave me much notice!) and seemed a friendly and helpful bloke.

It was herringbone pattern all the way, and Stuart reported dreaming about herringbone whilst on our job!

First was the bathroom tiles (for more info see Bathroom tiles - sourcing).  Stuart was brilliant about drawing up a template first so that we could check the position of the tiles around the corners and when they met edges, this gave us a cleaner final look.  In the main bathroom we have a window above the bath which lets in loads of light but needed consideration for water protection.  Tiling around the corners would spoil the look and make it too fussy so we decided to tile up to the edge and then line the window walls with metal sheet instead.  

I also decided that I didn't want the tiles to go up to the ceiling - water was never going to get up there.  I preferred the more restrained and simple look of just keeping in line with top of the window- all these tiny details!

Andrew and Stuart made sure that my attention was drawn to the edge of the tiles.  Our Fired Earth Forecast tiles are quite thick and made of terracota this left quite a visible raw edge.  They wisely advised me to use an angle at the edge and we found a nice non-shiny brushed steel profile.  It was a good call, and one aspect I had totally missed, and makes the whole thing look more finished and elegant.

Simpson's Ten Hinged Bath Screen

Once the tiles were in place our plumbers, Cotswold Green Energy could install all the Crosswater brassware - beautiful!  

Simple lines - Crosswater Central Shower valve

The grout colour chosen was a gentle grey, a tone or two lighter than the tiles.  Too dark a grey looked like public toilets and a cream colour just looked too cottage-like.  Detail, detail, detail.

Crosswater's Central Shower Kit

I've got plenty of extra tiles left over - perhaps too many, but one at least came in handy when the drill cracked the tile during the installation of the shower screen.

For more info about the bathroom fittings we chose see Bathroom love.

9 March 2015


The painters/decorators arrived.  

We had chosen Little Greene paints - see my earlier post Choosing Paint.  So all paint colours mentioned below are from their range.



I was so excited to see the colours go on - they were absolutely beautiful.

A 'Juniper Ash' colour block in the sitting room on a elegantly soft and warm 'Tusk' wall wash.

More 'Juniper Ash' in the downstairs hallway.

I was so pleased to see how a last minute colour choice worked out so perfectly.  'Gentle sky' ceiling and colour panel on a 'limestone' wall wash.  The 'gentle sky' colour goes up all the way to the top of the skylight to meet the sky.

Kitchen installation

Sustainable Kitchens were ready and waiting to install the kitchen.  Charlie O'B (so identified due to the extraordinary amount of Charlies we have had on this project!) arrived and set to work.  The units had all been made in the workshop but the countertop had to be measured and templated onsite.  Only then would we have the exact dimensions needed to fabricate the stainless steel countertop.

Charlie was supposed to have had the place to himself but with the plumbers and electricians busy with other jobs and trying to squeeze us in where they could, it meant that everyone was on site at once.  It was very noisy and busy and meant that everyone had to do a little more jiggling and juggling to not be other's way.  NOT ideal, but there was a lot of jolly camaraderie.

It took only three days to install the units and then it was immediately covered in board to protect it while all the other trades continued. 

By now we were in the first week of August, and had been planning to move in at the end of this month!!!  Doubts were beginning to seed...  My presence on site was really limited due to the fact that we were full swing in the middle of school summer holidays and site was really not safe to bring the children to visit.

A few weeks later the steel was ready and Joseph came along with Charlie to install.  This was far from a straightforward task.   But Sustainable Kitchens handled it with a cool and professional head.   

Steel, unlike wood, is an unforgiving material.  Wood can be planed and eased to fit like a glove.  I had also asked for an experimental aspect which concerned the edge detailing- normally the steel wraps around the ply base so that you see a metal edge (we have since discovered why, as it hides a multitude of sins).  I had asked for the edge to be exposed so that the steel just looked like another layer in the ply.  I wanted the lighter feel that this would give to the metal countertop. 

This meant that the front edges had align perfectly or be cut/sanded so that they would be.  It also meant that the bonding of the metal to the ply base had to be perfect as the edge would expose any gaps in adhesion.  This aspect would normally be disguised by the wrapped edge.

A bit of head-scratching but Charlie figured it out calmly and with a smile, always up for a challenge with my experimental kitchen design!  The wires you can see in the wall are the for the LED lights which have been recessed into the Dinesen Douglas shelf which wraps around the kitchen.  The moveable island was finished in the workshop and wrapped in the wobble-sanded steel.  It was kept out of the way and delivered the day we moved in. It is so beautiful.  I'll share finished photos soon.

12 February 2015

2nd Fix

With the floor installed and then protected with a floor covering re-cycled from another site,  it meant that 2nd fix could begin in earnest!  

2nd fix is when all the final finishes are installed, everything above the plaster layer; switches and light fittings, sanitary ware, flooring, paint, tiling etc. etc. It's busy, busy, busy and seems to go on forever!

The house was filled with trades - plumbers, electricians, tiler and kitchen fitter.  Andrew and Paul focused on making all the internal joinery. 


There is a lot of internal joinery as most walls are actually bookcases.

I had designed these door handles so we experimented with where to position them.

Interestingly rather than taking turns to be on site everyone seemed to prefer to be there while the other trades were there too.  There was a LOT of banter - all good, so good in fact neighbouring builders were known to pop-in for lunch.  Not sure how to feel about that, I'm choosing to believe it's because we've got such great group of people who are working hard in a really productive and creative atmosphere and who wouldn't want to be part of that group...!? 

The basin and sink are from Bathstore, the tap and waste from Crosswater.  For bathroom info see here

The elegant Bauhaus Edge Towel Rail in Anthracite.

Simpsons Frameless Ten Bath Screen and Crosswater Shower is installed. 

It goes without saying that it has not been all plain sailing.  But mostly it has been fine.  This has also meant that I have needed to get to site a lot more often as lots of decisions still have to made and things checked.  Mistakes have been made and most people are on day rates so ultimately those mistakes hit my pocket! It becomes a case of coming to terms to living with the mistakes, because to redo would cost too much and take too much time.  Must remember to channel Wabi-Sabi (the Japanese philosophy of embracing imperfection) and remember that everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes, including myself!  

The plant room comes to life!  Our gas boiler is installed.  As we have minimal space heating demands it doesn't make sense for us to go for a more eco alternative here as the payback would take exponentially longer for us.  Our largest demand will be hot water and the plan is to eventually install photovoltaic panels to address this demand.

We have a boiler!

Charlie, the plumber, was bemused by my excitement at unwrapping the taps - it was like Christmas!

This is the point in the project where it was always going to be an issue about being a mother to 3 young children and building a house at the same time.  Dimitri always said that he would go on site at this stage of the build to supervise however it rapidly became clear that interiors and detailing was just not something that he was confident with.  So we've done the best we can and hopefully the majority is good and we will soon not notice those small issues...! The problem is that I've very tuned into detail and notice things without even wanting to and so even though no one else notices I do and they BUG me everytime I see them!

Andrew created oak cases to house T5 light fittings, then we figured out how it would work, more on lighting here.

These T5s will be hidden by a false ceiling panel so the lights should just give a glow at the edges.

Just one foot in front of the other...

5 February 2015

Choosing the colours

In Stroud we are lucky to have Bailey Paints - a wonderful cornucopia of all things paint-related.  It was to them that I turned for everything to do with paint.  As I was quite overwhelmed about choosing colours I took advantage of their Colour Consultation Service.  Jane Peckitt, an experienced professional furniture painter and decorator, came for 2hr site visit and I couldn't have done it without her.

Little Greene's Colours of England & Colour Scales, and Grey Collection

Jane arrived into the chaos of the building site, with about 8 or 9 contractors also on site.  Her secret weapon was a file of nearly A4 size colour samples of the entire Little Greene colour library (for more info about why I chose Little Greene see here).  What a difference they made to job of looking at colours.  At that size it was so much easier to see what the colours looked like in situ and to see how they related to other colours.  

My tester pot samples

We started upstairs, peeled back the protective floor coverings and took a look at how different colours worked with the floor.  Jane listened carefully to what I what I wanted to achieve and used her amazing knowledge of colours to guide me through the options.  She was great at knowing which colours looked complementary together, moving expertly between different shades completely.  Jane was also able to flick quickly between the samples to lay her hands on samples that would offer me a brighter or more sombre option of any colour combo.  

We ended up choosing one of the colour scales from Little Greene's Grey Collection; flint, tusk and limestone.  These gave a lovely soft graduated background and then chose accent colours for my colour blocks.  I wanted to do something interesting with paint and between Pinterest and Remodelista I had been really inspired by painting just a block of colour which doesn't go up to the ceiling and also wraps around corners.  

I have fallen in love with Little Greene's Juniper Ash, a gorgeous rich warm blue, which will be used upstairs and downstairs.  And for our bedroom I've chosen the beautiful Bone China Blue which manages to be both blue and grey and ever so calm and elegant. 

I felt really excited as I was delighted with the colours and my design rules (see here) were all being ticked!

22 January 2015

Still here

I'm still here and buried under a mountain of half-written posts! Once we moved in life got sooooooo busy, what with a half-finished not-quite-ready new home, new school, new location, new routines etc. etc.  So in the grand scheme of priorities blogging took the hit!

I also realised that I just needed to give myself a little bit of break and spend my very rare moments of spare time having a bit of a relax before I really did break.  

It was still full on with the build Sept-October, with the addition of living in the middle of it all.  November started easing off and we said goodbye to Andrew and Paul as they went to start a new project.  There was a paperwork frenzy in December and we finally got signed off the last week before everyone broke for the Festive season.  Christmas delightfully came and went along with birthday season in our home.  

So, batteries somewhat recharged I'm ready to get this whole experience recorded before I forget it all...

9 October 2014

Choosing paint

It was really important to us that the materials we use "inside the envelope" are as healthy and environmentally friendly as possible. This is always a difficult choice as there is always a axis with these things and everyone will take a different position as to what they feel is 'green'.  The paints are marketed variously as eco, natural, green, and organic each implying a different viewpoint and ethos and the trick is discovering what that means, what you think is important and which direction you are going to go in...!

About 10yrs ago we first used an eco paint which was made from milk proteins.   We bought powdered pigment and mixed the colours ourselves.  We were very proud of ourselves but we had to admit that the paint coverage was patchy and not terribly stable as it yellowed over a couple of years.  

I wanted to choose paints with low toxicity, and environmentally friendly production methods.  I also wanted a paint product that could stand up to the rigours of family life.  I spent a number of weeks thoroughly researching the UK market in eco-friendly paints. 

All the products within the 'eco' end of the market vary hugely regarding-
the pigments they use
the binders used such as milk, veg based (e.g. soya), clay, or mineral derived
the VOCs (volatile organic chemicals)
the production methods
the additives

It's a bit of a nightmare to suddenly have to become an expert in all these things just to choose paint. I looked on the internet and the results are pretty poor as there really aren't many reviews out there regarding paint!  Low VOC is the most obvious starting point, the big brands are now obliged by law to bring the VOC levels down but they still don't compare to a lot of the eco-brands I looked at which are virtually no VOC.  It seems that in the past 10 years the eco paints have all become better at coverage and less patchy. As each company has a different ethos it's easy to end up going around in circles as they all tell you what is great about their paints and what green credentials they can offer.

After chatting to retailers, and pretty much everyone else I could find, as well as browsing a number of forums (hooray for Mumsnet) I realised that for most people colour choice is normally the biggest factor in choosing a brand of paint.   Intially it appears that everyone has the same colours, but it's only when you decide that you want to use a specific colour, such as dark blue, that you realise that each company will only have one or two shades and actually you do have an opinion about which you prefer- it's all in the detail.  You also find out really quickly that everyone has about 50 shades of white (did you see what I did there?).  How on earth does one go about selecting the correct white?!?  Generally you get what you pay for as the more expensive paints use greater amounts of pigments which makes their colours more complex.

© Mark Scott Photography

After taking lots of advice and thoroughly interrogating the colour charts we decided to use Little Greene Paint.  I felt that Little Greene was a great match for us as they have been one of the leaders for developing paint with excellent environmental credentials in the UK.  Their paints have been awarded the European Environmental standard and Child Safety accreditation which I find very reassuring.  I was also really interested in their "intelligent finish" paints which are designed to be washable and stand up to more wear and tear as well as being matt and beautiful- perfect for my home which is filled with small people who couldn't care less about the paint.  Little Greene is not in the budget end of the marketplace but I feel it is worth the extra as you get fantastic paint quality, with excellent coverage and a really, really, really good colour range (they use loads of pigment and the colours have masses of depth).  Decision made - tick!  Next, to choose some colours...

I thought you might be interested in the Paint companies which were also considered, we didn't choose them but they may work for you - 
Earthborne - lovely clay paint 
Auro - milk based paint
Farrow and Ball, Fired Earth, Pots of Paint, Nutshell Paints, Ecos