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 three adorable daughters, I blog about our house renovation, DIY projects, and family life in a Victorian Manchester nest.

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The Cellar Kitchen

Today I'm have sharing an insight into the darker side of renovation - literally. We have been living in the house during our building works - because the work is taking place entirely on the ground floor, moving out would have added unnecessary cost, and even if we'd wanted to move out, I doubt we'd have found a short-term let locally that allowed dogs.

While the builders were working externally, we were largely unaffected. Even when they knocked down the back of the house, the building site was partitioned off from the part we were living in, so it wasn't too bad, albeit a bit chilly. However, when the time came to rip the old kitchen out.

Having lived through a two-month kitchen renovation at our old house with only a microwave and a panini maker, I was adamant that we would not be spending weeks and weeks washing up in the bath and feeding the children takeaways this time round.

Our solution? Move the entire kitchen into the cellar, Victorian style. Behold - we are living underground like moles:

My favourite part of the room is the baby bouncer that lives under the table, air-raid style, to prevent plaster raining down from the ceiling onto baby Elodie's head.

The room used to look like this so we had a lot of clearing to do first!

And how it looks now from the opposite corner:

Actually it's not too bad. We've got a sink, washing machine and tumble-dryer, fridge-freezer (which joy of joys is in the same room as the rest of the working triangle for the first time in four years), electric oven, worktop space, microwave, toaster, kettle, and all our crockery and china; the latter thanks to Andre who painstakingly removed everything from the shelves, dissembled the Ikea unit, took it downstairs, reassembled it, and then took the china and glassware downstairs piece by piece and placed it back on the shelves (meanwhile I rested peacefully upstairs with eight-week old baby Elodie).

The only downsides are the fact that it's absolutely blooming freezing when it's cold outside, to the extent that you need to wear a parka while cooking (although quite pleasantly cool during the occasional scorchio day we've enjoyed recently,) it's a pain carrying trays of food upstairs Victorian-style to the bedrooms where we are mostly living, and our beloved Gaggia doesn't work as well as it should due to the colder ambient temperature. Middle-class problems... :-) We've managed to muster up some fairly decent chop, mind, despite the slightly unpropitious circumstances - including pulled pork (cellarpulledpork), espresso (cellarspresso), pizza (cellarpizza), and so on. Various lovely friends have also taken pity on us and provided delicious homemade meals to be warmed up, or invited us round for Sunday lamb or Spanish-style tapas. Thank you all!

I'm glad I didn't actually live here during the Victorian age, as I'd almost certainly have been a scullerymaid (if I was lucky) and spent most of my waking hours down here.

Mercifully, the plasterers have nearly finished so we're planning to relocate the temporary kitchen into the new kitchen space while we gradually install the new kitchen units.

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Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #8 - Render, Roof Lantern and Bifolds

Three of the elements of the build that I was most looking forward to seeing in real life were the bifolds, the roof lantern, and the render. The architectural intention of the extension was to combine old and new in a way that both complemented and energised the original building. So white rendered walls on a reclaimed brick plinth - Mediterranean meets Manchester, if you like, and described poetically by Dan the architect as "a white arm cradling the old building" - and a new set of glass openings including bifold doors, a roof lantern, a glass back door, and a giant kitchen window, all made from anthracite aluminium.

We chose the XPView doors from Express Bifolds in anthracite with a metallic finish (thank you again Sian for your assistance with this). They are sturdy, smooth, slightly sparkly, and both the customer service and installation were impeccable. The lead time for delivery was also very short - no more than 2-3 weeks. Thoroughly recommended. 

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog 

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Ah, the roof lantern. Tom the builder magicked up a company to create this - it arrived as a flat pack and the builders installed it themselves. I love how it makes you look up at the original chimneys, which otherwise you'd probably never even think to crane your neck and cast your eye over. Old meets new and it's beautiful. 

After the doors and windows went in, the renderers got to work. I am completely in love with how this has turned out. 

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Still to come - the deck, the plastering, and the final internal openings and glass. Then we will be finished and can move onto kitchens, tiles, wallpaper and paint, how exciting!

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Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #7 - Internal Remodelling

During the four years we've lived here, I've regularly shown family and friends old and new round the house and explained our plans - this wall will be knocked down, this will become glass, we're putting a window here, and extending the wall there. I would usually see a few glazed expressions while doing this, probably because surprisingly no one else found our renovation quite as fascinating as I do ;-) or maybe because I never did a very good job of explaining how things would look. Seeing the vision for our house come to life in reality has therefore been absolutely wonderful, and all my worries over the years about whether it would feel big enough, or light enough, or open enough, or too open, have been completely allayed because in fact it's perfect.

Warning - picture heavy post coming up, with a few bonus wide angle shots.

Here's the old playroom (taken when we'd just moved in):

The playroom just before the build started:

And now with all the plaster taken off and the right hand side of the wall knocked down.

The wall between the playroom and the living room, with the plaster taken off:

And with the wall knocked down (with chipboard separating it from the living room to keep the dust in).

Moving across to the other side of the house - here's the old kitchen. When we moved in, it was yellow and green.

We painted it blue and white after a few months.

And then a couple of weeks ago, it was ripped out. I declined to closely examine the detritus discovered lurking underneath the cabinets.

Here's the view from the old kitchen looking through the hatch into the old dining room:

With the units ripped out:

Here's a closer look at the old dining room from the same angle (as if you had climbed through the hatch and were standing with your back to it):

And here's how it looks now the wall separating them has come down. Also, giant unexpected fireplace! 

Which naturally called for a giant unexpected fireplace selfie.

Here's another corner of the old dining room (the giant fireplace is on the left):

And with the frame for the cloakroom/buggy store in place (which will be accessed from the hall). The original door to this room on the right has also been removed and the opening widened.

Turning round and looking back at the old kitchen - the old hatch has been knocked out below to create a new opening:

And a wide-angle view of the room.

This is one of my favourite shots. I've been explaining for years that we'd be taking this old kitchen wall down and linking up with the other side of the house to create a big c-shaped space, so when the builders finally knocked the wall down I was hopping up and down with excitement.


And how it looks now.

Let's walk through this new opening, across what used to be the playroom, into the new kitchen, and turn round to look where we just came from. A few progress shots for the record...

Bay window still in place. The brick wall with the drainpipe in the middle of the new breeze blocks and the bay window is the wall that was knocked down in the pictures above.

Bay window begone. Keep an eye on that wall on either side of the larger yellow prop below.

And the new opening to the old kitchen. That yellow and blue room has never looked better. Note you can still see the drainpipe to the left - this will be boarded in and sound-proofed.

The last knock-through - to the right of the opening to the old kitchen. This will have a panel of fire-glass to allow a clear line of sight all the way from the new kitchen to the new playroom on the other side of the house with the giant fireplace (that used to be the dining room). Confused? Yes, us too - every time one of us refers to the dining room, the other asks "new dining room or what used to be the dining room?". Ah, renovation problems ;-)

Wide-angle shot of the space. This is clearly how estate agents take pictures as it makes the room look bigger than it actually is in reality.

And finally - into every temporary cellar kitchen, a little dust must fall. Here's Josh putting his head through the hole in the plaster-and-lath ceiling after Ben (pictured grinning sheepishly) put his foot through the floor in the room above.

We actually captured the whole episode on video, and it went something like this:

Peaceful cellar kitchen... peaceful cellar kitchen... peaceful cellar kitchen...

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH deluge of 140 year old dust thundering down...

A voice from above: "&%*$". Followed by: "Joooooooosh!".

Naturally we thought it was hilarious and took a bunch of photographs and immediately put them on Facebook.

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