Sunday, 6 December 2009

Destruction and Creation

The builders have been in for two and a half weeks now. We've never done this before, not to this scale. They're remodelling downstairs to make the kitchen bigger and knocking down the walls of the smallest room to accommodate a staircase for the loft conversion. As the practicalities of our plans unfold daily before our eyes, we are thinking more creatively about the space.

It's all very exciting seeing our home change by the day. Yesterday, was exactly a year since we moved in here with the intention of making these changes. We're not property developers, we just liked the feel of the bungalow, its location and saw its potential. You don't have to watch too many property programmes to know that it always costs more than you think, you will hit problems and you will inevitably change your mind about a few things along the way. We're ticking all those boxes at the moment.

It's all very well seeing the potential from the outset but as walls come down, we're getting more creative. Perhaps it was the night we spent (me, fully dressed) in the freezing cold with our bedroom opening on to the kitchen, a hole in the ceiling and the roof where a chimney has been removed, separated only by a hastily-erected dust sheet? Is open plan the way to go? No, I don't think so. We're not really open plan types. I understand to a point, that if you have limited space and need to move around more freely, then of course it makes sense. It also makes sense to be able to close a door on the rest of the household at will. But yesterday, in between counting chickenpox and nursing my own sore throat, we looked around our expanding kitchen and made a big decision. The pantry and the boiler cupboard are going. I love my pantry but here's the truth: it's full of rubbish which could easily be condensed into something much smaller. My fantasies of popping in and out of the pantry, Nigella-style will have to stop. It would allow us to have a bigger table in the kitchen and will create much space because its walls are so thick. As for the boiler cupboard, well, the boiler is being replaced next week anyway so it could easily go somewhere else. And then the back door which is between the two cupboards in question can be bricked up because we're getting a new one at the back of the house and hey presto, we've got ourselves a whole wall to play with and against which we can place our range cooker. Simple.

So, just as we thought the main demolition activities had ceased (and no doubt, so did the builders) I'm going to break it gently to them over another bacon and egg sandwich that they'd better order another skip and some more bricks. Does it sound like we're out of control? We're not really. We have made a huge concession. The planned conservatory is being either put on hold or scrapped and we'll wait until the new year to get the existing bathroom done so we're not being completely daft but there's no point in going around doing things half-heartedly, is there? My only worry is that in doing so, we lose the charm that first attracted us here in the first place. But that's just it. So much attention to detail and care was put into the original construction of the house (it was built by a builder for himself) that it deserves the same now. Yes, we're changing certain things. It's going to have an upstairs for a start but it should blend seamlessly with the original style. We're not even changing the footprint of the house. Yes, we're ripping out the pantry but it's to make space for us so that we can continue to protect the house's identity and yet breathe a new life into it. The whole kitchen revolves around us retaining the original English Rose sink unit, built, we believe, by bits of leftover metal at the spitfire factory after the war. You see, they knew about making old things into something new. They knew that some things have outlived their use and rather than become a museum piece to be preserved for nostalgic glances, they can be remodelled into a new form. To get to that moment of realisation, they must have had to tolerate some uncertainty and chaotic thought. Then, unexpectedly, someone in mid creative flow came up with the idea of making kitchen units instead of aircraft intended for battle. Creation arising out of the ashes of destruction. Isn't that what creativity's all about? As a pair of very nice 'cultured builders' (their words, not mine), I'm sure they'll understand.

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