Thursday, April 23, 2020

living rooms are for living

What is a home? A strangely relevant question in this day and age. At the age of 5, my answer was apparently as follows:

Beautiful leaded windows, bike, tree.. 31 year old me agrees!

About four years ago, 'home' looked like this to me, on the day we bought our house:

First day as home-owners.
Is it just me or does our house look a tad bit tired in this photo? It seems to have bags under its eyes...

That may have been our first encounter with our house, but it is much older than that. It was build in the time that our street was a merely dirt path, used by horses rather than cars.

our house is just about visible, below the windmill.
It has survived the second world war, when during the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945, the Germans boobytrapped the bridge in our village with a heavy sea mine, which created such a massive explosion, that the debris was scattered all over the entire village, and the shockwave broke most windows in the area.

It has been used as a small farm, a house painters office, a workshop where they repaired oldtimers. It has seen births, weddings, funerals. It even survived this :)

 See how the entire window was knocked out, but walls look unscathed? Now's that's some sturdy building! Even the leaded windows survived!

This house is a sturdy old lady, and we hope to keep her going for many years to come.

a few weeks ago, before the espalier-pears were in full bloom. The flag of Groningen even makes a sneaky appearance in the window reflection!

Over the last few years, I have posted some updates on how we tackled many rooms in our house: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, study room, garden, even hallways.. I've shared it all. One room, however, was lagging behind: the living room.

And it was a whopper.

When even your green velvet chairs have a fringe, you know you're in for a treat ( these were the photo's from the brochure, and we still bought the place!)
I mean, where do I start? the wooden paneling, the window that looks into the kitchen, the fringes, the orange hallway, the velvet curtains, the weird ceiling…. This room is vibing on a level that is beyond the level of human comprehesion, and as awesome as that is, I'm afraid Joost and I are not prepared for such a level of vintage.

I've guessed it: we wanted to change it. I've shared some of the first steps we took before: on our very first day, we ripped out the lowered ceiling and installed wooden floors.

This was quite literally 2 days after we had gotten the key.

A few months later, while Joost was playing football or something like that, I decided to demolish that odd wall that separated the kitchen and living room, because.. well, I felt like it.

We then build in some awesome vintage sliding doors, did a half-hearted attempt to paint the walls, and were left with a living room that looked like this:

It's just a bit sad and unfinished..

And we more or less stopped there. We hardly ever used it, because it wasn't a very nice place to be, with that unfinished ceiling, ugly chimney and rough walls.
But we couldn't do much to improve it, because we were involved in a very lengthy and tiresome procedure involving our chimney.

See, we live in an area that suffers from government-indiced earthquakes, because they drill for gas in the area. The earthquakes cause damage to the houses in the area, and as it is a governmental decision to drill for gas, they are legally required to pay for all the damage. That, however is easier said than done. Many inspectors came by, in expensive cars, demanding many pots of coffee.

" I don't see any damage" an inspector said.
" I refuse to install your fireplace, because your chimney has earthquake damage." our contractor said.
" Okay, I do see some damage, but I refuse to believe it's the earthquakes" a second inspector said.
" It's definitely earthquakes" a third one chimed in.
"We agree with you, but the "chimney-improving project" has just stopped, so, that's just bad luck for you" yet another inspector said.

That whole delightful process took three years, and probably cost the government enough money in salary for those inspectors to replace our chimney by a solid gold one.
But, this is not the place to throw mini-tantrums about damage-repairs for earthquakes; in the end we received at least a part of the money, and we are still incredibly lucky to own this weird, beautiful house.

With the government sorted, it was time to tear down that old, scary chimney!

We installed new radiators..

Don't be fooled by the lack of me, that's just because Joost can't be bothered to take photo's
And made another bold decision: to remove the ceiling (I know, it's a theme in our house) so we could have a lovely vaulted ceiling, with the old beams exposed. That part was slightly less fun to execute, and involved several months of me on the former attic, trying to install insulation and plasterboard in the most uncomfortable positions possible. But once we removed the old ceiling, the effect was quite cool!


It's hard not to love a faulted ceiling
And after four long years of waiting, our lovely wood burning stove was ready to be installed!

Given the fact that that stove was literally the first thing we carried into our house when we bought the place, this was quite a special moment!
With some final touches, including installing wallpaper, painting, tiling, and refurnishing, our living room is now officially livable!

as you can see, we still need to properly install the leaded windows, but for now they are an excellent way of providing some privacy.

and the view towards the kitchen! 
As you can see, we left some of the old ceiling in to create a lovely little mezzanine/library with a sliding ladder to reach it. It still needs some final finishes, but it is a great place to sit.

My little study nook, that we mainly use quickly  stash away our clutter when we get unexpected guests.
I have fond memories of buying that desk with my mum, when we were on a thrift-shop hunt together. Almost everything in this photo is also a thrifty find, with the exception of the goat's skull. That one was found by Joost on the beach in Crete, and frequently scares the pants of my nieces. 

We brought the green chest home from a 'vide grenier' in France, and apparently it belonged to someone in the army?  On top some plants, holiday pictures, and my latest attempt to take up sculpting. It went rather well, until she lost her foot, so now she's called our naked pirate (yarrr)
Instead of curtains (flashback to those orange monstrosities that we had before) I made folding wooden shutters. Also: my favourite cinema-chair has made a comeback!( although it is slightly obscured by the plant in this photo)

Ah, those amazing ceilings! Altough I wouldn't have expected it four years ago, we even decided to bring some of the vintage vibes back, by this yellow pendant light. Apparently it is a really fancy brand, named Doria? (a.k.a. that's what the vintage seller told us who made us pay way too much for it) I don't mind about he brand, but it does match quite well with the leaded windows and the colours in my world map, so there's that!
( Additionally, I promised Joost to credit him for the fact that he put up bunting to celebrate my birthday, so there's that)

So there it is, a quick tour around our renovated living room! Despite all the rubble& dust, the challenges with the government, the fact that we flooded our living room 4 (4!!) times when installing our radiotors, and the fact that something went wrong when we rewired the electrics, so everything we turned on the lights outside our front door, the lights in the living room went off,  I enjoyed this one so much.

It has turned out to be such a great room to be in. I love how I can look up at those ceiling beams, -all gnarly and crooked- and remind myself of the age of this building.

Whenever I look at our vintage pendant light I think of the hilariously vintage vibes this place had when we bought the house. 

And when I look at all our thrifted treasures, I relive the memories of when we found them, often with dangerous, and sometimes illegal adventures while trying to get them home, with large items treacherously stuffed into the back of our car, trunk open, and hoping the police wouldn't stop us.

This is why I would never want an entire set of brand-spanking new set of furniture, ordered online. Where's the fun, and where are the memories in that? For me, these narratives are what 'home' means to me: an old house with a story, filled with memories. 

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