lives with cat on chair

We are finally getting somewhere where we  feel in our lives … this is actually how it’s going to be.

There is so  much joy in our lives just from living in this house. 

N: We were renting a big Victorian terraced house up the road. There was the crazy property boom going on and we hadn’t bought yet. It seemed like it wouldn’t happen.

We wanted so much to have a home of our own.

Even when the ‘For Sale’ sign went up for this house we were blind to it. It seemed like the wrong sort of house.

The estate agent said: “Come with me and have a look”. And then he opened the door and when we went out the back … our cat was sitting there.

The estate agent said:  “Oh, I see your cat has already moved in”.

It wasn’t just the cat. We just liked it – even though we had to change pretty much everything.

cat asleep  -  lives in family home

G: We moved in and spent all our money really quickly.

There was so much that needed to be done we kind of ran out of money. We needed a new oven and needed to replace all the windows – they were all single glazing.

We were looking at a 5-6 year plan ….. one window at a time.

floorboard, repaired, DIY, Family lives

N: We saw the potential and ripped out… kind of everything.

We took up all the carpets and sanded the floorboards. We also insulated them underneath – even though it was an incredible amount of work.

Because we both work full time and we just did things as we went along. So it’s been a journey.

G: I’d always done a wee bit of DIY. I feel more confident about doing stuff.

When we started off I just had a wee plastic bag and a couple of screw drivers. Now I have a proper toolbox and a couple of drills. I have all the proper tools for most stuff …. plumbing and basic electrical.   I’ve learned a lot…. even brick laying.

There’s something like 6000 bricks in this house – I worked it out!

Family lives with window  sofa and plants

It’s amazing. Whatever this.. ‘clay structure’ is that we occupy….it’s given us so much. It’s been such a gift in so many ways.

Even though it has been an incredible amount of work, it’s the fact that we’ve done a lot of it ourselves.

You’ll find me just staring.

Sometimes I’ll just stare….like at the  granite stones in the front garden.

One of them has a really big bevel in it that fills with water.  I put it deliberately  in that spot so  I can see it when I’m coming home, or going to work in the morning. I give it a wee stir…..just a micro-second.

It gives me a lot of pleasure.. and a lot of joy our lives

Some people might think it’s silly but for me these things are important.

sanded floorboards and upcycled chair

G: All of these chairs are from skips. There’s only one new piece of furniture. 

That’s in its original state…. these two were re-covered. That’s from a skip. It was tossed outside a hairdressers.  I loved it and just picked it up.

This was from a wee junk shop. You know like a real proper junk shop – not retro. That’s from a friend who was going back to Germany and had a sale in his house  so we bought it.

N: The house is nice and cosy and warm and it has the history of our lives from the last seven years. But also, from having nothing – there are things that we’ve brought  over the years.

View of interior with chair, plants through to window

As a family we have moved  seven times in our lives – and yet we managed to stick together as a family.

Is this nomadic lifestyle going to be our life?  

We were thinking of other places to make a home… in New Zealand and Canada.

balls of string as window decoration - family lives

G: The last three years were hard.

I took on more of a managerial role which involved shiftwork. We hadn’t considered what that would mean to our routine and our life. It was chaos.

It was hard to deal with serious issues daily – for two and a half years . Since January N. got a new job. So now no work weekends and no shift-work.

N: It feels good… and nice to have that change to our lives. It feels much more settled.

garden with shed and dance

G: My new job pretty much took up all my energy….and the house just seemed such a massive challenge. It’s hard to explain.

That’s when I worked on the garden – which was good.

It was more physical. 

I took away 10 tons of soil out there – it probably doesn’t really look like it. I made it a kind of sunken garden. All the bricklaying really helped me… just doing physical work.

For three years everything inside the house just stood still. I couldn’t think about anything …It’s just now that we are starting to do things again.

rubber and cactus plants - family  lives

G: You get a lot of plants as moving-in gifts.

It started with this cheese plant, and then I just started to grow stuff. 

When young kids come in it’s so lovely. They’ll talk to the plants. When they are leaving they will say ‘goodbye’.

There are a couple of plants that are really special to us.

That plant was from ‘Wee Betty’. She was green-fingered and she gave us this a slip. If the house burns down that’s the one I’ll grab.

N: The one that I love to look at is the lemon tree.

Our daughter planted it from a seed with her daddy. We have a photo of her planting it. She must have been two and half or so. So that’s 15 years of the lemon tree.

glass, slate and plants

The pink bits of glass are from the previous owner.

She had hundreds of them in this big lampshade in the middle of the room, so we kept most of them. It’s a memory of her. Out in the garden they act as a light reflector.

G: There was a drain over here that I had to keep it covered. So I ended up building this platform with this piece of slate … it’s full of wee holes.

When that table is wet it’s literally like a mirror. When you are out there it reflects that hedge. That makes me happy… just looking at that.

candle, jug and calm lives

N: When I come home I feel entirely safe.

I am with people with whom I can be just be entirely honest. There’s no judgement.. there’s just safety…and everything you could want. For me it is coffee and chocolate – which is usually at hand…and some knitting on the go. Something to craft with.

G: I really recognise how much your creativity is stifled when you are working a lot.  Being on call all the time you have to be kind of ready to go at any point.

N: I started crocheting this blanket and then it sat for ages. And then I got my new job, and because I am off at the weekend, all of a sudden I just finished it. So now there is something else on the go ready to knit.

I was knitting a little bit this morning and G. said it’s so nice to be around someone who’s knitting, because it’s so calming.

cat asleep on chair with door behind

G: This is my favourite view – especially when there is a cat. That’s his chair.

The moment we brought that chair in… he just loved it.

And then we put this lovely orange leather on it and .. it’s perfect for him. He’s always loved that chair.

detail floor crack repair kintsugi

G: There was a crack on the floorboard right here that I tried to patch up with  different materials. Kintsugi is The Japanese art of fixing ceramics that are broken with gold. Instead of gold I used a metal compound that looks like glitter.

It’s not to hide the crack   but to celebrate it!

G: The house feels secure. ….and light. It cheers me up coming home.

But more than that, it has given us so much more in our lives that we didn’t know. It’s not just confidence in the new skills, it’s completely transformed our lives in so many ways.

There is that sense of financial security – which we weren’t expecting. Actually, when we signed the mortgage it felt the opposite, I felt financially insecure. What are we taking on?

 In my family, I think I’m the first person to actually own their own home so it was something that was outside my knowledge.  

It’s been a powerful learning experience.

I was the one pushing for a house but when it came to signing for it  –  I was terrified.

family dining table and light - lives at home

G: Our next job is to take this wall away in the kitchen and put in two massive skylights one on each side.

We get a lovely light here in the morning,  and the evening light is  beautiful. So it will turn this from being the lowest ceiling into the highest. 

It will just transform that space and we think it’s worth it.

kitchen family home

I’ll sit there and my favourite thing will be to look through at the light at different times of day.

We feel like  everything you do to the house.. you get it back. Not just in re-sale value but because you get to live here and experience it.

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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