Monday, 22 March 2010

Hidden treasure

Part of the joy of refurbishment is not knowing what you will find. Whilst our house is gradually being dismantled, the builders found this writing underneath wallpaper in the spare bedroom. 


Presumably it was last decorated in 1959 - over fifty years ago. If that is true, the wallpaper was holding up well. If it referred to a previous papering, nevertheless it is an interesting piece of history. I wonder whether H Oakley is still around today?

It reminds me of a tongue-in-cheek (I hope!) piece of advice I heard recently. Before wallpapering a room, buy some blood-red paint and write on the wall "I WILL KILL AGAIN". I suspect my equivalent in 20, 30, 40 or 50 years' time would have a wildly exciting blog post to read then!

It is quite a tradition to leave your mark, much like the stonemasons did in carving their faces in the decorations of cathedrals and stately homes, or wood-carvers did with their initials in the details of screens and decorations. I will be intrigued to find out what our builders write on the wall to be uncovered in the future. 

Old houses give up so much of their past and we are determined to maintain as many of our house's quirks as possible. There is an old doorbell in the hallway (painted over many, many times) that we wish to keep as it probably dates from the 1930s when the original house was built. We'd like to keep the deep skirting boards and the coving (which is probably not original, but of a simple style that feels in keeping with the inter-war period). Stripping the wallpaper has revealed that there were picture rails in most of the rooms, which we'd like to reinstate.

In contrast, the back end of the house, where the previous extensions have been built, is to be more modern in style. This is where there will be large windows overlooking the garden; this is where we will have clean, sharp lines and our open-plan living space. Whether we'll ever be capable of keeping our house in the minimalist style I picture in my head I don't know - it rather goes against the natural habits of our family! 

I am so excited now the works are finally underway. It is such a relief to be progressing, even if there are already hitches (our kitchen appears to be 60cm smaller than the architect's drawings, for example...) but I am actually challenged and energised by them, rather than despondent and despairing. Remind me of that last sentence when things get more difficult in weeks to come... 

Hopefully we will be able to leave some history in the house that future generations will uncover and enjoy. We may only be planning for the next 20 years, but we hope the house will remain a family home for many more decades to come. 


For those who are interested, here are some before and after photos from just a week of the build.

Before:
After:


Before:

After:


There is still a long way to go...

7 comments:

The Dotterel said...

I shudder when I see those 'after' pics. We had our bathroom well and truly 'done' last year. The mess was unbelievable!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

We've got some of this ahead of us. I am DREADING it. But love the idea of writing something untoward under the paint for people to discover in later years! Genius.

Christine Mosler said...

Oh those After pics...I can smell the plaster dust from here! You have my sympathy! Love the idea of leaving messages under the wallpaper, may need to pop to DIY store to buy a few rolls!

Catharine Withenay said...

Dotterel - thankfully the mess is being contained 200m down the road from us! Now I understand we'd never have managed living there through all this chaos.

BiB/FM - it is actually quite fun ... if you blithely rise above all the disasters that come your way! View it as part of the joy of re-establishing yourself in the UK?

Christine - thanks for calling by! Glad to see I'm encouraging anarchy and DIY in one blog post!

Muddling Along Mummy said...

Wow you are making progress. Whilst I hate the actual building work it's nice to take a house and make it better and a home - for us it's a long job but we're getting there

Wonder what else you'll find as you progress

make do mum said...

We are in the middle of refurbishing our house and my favourite part is the ripping out and demolishing! We've had some great finds too, 1950's newspaper under the lino & 60's flower power wallpaper. Good luck with it!

Working Mum said...

We'v also had finds whilst doing up our house. A girl's doodles on the wall under 50 year old wallpaper, 1950s newspaper scrunched up under the plaster in the bay window and a skeleton under the floorboards.

Just kidding about the last one ;)

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