December 2021 – Waste not want not

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Yesterday in the hardware store, Colin picked up a bright red le Creuset pot and shouted across to Will

Sir, I believe your wife has been eyeing this up, I’ll do you a very good price…’

I definitely wasn’t.

And didn’t want it as a Christmas present either, especially as we still haven’t got a fully functioning kitchen.

We’d arrived back in St Ives in early December after being in Kent a few days visiting Wills’s dad, and everything looked so Christmassy coming into the town with all the twinkly lights strung across the buildings.

I woke up this morning to find Luke and John pulling down the old ‘outside-yet-inside’ toilet wall to use as hardcore for my new terrace foundations. Absolutely delighted because I’ve been wanting to get rid of it, but slightly disturbed by what will be left behind, will do nothing to compliment my Christmas decorations and salvaged driftwood wreath.

The rather lovely but costly decking I was avoiding confrontation over has just sneaked through our weekly budget meeting purely for its non-slip properties, which I heavily promoted. But costs are mounting, so the ‘waste not want not’ mantra with added detail for this project continues.

We’ve had the whole crew on site this week, the drawing room has been carefully reconstructed to exact original proportions, alongside original shelving carefully reformatted to suit Wills’s design, and the small kitchen has been fitted. We wanted to create as much of a handmade quality as possible, so James has lovingly constructed a super oversized kitchen wall unit reusing Sandra’s old shelving from the studio, leaving exposed Mortise and Tenon Joints on the ends that I could make a feature of. And the big oak kitchen unit has been beautifully by Luke to incorporate bookshelves at the end.

As James was finishing for the day, he called through saying the new bathroom door had been fitted, we waved him off and excitedly went in. Will tried the lock. We were stuck in there for 20 minutes; it was literally impossible to unlock it until I brute force twisted it halfway Will the other half, I’ll get that looked at tomorrow.

Tiles have started arriving as samples for the raised terrace steps risers and we’ve chosen red cedar of mellow colour tones, which vary from light amber to dark reddish-brown. to clad the exterior where the orientation of the building slightly changes. What seemed like mountains of batons arrived and Will has been Osmo oiling slowly but surely each surface.

The new windows have been delayed expected in January sometime, which delays all the exterior finishes but it seems materials are on go-slow everywhere at the moment, so we will wait patiently and enjoy Christmas.

Superheroes, Teletubbies, people with hundreds of fairy lights strung all over themselves dancing on the beach, Shrek and Fiona, and a pack of wolves that jumped out of a side street on us. It was supposed to be a quick walk around the New Year’s Eve fancy dress down by the harbour, but it was so lovely being out celebrating after all the Covid restrictions; we sat on the harbour wall drinking a coffee and enjoying the festivities.

Next year we’ll take part, Will as Van Gogh and I’ll go as Mona Lisa.

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Fore street, St Ives lit up

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Driftwood wreath

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Demolition of the inside/outside toiet

December 2021 - Waste not want not

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Hardcore down for the terrace

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Conrete base down

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Inside/outside patched up

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Tiles accumilating for the steps

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Exposed Mortise and Tenon Joints

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Kitchen wall unit waiting to be fitted

December 2021 - Waste not want not

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Oak kitchen unit going in and you can see the wall unit now in place

December 2021 - Waste not want not

December 2021 - Waste not want not

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Reclaimed shelving ready for Will’s drawing room

December 2021 - Waste not want not

December 2021 - Waste not want not

The drawing room carefully reconstructed to exact original proportions

December 2021 - Waste not want not

December 2021 - Waste not want not

Cedar batons as far as the eye can see

December 2021 - Waste not want not

December 2021 - Waste not want not

New Years Eve on Fore Street, St Ives

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November 2021 – Is it 95 or over?

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

Will is a lighting geek.

Lumen, lux and CRI ratings crop up regularly in conversation. You’ll often find Will wandering around shops, rooms or cafes, referring to the lighting app on his phone and perish the thought if museum staff are altering light levels in the gallery when we visit.

So when it came to choosing lights for the annexe and Kelvin the electrician, casually asked, ‘have you thought about lighting yet?’ he didn’t quite appreciate the murky waters he was jumping into.

If Will’s coping mechanism is to head for the skip and salvage more mouldy wet wood, then mine is to go to the church garden to look for Flakey, my little cat friend. Our wobble was in response to the lighting brochure not quite coming up to spec on the 95 or over CRI rating or the kitchen fitters quote coming in. I’m not sure which, as both were very traumatic.

But on the upside Ben, the plasterer is finished and has done an amazing job; his finish is impeccable. We’ve started to whitewash the walls and ceilings the original pine floors have been sanded treated and waxed. Altro flooring has been picked for the wetroom, high grade and totally slip-resistant, and Matt the plumber, has ironed out the issue with the pipework, and the water pressure is excellent. The plan for the space, the flow and how it will function is starting to come together.

Kelvin called back a week later; he’d found some smart LED downlights with a 95+ CRI rating, a little pricey but worth it to Will. The pendants that hang over the kitchen unit are compatible with an IKEA bulb which surprisingly has a high CRI rating for a very reasonable price.

Ready to fit the sun tunnel we realised after unboxing it only comes in white. I can confirm having walked around St Ives on sun tunnel alert multiple times, that indeed every single one is white much to Wills’s horror. I was tasked with painting it to match the dark grey roof colour, a little nerve-wracking as it’s super shiny plastic but 3 coats in, after a super primer and it’s looking good.

The weather’s getting colder and the old creaking boiler that serves our bedroom isn’t exactly efficient, it’s either on or off due to its lack of a timer, so my electric blanket from QVC which occasionally burns our toes is a lifesaver. I’ll take the odd pickle on our feet over being cold and it only costs pence to run.

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

Skimmed

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

First sanding

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

Osmo oiled

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

White-washed walls

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

The drawing room taking shape

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

Sun-tunnel before and after

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

Lighting plans

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

Bathroom sketch

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

Will offering up a tile for the niche placement

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

Tilers Rob & Simon making herringbone magic

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

Altro flooring down, basin, toilet and shower in – check out the niche!

November 2021 - Is it 95 or over?

Flakey!

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October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

The Tate cafe sits high on the top floor overlooking the yellow ochre-covered rooftops, crooked chimneys and dotted here and there little green garden sanctuaries. If you turn your head to the left, Porthmeor beach stretches out as far as you can see, and now the Summer season is over, St Ives seems even more beautiful.

Meandering along the dusty little old lanes and rediscovering our favourite coffee shops has become the new highlight of the week. We manage to resist carrot cake most of the time, aware we are temporarily squashing any renovation financial anxiety with a short-lived sugar high.

But the annexe is really taking shape now.

The entire front has been pulled off, and the door and window spacing has been framed out, ready for the new powder-coated aluminium ones to go in. It took multiple redesigns to get this to feel balanced from the inside and out, and we’ve chosen a soft putty colour to complement the existing studio cladding.

The Courtyard has become a real multifunctional all-around walkway between the buildings, a communal meeting place under the early sun where Will discusses the day ahead with Luke (I join a little later post beauty regime and first coffee) and the most valuable asset in St Ives, multiple parking spaces.

Unfortunately, I have ideas of grandeur for a Sorolla-style garden, tiled steps, palm trees and copious pot plants after our visit to Hospital De La Venerables in Seville in 2018.

It becomes apparent early on everyone is on a slightly different page with the design. We mark it out, walk it through and move the perimeters. Sleep on it, rework it and consult with Ric, Wills’s dad, on the Sunday phone home until we’ve got a workable plan.

It’s been a real challenge to try and squeeze in an area of raised seating, space for planting and an accessible entrance to the annexe without compromising anything else.

I went down to Margaret, the baker in town, for backup buns only to discover she was retiring at the end of October. No more Saffron bakes as a support network; Will was devastated.

We had a couple of late holidaying guests towards the end of the month; spending time together and taking a week off planning gave us much-needed perspective.

The garden area we’ve set aside is going to be ample. I can squeeze in a few tiles on the steps. The cars will have enough space; I just haven’t broached the subject of the expensive decking yet.

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

Sitting in the Tate Cafe, veiw from the top

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

Front off ready to be boarded out for the windows and dooors

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

Final sketches for placement

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

Old School plug planning, scissors, pen and sticky tape

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

Plasterboarded

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

Inspiration from Hospital De La Venerables, Seville

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

Will sketching the courtyard at Hospital De La Venerables, Seville

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

Temporary sprayed out terrace footprint

October 2021 – Building the Garden of Compromise

 

Raised terrace and steps first sketches

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September 2021 – Art Coding

September 2021 – Art Coding

Newly boarded-out walls and the first fix on the electrics and gas pipes have been completed. The Annexe has been totally transformed from a vast empty space to the new room we’ve only ever seen in sketches and gradually, we’re relearning how we might use the space. By now, of course, we’re old friends, the number of times Will goes over there to ponder on the next decision. The placement of switches, and plug points and starting to nail down the new window layouts.

September has been a mix of blistering sunshine and torrential rain, which threatened the gaffa tape strips holding on the old perspex roof on the inside/outside. By the time we’d drafted in backup in the form of ‘Black Nasty’, the indestructible tape used by the British military, the skies had completely cleared.

Not so much the courtyard.

But taking the advice of when it’s sunny, go to the beach, we did! Mostly to pretend what’s happening back at home isn’t happening.

We are having the new boiler fitted and I think Matt deeply regrets taking the job. Apparently, we’ve got a restriction on our pipework and it could be anywhere in the whole property behind a wall or under a floor. The water pressure is 10 and should be 22 or over.

Earlier in the year, I’d painted over the red and blue stripes that boldly adorned the front of the pebbledash, we joked saying it must have been a 1980s deco thing. It turns out they may have been a clue to the hot and cold water pipes feed and how they work their way around the building. Art coding at its best!

So paddling in the sea on a Tuesday lunchtime felt like one of the best luxuries in the world topped off with a hot tea and cornflake cake from the slipway cafe, life for that moment couldn’t get better.

Different visitors have come and gone over the summer and the lack of somewhere to put guest clothes was a continuing problem. So when Wills’s late Grandma’s chest of drawers turned up on a palette from Kent, luckily it coincided with our 3 teenage nephews’ visit. Extra manpower to bring them upstairs in exchange for a fish and chip supper on the beach

Primed and ready to be painted for the guest room, I needed more varnish.

As Will entered the handyman’s shop, Colin exited, saying to him ‘You’re in charge. I’m going to the Post Office.

In the time he took to go and come back, Will had sold a rubber mallet. He definitely spends too much time in that shop.

September 2021 – Art Coding

September 2021 – Art Coding

A morning on the beach with a Cornflake cake from the Slipway Cafe

September 2021 – Art Coding

New raising ceiling height, insulating & soundproofing

September 2021 – Art Coding

September 2021 – Art Coding

Rockwall insulation

September 2021 – Art Coding

The red & blue clues

September 2021 – Art Coding

September 2021 – Art Coding

Grandma’s well recieved chest of drawers and after a facelift

 

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August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

It’s August and the studio has been filling up with building materials because work has finally started on the old leaky Annexe roof.

The design for the new one has caused much discussion extending into many hours, fuelled mainly by Margaret’s traditional thickly-buttered saffron buns.

The problem is the angle of the pitch.

It’s so low it can only be clad with a couple of options. My personal favourite traditional Cornish slate is out, and the more practical fibreglass solution is in.

We’ve always believed this renovation’s success depended on being able to look with real clarity at what’s working and what is not. Preserve architectural details that tell the story of the past, recognise good design that still stands, work out how we will use the space as a home, design a good flow & balance, and be energy efficient.

Boat Jon, by far the most experienced roofer, put things in wise perspective, ‘Watertight is your priority here, something to do with the rather large lake at the bottom of the road ‘.….  aaaaaahhhh, right you are then.

Will got busy with the sketchbook and a collaborative team decision was reached for a well-insulated fibreglass warm roof that will conserve the heat inside but keep it cool in summer. Sleek sunken boxed gutters, mop sticks for aesthetic detailing, in a sympathetic tone, with a sun tunnel for natural light in the bathroom. It can be washed down, patched up seamlessly in the future and above all else is completely and utterly waterproof.

By the end of this project, we could sail this building on the ocean itself, it’s almost indestructible.

We’ve also started planning the layout for the interior, keeping it as accessible as possible with wider doors, and a practical spacious wet room with a sun tunnel for added luminance. Because the roof timbers are being replaced, it’s given us an opportunity to raise the ceiling height by a few inches giving it so much more elegance and light.

The original design for the doors opening into the courtyard is an absolute keeper and a replacement small kitchen area needs reworking but even with just the bare timbers when the afternoon sun pours into this space, utter tranquillity descends.

Even at this stage, it’s beginning to look and feel incredible.

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

Timbers acclimatizing in the studio

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

New timbers going in with Boat Jon & Ham-sandwich John

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

Marking out the floor with frog tape for the new kitchen layout and first sketch

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

New angled ceiling height and old level timbers below where it used to sit

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

Saffron bun and hole left for sun-tunnel

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

Mopsticks on and Jon fibre-glassing

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

Satrting to plan the new windows layout

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

August 2021 – All Problems are Solved with Great Design

New roof on

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July 2021 – The Seagull and the Nest

July 2021 - The Seagull and the Nest

Since we arrived, a group of rowdy seagulls congregate in the spot on our roof we call the snack bar because there’s so much vegetation growing in and around the guttering.

By May, we realised one never went home.

Seagulls mate for life, spending their lives together and forming a lifelong bond with their partner. They work as a team finding food, protecting the nest, and raising chicks.

On our roof, whoever is keeping the nest warm at the time, gets non-stop food delivered by their mate. It’s become like Uber eats up there.

The silhouette inside the perspex roof and the incubation rota on the nest between both parents are seamless. Will, a mini camera and a super long monopod just avoided getting divebombed trying to get a better look.

By the first week of June, our baby had hatched, just the one, but it is so noisy. A few weeks in and they’ve started using the roof of our bedroom as a landing strip whilst learning to fly.

We are in the middle of a pretty fierce heatwave in July, and our baby gull has joined big flight school. It’s so fascinating how the young gulls tend to hang out in large groups together, making the sky or sea look like mini gull creches.

We moved our coffee breaks to a tiny slither at the top of the outside staircase as it seemed to be the only place to get a direct sea breeze, and it was from this spot, the newly named Seabreeze cafe, that we saw our gull’s first full flight.

When they dipped downwards, threatening to plummet, one of the adult gulls flew below and gently nudged them back up. It was so amazing, totally nerve-wracking but very special.

Alongside bird watching, we have been making do with old Smokey, a very small old gas oven which did amazingly pass its initial gas check in December. However, the knob got entirely and utterly welded late on Saturday evening. With the gas on high, I was getting mildly hysterical as nothing we did would turn it off. The emergency gas board helper told me to turn all gas supplies off to the house, which involved pulling a comedy red lever.

All is going well with the kitchen re-jig, although this oven debacle really set us back with other jobs. It’s a bit of a mess where old smokey has been disconnected and removed but the new worktop is arriving tomorrow.

The old one ripped off half the wall tiles when it came out, and we levelled the floor with leftover vinyl tiles; it had three linos thick depth missing under the cooker, I screed it to a similar level, and it’s gone in nice.

Doing any DIY in the flat is a compromise between functionality and budget versus taste.

Nothing in it complies with modern standards, we’ve already whitewashed the kitchen once and made it livable when we first arrived and we’ll have to have a complete refurbishment within the next couple of years anyway.

It’s absolutely roasting today. I’m painting the spare room so it can dry properly while we’re away, and Will is finishing the worktop installation, which looks great, apart from his initial shock when we opened it up and saw it had tiny pieces of glitter in it.

I’m not sure I ever described it very clearly, but I had given four other options.

This one blended in the best out of the very small selection available for our desired budget of £50. I think it looks o.k and Will cut it all by hand last night and it fits like a glove.

A very nice combination microwave/grill cooker is arriving Friday, so just a plug-in hob for now; apparently, our current workspace doesn’t pass the modern ‘hot zones stipulation’ for any other type of replacement cooker to be fitted.

Pot noodle anyone?

July 2021 - The Seagull and the Nest

July 2021 - The Seagull and the Nest

Watching nest actuvity from within the inside/outside

July 2021 - The Seagull and the Nest

Baby gull 2 weeks old

July 2021 - The Seagull and the Nest

July 2021 - The Seagull and the Nest

Barbara Hepworth’s Garden looking amazing in the sunshine

July 2021 - The Seagull and the Nest

Catching a cool moment at the SeaBreeze Cafe at the top of the stairs

July 2021 - The Seagull and the Nest

Old Smokey rip out and the patch-up job

July 2021 - The Seagull and the Nest

Painting the second gueastroom

July 2021 - The Seagull and the Nest

 

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June 2021 – The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

Our guests were booked in for the beginning of June, which had seemed a long way in the future but now seems very imminent.

Daily job lists grew longer, well…. daily.

We couldn’t seem to coordinate moving forward without a major discussion, major reorganisation, or minor disagreement which leads me to what would become the guest bedroom and bathroom suite.

The vaulted ceiling space had the potential to be a fabulous bedroom after a carpet rip-out and thorough whitewash.

Shabby glamour covered the bathroom’s current state, gold taps encrusted with limescale and quite a fancy linoleum floor.

We attacked both with gusto, sometimes late into the night, wrapping anything metal in vinegar-soaked cotton pads and the sonic little cleaning brush worked overtime.

The little wall cupboard was covered with lots of old clippings, exhibition invitations, a piano tuners card and promotional flyers for shows all stapled to the slightly askew doors.

It was kind of sad and lovely.

Only 30 minutes in and already we were sitting on the floor reading through everything, this sort of thing happens in this property, we start a job with tons of energy to be stopped by a treasure that insists on being researched.

One of the clippings was a moving home card Sandra Blow had kept from her old friend Rose Hilton.

‘Dearest Sandra,

Congratulations on the new place – it is very exciting!

Love Rose x ‘

Rose Hilton was a painter trained at the royal college of art and married leading abstract artist Roger Hilton, which in itself was exciting, Roger said famously that he would be the only artist in their relationship, discouraging Rose’s artistic practices, but she achieved great recognition after he died in 1975 she took up her brushes again and came into her own. Go, Rose!!

Her post-impressionist, figurative paintings achieved huge popularity.

The card was such a lovely thing and quite poignant, but putting that to one side, it came apparent that the scuffed and faded tongue and groove bathroom walls were not going to clean up with just scrubbing alone but neither of us could face painting anything else.

I cracked first.

Whilst Will was busy recycling downstairs, I opened a pot of paint. To be fair, it wasn’t the perfect shade, a little more acidic in tone than I would’ve liked, but it was cream; it’s what I had, and I was going to use it.

Cut to Will.

Apart from the obvious, ‘I thought we weren’t going to decorate this room’ conversation, he really disliked the colour.

Muttering he took himself off to Colenso’s for a couple of litres of a better colour match, only to discover on his return that Colin had mixed an oil base eggshell instead of acrylic satin. Although wholly appropriate, took hours to dry and lots of hard work applying it, which I did stoically.

I also got Will to take the doors off that little bathroom cupboard and recycle it as a mini plant theatre to cheer up the front door. It was a perfect size!

Our tiny guests turned up, moved into the pristine bedroom and bathroom, threw wet towels on the floor, got sand in the pipes but most importantly, watched the sun go down over Porthmeor beach, and we all had a really lovely time.

If there’s one thing I’m now confident about is how those bathroom oil eggshell walls held up! In 24 hours, I need to turn it around for our new arrivals.

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

The bathroom cupboard

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

Sandra Blow’s moving in card from Rose Hilton

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

The guest room before

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

The guest bathroom before

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

Several whitewashes later

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

Plant theatre, the recycled bathroom cupboard

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

Breakfast

June 2021 - The Guest Room & Rose Hilton 

Dancing in the waves on Porthmeor beach, St Ives

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May 2021 – Under Pressure

May 2021 - Under Pressure

We knew it was going to be bad weather all week. Rick, Will’s dad, had confirmed our fate on the Sunday evening phone call home. ‘Constant rain down your way’

Even though Will announced he’d found a huge unopened pot of white masonry paint in the magic shed, we still needed to go shopping for as he calls it, ‘serious bits of kit’ before tackling the exterior mission clean-up.

Colenso’s the local hardware store, is usually our first port of call. 

It is a fabulous Aladdin’s cave of treasures. Colin the owner is charming and attentive with the most incredible memory for numbers and faces. An old-fashioned salesman with top-of-the-range stuff and most of the time everything you could possibly ask for

But. 

I’d started on the courtyard earlier in the week, but by day 3, it was definitely against all odds….my trustee jet washer started making disconcerting grumbling noises from the off and clouds started delivering light rain that pretty quickly turned to spectacular rain, which I don’t think helped.

The bright lights of Penzance called us offering all sorts of pleasures, Tool Station, Screwfix, Dunelm Mill, it has the lot! 

12 hours previous we’d committed to trying harder on our Summer well-being plan, but once through the Supermarket doors, we overspent on colourful bags of baked goods and a token pot of cottage cheese.

Actually, the weather was bad but not all week. Brilliant sunshine followed a wet 48 hours. The outside walls got a good couple of coats of the donated white masonry paint, I persevered with the old pressure washer, and once I got through the layers of dirt, algae, and lichen to clean block paving, realised that Sandra must have mapped out a red geometric pattern in paint, now a faded pink.

The battered old wood cladding got smartened up with some of our newly chosen colours. It just has to hold strong for another year or until renovation phase 2 starts.

And those hot buttered teacakes turned out to be a real blessing.

 

May 2021 - Under Pressure

Colin of Colenso’s the local hardware store 

May 2021 - Under Pressure

May 2021 - Under Pressure

Before and after a coat of painr

May 2021 - Under Pressure

May 2021 - Under Pressure

May 2021 - Under Pressure

Repotted a slighly sad weeping willow leaved pear tree we found in the corner of the courtyard

May 2021 - Under Pressure

The halfway point in the pressure washing and you can still just see the faded geometric pattern on the clean block paving

May 2021 - Under Pressure

Relaxing watching the sunset over Porthmeor Beach, St Ives

 

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April 2021 – The Wall

April 2021 - The Wall

If there was one thing we could agree on, it was how great the stone wall was. It wrapped itself protectively around every side of the property, 20ft high, solid and sheltering.

3 am the night we moved in; we heard scurrying.

Quite a lot, actually – we sat up petrified, Will brandishing a torch in one hand and a trainer in the other; I was wearing a beanie hat because it was so cold.

We convinced ourselves it was just the heating making strange noises in a new house, but by day 3, we could safely say it was coming from within the stone wall.

Pest-control Sam, our newest friend, enlightened us with the fact that some Cornish walls are hollow and advised immediate repair.

On closer inspection, that wall did look quite holey with all manner of gaps, ivy and weeds growing abundantly. We had made a half-hearted attempt over the Winter, but now Spring was here, and we had renewed energy.

Saturday gave out sunshine, and off we went with rocks, stones, a chisel, mesh and steel wool.

Will was the experienced one, me the enthusiastic helper.

We stared, paced and tutted for a good 10 minutes then slowly but surely made progress. Will braved the brambles, I moved very small pieces of granite and pulled my side.

With heavy lifting off the cards for the foreseeable future, I retreated to the more serious business of choosing a palette for the exterior paintwork.

The original mural on the outside stairwell is soft pink and blue, sun-bleached and patchy. The Cornish stonework dotted around the courtyard varies from clotted cream to muted khaki brown, making a harmonious beginning, and the soft grey studio cladding is in pretty good nick, so it is definitely going nowhere.

I’ve found myself drawn to the newest addition to the fla,t the hanging egg chair, to sketch out ideas whilst inadvertently absorbing all the beautiful pastel colours of the morning and dusk skies.

Taking inspiration from our surroundings is a thread that weaves itself through all of our creative endeavours from Will’s painting practice to my ceramic design patterns.

I wonder if Sandra had done the same thing, sitting in a similar spot.

April 2021 - The Wall

Assessing the work ahead

April 2021 - The Wall

April 2021 - The Wall

Update Jan 2022 – The fabulous Tim, lime mortar pointing the wall traditionally

April 2021 - The Wall

Colour swatches of the Wall Mural & the studio

April 2021 - The Wall

Big skies from the Egg Chair

April 2021 - The Wall

April 2021 - The Wall

April 2021 - The Wall

Colour swatches for exterior woodwork and masonary

 

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February 2021 – The House That Keeps on Giving

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

Kitting out a large space with enough tables, chairs and sofas was getting not only expensive but time-consuming.

I’m surprised the furniture website, Loaf, hasn’t noted a psychopathic shopper that puts things in and out of their basket from the ex-display section daily.

Not only that, but we’re so tired of web browsing and a bit confused.

The studio looks cleaner; we spent a solid week scrubbing the floor enough to remove the grime but not enough to lose old paint splats. The walls and windows got a serious scrub down too. Four new chairs are on their way, but it’s such a vast space I’m not sure they’re going to cut it.

Then one evening, Will casually mentions, just before going to sleep, “What about the kitchen table.”

How could I have forgotten? It was one of the only things left at the property: large square, solid wood with metal legs on castors.

When we first arrived, I’d ventured into the mouldy old kitchen to give it a first hoover through and nudged it with my hip. The whole thing just kind of folded in on itself, what felt like all 2 tonnes of it. 

Apparently, the aluminium legs were just perched under it and not attached at all, Will dragged it through into the shop and relegated it to the long ‘to-mend’ list.

The following day after his brainwave, Will found a blacksmith in Hayle; I phoned immediately.

Sanny answered and was conveniently at St Ive’s harbour looking at a commission; 5 minutes later, a truck rolled into the courtyard, had a look, declared it fixable and took it away.

This property just keeps on giving, every day a new discovery.

Last week we cleared the bamboo before it engulfed everything using secateurs, shears and an old wheelbarrow we found in the shed that sits under the outside stairwell. It’s almost like a magic shop. Nothing in it is in premium health, but everything’s still functional and usually just what we’ve been looking for.

We’ve managed to rework four old rickety folding chairs we found languishing at the back, a hacksaw, screws, new frames and a repaint later and we have perfectly formed bar stools we can sit in the inside-outside and look out to sea having our morning coffee.

I hope Sanny calls soon. Actually, while I’ve got 5 minutes, I’ll just have a quick look at Loaf.

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

Memories of paintings past, giving the studio floor a sympathetic clean

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

Table pre-collapse, then being driven away with Sanny the blacksmith

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

Morning light on the new wheels and 4 new chairs

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

More carpet rip-outs

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

Inside the magic garden shed

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

Old chairs new stools

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

February 2021 - The House That Keeps on Giving

 

You can read the next update here – March 2021 – First things first, the Annexe

Continue ReadingFebruary 2021 – The House That Keeps on Giving

March 2021 – First things first, the Annexe

March 2021 - First things first, the Annexe

It seemed like the most logical place to start.

Small, manageable, single-storey, and far enough away from living conditions to be contained.

Luke, our newly acquired builder, project manager, local knowledge and all-round good egg also agreed. The Annexe is where it would all begin.

It had considerable water damage from various roof leaks over the years, and the timber-frame doors were completely rotten. Improvements would mean adding acoustic, fire, and thermal insulation, and we wanted to respect the existing architectural character but provide easy access to public areas and studios wherever possible.

But most importantly, we wanted to preserve Sandra’s original snug drawing-room.

Artists’ studios leave clues

When we visited Cezanne’s studio it was the first time Will had seen a super long door designed to move large canvases. When visiting Sorolla’s space in Madrid, we saw how a garden, home and studio space coexist together (and both artists had daybeds next to their easels!) Sorolla had a doorbell at the entrance of his studio so he could paint uninterrupted.

Sandra’s drawing studio gets the sun in the afternoon, making you feel entirely cocooned in the space.

It’s a real contrast to the epic scale of the painting studio next door, and having a change in scale between the spaces allows you to reflect on your paintings within a more homely environment, to lose this would feel so sad. It’s not just a drawing space, it’s a valuable thinking creative space.

The Rip Out

The rip-out went swimmingly well; we felt utter joy at seeing the old mouldy kitchenette and shower room piled up on the courtyard; we even took funny photos of skips and marvelled at the demolition.

But it soon became obvious things were going to get expensive… replacing the roof, timbers, insulation, rewire, new boiler, upgrading the windows and doors, wet room and kitchen.

What on the first appraisal seemed like a starter project now definitely felt like we had moved into full-on renovation territory.

If I’m the eternal optimist that sees change as an opportunity to improve, Will is a little more slow living, taking old bits of wood out of the skip and collecting piles of stuff that may still come in ‘useful’. Wildly out of date with all pricing apart from ice creams and paints. I knew I was going to have to tread carefully.

As plans developed and the sun got higher, the space changed identity from a reception room next to the studios to grab a brew to a sunny garden lounge with a cafe bar to receive guests.

Our new Cornish dream team Luke and his partners in crime, ham-sandwich John, boatbuilder Jon and young Rueban were incredible. Having had the same builders for the last 20 years; a shift to a new crew is always unnerving, but they answered every question with thorough explanations, coming up with inventive suggestions and ideas. Through mizzle, searingly sunshine and strong winds, they worked tirelessly on our new little nest. It’s looking fabulous already; still a little way to go it’s going to be so much more than just a reception, café area, or lounge for the art studios.

It signifies hope; that the rest of the project will be as satisfying,

Triumph; because Will could cope with a complete redesign after all, even with my fast and furious ideas coming in.

And a sense of commitment it’s beginning to feel like home with finished things that don’t leak.


The Art Studio Renovation Diary - Update

The Annexe before

March 2021 - First things first, the Annexe

Annexe interior before, with mouldy timber on the doors

The Art Studio Renovation Diary - Update

Sandra Blow’s Drawing Room, you can see the hole in the ceiling where water was seeping in

The Art Studio Renovation Diary - Update

The Art Studio Renovation Diary - Update

Rip out day

The Art Studio Renovation Diary - Update

Shower room gone

March 2021 - First things first, the Annexe

The Art Studio Renovation Diary - Update

 Update August 2021 – Old roof off

The Art Studio Renovation Diary - Update

The Art Studio Renovation Diary - Update

The Art Studio Renovation Diary - Update

 Update September 2021 – Preparing for new doors & windows

March 2021 - First things first, the Annexe

Update September 2021 – Raising the ceiling height, insulating & soundproofing

March 2021 - First things first, the Annexe

Rockwool

March 2021 - First things first, the Annexe

Suntunnel installation in the wetroom

March 2021 - First things first, the Annexe

Update November 2021 – Whitewashing and sanding back original floors

March 2021 - First things first, the Annexe

March 2021 - First things first, the Annexe

Reinstating the Drawing Room

March 2021 - First things first, the Annexe

Restoring the beauty of the wooden floors

 

You can read the next update here – April 2021 – The Wall

Continue ReadingMarch 2021 – First things first, the Annexe

January 2021 – The Ivy & the Window

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

I had kept meaning to pull down the ivy. When we first looked around 14 months previously, it was only sneaking under the window frame by a couple of feet.

So fascinated with it at the time, we’d failed to notice the huge impact crack running right across the glass.

The first wave of Covid hit three months after our first viewing in November 2019, and the banks had almost stopped all communication. Lockdowns meant we couldn’t revisit Cornwall, and at several low points during the Summer of 2020, we’d given up hope of acquiring the property at all.

After sheer determination, on December 6th 2020, we completed the purchase and drove possibly the greatest 320 miles south to pick up the keys.

Keeping our heads down cleaning and whitewashing was the easiest way of not becoming overwhelmed with decisions about where the major work should start. Between the first wave of ripping up carpets and dealing with overflowing slimy water butts in storms, we noticed the ivy was now well over 3 meters long. It was hanging down in a fabulous tangle and driving rain was starting to seep through.

In the void between the staircase and studio, the window sits really high up in a double-height ceiling space of around 4 1/2 meters. But, because this part of the building is submerged into the landscape, if you were standing on the grass outside looking in, the window probably only reaches your knees.

With Ray, the local window fitter, leading the way I felt brave enough to go up onto our next-door neighbour’s land and see the extent of the exterior damage at close range. 

I’d offered up my own take on the crack situation, ‘Maybe a football?’ 

Ray clarified, ‘Probably, if not definitely, an air rifle‘ 

‘Right’, I said….’ Is it possible we make it rifle proof then?’

In close proximity, the exterior resembled an old forgotten shed belonging to a soothsayer, the only part of the frame that remained was on either side.

That glass‘, Ray said, ‘is only being held in by two points of contact and that ivy

 Good job some things are best left after all.

The day cleared, Ray left, and by 4 pm, it was brilliant sunshine. Will and I had second thoughts on the beach.

I’d chosen a simple but patterned, unshatterable privacy glass.

Will wasn’t so sure, he said it was his second choice and maybe preferred a plain diffusion glass.

Now I have pangs of worry, we seemed to be on the same page at 2 pm standing in the courtyard with Ray and his relatively slim catalogue.

Crucially I’d forgotten Will’s need and enjoyment of mulling things over. Sometimes this mulling can take several days. I’ve been told in the past I make swift decisions using a very direct tone… this may have been one of those times.

What about a diffusion frame on the inside? I suggested.  An art installation piece behind a frame of linen to mask the pattern?

We mulled over it looking out to sea drinking the weakest coffee ever made, but the Belvita biscuits were good.

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

First wave of cleaning the flat kitchen and bedroom

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

The void between the staircase and the studio, ivy window just out of shot to the left

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

Ivy witchy window from the exterior

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

Coffee break above Porthgwidden Beach

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

Update Feb 2021 – 3 weeks later Ray in action fitting the very slightly patterned new window

January 2021 - The Ivy & the Window

Update Jan 2022 – 12 months later and finally we had the traditional Lime mortar repairs made to the wall

 

You can read the next update here – February 2021 – The House That Keeps on Giving

Continue ReadingJanuary 2021 – The Ivy & the Window

November 2019 – Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

As we negotiated the steep stairs back to our hotel room after breakfast, I glanced outside. It was absolutely bucketing down.

Will, did we pack hats?” I turned to see what Will was up to as I’d heard very little in the way of response. He was already getting back into bed, pulling the duvet pretty determinedly up to his chin for a post-buffet nap. 

Checkout was in under an hour, followed by a 10-minute walk up the Stennack to our first viewing, so I decided there was nothing else for it but to nip out and try and buy an umbrella. After a small misunderstanding with the local ladies’ boutique owner about the £5 debit card threshold, I left with an upsell.

Cobalt blue and polka-dotted. Fancy but functional.

We got to Bullans Court ahead of schedule, and if first impressions count, ours was of an abandoned exercise bike leaning precariously amongst old pot plants in a courtyard. 

The agent opened the front door with all the relish of an entrance to a palace and led us into a gloomy hallway. We went through a charming kitchen with a bin on the table acting as a bucket for the complimentary leak.

Then he showed us the studio.

It was incredible, in scale and height, with huge North light skylights along the back wall.

We marvelled at the tall Cezanne-like window for the paintings to come in and out, and whilst Will stayed in the studio taking photos, I went into the adjoining annexe. 

I remember glancing over at his utter joy and thinking, ‘how are we going to get hold of this building?’ 
Although we hadn’t seen much, the potential was massive. I was already moving in, imagining throwing back the big open doors onto an Italian-style terracotta potted garden in the Summer.

As we made our way around the property, our optimism dipped slightly with the cold and the sheer volume of every space that was rundown. Ivy grew through walls, damp paint was peeling off, every single gutter was leaking, and the water butts dotted around were overflowing. 

I think Will was most impressed by an extremely tall roll of bubble wrap; apparently, he’d never seen one that big before.

The inside-outside was a real high point, almost like an upstairs conservatory, spaning the living accommodation and studio. It was such a bright space with assurances from the estate agents on a clear day there were sea glimpses. We weren’t so sure due to the dense fog, and it seemed the only downside was the roof was mostly held on with gaffa tape. We both exclaimed over Sandra’s prep table, covered with all kinds of paint residue and staples. 

Then we left.

The overriding thought was it was a bit too ambitious; did we really want to do another renovation, or did we have the energy for all conversations and disagreements?

We showed the family a few photos, and Will’s brother asked, ‘What even is it? It looks a bit like one of those half-finished hotels they have on Watchdog.’ 

The previous property we’d viewed was a picturesque fisherman’s cottage, up a very steep side street right in the centre of St Ives town with a tiny garden that caught the sun. So tight on space, we were talking about opening an A-board, offering cups of tea, and selling miniature paintings because that was the only thing that would fit in.

This property, however, felt hugely challenging.

Architecturally mixed, a history of art seeping out the walls, and an incredible amount of space but most of all needed new owners who would give it a new lease of life.

It was going to be absolutely perfect.

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

First Glimpses through the gap in the gate

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

Living accomadation above the shop through a drizzly window

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

Sandra Blow’s office space

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

The kitchen, with a bin serving as a bucket

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

Masking tape left behind on the studio walls from Sandra’s working method

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

The studio, Bullans Court

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

Will enraptured, fancy umbrella in hand

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

North light sky lights and that impressive super-sized roll of bubble wrap

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

Sandra Blow working in her studio at Bullans Court 2005

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

Drawing Room in the Annexe

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

November 2019 - Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing

Gaffa taped on roof in the ‘Inside-Outside’ and Sandra’s well used prep table

 

You can read the next update here – January 2021 – The Ivy & the Window

Continue ReadingNovember 2019 – Rain, Sandra Blow & First Viewing