Monday, 15 July 2013

Our New House–Mostly the Kitchen Again

The first of two posts for today. Over to the new house again today – my hubby dropped me off early, and I was able to put the final two coats of paint on my shabby chic shelving unit, take some photos, and do some work on my computer.

Most of the work today involved the kitchen. Most of the team members were off doing other things and it was just Andy and John today, with Peter and his sidekick gently tapping away all day, putting new slates on the front of the roof – all I saw of them was a brief glance at Peter’s feet through my ARTHaven window! They are a law unto themselves, like troglodytes in reverse (up in the sky rather than underground!) and I never even saw them for lunch or tea breaks! I think they are only happy living high up, communing with the clouds, above us lesser mortals who merely crawl about on the ground!

John worked really hard today on the kitchen, and by the end of the day there was quite a difference. When I arrived, he was installing the display unit above the radiator. This has two glass-fronted wall units either side of an open-fronted section with one shelf, where I shall keep my recipe books, and display various kitchen ornaments like my teapots, jelly moulds, etc.

01 John Working on Display Unit

John was fitting wooden shelves to the side units, and then he and Andy discovered that there were some glass shelves designed for the purpose, so he took down the wooden ones. The glass ones had different shelf supports – transparent rather than silver-coloured – a nice touch that makes Howden’s kitchens something a bit special. The whole thing looked much better with the glass shelves, although it looked pretty good before!

Here it is with the wooden shelves:

02 Display Unit with Wooden Shelves

and the glass shelves:

03 Display Unit with Glass Shelves

In this second photo, you can see that one of the glass doors has been fitted, and also the frame around the central part which really finishes it off beautifully.

After this, he and Andy began work on the tower unit which will contain the double oven. There is a cupboard at the top, and underneath will be two drawers, a large pan drawer at the bottom, and a smaller one above, which will be useful for baking trays etc.

04 Oven Unit being Installed

They had some problems with these drawers because some of the parts seemed to be the wrong ones, or missing. Trevor from Howden’s called in later and everything was resolved. In the picture you can see that the pan drawer has runners like those of a filing cabinet, and the drawer front is propped beside the unit.

Here are John and Andy with the oven itself. There was a lot of discussion on how it should be fitted, with John saying that the shelf below needed reinforcing, and some other additional work before the oven could be installed in the unit.

05 John and Andy with Oven

Here it is, finally fitted into the unit. The electrics are not yet connected.

08 Oven Fitted in Unit

Their attention then turned to the panelling on the end and back of the peninsula unit. Last time I was there, there was some discussion about the piece supplied for the back of the unit, and Andy said he didn’t like it because the grain ran horizontally rather than vertically. Apparently this is how they are always supplied, and it wasn’t a mistake. All the other grain runs vertically, and Andy said he wasn’t happy about installing the piece because it looked wrong. Today he and John created three panels with the grain running correctly, and fixed them together so closely that you can barely see the join.

06 John and Andy Working on Peninsula Panel

I came in, and John said, “Have a biscuit.”

Joinery Biscuits

Honestly, I nearly ate one! These are joinery biscuits made of wood or MDF or something, used for joining panels together edge-to-edge like this:

Joinery Biscuits in Use

I’d never seen these before. John made individual slots for each one, unlike the continuous slot in the picture above, and said he didn’t need any glue because the panels would be well anchored and nothing would move. We had a laugh about the biscuits, and when he said he couldn’t get enough of them because they were so more-ish, I said he looked very slim on them!! He had a box containing 1,000 of them! (Goodness, I’m learning a lot of new stuff about the building trade through this project!!)

I did think these joinery biscuits might be rather useful in mixed media art. Arranged in patterns they make gorgeous flowers, and they’d make brilliant texture makers. I shall have to think about that…

Here is John working on the panels. He told me this power saw cost £700 – and what a fantastic tool it is, too! No wonder its carrying case looks like a small safe… John is a great fan of all things German, and when he wants to improve anything, he says he’s going to Germanise it!!

07 John and the £700 Saw

You can cut anything to a high degree of accuracy with this saw, and he also used it to create the slots for the biscuits.

09 John Working on Peninsula Panel

This is the first time John has worked with Andy. He came recommended by my hubby – we met him through a mutual friend – my hubby has seen some of his work before and speaks very highly of him. He is an absolute craftsman and works to a very high standard with a beautiful finish. On the first day, he said he hoped that Andy would put work his way again – he’s struggling, being self-employed. Today Andy told me that John met his very high standards, and he would definitely be asking him to work with him again, which is very good news! We are very pleased to have been instrumental in bringing them together.

My final picture for today’s post is a detailed shot of the lath and plaster work in the bedroom wall where Andy has broken through into the bathroom.

10 Detail of Lath-and-Plaster in Bedroom-Bathroom Wall

We were discussing different building methods, and how things have changed. I told him about my Romanian pictures of building practices over there, and he expressed an interest in this, so I’m going to put them on a disc for him. He told me about a Youtube video of Chinese scaffolding he’d seen recently – I remember seeing this in Hong Kong and being amazed. They use bamboo which is very light, strong, resilient and flexible, and much safer in a typhoon than steel!

Amazing to think of all the ultra-modern skyscrapers in the Far East being constructed using this sort of scaffolding. An ancient craft, and the scaffolding builders who climb the dizzying heights of some of the tallest buildings in the world are known as spiders.

Looking at the lath and plaster work which was universal until the invention of plasterboard, you can imagine how much work was involved in building internal non-load-bearing walls – all those hundreds of nails going in, and what a messy job it must have been, filling the spaces between the laths with plaster! As Andy says, they are a pain to deal with, because you can’t really fix things to them. Because the ceilings in our new house are also all lath and plaster, you can’t fit recessed lighting, because if you cut a hole large enough, the whole thing falls apart!!

This method served very well for many generations, and I like the thought of our house having these features from a time before modern technology, and knowing that hidden beneath the surface decoration is evidence of hands-on craftsmanship and hard work from the tradesmen of the past, whose spirit lives on in their enduring work. We are trying to retain as many original features as possible, and it’s sad to have to dispense with certain features like the sliding glass window in the utility room/back passageway. Retaining the beautiful panelled doors with their original art deco furniture, the picture rails and dados, and the original art deco fireplace in the sitting room, while introducing ultra modern features such as the kitchen and modern bathroom, I think we are respecting the character of this lovely house in the best way that we can. Andy is also very keen on this kind of conservation, and is a real expert when it comes to marrying the old and the new in a compromise that really works.

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