I was helping out at a local heritage property recently – stewarding teh main ballroom area. The bigger of two ballrooms. . . . It struck me for the firt time that the ceiling had downlights and as the house had been completed in the 1700s, there wouldn’t have been any lighting beyond oil lamps and candles. I was looking up to see how these had been installed as the ceiling still looked as complete as the room next door. It turns out that the previous ceiling had been damaged by a devastating mishap with a bathroom above it and the water ingress had brought down a great deal of the original. The lights themselves don’t jump out or down so they are very effective – particularly for the weddings that are carried out in the room – giving just the right amount of soft warm lighting to complement the natural light from the floor to ceiling windows that look out over the expansive grounds. In all, the need for new lighting was well designed and does the job well!
Gosh we need to get a bit warmer before too long. This cold damp weather is having an effect on my limbs. Nothing feels particularly comfortable when we’re very cold and very wet. It’s always worth checking out various maintenance jobs in these adverse conditoins, lest we come downstairs to find something ghastly has occured overniht. As I did pretty recently. I paddled down stairs towards the kettle and looking out to the garden, noticed immediately that my enourmous back fence had blown town. It was a dreadful sight – fence panels flipped all over the place. The fascia boards snapped and buckling had occured. I had to call the fencing contractors. Because of high demand, he couldn’t come out that day to inspect but the next. This was good. The actual fence now looks fab. I asked for the medium priced alternative to include 3 trellis panels too. The professionalism was excellent. A first class job all round.
We need our outdoor spaces – badly. When the second world war was finally over, the government of the day had a massive rebuild programme on heir hands – moving families ou of war ravaged areas, into suburban council estates. Although the houses were very utilitarian, built as quickly and cheaply as could be allowed, they did almost all have decent sized gardens. The plan was for families to grow as much of their own veg as possible – following the hardships over the war, with so much rationing. Well, these days houses hardly come with even a postage stamp of room for kiddies to play, or parents to relexa with a bar-b-que. What space there is needs to be cared for and enjoyed. Neatly designed furniture with a small efficient lighting scheme will enhance the family use of this space for longer months of the year. Having oak furniture inside and out helps to to think the relaxing countryside is nearer.
There are many things about modern living that differ greatly from when I was growing up. In those days we were expected to eek out Dad’s income by growing all our own fruit and vegestables. This was quite normal for many families anyway – there being far less shops available, we would have gone pretty hungry without the home grown produce. We had a nice grassy patch to play on and a few paving slabs arranged outside the back door. My parents would put out their deck chairs on high days and hiolidays. The patio table was in fact an upturned orange or potato box with a tea towel over it. My how much more sophisticated things are today. With really lovely patio sets and to set off a warm autumnal evening, we can have lighting schemes to enhance the shrubbery. Professional installation is critical to ensure safety – cutting corners is never a good idea.
When anyone moves into the houses in my area, it seems that the first thing to be done is always rip out the existing kitchen and replace it within a massiveextension, all shiny white mirror like tiles . . . . then the finishing touch is a massive bi fold patio door arrangement across the width of the room. Eveyrthing is so much easier to get hold of these days. These bi fold triple glazed patio doors for example are so carefully measured and manufactured, there’s no likelihood of breaking building regs. Whereas one house I tried buying years ago, the previous owner had taken out most of the back wall of the lounge and replaced it with a massive aluminium framed, single glazed sliding door – he’d done it himself and had not checked any of the safety aspects. My mortgage was refused – the surveyor was so unimpressed with his work, he condemed the installation and reported the owner to the local council!
Some things about home ownership can be inspiring and a welcome boost to the ego. Then there are the times when it can just be jolly frustrating. Take for example this week – I’ve had need to open the up and over garage door a few times. I don’t like to leave the door up – there are lots of nice tools and garden implements to see and grab. However, the general change in weather conditions has made the door stick and being a huge double affair, it’s hard to unstick – I have to really slam it hard towards the left side when I’m inside the garage. It shifts a minute bit and unsticks from the wooden batten . . . . How much nicer would it be to have a brand new electric up and over door that can be operated remotely from the car as I approach the drive – this is my new year’s treat to myself.
It’s incredible just how quickly the year seems to roll by. It doesn’t seem possible that only a few short months ago we were wailing about the ghastly weather – winter had been harsh with storms, lashings of wind and rain. There had been much flooding and then ice and snow at Easter. I recall contemplating having an expert in to advise me about garden lighting – safe new schemes that can be controlled from my mobile phone and act as a security measure too for when I’m not able to be home in the evenings. I didn’t complete my research at that time but I am definitely going to very shortly. I was able to see such a system first hand recently and the chance to wander around a carefully lit garden first thing in the morning had not occured to me before. It’s on my ‘must have this year’ list for sure.
We can’t all afford to go out and buy the latest solar panels or heat transfer systems to convert anything into domestic energy. Some are out of the question on finance grounds primarily. However there are things that can and should be done to cut our own domestic energy and utility use. Families tend to use the dishwasher every day – that in itself would only be a problem if they don’t fill it completely and ensure even loading. Then they need to use the correct detergent tabs, salt and rinse aid. If they washed up manually, for a family this would use a huge amount of water every meal time, plus the mess left ! Washing machine use can be more streamlined too if children were encouraged to wear clothes more than once – rather than drop everything for mum to pick up and wash and hanging laundry outside or on clothes horse for free instead of tumble drying!
Several houses have changed hands near me. From years of inactiviy in the housing market, to suddenly a whole raft of folk upping sticks and moving on. This does introduce a whole new set of families into the area – with younger children again replacing the teenagers the original toddlers morphed into. One such family that moved in some months ago have completely remodelled their downstairs – it has got a brand new kitchen and living area – much of it open plan and with smart energy and security efficient bi fold doors across a newly widened space. They do have a lovely garden and this was their reason for shelling out that kind of money. They have installed colar panels and other energy efficient gizmos. Apparently. I’m guessing they needed to because at the end of the garden is a new hot tub/outdoor jakuzzi – money needed to run that for hours.
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.