Since we moved over a month ago, I haven’t been taking so many photos because of being really busy unpacking things, getting Mum settled in, and also dealing with a bad dip in my M.E. as a result of seriously overdoing things over the past weeks – I am only amazed that I didn’t crash earlier, but I assume I was running on adrenalin during the move, and once the pressure was off, my body protested that it had no reason to keep going, thank you very much! I’ve had a few good days in between but have to resist the temptation to boom and bust and overdo things again when I’m feeling better.
I decided I should take a few more photos of the work that’s been done. Today I’m concentrating on the downstairs where most of the difference has taken place, and I will need to go out and take some more photos of the garage when energy and weather permit – my hubby has made good progress out there after the team have completed the work, and today he went over and picked up his boat from the farmer who had been storing it in his barn for him – great sigh of relief that it fits! I said I’d have been pretty disgusted with him after all this work, if he hadn’t measured it properly!!
Anyway, back inside the house. When our new boiler was fitted, the glass panel over the white uPVC back door had to be replaced with a solid panel to allow the flue to pass through to the outside. As a result, the back passage and utility room were very dark and felt quite claustrophobic.
Andy said that a cheaper option than replacing the whole door would be to have a glass panel to replace the solid one. I didn’t know this was possible, but he said the panel is held in with a bead and a sealing strip, and it was a simple matter to replace it. I told him we needed to have a cat flap. The one in the original panel was a feature mentioned in the agents’ particulars, and as with quite a few other features, we soon found out that they did not function – in this case, the previous owner had glued it up so it wouldn’t open!
Here is Paul fitting the new panel. You can see that there is a circular hole for the cat flap. Being a double-glazed unit, the seal goes around this hole as well as around the edge of the panel.
Here is the door complete with cat flap. Having a glass door makes a huge difference to the whole feel of the back passage, and also gives a lovely view onto the garden. This idea of Andy’s was a positive inspiration, and well worth the extra on the budget!
The kitties have been quite amusing with it – Beatrice was very interested and kept peering out through the door. I held it open for her but she wouldn’t go through. In the end I went outside and opened it from there, and out she hopped! I went in again and repeated the process and in she came. She has now got to grips with it and is popping in and out whenever she pleases. Phoebe was a lot more nervous about trying it, and my hubby eventually got her to use it by putting her food bowl outside and encouraging her out, and then reversing the process! Today she’s going in and out with no problem, so hopefully soon we will be able to dispense with the litter tray and get my hubby’s bathroom civilised at last! We’ve had to shut them both in there on days when the builders were here, because they were in and out of the garage and the kitties would have had access to the road.
Shortly after Mum moved in, my old fridge which I had given her, gave up the ghost, presumably not surviving the move. My hubby bought her a new one, which is slightly smaller so doesn’t fit the space quite so well. Here it is, alongside my old electric cooker which fits perfectly in its allotted space. Mum isn’t very good at keeping the ceramic hob clean – I remember spending about half an hour on her hob in the old house after she’d moved out, so I have decided to clean it every morning for her when I go in to clean her hearing aid – this way any spills don’t get burnt on, and it’s easy to do, taking only minutes.
The white object above the fridge is a small counter-top freezer that we bought for her, so she can be independent. I have also got some food of hers in the larger chest freezer in the outhouse and she can ask me if she wants anything. The system is working very well. I also have a small freezer in my kitchen as part of the fridge-freezer and like Mum, use this for more everyday stuff, keeping the excess in the outside freezer.
In Mum’s shower, I asked Paul to fit another grab rail, which you can see on the right. I also bought and fitted a shower curtain to run along the shower screen support – it was quite useful camping out in the annexe after we moved, before the bedroom was ready, because I was able to experience the shower first-hand and noticed what improvements were necessary.
I realised that I hadn’t photographed my new stairlift. Here it is at the bottom of the stairs. You can see the rail running up the right hand side of the stairs, and in this picture the arms, seat and foot rest are folded down ready for use.
In the next picture you can see it folded up to make room for pedestrians to pass up and down the stairs. You can also see the hinged rail, raised in this photo – this type of rail was necessary because of the door into the annexe being right at the bottom of the stairs, and it won’t open when the rail is down. The seat has to be “parked” slightly up from the bottom, not just to allow the hinge to fold, but because there is a charging point there, and at the top of the rail – it runs on a battery which is continually charged from the mains while the seat is at a charging point – this means that if there is a power cut when you are half-way up the stairs, the stairlift continues to operate.
Unfortunately when it is not on a charging point and not in motion, it makes the most irritating beeping noise and despite my protestations, Acorn say they cannot prevent this. It’s funny how on the TV adverts they never show you this feature! I go to bed much later than my hubby and am always afraid this loud noise is going to wake him!
Here is the hinge in the “down” position. To take this photo I had the annexe doors open (there is a double-door system, one door opening each way) because with them closed the light was so bad, but normally the hinge is never down when the doors are open.
The hinge control is mounted on the wall at the top and bottom of the stairs, with a button for “up” and one for “down.” The stairlift was also supplied with two remote controls, one for the top, and one for the bottom, of the stairs, so that you can call the chair from whichever end you are – I find this very useful for carrying things up and down stairs – I can load the chair, and go up or down on foot. I am fortunate that I do not always need to use the stairlift but it does save a lot of energy and on bad days it is essential.
In case you haven’t already picked it up, here’s a photo showing the new decor in the hall, which continues up the stairs and along the landing. We got rid of the awful flowered wallpaper and have a much more subtle colour scheme of cream and mushroom, which will be much better for displaying our pictures (once I finish putting them up!).
The old dark red tiles in the sitting room fireplace have now been replaced with the same cream tiles that were used for the kitchen splash-backs. Paul has tiled on top of the red ones – a very quick and dust-free job. He has done a beautiful job, arranging them in a brick formation, and using up all the small pieces in the hearth.
Here is a detail of the hearth.
We are very pleased with this. My original plan was to get rid of this fireplace altogether and replace it with something less heavy looking, but after having had time to think about it, I realised that would be a mistake as it is a magnificent original art deco feature of the house – both my hubby and Andy were very relieved that I changed my mind! It looks so much better with more contrast in the tiles – you can see the beauty of both the fireplace and the very nice gas fire, to much better advantage than with the dark red tiles.
Now for some pictures of my beautiful new kitchen in action. Looking at these pictures, my first impression is that it all looks a bit of a mess!! Let me assure you that eventually a lot of the stuff at present under the reduced height part will be put away – I still have quite a lot of sorting to do and have not yet got the utility room organised to my satisfaction.
The full-height unit is great, with plenty of power points for my various machines (bread and yoghurt makers, toaster) and there are lights under the wall units. There’s a lot of junk waiting to find homes on the peninsula but still plenty of room for laying up trays etc. Lots of storage space underneath, with my famous carousels in the corner.
The oven and hob work beautifully for me – to be able to sit to cook is awesome, and relieves my hubby of so much! The extractor hood is extremely effective with three speeds of fan (I’m pretty well incommunicado with it on as it’s so powerful and I can’t hear anything else!) and the lights shining down onto the hob make a huge difference. Paul put all my fridge magnets on the steel surface after I realised you can’t have fridge magnets with a built-in fridge! John, the kitchen fitter, made me a neat little place to store my trays, and I’ve got pans and baking tins in the cupboards above and below the oven.
I love my silk sunflower plant in the corner behind the microwave – I brought this with us from our old house. One day I may get round to putting a sunflower picture on the wall behind!
In addition to all the general storage in the kitchen, my hubby and I each have our own cupboards – his has his “man mugs” and his radio, and all his chutneys and other things he likes, and mine has my fine china mugs and my favourite tea etc.
Some years ago at a mobility show I bought a wire pull-down unit for a kitchen wall unit, and this has been fitted in my cupboard. If I am sitting down, all I need to do is pull it down to access my mugs etc.
Everything in my new kitchen works so well for me! I originally anticipated using my wheelchair in the kitchen but I have not needed to do so, as the perching stool serves me very well. I can sit to wash up, to cook and prepare food, and together with my trolley, everything works fine, and I am so enjoying cooking again!
Still quite a bit of organising to do in the utility room but the shallow base units and the wall unit in the back passage, and the sink units in the utility room proper, are proving very useful. The door to the left of the boiler covers the electricity meter, and the ropes coming down in front of it are attached to the airer which pulls right up to the ceiling. The box on the worktop contains my spice jars – once Tim the electrician has been back and provided me with another power point in the utility room, I shall get my big spice rack up and get all the jars out.
My airing cupboard is proving very satisfactory too. I still have to paint the bi-fold doors and the bit of plastering on the right. I was sad to see the original sliding window go, but it would not have been workable, and Andy has made a beautiful airing cupboard.
The bi-fold doors were working fine until Mum arrived. Then I noticed that they kept popping open, letting the heat escape. It became clear that every time Mum opened the door on her side of the cupboard, it was creating a small pressure wave in the air in the cupboard that was sufficient to open my doors. I didn’t know what the answer was, and until Paul returned, I kept them closed with a box on the floor. He came up with this very neat little catch made out of a simple piece of bent metal. In the closed position, it extends up into a slot cut in the wooden frame of the door, preventing the doors from popping open.
When open, it allows the doors to open freely.
Such a simple solution, and so easy to use! Here are the doors open, showing the shelves inside – the interior was constructed to my own design, with a hanging rail on the right, where I keep several hangers ready for use.
Another very neat thing they have done for me is Andy’s ramp between the utility room and the kitchen, made from some surplus laminate flooring from the kitchen. There was a small step here which was a nuisance for my trolley. He has matched the pattern so that the join is invisible.
Next time I’ll add a few more photos showing the finished work, and the renovations in use as we live in the house and enjoy all the improvements! Now that we have paid the balance and the builders are “signed off” it feels very strange, and I miss them all so much! It’s been such an adventure from beginning to end, watching the transformation of the house from not very satisfactory through a horrendous mess with dust and builders’ rubble and tools everywhere, until gradually we began to witness the beauty emerging as the plastering and painting began, and the final touches which brought our beautiful house to light. With the new roof and other essential work (e.g. replacing a lot of cowboy-installed stuff) and the practicality and luxury of a truly workable kitchen and a bathroom that is pure indulgence as well as being accessible and easy to use, we feel that we have future-proofed the house for many years to come – not to mention my beautiful new ARTHaven where I anticipate spending many happy hours being creative! In addition, we’ve made a safe and comfortable home for Mum in the annexe, and once she realises we mean business as far as establishing proper boundaries is concerned, we hope that she will be content, knowing that we are just the other side of the door, but enabling her to have her independence, and us our privacy as we live our own lives.