Fireplace 1 and The House that Jack Built: Wk 5 – Day Four

After writing yesterday that buyers of houses like these dream of finding original fireplaces….I can’t quite believe that this evening an original fireplace is exactly what I found.

In our lounge we have a large black fire surround. The mantlepiece feels like it might be made of slate but we have already ascertained that S and I have problems identifying a material from touch therefore it’s quite possible that it could be plasticine. Let’s just say that we think its a stone of some sort. The surround, which includes three marbled inserts (and these really don’t feel real) feels like wood but we’ve been there before. The front of the fireplace was covered in a wallpapered panel (see pic) which had what I thought was a glossy black architrave stuck onto it in a decorative (?) three sided square and within that was a piece of hardboard screwed on to cover a vent. The screws were pushed in actually, rather than screwed, so it would fall to the side occasionally revealing a sooty black bin liner within. You may not be surprised to hear that we haven’t always been sure we would keep it. Moving the bedroom fireplace into this room was on the cards for a while but once it dawned on us how irresponsible it would be to tear it out and, telling ourselves it probably only looks ugly within the context of the undecorated room, we decided we would keep it. I have always assumed that behind the panel was nothing but a brick hole and had asked the plasterer if he would plaster it out for us to make a crisp, squared hole into which we could put a vase/lights/decorative logs or something of that ilk.

Waiting for the steamer to heat up so I could finish the annoying last square metre of wallpaper stripping, I occupied myself by investigating further in preparation for the plasterer. I pulled, tentatively at first and then with a bit more ooomf…and behind the panel I found not a hole but an original cast iron fireplace complete with pretty filthy (and perhaps pretty beneath the filth?) Victorian tiles. I also found a pile of soot which I’m not convinced hasn’t got a dead pigeon or something in it….I have no evidence of this but it looks scarily ominous. So tomorrow’s unpleasant job will be to remove as much soot as I can and clean it up so we can take a proper look. I’m now also hoping the horrible chipboard ‘hearthstone’ is actually covering up something beautiful beneath….

My day was spent, as I had predicted, in the lounge trying to complete the wallpaper removal and also stripping back the cornicing where I could (though I’ve yet to tackle the ceiling rose). The paint does break away sometimes and then my technique doesn’t work but the foreman, taking a look at my progress, suggested very lightly sanding any parts where the paint hasn’t succumbed to my steaming prior to decorating. The cornice (or is it coving? I’m never quite sure…) is dotted at the moment with dirty orangey yellow droplets of water where the steam has accumulated and these, I was told today whilst throwing an oranged plastic curtain track in the skip in disgust, are due to the nicotine still left in the room. So it seems as if the room is having a rather pampertastic time of it – I’m providing spa-like conditions whilst it relaxes back eliminating its toxins. Whilst jealous, I’m pleased its ridding itself of traces of the past ready for its new future. I just wish the detoxification could happen without me in the same room as if that kind of stuff is in the air, on the walls and in the carpet I have no doubt it has found its way into me too.

The builders spent their day busy plasterboarding and then, a few minutes before leaving, ripping out the side panelling on the stairs to reveal what will become our WC area plus some cupboards. A scooter cupboard for O and a Man Cupboard for S in which to keep all of his DIY necessities to save him the journey to the shed …which I’m secretly hoping to claim as The Woman Cupboard. Oh yes, arguments will ensue about who owns the freehold of the new shed I can assure you. I’d like it for potting so I can resume the enjoyable task of sowing seeds and nurturing a vegetable patch. S wants a workshop in which to store his collection of The New Scientists and escape from me a la Friday Night Dinner. Either way a new one is urgently needed. The aged structure is unfondly named The House That Jack Built as it tilts over to one side and the roof is threatening to cave in. We’ve seen pictures of our next door neighbours garden-in-the-making which are twenty years old and feature HTJB looking much more solid on its feet so its had a good innings. You may wonder, though, how a shed can possibly be prioritised on our shopping list when there is so much else to buy but bear with me. On the day the builders cut through the back of the house to make the hole for the large doors I was greeted on my return by the cigarette packet finder who executed a gentlemanly Shakespearean bow type action and a “tah dah”. He expected an exclamation of joy. He got an exclamation alright but it wasn’t quite what he was after. Stood at the front door I was able to see nothing but the monstrous HTJB.

What is on our shopping list is a worktop for our new kitchen and we had thought we had found the perfect material. It’s made from recycled glass, mirror and shells crushed to a fine powder and bonded in some kind of resin. It’s quite beautiful but also, as we found when I sent our final final final version of the kitchen plans over this week for a quote, quite expensive. Over the months of tweaking the plans we have gained rather more worktop space so suddenly a product which was expensive but stretchable is now not. I’m not sure this sentiment quite fits with our green ethics as we should be glad that recycled goods command such a price …..but we can’t help feeling put out that companies can charge such a premium for materials which are essentially free. Nevermind. I’ve two choices…call in the Chief Negotiator or look elsewhere. Neccessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Perhaps its also sibling to creativity? So Google and I are busy researching other alternatives and I am looking now at a company which has two products available..recycled quartz and recycled yoghurt and coffee cups. Ill keep you, literally, posted.

You might remember, in one of my tirades about this house, mentioning something about how the owner stuck a tile on the window. It read ‘you can never sin with love as the sin itself is not to love’. S, appalled by the fact it was stuck fast and pacified only by the knowledge it would not survive our refurbishment plans used to mutter “the only sin is sticking s**t on the windows”. It turns out it has, after all, survived. The builders, having finished our recycled window and privy to this anecdote, had left S a little finishing touch…..

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Back to terrorise S…but this time not stuck on!

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Before – The Lounge Fireplace

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After – The Lounge Fireplace

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The extension area

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What will become the utility area and WC

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