That time we built our living room.

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Seamus Heaney, Scaffolding

Except that we haven’t just built a wall.

Team P have built a whole living room.

We started, as is our want, by ripping the plaster off the old walls…

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By digging the floor down to the earth.

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Digging until there was nothing left.

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Then we fitted insulation, and underfloor heating pipes.

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Screed got poured.

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We picked and paid for the flooring of my dreams.

Then a whole lot of life got in the way, and we closed the door for a while.

While I was in India, I managed to blow most of our budget on a stunning silk rug, assuring the salesman that I would have a living room floor to lay it on in a matter of weeks.

I genuinely believed it at the time, as well.

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But I returned home, and some more life got in the way, and we closed that door for a while.

When we had some energy again, I tiled the surround for a stove. We fitted insulation, and plasterboard, and the first fix of electrics.

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We fitted the stove.

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We restored the windows back to their 1930’s, stained glass glory.

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Some more life got in the way, and we closed that door for a while.

When the door opened again, I had decided we needed a window seat in the bay, and I set about building the frame for that. Soon, it was time to get the plasterer in (we had two professionals in this whole room. A plasterer and the guys who poured the floor screed. This amazes me daily.)

We finished the second fix of electrics and painted the walls.

Then, it was time.

The flooring.

That flooring of my dreams. Paid for, seasoning nicely in the hallway, and making me realise that laying it myself was going to be a task usually taken on by only the most experienced of joiners.

Mr P scuttled offside, and left me to make a big, big dream come true.

Herringbone parquet.

It took six hours, and so much swearing, and two lots of tears simply to fit the first eighteen blocks.

I tried to laugh it off, but by this point I was very, very afraid.

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And, as I laid those 327 blocks, I had no choice but to let those scaffolds fall.

Wipe the floor.

Wipe the block.

Glue.

Tap.

Straighten.

Wipe.

Hoover.

Wipe the floor.

Wipe the block.

Glue.

Tap.

Straighten.

Wipe.

Hoover.

Measure.

Measure again.

Cut.

Wipe the floor.

Wipe the block.

Glue.

Tap.

Straighten.

Wipe.

Hoover.

Again, and again, and again.

Days and weeks and hours of me, on my hands and knees, determined to fit the floor of my dreams.

By far the hardest thing I have ever done in home renovation land.

Building walls, making tables, hauling up solid concrete floors, fitting my own kitchen, complicated tiling, I have DONE ALL THESE THINGS and more but this floor and my skillset and the fact I was completely on my own made this so very, very hard.

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And while I was busting my gut to get the flooring right, Mr P was slogging his out to get circuits of lamps, and miles of speaker cable, and heating all set up. Capacitors, and relays, and tiny pieces of imported Chinese technology were being made into a home management system so powerful and so intuitive, you cannot buy it on the market.

We were in the spare room one night, and I was explaining how desperate I was to lay the rug on a floor, that piece of India that I slipped into another world, describing the architecture and houses of Mysore.

While in that world, I mentioned to Mr P that Indian homes often have hanging furniture, and how I had such happy memories of the grandparents in the home I rent my studio from reading papers, drinking chai and listening to cricket from a swinging cane chair.

It turned out that one was for sale 20 minutes away from a hotel we were staying in that very weekend.

So we bought it.

And came home.

Back to the parquet.

Wipe the floor.

Wipe the block.

Glue.

Tap.

Straighten.

Wipe.

Hoover.

One evening, after a particularly long slog of flooring, we went out for dinner, and had the lot devoured in forty five minutes.

Mr P suggested one more drink, and I just couldn’t.

I had to get home, and get cracking on.

And that very night, the floor got finished.

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The next day, I kept walking past the room and actually weeping with joy and pride. It is an emotion I have genuinely only experienced that one time I ran a sodding marathon.

Although a marathon was probably easier on my joints.

I really wish I was exaggerating.

Then it was time to cut skirting boards, and fit cornicing, and upholster that window seat.

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And somehow, at last, it was time to build a sofa, and hang the most amazing chair in the world, and unroll the rug I bought in India.

Mr P temporarily fitted his old speakers and they were so amazing I decided that the big ugly black boxes could stay. It is our living room, after all, and like hearing music all over again.

We bought and decorated a Christmas tree.

Slowly, we moved the buckets of tools and silicone sealant and saws back into the shed.

We sat down one night, and almost imperceptibly, we allowed those scaffolds to fall.

Because we can be so very confident that we have not just built a wall.

Team P have built a whole flipping living room.

And it is so very, very beautiful.

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None of this is an advertisement. Not one bit of it. We scrimped and saved and bought everything in this room. But I am tagging every supplier I can, because if you are crazy enough to do this yourself, you will rely on these guys so much.

Builder’s merchants - Murdocks (actual legends. No question is too stupid and they are the exact opposite of air sucking sexists. I love them.)

Flooring - French oak parquet from E&A reclamation (they have all of the advice, and their customer service goes above and beyond anything I have ever experienced ever.)

Wall colour - Air Force Blue by Little Greene from Jenny Bond Interiors on the Lisburn Road (Jenny also got me the Designer’s Guild cushion of my dreams, and showed no end of patience when I went full Goldilocks about the perfect shade of blue. She is my mate, but so good at her job. And the paint was cheaper than other luxury brands while also being considerably better quality. Do it.)

Window seat fabric - Mad about fabric

Lamps - Dunelm (I might buy fancy paint but I don’t have all the money in the world and these guys have really good lights right now).

Hanging light fittings - we made these ourselves using components from Vendimia. The hooks are ‘Curve’ by the designer Normann Copenhagen which I got on eBay but if I wanted to get off the shelf I would take myself straight round to Maven in Belfast.

Sofa - Ikea covered using covers from Comfort Works (we got covers from another company for the dining room sofa and these ones are a million times better)

Rug - oh that old thing? Just picked it up in ACTUAL INDIA (I have longed to actually say those words out loud)

Table - The Range 

Tiles - Topp’s Tiles

Hanging seat - Gumtree

Trademen - Sarah and Keith Patterson, ably supervised by Sid the beagle

Sarah Patterson4 Comments