Like most moving days it was little stressful but we managed it without a hitch. We were feeling slightly apprehensive that we were losing the safety net of the flat, the place we could retreat to after a hard day’s work on the house, but we were looking forward to settling in and making house number 59 our home.
It was amazing how just by moving our stuff into the house it suddenly transformed into ‘home’. It helped that we have always rented Victorian properties so somehow our furniture just naturally slotted into place.
The last thing I did before saying goodbye to the flat, our home from the last year and half, the home we came back to as newlyweds, was pick a bunch of fresh lavender from the garden to take to the new house, in hope it would mask any last lingering smell.
With only two weeks off work and one week before the lease finished on our flat we had a lot of work to do. If we’d had a spare moment to stop and think about what we had taken on it probably would have overwhelmed and consumed us. Instead, like excited school children left unsupervised for the first time, we set about clearing the house. Our house.
The thing I remember most about these first couple of days was the smell. It hit you in the face as soon as you opened the door and clung to your nostrils. It was decided that order to get rid of the smell everything had to go. Carpets, laminate flooring, curtains, built in wardrobes, shelving, everything. We wanted to get the house back to the bare minimum so that we could start from scratch.
Over the next couple of days, between the two of us, we filled two skips. A crow bar and a club hammer became our new best friends. It was exhausting work and I had never done so much manual labour in all my life!
After clearing the house, as much as we could, it needed a good clean and a few temporary fixes so that we could move in.
Our to-do list:
1. Clean the house
2. Paint the kitchen and bathroom white
3. Lay new lino in the kitchen and bathroom
4. Paint the back bedroom white
5. Remove hideous and unsafe gas fireplaces
6. Clean the house some more
29th June 2012 was a very exciting day – it was the day we picked up the keys to our first house. It was one of those days where I had thought about it so much, gone over every little detail, mapped it all out in my head that I couldn’t quite believe it was actually here.
At first we walked around each room, neither of us saying much just quietly taking it all in. But it didn’t take long before the overwhelming smell and the slight fear of our impending project forced us to retreat to the back garden, to the cleanest part of our new home – the lawn.
With two weeks off work and the luxury of our rented flat for one of those, it was decide that today would merely be about taking stock of house number 59 and getting a good night sleep before the hard work really began.
David had a different idea. I had hardly turned my back for five minutes when I heard thumping coming from inside the house. David had decided to tackle the smell head on and was pulling up the carpet in the hall and stairs. So much for not getting dirty today!
On the 19th June 2012 we exchanged contracts, I remember wanting to do glory laps around the office. With a very small chain and no major issues, the experience of buying our first house had been relatively stress free, but there was still a sense of relief that we were on the home straight.
We had decided to skip a step on the property ladder and go straight for our long term house. This meant compromises, so location and decorative order had to be sacrificed. Instead of the established part of London we were currently renting in we looked at a more ‘up and coming’ neighbouring area and decided that we were happy to take on a ‘project’.
With very little money left in the bank after buying the house we knew that we’d be doing most, if not all, of the work ourselves and it would have to be spread out over a number of years. But it would be our home and we would love it.
There were a few things that we didn’t want to compromise on. Space – we wanted a house big enough that we could grow into, have friends and family to stay and not feel squashed. It also had to be Victorian. The Victorians knew how to make great houses and lend themselves well to modern family living. I love everything about Victorian houses – their high ceilings, decorative cornices, even their wonky walls and uneven floors. For me it had to be Victorian.
House number 59 was certainly going to be a project! The photographs above are what the house was like when we viewed it. It took a few viewings to muster the vision, but eventually we saw its potential and decided that we could restore it to its former glory.