Sunday, 7 February 2016

Renovating the Mudroom : build phase 1

When we first stepped into this house, our first impression of the house's interior was the mudroom. It was a dark and scruffy room.   and smelled faintly of damp. The walls had random pipes and industrial style ventilation tubing which crisscrossed over the whole room. The only light came from a tiny side window and the glass upper door. We knew this room needed to be radically changed - but I don't think we realised just how much we would need to do to make it a beautiful room.

There was a strange velvet flocked brick pattern wallpaper which was peeling away - and appeared to be held onto the walls by dint of many tin-tacks in the corners of kid's paintings that were pinned to the walls. One side of the room was lined with old kitchen cabinets for storage of paints and random stuff . This was the third kitchen in the house - definitely well equipped on the kitchen front! On the opposite side of the room, an old doorway had been partially bricked up, but poorly done so that it was only flat on the other side, leaving a strange dip in the wall in the room.

Wall paper stripping can be quite soul destroying - but I always find it interesting to see the history of the house emerge - different paper layers, and different colors of paint, as you strip away the paper. It's almost a consolation for the hours you have to spend steaming and stripping stubborn patches of wallpaper, in order to prepare for your new colors. At some point in time, some previous owners had a love for candy pink walls with a dark burgundy lower trim in a hard gloss. It makes a dark and small room even smaller and darker - and definitely doesn't match the yellow and green wooden trim of the doors! At least the gloss paint helped with the removal of the wallpaper, but on the pink surfaces it was so thoroughly glued that we had to scrape inch by inch.

Preparation continued on all sides - we also ripped out the old kitchen units, and then started to knock out the shape of a new window next to the entrance door. The plan was to build a window frame and insert a double glazed window pane into the double barn doors that form the front of the room. Nothing ever goes smoothly though - and as we started to cut, we quickly realized that the wall/barn doors had not been properly secured as it started to collapse. IDD to the rescue : he had the team quickly refocused on replacing and re-pinning structural framework and supporting the floor above. Once it was all repaired, we could continue with our window work  and replacing and increasing the insulation in the wall. As the hole emerged it made the most amazing difference to the light in the room - definitely one of the best decisions we could have made!

Once we'd stripped all the paper and  all the preparation work was complete, it was clear that the walls were too damaged to redecorate without re-skinning with plaster - and D is a plaster guru. He corralled a team and the lads started to re-plaster the whole room. This last summer was gloriously warm and sunny  : both a blessing and a curse when you are doing so much work. Hard for the workers as it's hot, heavy, hard work, but good for drying out the plaster. That's a double edged sword as it dries so fast it's hard to finish smoothly, but D took it in his stride. A few tips we learned as we went along : if you are mixing a lot of plaster, having a mixing paddle with a power motor is a must. There are lots of different grades of plaster and they are not completely interchangeable. We also used a metal corner brace to shape the corners of the room - it's lovely for a while, but a Great Dane can knock the thin plaster layer off in seconds!

Plastering done, we started the clean up - and discovered that plaster gets EVERYWHERE. It's really nasty stuff for spreading all over the house, and we learned the hard way that you can't just hoover it up. It's so fine that it goes straight through all the filters you have on your hoover, unless it's an industrial grade builders hoover , coats the engine and the electrics, and burns it out. We were not planning on replacing our Dyson hoover, but after it died halfway through the build , we had to! The tiles on the floor are quite old, uneven and full of nooks and crannies that the plaster can hide in  - mopping just seemed to push the plaster around. At some point in the future I plan to replace them and to level the floor which is incredibly wobbly and uneven, but not just yet, so we had to get them clean. We hired a circular sanding machine  with a bristle brush attachment and used that to break through the majority of the plaster dust, but in the end, nothing beats getting down on hands and knees with a scrubbing brush and good old elbow grease!

After so much work just to reach blank canvas stage, painting seemed quick and easy - although incredibly expensive in paint. The fresh plaster drank the paint like a desert drinks rain - and we had to do multiple coats to get the color even and streak-free. I have always like coastal themed homes and this Design seed inspiration picture set the tone for the direction I wanted the room to have. I didn't find an exact match - but I chose a white with a hint of blue - and a light blue accent wall for this room.  The woodwork was all repainted in a light neutral shade that complimented the wall colour.
I had spent quite a lot of time on Pinterest in the run-up to the work session, and had a good idea of the type of furniture I wanted in the room - and this picture gives the closest idea of what I wanted to achieve.I want to be able hide away the jumble of daily life that collects in your entrance way in deep cupboards - and still to be able to hang coats, scarves and dog leads in a convenient and easy location. With so much land, it's also essential to be able to remove boots and muddy shoes quickly, before continuing into the rest of the house. It's called  a mudroom for a reason. It was also going to be the room where Luca slept and stayed when the house is empty. Of course, like all best laid plans, I'm a complete softie, and Luca gets to go where ever he wants, whenever he wants! With the inspiration images to hand, IDD & D spent a couple of evenings drawing out plans and designing what we could best fit into the space.

Once the plaster was dry, IDD got to work gluing and cutting a lovely pine board to build the basic frame of the furniture. I intend to whitewash the pine to give it a hint of white - but as we haven't yet completed the doors and the trim, it's still on the to-do list. Roll on Phase 2! We ended up with a shelved cupboard and two deep wardrobes for coats and winter clothes. We have a comfy seat along one wall that you can sit on whilst you change shoes, backed  with a set of high open hooks for wet coats and accessories to dry on, before being put away in the cupboard.

Like all the best plans, we ran out of time before we managed to get the doors fitted and W has been fully occupied on so many other things that we still have an open set up in the mudroom. I can't wait to get the doors and trim done, so that I can paint and finish the room, but I think I will need to be patient until it's warm enough to work outdoors again. There's a lot of gluing and cutting to be done to achieve it and the stable block where we do most of our DIY work set up has no heating. It's still a lot better than it was  and like every entrance, is full of miscellaneous items that mysteriously migrate there when you are not locking. We even have a small dog table for Luca to drink his water from - as a Great Dane, he is prone to bloat, and needs to have his food and water elevated to a comfortable height.


  1. I do suggest you leave the pine natural: it looks very nice as is.

    1. Thank you Quentin! It's definitely going to be something I consider about when the doors are all done - I'm in two minds about the whitewash look.