The “before”

We got the keys!!!!

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Finally, after reams of paper and bottles of ink spent on signatures, we finally got the keys of our new house! I’m so excited, I can’t even… I know we’re so lucky and that we are now in a small percentage of the world’s population that can own their own property and that it’s a pipe dream for many people. I had conversations with friends over the last few years about alternative living solutions. There are a few new ways of thinking about property and ownership; ways which would take control away from Big Finance and put it back in the hands of individuals. It’s not easy to find these alternatives. A quick google search of “alternatives to home ownership” brings up results about alternative financing or articles favouring renting over buying. But the alternatives do exist. Friends have invested in co-buy properties, or in community spaces. I feel like that’s a big risk because you’re very tied to the people with whom you buy. And although I’m a social person, there are moments when I need the balance of a private space to ground myself. But I like these ideas a lot.

After that we’ve looked at alternative banks and lending societies. Honestly, this is a route we could have gone down, even if it were just to make sure that our money was being invested in places we approve. We decided not to, or rather the decision was made for us, because it was so tough to do all of the work with a bank we already knew, and the idea of doing all of that from scratch with a new contact was really too much right now. We had so much personal stuff that was going on at the same moment. I know that I will probably regret this when the next sustainable investment report on our bank is released. But there’s only so much we can control at one moment.

Having said all that, now that the papers are signed, I’m so excited. I was already excited about having our own place that we could work on and make into our little nest, but I had no idea exactly how excited I would be once we got the keys. On Friday the heavies arrived and we started on the real work. I could hardly breathe opening the door for the first time! It was a verrrrry early start, Shep did not appreciate being woken up at 5am to get ready to head out.

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When we designed the plans for renovation, we had no idea how much work it would actually be. We guessed it was quite a bit but even at that we grossly underestimated!! It’s a *lot* of work! As we started tearing doors out of their frames and peeling back layers of floor covering, I started to realise what was involved. In addition, neither of us are architects, so we made a lot of plans without technical knowledge. Most of them are workable but there are parts that are unfeasible in reality. So we’re discovering a lot as we go, and learning a lot! The plans change daily as we come across major stumbling blocks, which is very unsettling but we have a very flexible team so it’s manageable. We’re learning so much, such as you can’t just cut out an existing pipe that we won’t use again and cover it. Apparently, that will lots of trouble later with humidity and damp… Who knew?! Professional architects probably know, but we didn’t! We have to dig into the concrete and take out the entire pipe! So we’re learning quickly. Fortunately our team are incredible and in fact they’re happy to do the planning with us as we go.

We got into the house at 6:30am on Friday and started protecting the original features before the hammers and crowbars came out. There are the most incredible stained-glass windows in all the interior doors, depicting the strangest scenes. Check them out below. Men smoking pipes, drinking and gambling, and ladies riding horses with hawks!

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Then my father-in-law and his awesome Day 1 team took screwdrivers to the doors to take them all out of their frames, again for protection, and put panels over the glass. I cringed with each blow to the frames but the house is so sturdy. Everyone who’s done any work on it so far (there is more work going on in other apartments) has said as much. It’s so strong and will hold us for years I hope…

kitchen view bathroom

Those above photos are from the estate agent site. The bathroom and kitchen are so much smaller than they look here. The kitchen is less than 6m squared!

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Here are a few of the before shots. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the after shots. They’ll be fabulous but will be a while coming! In the meantime, I’ve pinned a lot of ideas to my boards in Pinterest to keep track of ideas. And I’ll post a lot of in-progress shots too!

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