The builders have left the building – sing hallelujah, ring out the bells and fa la la la la!! We are finally free to inhabit our house without fear of tripping over the industrial cling film on the carpet or taking chunks out of our thighs on rusty screws. There will be no more stained polystyrene cups littering the garden or fag buts sticking out of plant pots; no more orange slurry poured over the herbs or mysterious liquids left festering in the watering can (don’t ask). We can, at last, restore order where there was chaos, put something down on a surface without it getting lagged in dust and, most excitingly, deck the halls with boughs of holly.
Although there is still extensive painting and decorating to be done, the construction work is finished as far as finances will allow for the foreseeable future. I am amazed at how integrated the house already feels, helped by ensuring details such as picture rails and toggle light switches are consistent throughout. Nevertheless I am still walking out of new rooms this weekend and feeling faintly disorientated. It is curious having windows at the back of the house, where once there was a solid, four-storey flint wall.
The library is as lovely as I hoped it would be. Ignoring the unpainted MDF and the whiff of new carpet (which smells strongly of cow pats), the room feels cosy, elegant and intimate. I am very relieved that Him Indoors talked me into keeping our temporary Ikea sofas (they have been temporary for nearly 11 years now) as not only can we not afford new ones, but they are also exactly the correct size for the room. Had I ordered new sofas, I’d have made the mistake of choosing much bigger ones which would not have suited the room. Until the decorators have been, my books must remain in stalagmitic formations rising from every free surface in the house. This does make it challenging when trying to find a spot to put one’s gin and tonic down. I may be forced to switch to sherry, which can be served in a narrower glass.
Gorgeous as the library is, my favourite new room at the moment is the garden room. It’s not remotely complete – the walls are crudely rendered or plaster-boarded and the original scuffed red tiles are still on the floor – but it is filled with a lovely light, especially in the early afternoon when the sun creeps around the corner and sets the toffee-coloured render a glow. It will be our gin and tonic spot and will therefore be free of literary monoliths. Due to an unfortunate mix up, the beautiful fire surround created by the carpenters had to be removed and will eventually be replaced by something less flammable. I could not bring myself to chuck it away, so, whilst we ponder a permanent home for it, I have employed it as a log-store-cum-mantelpiece to display some of my recent purchases from New York and The Netherlands. A renovated step-ladder that I picked up in the summer has been adorned with obligatory succulents, a delicate metal fern frond and a bunch of faux ivy stems. Real ivy lasts no time at all after cutting, so I don’t mind faking it in this instance.
Our main tree will not be decorated until Him Indoors gets home from work on Friday. In the meantime I succumbed to the charms of a 9ft Fraser – not an abnormally tall Scotsman, but a zestily scented fir with short, glossy, dark-green needles. I am very taken with its strong, upswept branches, which hold decorations perfectly. When cleaning a chest of drawers in one of our spare bedrooms I discovered a selection of green and gold baubles purchased in Germany many years ago. I decided to use these old friends as the backbone for a ‘magical nature’ theme. Using the tiny glass bottles I purchased at Oogenlust, I added little clusters of rose hips, some handsome looking pheasants and laser-cut metal leaves I found at Crate and Barrel. I wasn’t sure about the flashes of red at first, but they do make the tree very festive.
Just three more days of work now, followed by the reinstatement of the dining room and morning room, and some vital titivation out in the garden. Then I can relax. My tranquil state will be short-lived, if it materializes at all, for my niece and sister will be arriving on Christmas Eve.
Hoping all your festive preparations are progressing as planned. TFG.