Couleur II

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Remember this? Even as it was getting closer to the finish line, our house was sporting this lovely yellowish beige tint. No more, my friends, no more!
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We had been thinking about what colours to paint the wall for a while – and actually, for a bit at least, about painting them ourselves. Much to my mother’s pleasure (not that we would have made her help, no, just that she was cheering on from the sidelines and made it known that she thought we should focus our energy on other things), we decided to outsource the actual painting as well. And we’re very happy with that decision now that Attila & Attila (yes, really, and they are Hungarians, too!) have been working almost non-stop (aside from Sundays, because, according to one Attila, and my granddad would have agreed, it’s either ora or labora, you cannot work and pray at the same time.)

Anyway, back to the colours. The starting-off point was this, and we actually found a shop that sells Sherwin Williams in Brussels, so off we went to get some test pots. This is the result. The lighter colour, Sea Salt, looks very different in different lights, but kinda cool next to the old dirty green on the door. I preferred the darker colour, Comfort Gray, and the compromise was found thanks to a swabio-welsh colour consultant and the door picture: a colour a bit like Farrow & Ball’s Dimpse, that is, an even lighter colour than Sea Salt, on the walls, and Comfort Gray on the door between the rooms.
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And it turned out really well.
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See? It’s a very light grey with some blue and some green in it, and seems to look bluer or greener depending on the light, or maybe its mood. Or yours.
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The bathroom got a few coats of black, but only on one wall. A happy compromise.
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And last but not least for upstairs, a corner of the ceiling we have been staring at in the mornings these past few days, with a big grin. Sublime.
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We were so happy with the darker door upstairs that we decided to repeat the trick downstairs. The walls are again in grey-ish, but this time, all a bit different, more than inspired by this. The dining room is the lightest grey, it’s also the room that gets the most daylight. The first picture here is the corner where the dining room, which is our cube-y (or cubee) annex, meets the kitchen. The kitchen colour is a bit darker, and quite a bit bluer. Like here – because it seemed to be the answer to the question of how to soften the contrast between the white kitchen, the black worktop and the honeycomb “tile” backsplash which will grace our wall. Soon! The living room got the darkest grey, with a bit more than a hint of blue. In daylight this morning, it looked almost as dark as the door, as I’m typing this (and yeah, OK, on this picture too), it looks a lot lighter, but in any event, all the colours are the same family and work really nicely together.
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To finish, a glimpse at our very blue door through the massive living room doors, and another at the ceiling. Which was so yellow (see above…) after all the gas fire abuse it has gone through for decades that it took five (!) coats of white paint to restore it to its former glory. So glad I didn’t have to do this myself :-)

Déménagement

01 IMG_8965 We moved house!
We spent a whole weekend, and then some, packing loads of boxes, and piling them high in every available space in the apartment.
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Corners of two bedrooms: within a few hours, Max and Moritz (what, you don’t give names to your chairs?) changed scenery – actually, they first moved downstairs, into the living room, but have since moved up into the room you can see here. This is because when this picture was taken, on moving day, the painters were about to paint a second coat on the walls, hence the plastic. They have since finished the upstairs rooms and have moved on to the ground floor.
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More boxes in the cellar – K1 since it’s the first when you come down the staircase. I am so grateful to my type A husband for suggesting we write a list of all the boxes and and what’s in them, otherwise I’d still be looking for my shoes… We came to 96 by the way. That is without counting the books!
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These are the boxes in K2, where the washing machine has already been very busy – everything gets dirty really quickly at this camping site, plus showering in the office or the gym means damp towels in bags for much of the day. Joy!
And a last look at the door before…
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…and after! The new door arrived on Friday. Quite the looker, no?
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In other news, the steps from the kitchen to the dining room were being built…
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… and the floor laid in that dining area. Annoyingly, the wood we chose turned out to be a bit uneven (in terms of the size of the boards), so they had to fiddle with it a bit. They fiddled well, though.
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The planting box got a first coat of plaster…
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… As did the back façade. Things are happening!

Brilliance

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Different elements of our project are trying to outshine each other this week. This little demonstration here confirmed our decision to go for oiled rather than varnished floors. I was a bit worried that the new richer colour would come out too orange, but i’m happy now.
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Glorious, no?
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Most of the doors have been “verified” as they called it – this seems to mean making sure they open and close, and to this end, exchanging the hardware. We chose some door handles before Christmas, at least for the double doors, but they don’t seem to have passed the verification hurdle – one way or another, they have not materialised yet.
The doors are so very dirty because they had been stored in the attic for a long time – apparently at least as long as the previous renovation, which involved lowering that doorway by stapling on some very classy woodboard, and the painting the trim a much lighter colour. You can see the result in a post of a year ago, here. We started cleaning this weekend, as we’re starting to think about moving, so that door looks a little better now, but frankly with only a broom there was not much I could do about this. It will be sanded anyway…
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Shiny tiles competing with each other in the bathroom, and look! the washstand has taken its place. Actually, the basin and tap are in now too, and the holes that the guys made proved (almost) perfect. The tile on the side is looking a bit better now, but still a bit wonky… Not sure I’ll have the heart to make them do it again though.
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The ceiling wizard has completed his work, and oooh how delicious is that floor tile? Jaco has outdone himself in this puzzle we made for him… And, if I do say so myself, I think our looong decision making process has yielded a beautiful result worthy of this house. Yes, we designed that floor, on this website which lets you pick a pattern and colours. We picked the colours, and the star shape, from the existing tile in the hallway to which this bit connects, but decided to go for something a bit simpler. Now it outshines its ancestors…
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…and there is a little surprise, or rather, there would be if the toilet door was hung: the floor is a little different in the guest bathroom. Now to find some wallpaper that goes with the tile! And a machine to polish the old floors ;-)

Blanche-Neige

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It snowed it Brussels when we came back from a lovely Christmas break with our families. Our newly tidied up garden was covered in the stuff.
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This, minus the cardboard that covers the cupboards and the pile of insulation blocks on the left, and plus a couple of cupboards on top of the tower on the right, is more or less what our kitchen will look like. I’m not sure I can tell you much more: we know that the doors will be mostly white, but we have not yet taken a final decision on the sink, the worktop, the backsplash – not even whether there will be a backsplash! Although we have made progress this week on that front: we spent some more time in our favourite Swedish furniture shop and have settled on a black/brown worktop. We seem to be shifting from this more into this direction. We actually bought that tap, thanks to some paneuropean cooperation, and those leather handles are calling my name, too…
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Another progress shot of the kitchen, plus a first look at the bathroom tile…
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But first, proof that the kitchen is now back in the living room, so that the floor guy can come in and oil the kitchen floor before the kitchen is built in. We chose oil over varnish this week, inspired by the floor at my parents’ flat and in our friends’ house, figuring that if a family of five can chose oiled softwood floors, so can we. The oiling and subsequent kitchen-building will happen next week, because WE ARE MOVING still this month!! No big deal… This will either mean a steep increase in posts in keeping with the rush to get things done before the looming deadline, or an equally steep fall because we won’t have any more time to take pictures and write anything other than e-mails to the architect.
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I can’t wait for the bathroom to be done! I’m really happy that we chose this tile, even though the tile vendor would have much preferred it if we had ordered bigger and more expensive ones. I did not realise quite how shiny it is until I saw the reflection of the houses opposite! That will change though when we put in some privacy. The side on the little wall looks a bit odd – it has since been redone, but still looks odd. Somehow we missed that detail in the planning process. Never mind! This will be covered by towel bars or something like that anyway, and our fantastic DIY washstand (DIYed with more than a little help from a friend, thanks!) will outshine it anyway. More on that next time!

Nettement

01 IMG_8747Tadaa! This week’s theme is tidying up. Last time we talked, there was a big nasty hole here, now the new concrete beam is in and the hole plastered. The molding artist is scheduled to come back in for this early next year.
02 IMG_875603 IMG_8773The not-so-pretty pipes and cables that run down from the bathroom are hidden in this neat and tidy box…
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… and the previously gaping chimney-hole is covered in wood. This is the new section in the kitchen, as you can see in the next picture, below. We decided to prioritise covering the hole in the floor or the room of requirements, which accordingly looks nicer. This bit will be mostly covered by the kitchen cabinets.
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Lots and lots of sanding (which means that if I’m honest, the house is anything but tidy, really, but covered in dust) has brought out surprisingly lovely wood planks. I might have mentioned this before, but I just cannot get over how nice the floor is. It really did not look like that to me at all before – the previous owners had started sanding the first floor, but the result was still quite dirty and also quite a bit too orange for my liking. So much so that I had seriously entertained ideas of staining it dark! No more, my friends. We are actually currenly discussing whether to oil only, to keep a natural look, as close to what you see here as possible.
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Before any of that happens, the house has to be heated, and we are waiting for the electricity, gas and water counters to be moved. A trial run may or may not be underway… The electricity has been approved though, which means we have light! Like, at night!
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And we can use power tools without having to carry the extension cord from the cellar.
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That makes screwing all those gazillion drawer rails into the kitchen cupboards a lot easier. Done and dusted, actually – pictures next time.
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The walls are drying now. Proverbially not very exciting – but it means our moving in date is coming closer. This room is done, actually, and only needs a coat of paint or two.
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Or wallpaper, possibly. We shall see. The bathroom is also nearing completion – it is being tiled now that the radiator is on, er, trial running. So not long to go to the end of fights over towel heater territory! The door that maked our bedroom so clearly the master bedroom also still needs to be put in, the door man will be catching up over the next few days.
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I leave you with a view from the garden which I find almost christmassy. Hope you can celebrate the fêtes in peace & quiet!

Pütz

Republished with permission ;-)
01 IMG_8687 The walls are plastered! And if you look closely, you can see that the crown molding has been repaired where there was a hole not so long ago, and a chimney before… So the kitchen is coming together. Which is just as well: the kitchen units have arrived. In flat pack!
02 IMG_8696 This is the kitchen from the other side, looking into the dining room. All this light!
03 IMG_8675 The condensation on the window is from the plaster that is up here on our bedroom walls. These have me thinking about wallpaper now…
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The wallpaper has come down from the ceiling, and the damage repaired. Oh and the floor has been sanded, and it has come out so much nicer than I has expected.
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This is the mess that resulted from taking the wallpaper off the ceiling in the room of requirements. Thanks Hogwarts for that name, sounds so much better than office-guest room-library, or multi-purpose room…
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This is the hole in the floor where the chimney was. It is now fixed, using the offcuts from where the shower tub was put in. You can see them waiting to go in there at the sides. We’ll have to show you a picture of this at a later stage, because it has come out really nicely.
07 IMG_8743 A closer look at the crown molding wizardry.
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This is the frame for the glass insert into the dining room which will provide some light in the workshop in Alexis’ bit of the cellar.
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The hole between the house and the drain was filled in, but that will be it for the time being, the rest of the deck will have to wait until next year.
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An interim step in the replacement of the wood beam. Apparently, even though damaged, the original 120 year oak beam was too hard for our builders’ tools. But they got there in the end.
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This is our heating and water boiler…
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… and this is why I was not allowed into the cellar for the last few weeks: Alexis made me a birthday present, a sewing box. No more excuses then, I’m gonna have to make some curtains!

Fenêtres

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The windows are in! Aren’t they beautiful?
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What a difference a day makes… 24 little hours… OK, probably more like 48 hours, but still, we were impressed by how quick and well organised the whole job was. We saw them arrive in the morning, and when we came back after ordering our kitchen from a certain Swedish furniture shop, all the windows were in and only the doors to the back were still waiting to be placed. They had let down the roller shutter for protection, one last time, so we did not see this sight then, but well, it made me very happy anyway.
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Unfortunately, there was another surprise: when the box that used to house the shutter was demolished, it turned out that the beam over the window is rotten and eaten by woodworms. It will have to be replaced, probably by concrete, apparently. Doing this might also destroy some more of the crown molding. Oh well. It looks like we’ve found our guy for that job, he will be starting on the newly chimney-less rooms soon.
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But back to the windows, our beautiful and shiny and new windows. We had worried a bit when they measured the house before making the windows, it all seemed a bit cavalier, but it turns out that the speed was due to routine. These guys simply know what they are doing. The windows fit perfectly! See the ventilation bits at the side of the cellar windor? Ventilation of the cellar is not something I really thought about, but our architects clearly did, witness also the huge pipes that come out of our planter I talked about last time: they are the ventilation pipes for the back room in the cellar. All very sophisticated. Well, and prescribed by law. Thank goodness for architects.
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Did I mention that the sliding door to the garden is huuuge? We’ll have to do something to greenify the view a bit – next year!
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We did not really talk about door handles too much, so we were a bit surprised when we saw those. Nothing wrong with them though, this particular one here for one definitely feels as though it is up to the job. See? The door opens!
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The scaffolding is in preparation for the facade work next week. I’m curious how this will turn out, I’m actually a bit worried that we picked the wrong colour… But I am looking forward to the wood cladding, which won’t arrive for another few weeks, sadly, because we only found one we liked and it was from a French supplier and that apparently makes it complicated. Common market my ***.
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The door to the side annex feels small by comparison to the sliding door, and it is a bit hidden here, but believe me, it’s quite the stunner. As will be this windowsill, soon!
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It’s la vie en rose in the house at the moment, they have put on the betonkontakt, which primes the walls for the fine plaster and makes sure it sticks to the walls. The door only looks too short by the way, it was not finished when we took this picture. They have since put in the invisivent, the hidden ventilation system, and now it looks perfect.
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To finish, a little update about last week’s nasty surprise: the new pipes are in and are working, and the floor has been recovered, as you can see here. There is now no more rogue water under our house, and I have the feeling that the cellar walls are dryer already! That could be my imagination of course, but overall, a definite result.

Balance

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Sorry about the long silence, we took a week off and since then it’s been too dark to take pictures in the evening. More planning required as of now! You see here more holes in the walls, these are for the lighting on the future, phase II or III type future, balcony. The impression that you get from the inside, that these are not really at the same distance to the door, is confirmed looking from the outside. A bit wonky. Maybe the new door will be bigger? Otherwise, we’ll have to make sure this gets fixed before the insulation and plaster are finished, or compensate with some clever placing of the lamps. Phase III.
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See? Also, progress on the roofs!
The second picture shows the planter, which is shaping up too. We decided that the ventilation exit should be on the garden side. The stuff you have to think about!
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Putting it there rather than in the planter facing up makes for less stressful planting, we hope, than the original plan of hiding the exit into the planter. Sometimes you have to balance beauty and praticability, and here, the latter won.
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Even with the roof now closed and on a grey day, I am no longer worried that the kitchen, which will be in the new middle room, will be to dark (rest assured: it’s the camera). Still can’t wait to paint it though!
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The picture may be off balance, but the pipes (for the dining room radiators) and the cables are not.
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The gutter that runs between the house and the garden is also not quite level, just as planned.
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Same with the roof (of the side annex, in case you’re wondering), which is looking decidedly done to me, and it evidently already doing its job. The things you have to decide part 27: we are currently discussing whether to paint it in a protective layer or whether to put gravel on the roofs. I’m against the gravel, but… Let’s say I am not with the majority.
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Back inside the house, this is our bathroom! Well, its bones, anyway. I am happy that our bathroom has good bones.
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Impressive number of cable ends arriving in the future wine cellar. Happening in your dwelling as well, perhaps not just so obvious. From here you can later play: how to annoy your family members best when they play too loud music.
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more pipes doing their thing in the cellar
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This, to finish, is an interesting story. What you see here is rainwater, in our house! Well, under it. Not good. The workers have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how best to connect the pipes they laid in the annex and above into this mess. They poured a bucket in on one end, and out the other came very little. Nobody knew where the rest had gone… Mr Mole to the rescue! He inspected the whole little network with a camera and found out that there was a middle section, under the stairs into the cellar, that was essentially blocked. It was lower than the other pipes on both ends, so even flushing it (which he tried and failed to do, even though he says he used 80 bar (!!) pressure) would not have been a long term solution. Not even mid term, really. This picture was taken in the investigation phase, we can assure you that now the problem is solved and that things look much better with all new pipes.

Fantôme

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Pipes! Coming out of our walls! This is a big deal for our house, never seen before!
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And cables! Under our floorboards and, well, breaking through our walls… the infrastructure is coming together.
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More pipes, which unfortunately will not be hidden in the walls now. None of the walls were up to the job, apparently. Sad face. This place here, behind the doors opening into the kitchen on the ground floor and into the room of requirements on the second, seemed the best place to hide them.
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Some more impressions : evidently, there is work in progress!
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Hiding cables in walls involves quite some digging. There is no Mole’s Breath on the walls (yet), but it looks like we do have a mole, doesn’t it? OK, a mutant one that lives in walls and doesn’t mind the light, but you get what I mean.
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This is the tunnel that Mr. Mole has had to dig to get he cable up to the half landing for our reading light to be, or the Christmas decorations, maybe?
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… and these are for more cables in the hallway. For the real and probably distinctly non-twinkly staircase lights.
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We were surprised when we saw this last week: a downpipe close to the staircase. During the planning stage, we had accepted the compromise of bringing the pipes straight down from the bathrooms above, even though that would cut through the entryway. The architects had explained that bends in the pipes would make too much noise, and weren’t such a great idea anyway… So we were going to enclose the pipes and use the space behind to hang clothes or or a shelf for the keys. But now the plumber decided that, with the insulation he would put in, and the hallway not being a real living area, the noise would not be a problem. He then also calculated that we would have more than enough rainwater in the cistern if we only collected it from the garden side of the roof and thus the rainwater is now fed into the same pipe as the toilets, and down the drain with it! That means only one pipe. And this one pipe can be in a smaller enclosement and hidden behind the little pillar in the hallway! He is a genius.
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A Genius who takes a vers un-bruxellois pride in doing things just so. No Belgian Solutions on his watch! He actually said to us that he approaches his projets as if they were his house, you can see that here with the heating piped being fed lovingly through the floorboards. Just to be clear: this is the view from the cellar! And it won’t look like this in a few weeks. Like I said, all very proper. Almost ordentlich. Who knew?
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This picture, finally, to explain the title of today’s post: we are not alone in the garden! Somebody is watching, and it’s not the neighbour’s pigeons…

Ouverture

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So no, we don’t really know what the plan was! They did take the wall out and a clearly still working on the roof. But what a room! It will look different with the steps between the kitchen and the garden view dining room, but the dimensions of the beast are evident.
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This is the view over the side annex, from the window on the staircase half landing. I’m hoping to install some sort of window seat there for winter pidgeon watching and reading, maybe. We’ve asked for an extra plug here to be able to light it if we want.
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We’ve been working on this bit of the house this weekend: we decided on most of the bathroom fixtures and are now working on hacking a cupboard into the vanity for the upstairs bathroom. Alexis is busy plannig how to cover it in wood, and make it super functional – watch this space!
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The plant box which will form the end of the roof which extends out from the side annex has been built. The support pole has not found its way to the house yet.
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The house is covering up! It is getting a little colder now, I was freezing by the end of the very long meeting last week. Last Friday should have marked the end of the “gros oeuvre”, that is, the structural work, because the electrician and the plumber started on Monday, but there is still a lot to be done.
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In order to allow the plumber to get going, they opened one row of tiles in the cellar. We’ll see how many tiles they can put back in – I saw at least one broken (not surprisingly really) and we might have to order new ones. That’s firmly on the 2nd phase list though!
I’ll miss those old, irregular, beautifully imperfect windows… But I guess I won’t miss the cold drafts they inevitably bring with them. Plus we have plans for them outside the house.