With the log burner fully installed it was time to start decorating the living room. I was desperate to have one room finished so we had somewhere to retreat to during the rest of the build. The walls were covered in some terrible cream wallpaper that had discoloured over the years, so the first job was to remove that.
We worked tirelessly in the evenings after we had got the kids to bed and at weekends, we would take it in turns to stay at home striping the walls while the other took the kids out. We soon came to realise two things; firstly, the wall underneath was not in great condition and the paper was not coming off easily so we would need to have them skimmed before painting and secondly, the bottom of the walls was damp. This was beyond our limited knowledge, so we got a professional in to take a look.
The news was not good. Damp has been rising up over the years because previous owners had plastered the walls incorrectly with gypsum plaster. This is the oldest section of the house dating back to 1850 and the traditional finish for houses at this time was lime plaster. Unlike gypsum, lime plaster is durable, allowing the building to breathe, but previous owners had applied gypsum over the top of the old lime meaning that the damp was getting in and the walls were cracking. The plasterer explained that we would need to remove the gypsum and re-plaster with lime. Understandably, the council were also keen on us applying the traditional materials, so we waited for the quote. We knew it would be more than the modern plastering, but we were not expecting ten times the cost! Thankfully the rest of the house will not need lime plaster as it’s not as old but this one has definitely gone down on the list of things to know before buying a listed property.
I spent the next few weeks on Pinterest pinning like crazy and creating mood boards. The fireplace gave me the perfect starting point. We shopped for sofas – this took a lot longer than I anticipated and by the time we ordered them I never wanted to see another sofa or fabric swatch again. We visited many showrooms, budget and high-end and eventually opted for Willow & Hall, we didn’t even need to visit their showroom, which is the other side of London. I was confident from the swatches and reviews that we would be happy with our choice. We chose a pink three-seater and a dark grey love seat.
We painted while we waited for the sofas to arrive. I have always loved Farrow & Ball (along with every other home renovator, I’m sure) but budgets meant we needed to be savvy here so I had some paint mixed to match what I wanted as close as possible. We did splash out on the radiator and went for a traditional-style cast iron in gunmetal grey. We have continued this look throughout the house, meaning that our radiator budget has substantially increased but I think it’s totally worth it and I love them.
I wanted the floor to be soft under foot, especially as the rest of the ground floor would be wood or tile so we went for a thick, swishy carpet. The sofas arrived 5 weeks later and, after a struggle to get them through the tiny cottage door, we sat back and admired our hard work. I love this room, my sister refers to it as the ‘adult only’ room, which isn’t necessarily true, but I do like to keep sticky fingers and ice lollies as far away from here as possible.
You may also enjoy: Sofa beds: there’s a size to suit your room
Read more First Time Renovator blogs in the series.
Featured image: I love our pink sofa from Willow & Hall, it makes a real statement.