Spring refurb – Using your home to help you reach your goals

Around this time last year there were stirrings inside of me telling me that it was time for change and again this year I am having those stirrings.

Either post Christmas, new beginning, resolutions and all of that new year resolve to change something just takes a while to really kick in with me or my stirrings are more related to the new birth, new growth spring time vibe that is going on around now. Something tells me that it’s a mix of the two. I am a bit of a procrastinator and so the resolve I have at the cusp between new and old years does kind of sit in the back of my mind nagging away for a little while longer than it should. Thankfully then the spring time appears and kind of gives it a boost and gets it actually moving for real.

I’m considering myself pretty lucky to live here and to have that spring time come at a nice steady pace behind the new year so that the ideas I had for change on January 1st are not too dead and buried by mid to end of March and are still showing some signs of life even if it is weak and they are barely hanging in there. If I lived in the Southern hemisphere I’d never do anything.

I recall last New Year’s thinking that 2014, would be the year when I would finally conquer my weight demon and re-find myself under the obesity and reinvent my middle aged self, find the woman who was going to take me into old age and be sure she would be someone I liked and felt happy being. I recall feeling slightly down hearted that I couldn’t quite get the mental concept into a physical reality by the end of February and into March. But I also remember how by the middle of March I was making determined moves towards digging that New Year concept out again and with the advent of spring that desire to be a new woman really gathered pace. Fresh life was breathed into it as the daylight hours extended and the hours spent glued to a radiator lessened. The rest is now part of my history as I continue to win the battle to be someone I like more and am happier being. So many things have happened since last spring and I’ll probably pay tribute to them all in my anniversary post next month but this year I am delighted that I am still looking for something to improve and that my post Christmas ideas are once again now coming to life as spring comes busting out all over.

I remember feeling a little fed up with my home decor around Christmas time. I started to realise that I’d allowed my home to reflect myself, I noticed that my walls were pretty blandly painted a wishy washy non colour… neutral but with nothing to really break it up. I’d lost interest in art, ornament, decoration and everything was very serviceable. The only real places where comfort came into it were my lounge and bedroom where there were dark, luxury colours of black, purple, red, satins, furs and velvet textures which reflected my desire to relax, to retreat to hole up and be cosy and comfy and gave me places to hide and do nothing in… they reflected my lazy, withdrawn, glutton self and were my lairs where it was OK to lie down and indulge myself and cut myself off from reality.

I remembered that I love flowers and yet weekly fresh flowers all over the house was now a hit and miss thing, not something I made an effort with to give me a mental boost every day, I used to have coordinated towels in the bathrooms, it would bother me if they were not,  now I didn’t care that the blue towels were in the green bathroom and the pink ones were in use by a male. I realised there were windows in my home which had not been opened for over a year at least, some never and pulling back some curtains for the first time in perhaps two years in one room revealed an array of deceased creatures and specks of mould on the window frame, the glass dull with the stain of what I could only assume was condensation. Oh dear, I’d not been housewife of the century but worse than that I just didn’t care and yet I spend so much time in my home, I work here now and I know my environment affects me and so it is up to me to effect my environment to make sure it effects me positively.

OK so during the  year I’ve done a lot of work in the garden and had some home decor go on, I’ve made a nod to clearing out the old and refreshing the place, kind of in sympathy with my new approach to life. Most noticeable was my hall, stairs and landing where mirrors became a big feature and light was allowed to flood in and I was forced to look at myself where formerly I’d more or less banished  mirrors from the house. I’ve done some tidying up and clearing out but really I noticed at Christmas time I’m still living in a bit of a drab, boring blank canvass and that really doesn’t reflect me now,  perhaps it did reflect who I was at this time last year and it was definitely in parts representative of my transitioning self but my home was not representative of my  new self at all. There was no colour, no vibrancy no hope or happiness.

I know it might sound crazy to some people that their home decor can reflect those things, especially hope, how do you make your home reflect hope? I kind of feel that hope is the most important emotion, to believe that something better is possible, to believe that something better is probable, that it is attainable that something different is around the corner, something new, that there is learning to be done, experience to be had, love, life, laughter all waiting somewhere ahead for you. That all kind of describes how I see hope and it is one of those blessed qualities which just keeps me going forward each day. It makes life worth waking up for, it makes problems surmountable, it makes me feel satisfied by my achievements and ready to look for more still to accomplish, it inspires and motivates me and hope really does keep me happy. I want my home to reflect hope and happiness because I’m filled with those two emotions much of the time if not all of the time and in the moments I forget I want my home to shout in my face “Hey Mich remember hope and happiness? They’re still around”. When I think of hope in terms of making it tangible two key things spring immediately to mind… a palette of fresh colours and light.

I didn’t want my home to be a blank canvass any longer, it was ready to be written on and so began the mammoth task of redecorating the whole place and rethinking use of rooms, positioning of furniture and walls and doors and windows, the whole place is being remodeled and I’m buzzing with excitement. Ideas were flowing like you would not believe and inspiration was coming at me from all angles and the overwhelming feeling coming back at me from the mood boards for each space was happiness, peace, hope, light, love. Bright whites, clean lines, natural fabrics and woods, vibrant pastels, reduced window dressings allowing so much natural light through, hand crafted decorative items, our own art on the walls, coordination and a natural consistent flow from one space to another. Clean and fresh, that’s the feel and it’s how I want to feel inside. It’s how I want us all to feel, it’s how I want everyone who comes here to feel.

So, every room is being attacked  I want the whole place to reflect the new me. What has been really really refreshing is that I thought I might come up against some resistance from the son who might not really fancy his areas being pasteled out but to my surprise he has contributed to the think tank and has supported my choice of colours, going for delicious more masculine shades of greens and blues accenting pure white in his rooms and agrees that letting lots of light in is the way to go. It mattered to me that my theme flowed through the whole house, I didn’t want to wake up in love and hope and walk into happiness and then have to cook breakfast in dull misery and eat it in morbid gloom.

I love that Nick is really excited about the changes too and am happy that my ideas are not too girly soft but appeal to both sexes and are just what we all need. I also got to thinking how we as women often dictate the way our homes are decorated and how our mood or head space can therefore affect everyone in our home and I felt a little regretful that the decor has maybe affected everyone else in the house over the past few years. But in some sense that has helped them get on board with the remodelling as they are all ready to get rid of drab too. I’m not going to feel bad about it for too long, I beat myself up too much about what effect my misery and obesity had on those around me, I prefer to slap myself on the wrist and forgive myself as readily as they have forgiven me. So, looking forward I’m glad that from now on we’ll all be bathing in an aura of positivity when we are at home. I see it impacting on everyone’s mood already and know it will make everyone feel happier when it is complete. I even think it will make us all more productive and I’m going to watch my son’s school performance and just see if there is an upswing in his attitude and attainment.

A few walls are coming down which is a bit messy but that will open up areas for more communal living and I think I’ve been too happy for too long with the smaller room, boxed off type of feel of our  house which is very English but which can be quite lonely and segregational too, although it does offer privacy of course which can’t be underestimated. I think choosing this home with lots of individual smallish rooms was subliminally satisfying my need to be alone, away, apart from others, it was the perfect place to hide in, so nobody would notice what I was going through, even those who shared the home with me. So we’re opening it up because I don’t want to hide any more!

The kitchen diner is being knocked through into the formal dining room and creating a huge open bright big space for cooking and eating and entertaining which is more useable for us as a family and good for socialising. I’m ready to start throwing dinner parties and having gangs of friends around again now and that’s a real huge step towards how I used to live before obesity and mid life crisis really took its toll and something I really wanted to regain. It also will provide me with an amazing space for home tuition and instructional classes around a huge table and even for groups of friends to come around and do a fun exercise class with if we push furniture to the sides. I want that area to be the heart of our home again. I have another area for daily exercise too but I really want this big space to be multi purpose and for social events and the other space to be more private. I’ve worked on designing the lighting so that when I want to entertain more formally or dine more formally the kitchen can be lit away and focus will be on the dining table, making it more intimate and then again when it is a social communal place the lighting will open the whole space up and invite movement around the kitchen and into the dining area and empty spaces to stand drink in hand having a good chatter.

My son’s den and the lounge are remaining separate but are having total revamps with an additional window being added to the lounge and it being opened up with the hall wall being taken away, creating more light and space and losing the corridor feel of the narrower parts of the hall. The staircase is being stripped and losing its solid sides and having those replace with modern spindles and frosted glass to again let light through and create space and that will now be a feature of the lounge instead of being away in its own area. The lounge and den will gain some space from the former office and studio and the den gains extra space on the other side from the former dining room and so it will have two new features, it’s own direct porched access from the drive and it’s own wet room so that when sleepovers are in progress especially after muddy football or sweaty tennis the lads can take a shower and have somewhere to change without having to parade through family spaces. We’ve also factored into the design a cute kitchenette area where he can have a drinks fridge and make pop corn and snacks and do his own washing up. He is loving the idea of having a kind of studio apartment space of his own with pull out and throw down beds and somewhere he can play his instruments and his console games and do his homework and  just hang out with his friends. He has chosen a selection of plug and go snack making tools, including a toaster/grill and a pop corn machine.

My office and studio have moved into one upstairs space (another reason why there is space for expansion of the lounge and den) we took out one of the bathrooms and one of the bedrooms which gave us more useable space and less unused space. It’s been re-glazed with big picture windows on two sides, a south facing and a west facing wall so there is almost round the clock natural light. On a clear night even the moon manages to cast a fair glow into the space, it’s magical. The rest of upstairs is all base painted crisp white walls with stripped, white washed floor boards with different accent colors in each bedroom and bathroom and of course the follow through of the new bannisters from the stairs letting more light into the whole area in general.  So my kids still have their own bedrooms (even though the daughter’s is now all but empty of her personal affects) and my son will spend most of his life in his den but that gives us space for Nick’s kids to stay over comfortably and we still have plenty of space if ever we get everyone together.

It’s been a big clear out time, that was already more or less a fait accompli as there has been a gradual clearing away of clutter as my mind cleared but it’s well and truly over now. We’ve salvaged lots for recycling. Fabrics have been laundered and cut up into useable craft stash pieces, zips and buttons have been picked out and added to the stash too, stuffings, feathers and cushion pads have been laundered and vacuum packed ready to refill new soft furnishings, wooden pieces of furniture, mirrors and picture frames suitable for upcycling with a  bit of paint and some imagination have been set aside for stripping and remodeling and tons of stuff has been donated to charity and those who might make use of it. I even salvaged the carpets we pulled up and have stashed them in the garage ready to use to line some more raised vegetable beds we have planned to build. Old carpet is a great insulator (just staple gun or tack it on to the inside of wooden beds) and it also helps prevent weeds encroaching from around the bed. We’ve had two skylights added to the loft and had a cute space saving spiral stair case fitted which leads from my studio so that we can use the space as storage for larger furniture items and bulky materials. The spiral stair case was bought second hand and was a real bargain. It was black iron but it has been repainted white with the stair treads stripped and stained different pastel shades and sealed. It used to live in a wine bar and we got it for thirty pounds complete with hand rails. We’ve also put the gym equipment up there and created a cool work out space for us all to use although my son still has a weight bench, punch bag and treadmill in his den too.

In terms of project management, we top downed the approach so the loft was done first so that we had storage space for things we wanted to keep from the beginning of the project and then we completed the studio and fitted it out with temporary beds before everything was moved from downstairs so that we could sleep in there while the bedrooms were being redecorated and refurbished and we used the existing ground floor wet room while the bathrooms were having a coat of paint and some fresh tiling. Then once the bedrooms and first floor bathrooms were ready work began on the ground floor which is where the majority of the work is taking place. This has ensured that we have somewhere to sleep, relax, work and bathe while the ground floor is being remodelled. We’ve managed to temporarily plumb the washing machine and dryer into what we call ‘the gardening wet room’ on the ground floor so we can still do essential laundry and we have been managing to eat lots of grilled meat using a big George Foreman and lots of fresh leaves from the garden which we are keeping crisp in a fridge in the loft for the time being. That’s where we expel our cooking fumes too and so far it’s working well.

Breakfast is something we did struggle with at first, nobody feels like ascending to the loft first thing to cook eggs and bacon and so we’ve been treating ourselves with breakfast out each morning at a local hotel where we fill up on scrambled or boiled eggs, bacon, sausages and or ham and as much tea as we can drink at 6.30am for £7 a head with my son eating free as he’s still classed as a child and then my son heads to school and we enjoy the luxury of  sitting in armchairs for a while and read the papers before we go and take our exercise and start the day proper. It’s a lovely treat and gives us some respite from the rubble and dust and noise at home and just starts our day off well and helps us cope with the rest of it. If you are having invasive work done at home and you can afford a little treat like this it is well worth it even every other day, it just makes the whole experience feel easier. Being confined to the first floor and loft is suprisingly stressful when really it ought not to be as we do have everything we could need. I think it is that feeling of having your movement restricted that just gets the better of anyone in the end. I perhaps suffer more as I tend to stay up there most of the day whereas Nick is more hands on with the supervising of the project and answering questions and he’s also been offering an extra pair of hands, something I have no desire to do, I stick to making food and drinks and keeping my businesses ticking over. Nick has also managed to escape to work a couple of times which has been good for him. I do have some respite in that the garden is taking up a bit of time lately as the seasons change and so I do get out there and do a bit of prep when being indoors gets too much. I don’t perform well in chaos, some people love it, I don’t.

We managed to keep costs pretty low too as we have not replaced bathrooms, we have repositioned one essentially by recycling the fittings from the first floor ensuite that we took out and putting those back into the den wet room and upstairs most of the work was a simple refurb of the bedrooms and landing with no major structural work happening other than at the back end of the level where the studio/office is and the changes to the loft were made. We bought second hand windows and we floored the loft with recycled floor boards from a wood yard. Keeping that major work at the back end of the house and getting it done first meant that it was very unobtrusive to our lives and more or less happened without any real impact on us. It also meant that my work was not interrupted which was important. I lost one day of work while we were moving everything from the ground floor to the first floor and loft but that was all and we managed to do that on a weekend. As I said that approach also meant that we had a huge useable loft space for storage of items that the rest of the refurb displaced which meant we could sort, strip and store very easily with little mess. That allowed us to save money in that items we wouldn’t have had anywhere to store and would have been tempted to get rid of were able to go up there and be worked on as upcycling projects.

We still have protective coverings on the landings which I will be glad to see the back of and we have a membrane across the stair well to prevent dust from coming up to the completed levels which is working well but means movement around the house is a pain at the moment as we need to get help to get through that membrane and reposition it when we need to go to the ground floor which we try not to do unless totally necessary.

With me having been unwell recently the dust and fumes have not helped with that but open windows and not too bad temperatures have eased it a bit and my bedroom was completed which meant I was able to relax through most of it and I also still had a lounge at the time thankfully.

We are with power and water and heat when we need to be and the builders have been tremendous when it comes to meeting our needs and keeping us informed, we’re very lucky to have a great bunch of guys working on this who my daughter had recommended from a business owner guy she knows who uses this team to refit his shops and bars. They are very quick and efficient and hard working and at times I hate having to ask them to call it a day as I know they are used to working through the night and just getting jobs done fast due to the nature of their usual work but I do have to consider neighbours and also the fact that my son needs to sleep and also think about the days when Nick has a long drive next day so sleep has to be protected. We’re not far off finished with structural work now and things are taking shape though, I’m sure we would be well onto decorating by now if I’d let them work to the time scale they would have preferred. At least when it comes to non noisy finishing and decorating they have my blessing to work until they finish, through the nights if they wish. Their attention to detail and the quality of finishing is excellent and you can just tell they are used to having their work heavily scrutinised. The gang consists of essential registered trades and multi-trades so you get a lot of bang for your buck from them. They are loving the protein heavy lunches I’m providing too and are not used to organic rib eye with a home grown organic green salad for lunch from most of their clients so I’m confident they are being fed well and all of that low carb organic protein energy is really doing them good. I know my butcher has a couple of new clients.

The ground floor is total chaos at the moment but although I sound like I’m hating it,  I have really never been happier to live in chaos in my life. If anything I’m frustrated because I just want it all done now. The upstairs is beautiful and I’m enjoying adding the finishing touches gradually and finding time to work on some pieces for downstairs.. I’ve bought some beautiful fabrics and am really loving creating things with them. I can’t wait to see my new kitchen and entertaining space, I’m desperate to throw a big party and have not felt like doing that in too long. My daughter was here last week for two days and she did some beautiful art work which is at the framers now and I can’t wait to see on the walls.

It is amazing how much of ourselves we can see in our homes and how much our homes reflect us and our moods and our outlook on life without us really knowing that they do. I really think that I needed this huge upheaval now, the time is right for me to wave out the old me, she’s almost gone now, I’m so close to my first big target, a target I never truly believed I could reach, I’m just not the woman who bought this house or who decorated it or furnished it and the new me, combined with the welcome return of familiar elements of the old me is making herself known now, she is able to do so demonstratively by throwing her arms open to the world, opening up her blinds and windows and doors and saying welcome, come in, enjoy and feel the wonderful energy of my new home, of the new me, full of hope and happiness and light… step right in and let it wash over you, it’s so good it simply has to be shared.

I’m a lucky lady, lucky to be alive, lucky to have this life and lucky to have the support of so many amazing people who influence and inspire me daily through the sharing of their own hope, love and light, I love to step into the virtual homes of my blogging community buddies and hope that mine will always be a place where you feel welcome understood and inspired too.

This new environment for the new me is really going to help me to keep on my journey not just to one of my many goals but to the main goal which is to never ever rely on food to mask unhappiness ever again, to deal with my issues openly and honestly and not hide anymore behind anything. I’m feeling like a bright happy hopeful woman and I want my home to be one of the things which reminds me of who I am and of the wonderful life that is there waiting for me to make the most of. I need this and I realise again that my house isn’t just somewhere I eat, wash and sleep, it is far more than that.

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