Building Tour – Carlos Scarpa’s Banca Popolare di Verona

Built in 1973, this bank building by Carlos Scarpa still looks fresh and contemporary today.  The structurally glazed corner windows and stepped interlocking motifs which became Scarpa’s signature details, give the building timeless appeal.

I particularly love the etched semi-circle in the stone panelling beside the entrance doors, which I hadn’t noticed or appreciated when I first visited the building back in 1999 after graduating from University.


Floor Sanding Progress

Here are a few photos of our newly sanded floors, plus one detailed photo to show you the remarkable before and after difference at the threshold to the guest room. (We couldn’t do the guest room at this time as there would have been no where to sleep or store our things – its bad enough that our living room is full!)  In the photo of the hallway you can just about see the damaged board that they replaced, but that will bed in over time. This week while we were at work in the day they completed the sanding in the master bedroom, the staircase, the hallway, and the study (including all the fiddly bits around the balustrade and stair nosings).

We are really pleased with the result and transformation so far and are excited to see the end result once they are lyed (white washed), and then oiled. The flooring contractor is doing a really careful and methodical job, and amazingly I can report that there is not a spot of dust in the house after he leaves at the end of every day.  The sanding machines they use must have good collection bags on them, and they also do a good hoover of the house.

Sometimes it really is worth paying to have the job done by professionals!



Good bye Carpet!

Today we say a sad farewell to the last scrap of original carpet in our house. The hallway carpet outside of our bedrooms (which once ran in the downstairs hallway and also up the staircase to the bathroom) has now been rolled up and is ready to go in the rubbish collection today.  We slowly removed the carpet throughout the house as we refurbished each room one by one, but kept the carpet in the upstairs hallway just for its nostalgic value really and to remind us of just how far we had come over the years.

Now I’ll need to find a suitable runner for the hallway as I’d like to have something soft outside of the bedrooms…


Curtain Rail Solved

In recent posts, I have vaguely alluded to the fact that despite quite a lot of research into DIY bay window curtain poles,  our final installation of the new pole in our front living room was less than satisfactory.

In fact, to be perfectly honest, it was so frustrating to open and close the curtains that I couldn’t bring myself to do it on a daily basis and would just leave the curtains open, or leave Alex to the task. (He has significantly more patience than me!).

The main issue was that the passing hooks just frankly didn’t work. Its a nice idea in principle, but the hooks would constantly catch on the support brackets or the segmented corners, requiring significant jiggling and yanking to get the curtains to open and close.  We even tried different curtain hook positions to see if that would alleviate the issue by shifting the position of the passing hook gap, but to no avail.

It was time to take radical action. Life is just too short to be irritated by something that you do every day!

I spoke again to the professionals at John Lewis (who unfortunately recommended the DIY curtain poles in the first place) to arrange for someone to come and measure up for a custom made curtain pole without the segmented corners and less brackets. After speaking with the installer (who I think must be an independent body who is employed by John Lewis), I learnt that a ceiling hung Silent Gliss curtain track  was really the way to go.  He commented that the curtain pole systems are ‘entirely rubbish’ and he doesn’t know why John Lewis even stock them! I had resisted this approach initially as I felt it might look too contemporary for the room, but was at my wits end.

For what turned out to be only slightly more cost than the curtain pole system, John Lewis measured up our bay window, made a custom bent curtain track to fit perfectly and installed the system. We had to wait 3 weeks for an installation slot – but after just 1.5 hours the job was done.

And… now our curtains slide open and closed effortlessly and with ease and grace!

Well, lesson learned… and hopefully I can save you the trouble!

Now I just need to get the curtains re-hemmed, as being hung from the ceiling now, they are now too short!

P.S. The Silent Gliss track they installed for our heavy weight curtains was the Silent Gliss 1280 system.






Margate by the Seaside

While its still summer, here are a few summery seaside photos from our recent weekend getaway in Margate.

Every year we go to the seaside for a dose of fresh sea air, a stroll by the beach, an icecream, and of course some fish and chips. Last year we went to Deal, and the year before that did visit Margate, walking between there and Ramsgate, stopping off in Broadstairs for lunch. The Kent coast is so close to London, that it makes it the perfect quick and easy weekend destination. Just an hour and a half after we finish work on a Friday, we are on holiday by the sea… And although it isn’t a wild adventure, there is something quietly comforting in returning back to the same part of the country every year.

The Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, shown in the left image, is the largest tidal swimming pool in the country, is Grade II listed and recently celebrated its 80th birthday!


Lessons in Lavender

Acquiring a lawn and a garden with flower beds after only having to tend to the odd flower box or house plant for most of my adult life seemed somewhat daunting when we first moved in. So, to make the task of tending to it more manageable,  I decided that I would learn how to take care of roughly one plant each year. (Alex is the one who bravely experiments with our produce growing!)

In February of our first year here, I learnt about pruning roses.   Later that year in early summer I added maintenance of our deep red leafed deciduous trees to my repertoire (even though I still haven’t figured out what species they are). This spring I learnt about cedar trees and lifted the base of our cedar tree to allow daylight to reach the flower beds beneath.  I did vaguely wonder about what to do with our Lavender back in 2014, but at the time it was too late in the season to prune it without risking damage (late September), and I got distracted by other things.

I read recently in the news paper that it was time to cut back English Lavender, so it was time to address the matter head on.

The first thing I had to figure out was whether we had English or French Lavender. Apparently English Lavender is more common, and more hearty,  so after a quick a Google image search to double check my hunch, I was able to confirm that our Lavender is indeed English. (The flower bloom on French Lavender is quite different, with a more bulbous base and petals at the top – you can see what it looks like here.).

This you tube video explains how the pruning is done. I was amazed by how much you can chop off!  Apparently the key is to avoid going down into the thicker wood base stems.

So, above are the before (middle), and after (right) images of our lavender shrub, with the pretty scented bunch I made with the offcuts which I think I will hang in our bathroom…

I am now adding Lavender to my list of Plants that I think I know How to Take Care of list.   Next season we’ll see how it panned out!


Stair Stringer Paint Stripping

When the guy came by to firm up the quote for our floors, he stated that in addition to his initial quote (which was based on photos and a floor plan),  that it would be an extra £160 to remove the paint from around the uprights, tread nosings, and the stair stringer.

So, having a little bit of time,  a heat gun, and experience using it on our master bedroom fireplace, Alex kindly got going on the task last weekend. Here is an in-progress shot and a ‘ready for sanding by the pros’ photo.  We decided that it would look slightly odd to finish the paint on an outer corner of the tread (as we had it when the treads were carpeted), so opted to strip the paint all the way along.  Alex made quick work of the task and it only took a two hours, money well saved! (Thanks Alex!)

The sander comes in next week to sand and treat the floors and I can’t wait to finally have this job done!  We have been waiting until all of the first floor was complete before doing the work so it could all be done at once (making it more cost effective), and also, perhaps more importantly, so it wouldn’t get damaged during other phases of the work.