We brought our home on Tate Road in Brixton approx 14 and a half years ago. Back then it was a house that needed major repair, but I saw heaps of potential in it, and it was a huge home. And we needed huge! With six children we needed the space. Space away from close neighbours and space to make noice! The boys were getting older, bigger and louder. They all loved living life loud! Daniel played various musical instruments, and he also loved to get into the garage and do some welding and grinding on his old car at any time of the day or night. Matthew, the eldest, had left home but he added to the family with his beautiful partner Rebecca and our lovely first grandchild Leeara. And they were here often as well, so we definitely needed this house. I saw rooms, plenty of them, and with the attached flat we would have two bathrooms! So very necessary. Robin saw work and tons of it!
The whole front lawn had been planted out with conifers. They were the first to go. The very weekend we moved in we had a big bon fire, and a chainsaw cutting down the conifers and any other trees we didn’t want. That fire was relit many times over the next few years.
We also had lots to demolish inside! Robin would go to work each day and come home to another pile of rubbish, and bare walls! The poor man never had any down time….but I was loving the challenge! We were lucky enough to have two kitchens, laundries and bathrooms. One could be used while the other was being renovated. And the kitchen in the house was ugly…and needed a complete rebuild. It also needed new french doors and a lovely big deck outside. All fabulous additions which we have been well used for many family gatherings over the years.
I started to paint the house in colours that were commonly used on old villas. The first big job was to clean down the windows so they would open. The whole house had been sprayed with a protective coating which glued the windows closed! Once cleaned off I could then paint the window frames. By the time I had spent hours on a couple of the windows and exposed the rotten timber underneath, we made the decision to replace all the wooden windows with aluminum ones! And by that stage I had gone off the colonial colours and decided to paint in more neutral colours! Thank goodness I hadn’t gone too far! And…we are still trying to remove the spray coating off the walls. Only part of the front wall left to do….thank goodness! Robin’s and my wrists and elbows are getting too old and painful to keep on doing all the scraping that is necessary. What we have done looks great and eventually the flat will be painted the same colour and it WILL look fabulous!
The place also had two big fish ponds. One was by the back door which was really unsuitable for little children so that was emptied straight away. Not a fish in sight! It had a dead hedgehog in the pool and it had poisoned all the water. What a smell! And….what a lot of rubbish from it. Emptied….smashed up…and then refilled with dirt…yes, a BIG job! The other fish pond was on the front lawn. I kept this pool for about 10 years as it was loaded with fish. The annual pool clean up was another big job but the reward of seeing the gold fish and lovely water lily flowers was worth the effort. Eventually I decided that the effort put into maintaining it was more than the joys I got from those flowers, so out it came as well. Much easier to mow a flat grass area than go around a pool as well!
I shifted plants and created new gardens, demolishing others. I made footpaths, pulled out hedges and we made garden edgings. My weekends were filled up with weeding and maintaining the beautiful garden areas around the section…and I loved it.
Robin was rebuilding the walls inside the house and doing a great job, but we eventually got a builder in to help out, especially in the bathroom and laundry area….of both the house and the flat. I started doing the plastering, but that also got to become too big for me, so a plasterer finished off the walls as well. But, Robin and I did all the painting and wallpapering. We picked all the earthy colours of bright yellow, terracotta, dark blue and green! Yuck….what was I thinking? I did actually love it all at the time though! Hence the reason that ten years later, I have now almost completely redecorated the whole house. I only have the passageway and the office left to go! Phew!
Looking from the back door out to the garden
We lived in the flat as well as the house until there were only five of us left at home. The girls had their own rooms in the flat and Robin and I had always used the lounge in the flat as our master bedroom. It wasn’t until the middle of one night when Ben, our youngest son, had had a bad dream. He came wandering through the house into the flat in tears and said that it was quite scary to have the whole house to himself at night. I hadn’t even thought about him being the only boy left in the house. It was the push we needed to shift into the house which left the flat available for rental. Bonus! We painted over the wallpaper in the flat to give it a quick tidy up and then finally renovated it entirely between tenants only two years ago. The walls were painted in a neutral colour throughout, and now the house is nearly finished being painted in the same colour.
In 2011 we included the outside games room and the house back door area into the renovations. We had put a French door in our bedroom approximately five years earlier with the intention of putting a new deck off it. The project in 2011 incorporated a new deck extending from the back door right to the driveway. The games room was always the room that needed the most fixing, but that didn’t stop Daniel using it as his own little flat….followed by Simon and then Ben. Robin and absolutely love the room now. He has a great computer set up and I have it as a scrapbooking/craft room. The room is also fabulous for a sleepout for visitors. We put a roof and doors on the deck and also now have a conservatory that warms up beautifully all year round.
We have had so much enjoyment both living in our home, and renovating it. It is set on a half acre section and we have no immediate neighbours. I can look out the windows and admire the lovely view I get from each window. The gardens are now well developed and there are lovely mature trees. We can eat from our vegetable gardens and have enough fruit trees to both eat and preserve the fruit.
Yes…I love my house. It is, and probably always will be, a work in progress. It has never been perfect. It is old and there is a lot of maintenance needed, but to me it’s better than perfect…it’s home!