I haven't been blogging about the progress down at the Riverside much, because so much of our energy and most of our finances were this year devoted to the (so much bigger and complex) Lake house reconstruction. But we did slowly get on at the riverside, too. Here, the basic structure and layout was given - due to the fact that the house's historic walls cannot be tampered with (and who would want to). So the task was to try and respect what there is and replace unsuitable late 20th century reconstructions with more natural materials. The only changes to the actual building were our discovery and renovation of the historic ceiling in the 1st floor sitting room, two copies of other wooden ceilings that were beyond repair (- the original of one of them was carefully removed and placed in the archive of the local museum) and the removal of 50cm of solid concrete from the ground floor which was making the whole ground floor damp, encouraging water to spread up into the walls, and generally making it hard for the house to 'breathe'. I also decided to swap bathroom and kitchen over - but that only involved taking down some plasterboard partitions; most of the other work is also cosmetic - getting rid of the 70's layer of horrible floor tiles that, again, were choking the house, and replacing them with reclaimed floor-bricks set in lime-based bed, taking down any cement render where there was any, and again rendering in lime-sand mixture, and painting the walls with lime, too. This of course only in places where the old render and decorative finishes were beyond saving. I originally hoped to use clay plaster in some of the rooms, but the budget didn't allow it - however the properties of the lime render and finish are as healthy for the house as the clay would have been, so I am not too worried. We threw away most of the modern doors and sourced historic ones where possible. We lined the old chimney, making it suitable later (when there's money) for wood-fired stoves in the 1st floor sitting room and kitchen, and an open fireplace on the ground floor. The last addition was a new central heating boiler - I managed to beg lovely old radiators from a demolition site - not quite 'historic' but so much more friendly aesthetically than the usual suspects. That's about it for now: we shall be moving into the first floor very soon, having prepared the ground floor and the attic for the later stages of the opus :-)
It's been lovely so far, and although hard work, just being in such close contact with the soul of such an old old house is a privilege and a gift: every time I touch its stone walls or scrape tiny bits of new plaster off the layers of paint underneath it, I feel how brief our human time-span is compared with the work of human hands. So being one of those who are passing through this building, I am trying to do minimal damage, so as to leave it healthy for the generations that will come after us.
(For the history of this house and the steps in our reconstruction of it, see previous posts under 'riverside house' label)