I very often help out as a room steward in an old house that opens to the public. They also hold fund raising events there, including lots of weddings and bridal showers. The house was built in the 1700s and it didn’t have any sophisticated things like running water or toilet closets for many years. In fact it was only in the 1920s when a wealthy tenant leased the place that central heating was introduced. The house is famous now for its gardens and they are fantastic – always featured throughout the year in magazines for the borders and fabulous big shrubs. The lighting schemes help enormously – for the evening guests to be able to make the event very special, it needs the most perfectly placed lighting. Getting this right makes all the difference and the photographs show that a bit of thoughtful planning can turn ordinary into absolutely magical.
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I have a habit of checking out the local estate agent web sites and looking up any houses that are near to me. With the new fashion of not advertising with a for sale board, the only way of knowing who’s moving is by the same route – online. I am staggered at the difference in prices of some nearby properties. We have basically 7 different design of house here, but all similar in that they are comfortable executive style 4 or 5 bedroomed detached all with double garages. The 5 bedroomed have smaller master suite to enable the 2nd bedroom to be ensuite. The house size is very similar so it’s a compromise. Most of these recent additions to the sales list have had work carried out to enhance the look – although none have taken my fancy. Additional lighting and clear light from windows seems to be the best way to sell a property. As it always has.
Having a garage is one of the most abused privileges I have encountered in all my years of owning a house. I have one that is huge – a double width and slightly longer than standard. By rights I should be able to put my car in the garage at night. Of course, this plan of action is hopeless, there isn’t a cat’s chance of doing that. I found this out when thinking I’d need to do so when several guests were coming to stay, I wanted my car out of the way to free up parking space outside. I have a work bench at the top end, a huge metal filing cabinet next to that and a mass of junk objects parked in all the other areas. This is not an efficient way to live and plans are afoot to make my home – especially the garage, much more efficient and safet to live in.
Ah, the first signs that spring could well be on it’s delayed way have begun. There is much bird activity outside – the various food containers I’ve been hanging out are being visited more frequently and at last it seems as though my efforts are paying off. There is nothing quite as spirit enhancing than the sight of sunny gardens, birds whizzing about from tree to fence to tree again. We have to be very careful these days about saving energy – gone is the free time we had of leaving doors open and not worrying a jot about who was picking up the heating bills. It’s not just a question of finance – it is literally a question of ensuring we don’t waste even the tiniest bit of power into our homes, offices, public transport network etc. We buy in much of our energy source and nowhere near enough comes from renewable sources. Efficiency at home is required!
What do we mean by an efficient home interior – it can mean all kinds of things these days. I take it that the home has got serously good triple glazing in very modern frames – the latest version of what we used to know as upvc. They will be neat, completely sturdy but unobtrusive. Easy to operate but impossible for small fingers to negotiate. Then there is the size of the windows – in the 1970s and 1980s there was a massive move towards huge picture windows so that we could bring the garden inside, or just enjoy looking out on the world. Then after the 9172 6 days war in the middle east, those terrible fuel shortages caued massive power outage and a general mistrust of having to rely on oil as a main utility. Smaller, lightweight windows became the norm. Skylight windows that have self shaded glass went down a storm. You pays your money and takes your choice.
I went out on a spur of the moment jaunt the other day. Having spent too many days idling after the new year holidays, I suddenly had a “let’s go and find more garden furniture” moment. I knew just the place I was heading for. A decent little family run garden and plant centre some way off but always a favourite of ours. We had bought my much admired and coveted patio set there some time ago. I did eventually reach the village, but to my horror I discovered my dear little garden centre was no longer. Instead, brasher national chain garden centre stood in its place. The range of outdoor articles had changed and I was crestfallen at first, but then I spied exactly the thing. A couple of really super steamer loungers that fold into themselves to make armchairs. Ah the old adage, if at first you don’t succeed . . . . . .
What we all think of as efficient homes and lights is actually a matter of opinion in many cases. I remember rather casually telling someone that our gas fire at home was an efficient – big mistake – this chap was a proper engineer, one who’d got degrees coming out of his ears and knew a thing or two about gas fires and their very famous lack of efficiency. I never made that error again. It would be interesting now to meet up with him again and ask his opinion on the efficiency of the average homestead. Looking around at my neighbours, they are all currently sporting enough lights outside to keep the planet alight from the space station. I imagine with all the Christmas bulbs twinkling away madly, planet earth must be equal tothe sun for brightness. The efficiency levels dipping rather dramatically then. It was quite funny listening to the nearest neighbour bemoaning the size of their last electricity bill. I wonder if I should mention anything . . . .
I happily hold membership of the three main heritage charities in the uk. Although I don’t make as much use of the cards as I could, it fills me with a warm glow that I am helping to maintain some of the most important and lovely properties on this earth. They have such a hard time garnering funds to keep up their maintenance and preservation programmes. I read constantly about how this house is now selling up their much loved paintings or furniture, so as to offset tax demands or other costs.
When we have a house that needs preserving even down at my simple 4 bed detached level, it is critical that we use the most efficient systems available to us today. This will not only keep our own costs down, but will help with the running of the planet for the next generation. I seek out information online and research whatever I can.
An efficient home interior is just one of the things we are all urged to acquire these days. An efficient exterior would be just as useful int erms of limiting our wastage of utilities. I have always wondered about the need for those huge patio heaters that were all the rage a couple of years ago. True, our summer and early autumns are not always warm enough to sit out comfortably on the patio, but lighting one of those large portable gas fired gizmos does seem a little excessive – a stout coat, hat, gloves and thick boots will keep some cold out and not wreck the plant.
There are all sorts of fancy decorative items in the garden centres these days for heating the outdoor space. There must have been a niche in the market a year or so ago – we now hear of fire bowls, barbeque space heaters etc. Cut them out and save the botled gas and the greenhouse ones!
On a recent trip out to a somewhat more rural location than my home town, I was quite taken with the eforts the owner of our hired cottage had gone to to make sure the utilities were not squandered away at her expense. There were various devices in place to ensure the heating came on only when really necessary – there were warm rugs on the floor, wonderfully warm woollen blankets and throws in the main sleeping and sitting quarters. We noted the discrete requests to turn off all unecessary lights and ensure the cooker and kettles were not switched on any more than standard use. At first I thought the owner was just being ‘tight’. However, having commented out loud, I was rounded on by said daughter, who reminded me that we were in the most gorgeous part of the country and it was our duty to save the planet and peak district at all costs!