In these few short months I have had the privilege to live in this charming old house, I learned a few practical lessons in restoration work, but most valuably, gained some patience to help me cope with the fact that we cannot start putting everything right all at once.
As our beloved N°21 had been empty for over a decade, the first steps in restoring this house to its former glory were intended simply to make it habitable again. Coming to the end of February, we have succeeded in crafting ourselves an adorably bohemian bedroom where there used to be nothing but dirt and dead bats, a dinky but functional modular kitchen and a two unfinished but comfortable rooms of living and dining space. Not to mention the little loo of horrors we turned into the clean and functional bathroom it is now.
But after all of the absolutely necessary work is done – where do you go next?
There is some structural work to be done in the next few years including patching up parts of the roof and insulating the entire attic floor as well as re-framing spaces to accommodate a few toilets and a large kitchen-diner. All the plasterwork can be assessed and fixed once the frame of the building dries, most likely during next summer and the shutters, window sills and doors need to be painted before next year’s winter storms.
This is not a weekend project – we would love to be able to finish bulk of it in five years, but you never know. Old houses are like hen-dos in Vegas; if you don’t keep your cool they can drain all your money, soon followed by your will to live. So as we are still getting used to living Chez Nous, we are taking it easy, for now, assessing our priorities and harbouring an uncomfortably close relationship with Pinterest.
Don’t get me wrong, understanding our priorities won’t make me hate the rough edges of our dwelling any less! On the contrary. But before the time comes to start hammering out the crap, I must be creative in hiding what I can’t change in the interim. From the long list of complaints, the time has come for the raw concrete scarring in our current dining room. I can’t start plastering it out yet, nor is it sensible as we have plans to extend the existing French doors with a panoramic window. The next best thing, naturally, is to hide the problem and pretend it does not exist – and this is exactly what I set out to do when I started sewing curtains for an imaginary window.
|Our dining room before we moved in and after some light touch-ups, including partial wallpaper removal. The bare patch of concrete sticks out like a sore thumb.
Luckily I had plenty of fabric to cover up the whole mess. While looking for décor for our wedding in Finland last December, we raided a Finlayson Outlet Store in my old home town in Forssa and picked up over 10 meters of their Kihla-fabric from a bargain bin of off-cuts. Designed by Sami Vulli, the pattern is inspired by Finlayson’s graphic motifs from the 60’s and 70’s, and features stylised wedding rings*. Although we needed to cut some of the cotton we bought in order to have enough table runners for the wedding, I managed to sew two sets of narrow panel curtains, one wider curtain and a new doggy bed cover for our Rusty with a good couple of meters still remaining.
*Although we did not know it at the time. I literally just googled the name of the pattern for this blog.
|The happy nuptials: These snaps are from our very hand crafted wedding. We needed to cut some of the fabric for the table runners, but no-sewing was required, merely a creative hand wielding an iron.
I have always been a fan of Finlayson. To be honest it could not be avoided growing up in a city like Forssa where a large selection of their fabrics used to be made. Comparing Finlayson textiles to other better known Finnish producers such as Marimekko, theirs were always the working horse of fabrics and soft furnishings, durable and affordable, but no less iconic from their rivals. In the recent years they have re-introduced a load of their old classics, from retro patterns to the Moomins, and launched new lines that turned out to be amazingly popular such as the Tom of Finland collection. As Finlayson Co is getting increasingly known overseas, especially in East-Asia, the prices have increased too. We were able to rummage through their bargains and buy our Kihla-fabric for 15€ a kilo, but I would have happily dished out the full price (approx. 20-25€ per metre) for this lovely piece of thick cotton – in my experience it is hard wearing and washes well without losing colour.
But going back to the task at hand: sewing curtains can be just as easy or as hard as you want and I made mine super simple.
I will be adding a white liner when these are hanging on an actual window, but for the minute I left the back side blank to enable me to adjust the length easily if needed. Having zig-zagged all the rough edges to avoid fraying I pressed my seams before sewing them to make everything run as smoothly as possible. Not really being a sewing-wizard myself, these curtains turned out surprisingly nicely.
The most difficult part was to get the pattern match between both double panels, especially when most of these bits I used for the curtains had been half-arsedly ripped to size for the wedding. The whole project took me around a day from ironing the properly ruffled up fabric to finishing the hems. One of the panels is a tiny bit shorten than its peers and another still bears a faint ghost of red wine spilled at the merriment of our marriage ceremony, but hey, they’ll do fine for the job. The two picked our for this project were roughly the cleanest and just wide enough to cover that fugly wall. So bye bye nasty concrete – hello retro vibes!
|After: finished curtains in situ.
I had the whole 6’6 of James helping me with the rods, thankfully. Getting them somewhat levelled on my own would have been a mission impossible, especially as the ceiling in this room sags just enough to make everything look crooked regardless. In fact, we had to fix them in place twice, perfectly level at first and then crooked to match the profile of the ceiling – now the end result appears somewhat straight.
Tackling this little eye sore really came to show that putting things out of sight does get them off your mind. Or I am just pretty good avoiding life’s little pitfalls! Either way, this dining room is slowly but surely starting to feel like home.
Sorry what… A G&T? Don’t mind if I do!