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Thanks for visting Simply The Nest. I'm an English girl married to an Portuguese boy, and when I'm not working or taking care of our two adorable daughters, I blog about our house renovation, DIY projects, delicious recipes, inspirational interiors, and family life in a Victorian Manchester nest.

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I'm not a Facebook person, so instead here's a link to some kittens singing Beyonce in Northern accents.

Saturday
Feb132016

How To Upcycle A Vintage Dining Chair

I think I finished more projects in the three weeks before Elodie arrived than I managed throughout the entirety of 2015. Next up - a dining room chair to add to our slowly-growing eclectic collection. We found a pair of these in our cellar when we moved in, along with a bunch of other random stuff that the previous owner left for us, including but not limited to a filthy ancient fridge that he tried to flog to us for £100 as part of the sale. Majestic.  

Anyway, I painted one of them yellow and left the 'distressed' leather seat pad intact.

The other one I decided to sand and oil to keep the original wood, but replace the seat pad with new fabric. That's about as far as I got for a couple of years, until I eventually got round to ripping off the old upholstery and sanding it down. 

I oiled it using a dark Osmo Polyx oil, which restored the wood beautifully. I bought a piece of Vintage Safari oilcloth (kids = wipe-clean dining surfaces) to upholster the seat pad, along with some brass upholstery pins from eBay. 

I then decided it needed a bit of a lift (we want to fill the house with pattern and colour to make it more memorable for the children - everyone remembers the crazy patterned carpet in the hall of their childhood home, but the beige cushion? Not so much), so I experimented with stencilling a palm leaf of my own design (picked out from the Vintage Safari fabric) on the back of the chair.

It didn't really work because I used sticky-backed paper to create the stencil, rather than proper vinyl, so I ended up with lots of blurred lines where the paint went underneath the stencil. I actually prefer doing this kind of work by hand though and only tried the stencil as an experiment, so I just used a fine paintbrush to tidy it up. I used one of the turquoise paints that we used in Natalia's bedroom on her mural wall and chest of drawers. 

Here's how it turned out once I'd tidied the lines up:

I stapled the oilcloth around the seat pad after adding a few new layers of wadding, and then used the upholstery tacks to hammer the fabric onto the back pad, again with a layer of wadding. This part was harder than I anticipated - you have to really stretch the fabric to get it to look neat while hammering the pins in. Came out looking good enough, though.  

The finished article:

Currently the safari chair and the yellow chair are located in the living room at the kids' art table, but soon they'll be stored carefully in the cellar to make way for the builders, and brought up again in a few months when we're ready to place them at our new reclaimed wood dining table in our new extension

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Saturday
Feb062016

Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #2 - Base and Joists

They don't half work at a canny pace, these builders. After the concrete set in the foundations, they lost no time in setting the first breeze blocks in place to show the line of the new extension and the curved deck...

Raking a load of rubble over the new area...

Pouring concrete over the top of it...

Building the first part of the wall...

And installing the joists for the floor. The dude below is standing in the middle of what will be the kitchen.

Because we have cellars, the walls you can see in these pictures are not the walls of the new kitchen, but rather the base that the new kitchen will sit on, bringing the floor of the new extension above cellar height to the same height as the rest of the house. The extension will be made from white render smoothed over the breeze blocks, sitting on top of a wirecut reclaimed brick base. This way we will blend the new part of the house with the 140 year old existing building.

Eva and Natalia are fascinated by what they call 'the secret entrance' - namely the cavity that will lie below the new kitchen.

Penny and Enrique, a couple of keen diggers, are also having a glorious time rolling round in the copious amounts of mud that now festoons the entire garden.

Next - the scaffolding is going up.

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Thursday
Jan282016

Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #1 Foundations

We've never worked with builders before, so it's been a fascinating experience so far to see them in action. What would they do first? What kind of machinery would they use? Where would the skip go? How many people would be on site? Would they brew up inside, or would we run an extension cable outside for them?

The answers are: 1) Clear the entire site to ground level, including the new deck and terrace area; 2) So far we've had a giant portable skip and lorry combination, along with a one-man digger for chewing through the soil, tree roots and rubble, and a one-man dumper for carting all the soil etc round to the skip at the front; 3) We have a huge skip on the pavement across the driveway - a dude in a lorry zips round to tow it away for emptying as soon as it fills up; 4) Four, so far; and 5) Outside, even in the rain, poor souls.

By the end of the first day, the entire site had been pretty much levelled. The terrace had gone:

...and the reclaimed bricks that had been used to build it were stored neatly on a palette at the end of the garden.

All the shrubbery had been ripped out, including the jasmine and the wisteria that grew up the back of the house. My Dad, who had been texting live updates to us in the hospital, informed us somewhat picturesquely that the digger had attacked it like a terrier with a rat - this latter was much to Andre's delight as he hated the wisteria with the passion of a thousand burning suns. We will replant the jasmine but the wisteria was far too predatory to grow anywhere near the house without it taking over, so, pretty as it was for two weeks every year, I'm not sad to see it go either.

From this:

To this:

The builders uncovered a wall that had been buried under the terrace - it extends a few metres towards the garden from the back door, and includes a few white ceramic glazed bricks. What could this have been? A Victorian scullery, perhaps? I'm definitely keeping the glazed bricks and using them somewhere in the refurbishment.

The foundations for both the extension and the deck have been dug, inspected, and filled with concrete that was delivered in exciting fashion this morning by a giant cement mixer.

We'd fondly speculated that 'of course' the builders would rig up some kind of temporary steps out the back door so we could continue to use it - nope, we've now got a 1.5 metre drop out the back door and it's completely out of action.

(For comparison, this is what the area outside the back door used to look like:)

This has posed somewhat of a problem with regards to the dogs, who are accustomed to bolting out the back door to their alfresco bathroom on a very regular basis, while barking enthusiastically. Andre's attempt to let them out the front door and walk them round to the back met with some resistance as both dogs declined to jump across the various moat-like foundations that comprised a kind of canine obstacle course, and his initial solution of picking them up and lobbing them across the various chasms, while hilarious, is not necessarily enormously practical. We will find a way to manage this, I'm sure.

A load of breeze blocks have now been delivered by yet another exciting lorry/crane/claw combination, the presence of which in the street went a long way to enforcing the 20mph limit that the majority of passing drivers blithely ignore.

Apparently the actual build will commence tomorrow - closely supervised by Miss Elodie from an upstairs window, of course.

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