I’ve made a little video for my Instagram page @casacrilly, where I put all of my house and interiors stuff, and it’s all about the double renovation we’re currently in the midst of – we’re doing up a little seaside holiday cottage in Dorset and also the house we’ve moved to. It’s all quite chaotic and I keep wondering whether it’s all entirely necessary but then I remember the two main reasons why all of this work (currently wall demolition, insulation, re-wiring and the full works in Dorset and then floor-sanding and floor-staining here at home) is pressing and necessary. To precis them for you, in case you don’t want to have to watch the video:
a) the cottage needs to be rented out, otherwise it completely defeats the point of itself and
b) we’ve started the chain of works at our own house because the floors are trying to kill me
I’ll expand on point b, shall I? Let’s rewind to when we first viewed our new house. It was instant love for the location and the views, which are unbeatable: not so much for the acres and acres of light solid elm throughout the interior. All solid elm floors, bespoke wardrobes and shelving in almost every room (beautifully done, I should say), a huge double-width staircase carved out of – you guessed it! – solid elm. Now I love wooden floors in photos, but in real life? Slidey as anything! Unless you wear shoes indoors (which feels weird to me) it’s like existing on an ice rink. If you cross the kitchen with a cup of tea then you’re basically signing away your right to sue. Run to answer the telephone (yes we still have a landline that we use, old school!) and you risk breaking your neck.
It becomes infinitely trickier with small children and shiny wooden floors. They career about like lunatics and the day is punctuated by me screaming “hold onto the bannister!” every time they go up or down the stairs. Which is a lot.
Then you can add the noise factor in. (I should have called this post Why I Now Love Carpets). Drop a toy on a wooden floor upstairs and the sound goes straight through you. Twice. The first time when it makes initial impact and then again when it inevitably rolls its way across the floor. Fitted carpet takes away the pain; a dropped basket of wooden foodstuffs at 6.25am? It’s like it never happened. Carpet brings a veil of hush. And yes, you can use rugs, but I do like the luxuriousness of a fitted carpet in bedrooms. And the neatness. Rugs in bedrooms, I can never seem to position them sensibly and then when I get them just right, I realise that the middle isn’t in line with the window, or the edge stops the door from opening.
So, it’s carpets upstairs and beautiful slippery, solid elm down. With rugs. (I seem to be better at downstairs rug positioning for some reason!) But before the neck-saving carpets can be rolled out, we have to stain all of the woodwork. Why? Because it’s like being in one of those furniture shops that only stock the sort of orangey oak or pine that was all the rage in the eighties. It’s overwhelmingly Pine Village. Even though it’s not pine, it’s elm. But the colour is an absolute bombardment to the senses and makes me feel as though I’m trapped in a space-time vortex that has paused in 1991. I think it’s just because there is so much of it.
That’s why we’re taking the wood down a notch or two, to something more in keeping with the seventies style in which it has been built. It’s all being stripped, stained and refinished and will be slightly darker, more luxurious in feel and more comfortable, I think – sometimes with the very light wood and the huge windows, I feel like Mike TeeVee in Wonka’s factory when they’re all in that bright white studio. It’s enough to give you snow blindness if it’s a very sunny day!
I should point out that we’re not changing the wood in the sunken living room that’s featured in these photos – that room is free of Pine Overwhelm Vibes. Annoyingly, the floor will have to come up at some point because underfloor heating is going in, but that’s a story for another day.
Right, well that turned into a very long explanation of what I basically said in the video. You can watch it here if you’d like a sort of audiobook version of this post! Make sure you’re following on @casacrilly for more regular updates and I’ll be back soon with a cottage update… I worry that posts like these are boring if you hate house stuff, but hopefully they’re labelled well enough to allow people to skip over them if they just want beauty…
I said I’d come back to you with more about my side-hustle, sneakily mentioned last summer and not referred to since. It has been a bit crazy on the house front and so I didn’t really know where to start: then Christmas happened and then the latest lockdown and so we find ourselves in February with a lot of catching up to do.
The exciting project that I’ve had on the down-low is a new renovation project, a little seaside holiday cottage in Dorset that I bought as an investment last summer. Just as a bit of background, I’ve been working on this holiday cottage idea, obsessively, for around five years but it has never been the right time to take the final leap and buy somewhere. I had found places over the years, but they had always been a little bit too far away for me to keep my eye on them, or they needed too much work, or they looked generally just too high maintenance for my current time-poor, young-kids situation .
Anyway, to cut a long story short, a cottage came up that was pretty much perfect, apart from not having any real kitchen, or heating, or phone line, or internet, and apart from the fact it needed some walls knocking about and a new bathroom and all new glazing and new floors, and I thought: THIS SEEMS LIKE A BRILLIANT IDEA!
So here we are, about to embark on a cottage reno. It actually feels easier than any other work we’ve done – I’m relatively detached from it because it’s not a home, it’s a business – but who knows what will happen as time goes on? We’ve already made quite a good start, but things have obviously been delayed because of lockdown, so once we get going properly there will be loads to write and talk about.
And I’m really excited for it to be done and for people to start staying there, because the location is so good. It’s completely off the beaten track, down a footpath that then leads down to the most beautiful beach that’s quite wild and wonderfully undeveloped. It was the location that got me, really…
…which brings me onto the other huge change: we actually moved house too! Just before Christmas. I think a lot of friends and family now firmly have us down in their address books as “the couple who have lost the plot”, but those who managed to see the new place before lockdown get why we did it. The views are incredible and we’re in a location that we didn’t ever think would come up, not in our lifetime at any rate. But we’ve managed to land ourselves another great big renovation project with the panoramic landscapes. I feel massively excited about that, or desperately stressed, depending which day of the week you ask me. I had completely forgotten that Mr AMR and I seem to have to disagree on absolutely everything for at least a month before finally listening to each other and realising that we actually want the same thing after all. It’s a process.
Our house is a completely different kettle of fish to the last house; it was built in the seventies onto a hill and has huge expanses of glazing and split levels and the whole house is surrounded by lush gardens, all you can hear is the sound of the brook and the singing birds. It’s quite a change going from the elegance and fine detail of a Georgian house to the simplicity of a modernist one, but then we always had mid-century places before so I suppose we must just be drawn to them!
So yeah: two renovations to think about and I think that they will probably overlap a little, which could be fun. Crazy-face emoji. Make sure you’re following on @casacrilly Instagram page for updates, just in case this lot of building work kills me off and it’s the last of my home content forever. I also have a Pinterest board, if you’re into that sort of thing – it was never really meant for public consumption, but it gives you a good idea of where I’m heading with things: Casa Crilly Pinterest.
Kind of bad timing, all of this, seeing as though we’re in a lockdown again, but I’m spending a lot of time planning and writing lists and annoying Charlie the Builder with my ever-changing plans. I think he probably rues the day he met me! He should set up a club with Mr AMR, hahahaha…..