The house has completely transformed our lives ….

posted in: Case Studies | 0

family dining table and light - lives




N: We  lived in 7 different homes….. and were so tired. I wanted to put down roots.. maybe 4 years before we actually could.  We lived up the road in number 10 – and were renting. The boom had happened and hadn’t bought yet.  All this craziness in our lives… it seemed like it wouldn’t happen. We wanted so much to have a home of our own.



We were looking at a house two streets up and the estate agent said “Have you looked at the one in your street?” And we were like …No… it’s the wrong type of house… He said “I have the key with me, come with me and have a look”….and then he opened the door and … we just looked at each other… and then we went out the back and our cat was there …


….The estate agent said:  “There’s a cat”. We said:  “No, that’s our cat”. The estate agent just smiled…. “Oh 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 sleeping at home



Because we were living in a big terrace Victorian we completely ignored this house even when the For Sale sign went up. We were blind to it. We were focused on a Victorian terrace and that’s all we could see.


G:. We moved in and spent all our money really quickly … there was so much needed done and even with that we that 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 and a bit here and one window at a time.


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



floorboard, repaired, DIY



N: We took up all the carpets up and found the floorboards and sanded them down. We also lifted them and insulated them underneath….even though it has been an incredible amount of work. The fact …that we’ve done  a lot of it ourselves…..


N: We both work full time and we did things as we went along. So it’s been a journey. We are finally getting somewhere where we  feel.. our lives… this is actually how it’s going to be..


G: I feel more confident about doing stuff. I’d always done a wee bit of DIY. When we started off I had a wee plastic bag and a couple of screw drivers and now I have a proper toolbox and a couple of drills and like all the proper tools for most stuff and I’m able to tackle a lot of stuff….. plumbing and basic electrical.   I’ve learned a lot…. and brick laying…. We did the garden as well…


window with sofa and plants




G: I worked it out there’s something like 6000 bricks in this house…. It’s amazing that 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.


G: You’ll find me just staring … sometimes I’ll just stare….like at the front door… the  granite stones… the front garden… One of them has a really big bevel in it and it fills with water.  I put it deliberately  at that spot because  I can see it when I’m coming home or going to work in the morning and give it a wee stir…just a micro-second. It gives me a lot of pleasure. A lot of joy…… Some people might think it’s silly but for me these things are important.



sanded floorboards and upcycled chair



G: There’s only one piece of furniture that’s new.  All of these chairs are from skips. That’s in its original state…. these 2 were re-covered…that’s from a skip.. 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: It’s nice and cosy and warm and it has the history of the last seven years but also things that we’ve brought  over the years. From having nothing. … we moved  seven times in our lives and yet we managed to stick together as a family. It’s been hard. Is this going to be our life, this nomadic lifestyle?  We were thinking of other ways of making a home… in New Zealand and Canada.



our lives with plants


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. Two and a half years of serious issues daily – which was hard enough to deal with. Its only since January that N. got a new job. So no weekends and shift-work.


Now we have the weekend..  I only do one weekend in 4. Which is really quite nice.  It’s feels good. It’s nice to have a change. It feels much more settled. …


With my new job it pretty much took up all my energy. The house was such a massive challenge … it’s hard to explain. ….That’s when I worked on the garden. Which was good.. it was more physical.  It probably doesn’t really look like it but I took away 10 tons of soil out there. I made it a kind of sunken garden.  It really helped me. The bricklaying…. and just doing physical work. Everything in the house just stayed still for 3 years. I couldn’t think about anything … colours…. It’s just now that were starting to do things again.



rubber and cactus



G: ….You get a lot of moving-in gifts. We’ve given so many away over the years. That kind of happened at the start of the journey. It started with this plant.. ( cheese plant) and I just started to grow stuff.  It’s so lovely when young kids come in they’ll talk to the plants. If they are leaving they will say goodbye.


When we are moving the plants –  sometimes a whole van full –  they have to go last to be kept safe. There are a couple that are really special to us. ….I love that plant. That was from wee Betty. She was green-fingered and she gave us 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 the seed with her daddy. ….We have a photo of L. planting that in her bare feet. She’s got these pots in front of her and she’s tiny. She must have been two and half or so. So that’s 15 years of the lemon tree.



glass, slate and plants


G: There was a drain over there and I had to keep it covered. So I ended up building the platform and got the piece of slate … it’s full of wee holes. The pink bits of glass … they’re from S. (previous owner). She had hundreds of those in this big lampshade in the middle of the room so we kept most of them. When they are out in the garden they act as a light reflector. It’s a memory…. That table… when it’s wet it’s literally like a mirror when you are out there it just reflects that hedge…..That makes me happy just looking at that.


candle, jug and calm lives



N:. …We are quite relaxed  people generally. So when I come home I feel entirely safe. I feel like I am among people with whom I can be just be entirely honest … and there’s no judgement there’s just safety… …and everything you could want – which for me is coffee and chocolate – which is usually at hand…and some knitting on the go. Something to craft at…..


….I really recognise how much your creativity is stifled when you are working a lot…and  being on call all the time you are kind of ready to go at any point. So I didn’t do much. I started crocheting this blanket over there and then it sat for ages. And then I got my new job and I’m off at the weekend and all of a sudden  I just finished it so now there is something else on the go already to knit. It’s so lovely…. 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.



detail floor crack repair



G: There was a crack here I tried to patch it up   I tried different materials… .. the Japanese art of fixing things that are broken? Kintsugi. You fix it with gold. So instead of using gold I used a metal compound that looks like glitter – not to hide the crack  – but to celebrate it.



G: It feels secure. ….and light … not heavy. It cheers me up coming home. … But more than that the house 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. That sense of financial security….. Which we weren’t expecting. I actually felt the opposite when we signed the mortgage. I felt financially insecure.   I felt .. What are we taking on?…..


G:  I’m the first person I think in my family to actually own their own home so it was something that was always outside my knowledge.  It’s been a powerful learning experience. I was the one pushing for the house but when it came to signing for it  –  I was terrified.



real lives, home with cat 

G: This is my favourite view…. especially when there is a cat. That’s his chair. The moment we brought that chair in… even though we took the original covers off and  it was just the sponge … and he just loved that chair… and then we got this lovely orange leather on it and he just go on it and we were like it’s perfect for him. Yeah, he’s always loved that chair.


kitchen family home


G: We are taking this away and go with the pitch and put in 2 massive skylights one on each side so you’ll get this lovely light here in the morning  and the evening light is  beautiful. So it’s to turn this from the lowest ceiling into the highest.  It will just transform it. We think it’s worth it.


Now it’s a pleasure…… A wee tribute  back to the house.. we feel like  everything you do.. you get it back. Not just in re-sale value…but you get it back because you live here and experience it, and you get so  much joy just from looking at it.  I’ll sit there and my favourite thing will be looking through at the light at different times of day.


Follow Nuala Rooney:

Nuala Rooney PhD, is a creative professional and award-winning author, currently developing new approaches to design innovation and spatial research through storytelling. With unique skillsets, developed as a design educator in Higher Education institutions in UK and Hong Kong, her interest lies in exploring 'home' as a human centred space.

Latest posts from

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.