Project Dingle

Restoring an old cottage...

Tag: renovation

Vicky Has A New Office

Ever since I started my business, I’ve been working from the dining room table. At Cedar Tree Farm, I was in the main living room. Here at The Dingle, I’ve been working in the Rayburn Room.

I’ve been waiting a long time – nearly eight years – for an office of my own… and finally I have one!

Two weeks ago, I moved into Casa Moxie – and it’s been magnificent.

Not only because I now have my own space, and a proper routine, and can shut the door on work – but because it now means we can start sorting out the stone part of the house.

The room I’ve been working in for the past few years will become our library/snug/music room, and the room above it (once our bedroom) will become the most fabulous bathroom in the world.

But back to Casa Moxie. Let me show you what we did…

Log Cabin-Tastic

We spent a lot of time scouting around, reading endless articles, getting option paralysis, and eventually just staring at all the options in dismay – until my friend Dawn, who’s building her own house, told me about Keops. They’re building a three-bedroom house log cabin on the land they’ve bought.

Keops is a company that builds bespoke log cabins at much lower prices than you might think. Turns out, one of our neighbours lived in a big Keops cabin while he was building his house, and he showed us around it. His cabin is much bigger than what I needed, but it made my mind up, and I made an appointment to go and see them.

A few days later, and I’d paid the deposit and got organised. First task:

A Great Big Concrete Slab

Our neighbour Graham is a builder, so we asked him to lay our concrete slab. After a couple of days having adventures on our awkward steps to get everything up and in place, he did a brilliant job and the perfectly level slab was ready to go.

Preparation for the concrete slab

Filled with rubble and ready to go

Another bonus: we got rid of two dumpy bags full of rubble and crap, because Graham used it as hardcore. There’s something underneath that slab, too – some kind of void filled with larger bits and pieces. I like to think it’s an ancient Templar hidey-hole, and one day Things will burst forth from it. (Don’t worry, it’s perfectly solid and safe.)

Slab

Shiny!

We chopped back the trees to create enough vertical space, and pushed the bank back a little, and all we had to do was wait for the materials to be delivered…

Flat-Pack Office

It seems incredible that this:

Office materials by side of road

Flat-pack office

And this:

Insulation and OSB by side of house

Insulation and OSB

Could turn into this:

Office from up the bank

My office!

Isn’t it fab? And it went up in two days, which is incredible. The materials all come ready-made and ready to lock in together, then the workers fit it all like Lego, put the insulation in the roof and floor, lay the roof, fit the windows, then bugger off.

I made a time-lapse video:

And another:

Timelapse 2

Making It Weatherproof

We only had a few days to make it as weatherproof as possible before it started raining – and it hasn’t stopped since. About a month. Ugh.

Anyway, we treated the entire structure, inside and out, with Sadolin wood preserver, which didn’t take too long.

Then we painted the outside with Sadolin Classic weatherproof paint in gossamer blue. Or, that was the idea. We did about two-thirds of the outside before the weather defeated us and we got properly grumpy about the whole thing. It’s a really, really, REALLY dull job. So I’ve decided to pay an odd-job person to do it for me. It looks kinda patchy at the moment because it’s unfinished. It’ll look gorgeous when it’s done, though.

Side view of office showing painted portion

Part-painted building (the front is mostly done now)

We took the gutters off to paint the fascias, and they’re back on now. It was fun up on the roof – I took a panoramic pic of The Dingle:

View from the roof of the office

Roof-eye view of The Dingle

Going Indoors…

Time to go indoors for painting, floor-laying, and shelf-building.

I painted the walls in the main office in Little Greene’s French Gray Mid, and the details (skirting boards, window frames, door) in French Gray Pale:

Painted walls and skirting board

Beautiful walls!

In the kitchen alcove, I used Little Greene’s Edith’s Eye, which is a kind of yellow-green and I love it. The window frame and details are in French Gray Pale again:

Shelves and worksurfaces in kitchen alcove

My Tea Palace

I was going to have a little fridge in the kitchen, but for now I don’t need one. The water filter does a good job, I have a kettle, loads of different teas, and some funky mugs. Happy days.

Next step: laying the floors. I found the cheapest laminate flooring online I could, and I may live to regret it. We’ll see how long it lasts… it was great fun laying the underlay, because I got to imagine I was building a space station. It was also delightfully warm.

Rolls of gold underlay

Fun with underlay

Pretending the underlay is a space station

See? Space station

And then we laid the laminate floor on top. I suspect the more expensive, thicker laminate is easier to lay… but it wasn’t too bad and it looks great:

Mostly finished laying the floor

Lovely smooth floor

We boxed all the electrical wires inside the skirting board, and fixed the plug sockets just above on the wall. There are track lights running the length of the office, and a light inside the cupboard and in the kitchen alcove.

We’re fitting outside lights this weekend, because I’ve discovered that coming out of a bright office into the pitch-dark Dingle leads to face-planting down the stairs.

Being Thrifty

We left the cupboard as bare wood, partly because we were fed up of painting, but mostly because I wanted to leave some of the cabin in its natural state. It’s a fantastic great big cupboard that I’ve organised beautifully.

The shelves are all made from left-over cabin building materials, which makes me happy:

Shelves

Shelves

Tons of space :)

Tons of space :)

I have a solid worktop on each side of the office so I can package up books, do filing, and generally organise my stuff.

My whiteboard lives in the cupboard, too – as does my sewing machine and arty bits and pieces.

Making It Beautiful

Finally, I’ve made it into the stunning office I’ve always wanted! I still have a few pictures I want to frame and hang, and framed book covers to sort out, but it’s more-or-less there. And I have a giant squishy armchair arriving from IKEA tomorrow.

Here it is!

Decorated for Hallowe'en videos

Decorated for Hallowe’en videos

And here’s Flamingo Corner:

Neon flamingo light and potted plant

Flamingo Corner

My mail rack, complete with beautiful flamingo crocheted by my lovely friend Jenn:

Mail rack

Mail rack

My desk, complete with one of my absolute favourite things: my map of Ankh-Morpork:

Ankh-Morpork

Ankh-Morpork

And a little office-warming sheepy gift from my friend Dawn:

Rupert the Rainbow Sheep

Rupert the Rainbow Sheep

A noticeboard for helping me to choose curtain fabric – and to show off Sean D’Souza’s beautiful cartoons:

Choosing curtain fabric

Choosing curtain fabric

The most important thing of all: my bookcase. Complete with extra space for my pole-dancing and trapeze trophies :)

Treasure

Treasure

And a space for Noodle the Office Manager:

Noodle the Office Manager

Noodle the Office Manager

Investment

It was surprisingly inexpensive to build and fit out the office, and we suspect it’s already added more value to the house than I’ve spent on it. Here’s a breakdown – hopefully it’ll help if you’re thinking of building a home office.

  • Concrete slab = £2,145
  • Log cabin (including build) = £10,798
  • Wood treatments and paint = £395.28
  • Electrical, lighting, and decorating gubbins = £292.78
  • Flooring = £211.08
  • Kitchen worktop = £100
  • Furniture (desks, bookcases, chairs, sundries) = £1,630.72

Total cost (so far – and there won’t be much more to spend) = £15,583.36

I’m delighted with my new office. It’s very much an investment, and I’m already feeling the benefits – I’m much more focused, much less easily distracted, and I feel like a “proper” business owner now. It’s lovely to have the house back as ours, without me commandeering one of the rooms.

Next step: turn the stone portion of The Dingle into a bathroom and a library. Onwards!

Important Lessons About Laying Solid Oak Floors

After almost exactly three years in The Dingle, the attic has a proper solid oak floor–and we’re bloomin’ delighted!

Having asked grownups to do the scary structural stuff like the big oak beams and joists, and the staircase and roof structure, we thought we’d have a go at laying the floor ourselves.

There were loads of options, but we decided on character-grade solid oak planks with tongue-and-groove edges.

They’re beautiful.

And they’ll be even more beautiful at the end of this weekend, when we’ve oiled them.

We signed the beam

We made this :)

Starting the floor was fiddly. We laid the first plank at the top of the stairs between the door frame oak – and rather fabulously, there was a plank exactly the right length. It was pretty nerve-wracking nailing those first nails in. We quickly got rather more blasé about it…

First plank down

Exactly the right fit

Then we had to jigsaw notches around the structure, which went rather well.

Tidy notches

Tidy!

Those strips are 3mm MDF. We used it to fill any gaps between board and joist, so hopefully there won’t be too many squeaks and creaks.

Most of the planks fit perfectly, but the odd one or two weren’t quite perfect – so Joe got a chisel out and did a brilliant job of fettling. Under close supervision by Whiskey, of course.

Whiskey keeps an eye on the chiselling

Supervisor Cat is supervising

And suddenly we were motoring. Slowly, like the first automobiles. But motoring nonetheless.

Now, a cautionary tale. While laying this floor, we learned Important And Useful Things that may help you, should you ever decide to lay a solid wood floor.

Are you paying attention, grasshopper?

Good.

Thing The First: Flooring. Takes. AGES.

We thought we’d spend ages fiddling the first row into place and ages fiddling the last row down (because the end of the attic isn’t so much a rectangle side as an oval). Then we believed we’d turn into an efficient floor-board-laying machine.

Ahahahahahaha.

Oh how we laugh now… because laying floorboards takes bloody ages. Especially when you don’t have clamps (see further down). But it was good fun and we did learn a lot of useful stuff.

I’m sure professional flooring people do this at lightning speed, like those sped-up videos on t’internet. But we did not.

Oh and also it’s totally knackering:

Human face down in hole

Zorsted

Thing The Second: Note Joist Spacing When Ordering

I have no idea if joist spacing is standardised, but just in case: make note of how far apart your joists are when you’re ordering your planks. It will make it easier to lay them and make for less wastage if you have different lengths that’ll fit nicely in the gaps.

When laying a row of planks, you want the join over the joist for strength. The whole thing is like a jigsaw puzzle.

With no edge pieces.

Or picture on the box.

In the end, we did super-well and ended up with very little wastage and only one butt-joint (fnarrr). (A butt-joint is where you can’t tongue-and-groove two planks together, so you just have to butt them up to each other, nail them down, and hope for the best.)

Thing The Third: Label Your Planks

About halfway through laying the attic floor, we had a brainwave. Up until that point, we’d been measuring joists and then going downstairs and measuring loads of planks to find one that fits.

You’re probably reading this and wondering how we manage to dress ourselves – I bet you’d have labelled all the planks at the start, right?

Well, it took us a couple of days but we got there eventually. We measured each plank and wrote the length on each in chalk. Made it much easier to plan.

Just in case this doesn’t occur to you, take our word for it: labelling in advance will make the job much quicker and much less annoying.

Thing The Fourth: List Your Lengths

While you’re labelling your planks with the lengths, write all the lengths down in a notebook so you can cross them off as you use them. That way you don’t have to go downstairs every time you want to plan a row. You can just check your notebook. Easy peasy.

Thing The Fifth: Beg, Borrow, Or Steal Floorboard Clamps

About halfway through our flooring adventure, one of Joe’s BJJ buddies – Pat (thank you dude!) who is a black-belt strangler – saw our Facebook post about our progress and asked if we had floorboard clamps.

We did not.

We were intrigued.

Until then, we’d been using our feet. As in, I’d perch on a joist and shove my feet against the board we were nailing down and put as much pressure on as possible to close the gap while Joe banged nails in. It worked, after a fashion… but you can definitely tell at what point the floorboard clamps arrived because the gaps entirely disappear.

We’re okay with that, because our learning curve is part of the history of the house now. It’s cool.

The clamps sit on the joist, and you wind them up using the handle thing, and they gently push the board tight. Honestly, you would not believe how much easier this made things…

Floorboard clamps in action

Magic miracle lumps

Thing The Sixth: Punch At The End

You might be wondering why we didn’t use secret nails. The reason is because the wise owl at Good Bros Timber who sold us the oak floorboards advised us to use lost-head nails. So we did as we were told. Also, it fits with the rest of the house.

For about half the floor laying adventure, we punched the nails in as we went along, using a big ‘ammer and a nail punch. One of which broke. Nothing to do with me being ham-fisted.

This is a right pain in the bum because the punch is always at the wrong end of the room. Incidentally, bonus tip: have a little wheely trolley and put all your tools in it and wheel it around as you work.

Or, alternatively, every time you stand up, pick up your hammer, nails, and anything else and take it with you or you’ll spend all your time swearing and asking where your hammer is now.

Back to punching: knock all your nails in, then at the end when all your boards are down, you can work your way methodically along each joist punching the nails. It’s much easier than staggering around the floor doing it as you go along.

Thing The Seventh: Take Breaks

Do not underestimate how much hard work this is if you don’t do a lot of this type of thing.

It was surprisingly hard work.

We fell asleep on the sofa about an hour after showering and dinner after each flooring session.

Working tired means you miss more nails (there are some little dents in the boards), you forget to stick nails in (we found an entire board without any nails at all: winning!), you bend more nails with inaccurate strikes (which is really irritating because getting them out is bloody difficult), and you risk hurting yourself.

As soon as you miss the first nail or put a slight bend in one, it’s time to take a break at the least, or pack up for the day if you’re knackered. Trust us: pushing on through is not worth it.

Finally…

My patented technique for getting upstairs. Disclaimer: I am in no way recommending you do this. (But it is fun.)

This is how circus people do flooring:

Really Finally…

At the far end of the room, the wall is seriously bowed. Like an egg. And while I was away for a day, Joe did a stunning job of jigsawing oak boards to fit precisely into that funny shape. It’s perfect.

Here’s the finished floor. Didn’t we do well?

Finished oak floor

Beautiful oak floor

Hope you’ve found this helpful! And inspirational, because if we can do this, you can too 😀

Next week: sanding and oiling (it looks gorgeous).

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