Today we moved out of Dene Cottage.
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the name of the house for fear of herds of fans camping outside; or more truthfully because someone might decide to try and nick the copper bath. I think the bath is the hardest thing to leave behind despite it being a nightmare to clean when your baby and husband use it every day.
It was supposed to be a forever, or at least long-term home for us. Which is why we shoved it full of the best insulation you can get, soundproofed, underfloor heated and tanked it to make it like the best quality self-build within the walls of a new build with the added bonus of being allergy-friendly for Paul. We didn’t realise it wouldn’t be baby friendly. And by that I mean less the rock solid limestone floors (although they weren’t especially fun for River) and more the isolation I experienced in our house as a new Mum with a baby that hated (still hates) the car.
So we’re moving on to a new project, a little house, half the size of Dene Cottage, down the road from my family so that River can grow up with her cousins on her doorstep, with the added bonus of acres of woodland to discover and climb.
Here are some of my favourite moments from Dene Cottage
Wielding an SDS drill, eating pasta from Tupperware in sub zero temperatures on Boxing Day 2012
Visiting the house to find it with no roof or foundations
Spending time getting to know Paul’s Dad, Trevor, in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to had he not helped us so much with almost every aspect of the build.
Planning rooms Dexter-style
Late-night wonky wall building
Sleeping in the living room with Mojo
Getting engaged in the kitchen, by the hole in the wall we only just got round to fixing
Spending the morning of our wedding surrounded by family and friends getting ready, speed walking to the Church and forgetting the keys.
*Photo credit: Anna Hardy
Every single bath (especially whilst pregnant)
Bringing our newborn baby home.
Thanks for the memories, Dene Cottage.
It’s been 4 years since we started ripping apart our house to put it back together again. When we first came to the house, we both fell in love with the huge wooden trusses in the roof…only to find that we needed to take them out to open up the space and create a room.
Since then, we’ve been drying out the wood with a plan to make a table from it. Paul had this at the top of his to-do list for a long time until we had a baby and he realised that making a table is a proper skill.
So, when an old friend of mine from School set up his new business Heartwood Furniture, we commissioned him to make us a table and bench from the trusses.
The wood was knackered, blackened over the years and cracked, but we had a lot of it so the guys cleaned it up beautifully and made it as light as possible for us.
After eating tea from a car boot sale table for four years, it’s amazing to have a proper dining table in our kitchen. It works a treat with our Kartell Masters chairs too.
We love it. It means a lot to us as even if we move on from this house, we’ll always have a piece of it.
When we bought this quivering wreck of a house, we were convinced we’d be in by last Christmas, having all the family over for a huge Christmas Dinner sitting around a table we’d made. The reality of the mess of the house meant that wasn’t so and our deadline of Christmas 2013 was, as my Grandma put it “quietly laughed at” – fair point. Last Christmas the house looked like this:
…And the one before, on Boxing Day, the first day we started work on the house, it looked like this:
But this Christmas, it looks like this!
We’re so excited to be having our first Christmas in our own house after year 1 where we lived in the Crack Den and year 2 where we lived with my parents. We’ve finally been able to keep to our promise and have both sides of the family joining us over the festive period, cooking for 16 in our double oven is going to be a doddle, but we still don’t have that table hand-made from the King trusses in the old roof (even I had a quiet laugh at that one, Paul).
I’ve had a go at putting together a list of the main things we’ve done this year, so here goes (deep breath)
- Gave up on building stud walls after spending 4 months doing it. Got a joiner in to finish the rest, who built some questionably wonky walls to make us feel better about our wonky walls
- Installed door frames, mostly wonky. Ripped them out and put them back in again.
- 3 months of stuffing insulation into walls, floors and ceilings. Followed by foil-backed insulation. Sheer hell, makes a coffee with Lucifer look appealing
- 2 months of putting up plasterboard
- 1 month of plastering
- Full rewire, lights, sockets, loads of which we got wrong, needed to move, left cavernous holes everywhere
- The most gorgeous woodburner installed. Didn’t cry at The Green Mile but the woodburner nearly broke me when I saw it
- Preparing 2 bathrooms for tiling. Sounds straightforward, is not. Requires magical “No More Ply” – a great material for waterproofing bathrooms and wetrooms, almost impossible to cut, particularly around flue pipes, waste pipes and all other manner of pipes that get in the way. Break many jigsaw blades. Then whack on some waterproofing paint and get it everywhere
- 1 month of tiling the ground floor and bathrooms (costs 3 times more than you budget for)
- 3 bathroom installations
- 4 months of sleeping on the stone living room floor and having no kitchen except for a microwave and sink, but it WAS summer so we had BBQ’s every day and it felt like camping, so it was pretty bloody brilliant.
- Several Paint Parties to make painting a 4 bedroom house all in one colour (white, obvs) really fun. Many bacon sandwiches as bribes.
- 1 very ruined garden due to dumping building materials out there for 2 years and wondering why the grass won’t grow and Patricia next door growing more resentful of us for ruining her view (Sorry Pat!)
- 1 kitchen installation. Constantly reassuring Paul of his capabilities despite many near nervous-breakdowns.
- 4 x Hand-made concrete worktops. Pride and joy.
- 100 square metres of engineered oak flooring laid in pain by Paul, his brother Lee and Dad Trevor. Laid with the stickiest super adhesive, that floor is never coming up.
- 1 x plumbed-in super Fridge Freezer and 1 x near miss where Paul stuck his hand inside the ice machine to check it works, not realising that the ice is chopped by bloody blades.
- 19 internal doors hung and waxed
- So much sanding stuff down my hands vibrated for days.
- One sideboard painfully sanded, primed, painted and painted again and again and again.
- So many eBay local collections to pick up bargainous dressing tables, lamps, bed frames, sinks. Lots of heavy lifting by Paul and much grunting.
- 4 lots of external doors after a big paint disaster rendered the first two a total waste
- A good attempt at fitting skirting board but admitting defeat and pausing that particular project until 2015
- 1 ostentatious-but-we-don’t-care copper bath installed by Paul. Needed to take the door and door frame off to fit it in the bathroom. That was fun.
- Utility area built, sink installed, super cheap but very cool taps installed
- Industrial scale grease trap whacked in under our sink to alleviate Paul’s paranoia about grease blocking up the pipes we can’t access under the concrete.
- 90 individual pieces of wardrobe primed and painted in the week before Christmas (yep, we’re still on it) To be assembled this week by hook or by crook.
- 1 baby Isla, given birth to by my gorgeous sister, to put all of the above into perspective.
Despite countless arguments over absolutely nothing we’ve made up many times with a lot of love and laughter at the mistakes, blood, sweat and tears that have made this year so brilliant. We’ve been skint, stressed, tested and very tired but it’s been brilliant and it’s starting to finally look like a home.
Tons on the to do list obvs but it’s Christmas, so when we’ve finished these wardrobes we’ll relax into that dinner for 16!
Happy Christmas,wishing you all a wonderful 2015 x
2014 at A Yorkshire Home