We’re moving onto some exciting things this week! To the untrained eye I understand that these photos below may look like The Belgian and my Father-in-law opening and closing a door. Repeatedly. Ad nauseum. But those of you who have been through any sort of home renovation know that it’s the small things that count. A door where there was never before a door. A door where there were iron bars hidden in the wall! A door where there were slabs of granite impeding progress!! And what a beautiful door it is!
This is our first real before and after picture, way before the place is really finished. But I think it’s about time for a little before and after, don’t you?!
You can see on the left photo, where there is no door beside the radiator. And now check it out, the super pretty door looks like it’s always been there! The radiator has been taken out for the moment because of the floorboards but we’ll put it back shortly to have the full effect. My Uncle-in-law and cousin are amazing, I have to say. They take out the door and I fret over fitting it back in and having to take a little bit off it to fit back in and how will that affect the old wood and will it work, and, and, and. I’m always met with “Ouaaai, ca va” and lo and behold, “Ouaaai, ca va”!
Another fun part this week was finally getting around to thinking about the fine details! A friend of mine in Brussels recently did some renovation on a turn of the century house too and she had some great tips for resources. One of them was a huge salvation yard owned by the Gouthier family in La Louviere. The website is woeful but the yard is anything but. It’s a treasure trove for anyone interested in ceramic and cement tiles from the 1920s/1930s and earlier even. The Belgian and I made a trip out there on a Saturday morning and spent a good hour pottering about. After trying to piece together enough tiles to cover the floor in the winter garden we decided to come back on another day with more hands and a bigger car! Now my dreams are full of tile patterns and green rooms.
The only problem is that the yard is total chaos. So you might find 20 tiles of one pattern in one pile, and then search for 10 minutes to find 50 in another pile, and so on. That’s a lot of fun until you calculate you need 400 tiles to fill the space, at which point the game is a little less amusing! We’ll go back soon with reinforcements!
Another great tip from The Belgian’s friends was Giovanni Carrelage in Lennik. (I know, right – Lennik? Where!?) We are sincerely trying to reuse as much as possible and to renovate using reclaimed materials but it’s not going to be feasible in the whole house. For the floor in the bathroom and kitchen we need something neat, but our budget is really tight. Enter Giovanni Carrelage! They look pretty flash on their website and the showroom is pretty typical but out the back they have a warehouse full of end of season left overs. This was perfect for us as neither the bathroom and kitchen are more than 6m squared. We managed to find giant black tiles for the bathroom, and fake floorboards for the kitchen, for less than €200, which I thought was pretty good! Surprisingly we had plenty of choice and in fact found exactly what we were looking for. Awesome tip!
And lastly, I told you at the beginning there would be a touch of Sweden about the place… Apparently we have a weird kitchen. The window has a big impact on the height of the counter and it’s not “within standards”. We checked a few independent kitchen places and also asked The Belgian’s uncle about tailor making one, but the options were so far out of our budget it was madness. So we took a deep breath and went to IKEA one Saturday morning. I am not joking when I tell you we spent three hours there to order a kitchen. Three hours of our lives that we will never get back… We had a very helpful girl. We explained the issue and she actually found us a pretty cool solution! So we packed the car full of flat pack boxes and trotted home to sort it out. At this point there was still a little sanding left to do on the floor boards so we started building in the small bedroom at the back of the house to avoid the new kitchen getting completely covered in dust. Once more, we called in the cavalry to assist and this time it was my lovely friend Amy who responded to the call. She’s a star – not only is she keeping Shep alive and entertained at home with her partner (sorry, fiance!!) John, but she can also read an IKEA manual!
Phew! So it was another big week and we’re even more excited than ever! There is now electricity in all rooms (light goes on, light goes off; light goes on, light goes off. I could do this all day, folks), the gas pipes are hooked up and the water is on! The next step is to connect everything, and then I’m in! I don’t care if we have no radiators, or hot water until the end of April, I camped every summer of my youth! (Thanks Mam and Dad Ryan!!) I. Can’t. Wait.
I also encountered this guy while out shopping for a finish for the floor boards. Shep would be so jealous!