So you’re thinking about  embarking on a renovation?

First thing to remember is that it’s always painful no matter how many times you have done it but the benefits of being involved from start to finish in a renovation is that you can adapt and customise as you go.  Obviously it’s better to plan ahead to avoid the expense of ‘variations’ but flexibility and future proofing is important too! This is exactly what we did when we designed and built our relaxing room which became known as the Library Bar.

This was one of our last projects in the house but certainly the most rewarding. It’s become our go-to room for relaxing and unwinding, whether that’s reading a book, watching a movie or having a drink at the bar or relaxing by the fire.

It required an extensive overhaul though. We had to strip back layers and layers of paint and wallpaper to reveal the original plasterwork and to let it breathe. At this stage Anna had  already stripped wallpaper  from every wall and ceiling in the house.  Anyone familiar with the process will recognise the smell of decades old cooking oil being steamed off in kitchens  and can empathise with the less relaxing ‘steam room’ effect and arm ache of  stripping ceiling wallpaper.   Anna’s brother was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when he arrived back from Cyprus as we faced into the last room and was handed a steamer.  Even before we turned on the steamer there was a lot of damp  from both external walls and around the fireplace where previous repairs with cement based plaster had prevented the wall ‘breathing’.  There’s something super frustrating about steaming and scrapping off really glued on wallpaper only to have the plaster fall off shortly after.  Eventually however the last bit came off and once  the walls were  allowed to breathe and dry out (and repairs to the roof and guttering completed to avoid water ingress), we could start the repairs.

In the meantime, we removed the floorboards, insulated with 150mm insulation, laid underfloor heating (thanks to Ciaran Delahunt from Delamech), laid a biscuit screed (50mm thick; 8 parts sand (supplied by Pat Nolan Plant Hire, Kilmacanogue), 1 part cement) which helps conduct the heat and then re-laid and covered the floor. All done with the great support of Tony, Nicu and Anatolie. 

Then the dirty work began: Lime bonding all of the repairs in the walls and then priming with a breathable Aquabond. Andrew Russell and his NewForm Group, led by Karl, then lime-plastered the entire room. Lime materials from RoundTower and Ecological Building Systems. This is a messy process and takes time to do it correctly to avoid bubbles or cracking in the lime.  It also can’t be painted for  2-3 months so it’s always a good idea to factor this in and pencil in other jobs whilst waiting.  

We then sanded, stained (Morrell’s Jacobean Dark Oak) and varnished the floors. We had kept floor boards from the basement to make up for any of the boards that couldn’t be salvaged . We then painted the walls using a breathable mineral based paint from Graphenstone and colour-matched to Colourtrend’s Profound. The advantage of using a mineral paint  is that it is Eco friendly and absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere equivalent to an adult tree over the year.  Building works are never carbon neutral so it feels good to try and be eco friendly wherever possible. With leftover oak from the basement flooring we designed and built the library shelves. The house has some amazing Gothic style features such as the wood detailing above the fireplace in the sitting room. 

The house was built in two stages in 1862 and 1884 and the door architraves changed in each era from gothic to classic Victorian.  In the Bar room the architraves were Gothic so we replicated these for bookshelves (shelves made using left over wood floor boards from the oak floor in the basement) and then we added central arches for the bar to match the sitting room fireplace.  

The island in the bar was made from Ikea units and wood & materials from Chadwicks.  We got the mirror from TJ interiors at no cost as they were moving stock and it was too big. Anna then painted the woodwork; shelves and architraves etc in Farrow & Ball’s Satin Slipper and the island and  bar in Profound.  The bar top is made out of left over parquet pieces stained Jacobean Dark Oak.  

It took about 5 days to make and paint the bar, probably would have taken longer but as always we had a deadline which was a party we were throwing for a friend’s retirement!  We finalised the room installing a bar with built in fridge, cooler and beer pumps and then the party room was complete well almost… the central light came from Renaissance Antiques and was put up about an hour before the party guests arrived. Just think serene swan welcoming guests with legs furiously paddling below the water and you will get the idea!

Renovation: Before & After

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